Study shows two ways to maintain and build muscle when dieting

If you restrict calories to lose weight, you want to ensure most of the weight you lose is fat, not muscle. Unfortunately, many people tend to lose significant amounts of lean muscle mass when restricting calories. 

What can you do? Research indicates that resistance exercise combined with whey protein may be effective for preserving or even building muscle mass while losing body fat. In one recent study conducted in healthy men and women, researchers examined the protein synthesis response to energy deficit conditions (when more calories are burned than consumed). Under these dieting conditions, their muscle building levels were studied with and without resistance exercise and with whey protein supplementation.

Compared to results obtained during energy balance (calories burned equaled calories consumed), the rate of muscle protein synthesis was reduced by 27% after 5 days of moderate caloric restriction (calorie intake reduced one third below calorie balance). Surprisingly, just a single bout of resistance exercise restored muscle protein synthesis to levels similar to energy balance. They were tested again under moderate caloric restriction, but this time 15 grams of whey protein was consumed immediately after exercise. Muscle protein synthesis increased 16% above resting energy balance. When the amount of whey protein was doubled to 30 grams, muscle protein synthesis increased by 34% above resting energy balance.

In summary, these results confirm that simply restricting calories leads to a loss of muscle. Performing resistance exercise during caloric restriction helps to restore muscle protein synthesis to normal levels. But the best results were achieved when whey protein was consumed after resistance exercise, 30 grams being twice as effective as 15 grams.


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