Researchers focusing their attention on finding the path to simultaneously gaining muscle and losing fat have published a new study out of McMaster University1 This study sheds new light on the link between weight loss and intense training combined with a low-calorie, high-protein diet.
In the McMaster study, 40 young male participants were divided into two groups. Both groups went on a low-calorie diet, one with higher levels of protein than the other.
“It was a gruelling affair,” said Stuart Phillips, a kinesiology professor at McMaster and senior investigator on this study. “These guys were in rough shape, but that was part of the plan. We wanted to see how quickly we could get them into shape: lose some fat, but still retain their muscle and improve their strength and fitness.”
The group with higher protein intake saw 2.5 pounds of muscle gain, despite consuming insufficient calories, whereas the other group was only able to retain their muscle weight.
Even with a calorie deficit, exercise plus a high-protein diet seems to cut fat and grow muscle.
“Exercise, particularly lifting weights, provides a signal for muscle to be retained even when you’re in a big calorie deficit,” says Phillips.
However, perhaps the most exciting finding of this research is that the high-protein group lost more body fat than many of the scientists expected. “We expected the muscle retention,” said Phillips, “but were a little surprised by the amount of additional fat loss in the higher protein consuming group.”
The results showed that the high-protein group lost about 10.5 pounds and the low-protein group only 8 pounds. It is also important to note that all of the participants got stronger, fitter, and generally were in a better shape after the intense six-days-a-week exercise routine.
This research was designed for overweight and younger men, but Phillips and his team hope to conduct a follow-up study on women and also hope to explore a different approach that he says will be “a little easier and much more sustainable.”
Although these findings may provide a peek into future training methods, more research needs to be done to design the optimal diet-training combination that will help you lose body fat and gain muscle in a healthy and timely manner.
1. McMaster University. “Losing fat while gaining muscle: Scientists close in on ‘holy grail’ of diet and exercise.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2016.1.