Fundamentally, weight loss is achieved by decreasing energy intake and increasing energy expenditure – it’s as simple as that! However, a negative energy balance not only affects body fat, but also lean body mass including muscle mass. Most athletes will want to reduce body fat whilst maintaining muscle mass, which is where protein comes to the fore.
Why might protein preserve muscle?
Protein and amino acids may stimulate protein synthesis thereby improving overall net muscle balance and the building blocks required for maintaining muscle mass. The availability of the amino acid leucine and the overall availability of amino acids are key to this process.
Weight loss in athletes
It is important to consider the population used to investigate the influence of protein on weight loss s most of the research has been carried out on obese subjects. Lean muscle mass loss during weight loss interventions appears to be greater in an athletic population compared to an obese population. Therefore, strategies to maintain lean mass are more important in athletes.
How protein may assist weight loss