Protein-based fitness products are big business now. Once primarily aimed at athletes and hardcore gym goers looking to “bulk up,” protein shakes, powders, and bars are now consumed by “regular” people looking to lose weight or tone their bodies. UK sales rose from £73 million in 2007 to £170 million in 2012 and are expected to reach £358 million by 2017.
This increase is partly due to the creation of higher protein weight loss products for women. While some of these products have been criticized for inappropriate marketing strategies, it is also worth considering whether protein-based food substitutes are even worth the money.
Weight loss is most often achieved by limiting dietary energy intake. This means consuming fewer calories. But what exactly we eat also affects how our bodies change.
Conventional weight loss diets typically include around 15% of total daily energy intake as protein and may result in as much as half of weight lost from muscle mass. Muscle mass – alongside its role in athletic performance – plays an important and often underestimated role in reducing the risk of diseases, including obesity itself. So when you lose weight it’s better if it comes from body fat.
The power of protein
The body needs dietary protein to maintain muscle mass. High-protein diets are also widely recognized to control food intake by making you feel full longer compared to foods high in carbohydrates or fat. This helps explain why such diets have been shown to help reduce weight regain after weight loss.
High-protein diets are also linked to greater weight loss due to fat mass and preservation of muscles. Many scientist studies in overweight/obese women have reviewed weight loss diets that include about 30% of total daily energy intake as protein. The studies found that these high-protein diets were more likely to direct weight loss toward fat mass and away from muscle, especially when combined with physical training.
Many protein products from a range of reputable (and some non-reputable) companies are marketed for weight loss. Typically, these products contain casein and/or whey, dairy-based proteins, and are low in carbohydrates and fat. The combination of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein is vaunted as offering the ideal combination to promote healthy weight loss.
But high-protein food sources, such as low-fat milk and yogurt, offer equally beneficial and often cheaper alternatives to protein supplements. Indeed, a high-protein and low-energy diet rich in these dairy products was shown to promote fat loss and muscle mass gain over a short period (16 weeks) in overweight and obese women.
the security high protein diets for weight loss is also important. People with kidney problems, for example, should be careful to increase the amount of protein they eat. But there is no evidence that high-protein diets will cause kidney damage in otherwise healthy people. Other problems with high-protein diets, such as loss of bone mass, dehydration, kidney stones, and atherogenesis (where fat builds up in the arteries) have not been proven with evidence. In fact, there is evidence that increased protein intake improves bone health.
A more realistic potential problem with high-protein, low-calorie diets is the fact that cutting carbs from your meals could provide your body with less fuel for exercise. And whenever possible, exercise should be defended as a key part of any successful weight loss strategy.
This means that a high protein diet requires careful planning. Indeed, there is not much protein in your muscles need to repair themselves. Nothing more than that is simply fainted from the body.
High-protein diets, regardless of food or supplement source, are effective in promoting weight loss, and the health problems associated with these diets are not well-founded. But poor marketing strategies pose a danger to the public health message that carefully managing the amount of protein you eat is a healthy way to lose weight.