A recent study highlights the value of whey protein in helping to maintain muscle mass during intentional weight loss, an extremely important goal in achieving long-term diet success. Whey protein ingestion has also been shown to reduce feelings of hunger and promote satiety, as well as improve blood sugar control.
The importance of maintaining muscle mass during weight loss cannot be overstated. Muscle mass is the primary fat burning furnace in the body. A muscle cell burns as much as 15 times more calories per day than a fat cell. Muscle mass is the primary factor that will determine how quickly a person can lose weight, and low muscle mass is also a primary reason why many people hit a plateau at some point during a weight loss program.
Whey protein is an important consideration, along with strength training, to help maintain muscle mass during weight loss.
Other benefits of whey protein:
- Whey protein has the highest biological value of any protein.
- Whey protein is a rich source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) that are metabolized directly into muscle tissue and are the first ones used during periods of exercise.
- Whey protein is an excellent source of the essential amino acid and leucine. Research has shown that individuals who exercise benefit from diets high in leucine and have more lean muscle tissue and less body fat compared to individuals whose diet contains lower levels of leucine. Whey protein isolate has approximately 50% more leucine than soy protein isolate.
- Whey protein is a soluble, easy to digest protein and is efficiently absorbed into the body.
In a study conducted at University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, 40 overweight men and women completed a 14-day calorie restricted diet and were randomly assigned, double blind, to receive twice-daily supplements of isolated whey (27 g) or soy (26 g), or maltodextrin (25 g). Using a blood measurement for muscle fiber synthesis, results indicated that muscle breakdown was significantly less than that seen in the soy and maltodextrin group. Soy protein had no effect on reducing muscle loss. These results indicate that whey protein supplementation can help preserve muscle mass during weight loss.
While whey protein is effective on its own, even better results occur when it is combined with the revolutionary dietary fiber matrix PGX. It remains to be seen if vegetarian sources of protein have similar effects to whey protein in maintaining muscle mass, as well as the promotion of satiety and improved blood sugar control.
Hector AJ, Marcotte GR, Churchward-Venne TA, et al. Whey protein supplementation preserves postprandial myofibrillar protein synthesis during short-term energy restriction in overweight and obese adults. J Nutr. 2015 Feb;145(2):246-52.
Dr. Michael Murray