How to Lose Fat, Not Muscle Mass
Water, fat or muscle: What are the pounds you lose made of? It’s not an easy question to answer, but the goal for many is to maximize fat loss and lean muscle gain. Figuring out the most effective combination of resistance vs. aerobic exercise and balance of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals required to reach this goal can be tedious. Enter Canadian researchers at McMaster University. Their study, partially funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada, was published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
90 patients were split into three groups of 30 for researchers to test over 16 weeks. The participants were given diets which differed in both total dietary protein and amount of protein derived from dairy. Although all participants lost weight, those in the high protein - high dairy group had a greater fat loss and lean muscle gain during weeks 8 through 16. This group lost more visceral adipose tissue and trunk fat than other participants and also showed greater strength by the end of the study.
The Calcium Factor
The findings of this study add to mounting research that suggests dietary calcium intake increases fat loss. Because all participants in the study reported low dairy intake before beginning the study, the high protein – high dairy group’s enhanced outcomes may be due to the increased dietary calcium intake. Some studies suggest dietary calcium, particularly from dairy products, may bind to dietary fat, lower its absorption in the digestive tract and/or decrease fat storage. With increased dietary calcium, lipolysis, the breakdown of lipids including fat, increases. However, not all calcium is created equal; a separate study found that calcium from supplements did not have the same effect as calcium from diet.
Gotta Have a Deficit
Simply adding more protein from dairy products to your diet is not enough to get results. While this study suggests increased protein from dairy products results in fat loss and lean muscle gain, in the absence of a caloric deficit, weight loss would not occur. If you are planning to add more dairy products to your diet, make sure they are low-fat to keep your calories and saturated fat in check. Consuming a balanced diet of adequate lean protein, healthy fat and carbohydrate in general will help keep you feeling fuller, longer and on track to losing fat, not muscle mass.
Note: The high protein – high dairy participants consumed a diet that was 30% protein with half of that protein from dairy foods.
Do you balance your meals to have a specific macronutrient composition? If so, what percentages do you aim for with protein, carbohydrates, and fat?