Experts agree that if you lose weight from dieting, about 75% of the weight loss will come from fat and the other 25% will come from lean tissue. But not all diets are created equal — at least that’s what researchers from the United Kingdom postulated.
These researchers examined how the protein content of a calorically reduced diet affected changes in lean body mass. The participants included men of normal body weight who were experienced with resistance training.
After a controlled feeding period, the participants were prescribed a two-week diet that consisted of 60% of their estimated caloric needs to maintain weight. Some of them consumed a normal protein diet that consisted of a typical amount of protein, whereas another group consumed a high protein diet.
Protein was 15% of total energy in the normal protein diet (1g of protein per kilogram of body weight). Protein was 35% of total energy in the high protein diet group (2.3g of protein per kilogram of body weight). This amounted to 74g of protein per day in the normal protein group and 180g of protein per day in the high protein group.
After two weeks, both groups lost the same amount of body fat (about three pounds). However, the normal protein group lost more than three pounds of lean mass, which was more than the amount of fat they lost. In contrast, the high protein group almost completely preserved their lean mass during weight loss. These findings highlight the importance of consuming adequate protein during low calorie diets to preserve lean mass in young healthy athletes.