Gruelling high-protein diet is the ‘best way to lose fat and gain muscle’

Researchers have uncovered ‘significant’ new evidence which could help those looking to gain muscle and lose fat, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Scientists at McMaster University in the US have found that it is possible to achieve both quickly, but it isn’t easy.

The study involved 40 young men who underwent a month of hard exercise while cutting dietary intake by 40 per cent.

Stuart Phillips, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and the study’s senior investigator, said: ‘It was a gruelling affair. 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 subjects were divided into two groups, one with higher levels of protein than the other. The higher-protein group experienced about 2.5 pounds of muscle gain, despite consuming insufficient calories, while the lower protein group lost weight but failed to add muscle. The high-protein group also lost more body fat.

The high-protein group lost an average of 10.5 pounds and the low protein group lost eight pounds. All of the participants got stronger, fitter, and generally were in much better shape.

Phillips said: ‘Exercise, particularly lifting weights, provides a signal for muscle to be retained even when you’re in a big calorie deficit. We expected the muscle retention, but were a little surprised by the amount of additional fat loss in the higher protein consuming group.

‘We designed this programme for overweight young men, although I’m sure it would work for young women too, to get fitter, stronger, and to lose weight fast. It’s a tough programme and not something that’s sustainable or for those looking for quick and easy fix.’