Double RDA of Protein Burns Fat Not Muscle When Training
Increasing Protein Consumption Spares Muscle during Weight Loss
One long-held truism commonly cited in the fitness industry is that lean muscle loss is unavoidable with weight loss. But is there a way of losing fat while avoiding lean muscle loss?
Most fitness and health experts will acknowledge the absolute necessity of dietary protein for maintaining muscle mass. The commonly-cited recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 grams, and which has been put forth by the Food and Nutrition Board of The Institute of Medicine (in the United States).
Now, most fitness and nutrition professionals will recommend more than 0.8 grams. The RDA is generally considered nowadays to be the absolute minimum amount of a nutrient required to not get sick–not the amount that we need for optimal health and fitness. According to a report done by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that examined the findings of countless nutrition research studies, the average North American eats not too much protein, as is commonly believed, but too little. The review concludes “higher protein intakes contribute to better diet quality, healthy weight management, improved body composition, and maintenance of or increased lean body mass for certain populations.”
So, if protein is as awesome and essential as they say, how do we use it for effective, muscle-sparing fat loss?
One scientific study found that doubling up on the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein while dieting and exercising will promote fat loss and attenuate muscle loss. Of course, everybody is different and while doubling your protein intake might be effective in helping you to lose weight, it’s important that you speak to a physician or certified nutritionist or dietician before changing your diet so radically. Interestingly, the same study found that tripling one’s protein intake resulted in no difference in fat loss; this may be because of what is commonly referred to as our “protein ceiling”. The protein ceiling is the maximum amount of protein that our bodies are able to effectively utilize to promote lean tissue maintenance and growth. Sadly, eating 500 grams of protein a day will not result in a greater ‘gains’. One study found that 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight to an upward max of 2.2 grams was the ideal protein window for muscle growth.
And is there a type of protein that is ideal for fat loss and muscle maintenance? Well, that’s a huge topic, and one that is hotly debated in the fitness and health communities. One study done on obese subjects did find that those supplementing with a whey protein during a weight-loss campaign resulted in greater fat loss and spare lean muscle tissue than those whose calorie intake was the same, but who did not supplement with whey protein. But if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan or if whey is just not your thing, plenty of alternative protein supplements exist to help you to reach your fitness goals, and which you can read about here and here on the Infofit blog.
Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimum health!
Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, Certified Personal Trainer and Infofit fitness blog writer.
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Schoenfeld, B. J., & Aragon, A. A. (2018). How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1). doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1