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Eating is fun. Losing weight is not. But what if I told you that you could actually lose weight simply by eating more? You’d probably start accusing me of selling snake oil. I don’t, but you really can lose weight simply by eating more and the secret is protein. If you don’t know, protein are the building blocks of muscle and it also plays a big part in our metabolism rate. And eating more can actually help increase it.

A recent clinical trial by Bray et al looked at what happens when people who are overeating alter their protein intakes. 25 young people who were either overweight or normal weight were fed 140% of their weight maintenance calories and were split into three groups.

  • Low Protein Group - 5% protein, 60% carb and 35% fat
  • Normal Protein Group – 15% protein, 60% carb and 25% fat
  • High Protein Group – 25% protein, 60% carb and 15% fat

What was amazing about the study was that these 25 participants were studied in a metabolic ward for 12 weeks. This means, everything was controlled for including their diet and activity. Everything was monitored and adherence to the diet was 100%. Without getting into the nitty gritty, here is what the researchers found:

1. Muscle and bone mass increased for the high and normal protein groups (increase of 2-3kg)
2. Muscle and bone mass decreased for the low protein group (decrease of 1-2kg)
3. Fat gain was similar in all three groups.
4. The high protein group had increased energy expenditure levels, most of which came as a result of increased work by the liver and kidneys.
5. This increased energy expenditure was about 250 calories per day.

Practical Applications

So it seems that having more protein in your diet can effectively mean that you burn calories equivalent to 40 minutes of moderate paced running. However, one should take this study with a grain of salt. Even though the study was well controlled and designed, it was only performed on overweight or normal weight people and only when they were being overfed. So, it’s hard to extrapolate these results to people who are underweight or who aren’t eating more food than usual. Regardless, we know that protein is one of the best macronutrients around for those wanting sustainable long term weight loss and is definitely the best when it comes to building lean muscle. So grab a protein shake to help you stay lean and mean.

Bray GA, Redman LM, de Jonge L, Covington J, Rood J, Brock C, Mancuso S, Martin CK, Smith SR. ‘Effect of protein overfeeding on energy expenditure measured in a metabolic chamber.’ Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar;101(3):496-505.

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