Doubling protein intake could prevent muscle loss during dieting

Consuming twice the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein while adhering to a diet and exercise plan to lose weight was shown to prevent muscle loss and promote weight loss, according to recently published study results.

The study included 39 adults, and each participant was assigned to one of three controlled diets that provided dietary protein at different levels: the US RDA, twice the US RDA and three times the US RDA. The participants were given a 10-day weight maintenance period to allow their metabolism to adapt to the new protein levels, and then weight loss was induced during the following 21 days by restricting total calories and increasing daily exercise to induce a 2-pound per week weight loss. Body composition and muscle protein metabolism measurements were recorded at the end of the weight maintenance and weight loss phases of the study.

The researchers found the group that consumed twice the US RDA of protein experienced the greatest success in reducing fat mass and protecting muscle.

“It is our hope the findings from this well-controlled study will be discussed and cited by the Institute of Medicine for the updated Dietary Reference Intakes on protein,” Stefan M. Pasiakos, PhD, lead author and a researcher from the Military Nutrition Division at the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass., stated in a news release. “We believe that the RDA for protein should be based on a level to optimize health, as well as prevent deficiencies, and our data demonstrate a potential inadequacy of the current RDA for sparing muscle mass during weight loss, which may affect a significant portion of the population.”

For more information:

Pasiakos SM. The FASEB Journal. 2013. doi: 10.1096/fj.13-230227.

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