Less Fat, More Muscle: How Protein Can Play a Role

May 06, 2015

Most people want less fat and more muscle. Muscle and body fat matter, not only for body builders, but for children and teens, weekend warriors, older adults, and the more than 50 percent of Americans who are trying to lose weight. A lean, muscular body is even desirable in our pets!

Most experts would agree that maximizing lean body mass (muscle and bone) and maintaining a healthy level of body fat, is beneficial for overall health throughout life. Keeping the percentage of body fat in check is important because excess body fat – especially abdominal fat – is associated with systemic inflammation, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Muscle mass, on the other hand, helps the body burn calories, utilize blood glucose, and is important for physical activity.

Exercise can play an important role in helping people reduce body fat and increase muscle, while on the nutrition front, here are some strategies concerning the role of protein that science supports:

Plan meals higher in protein

  • The Institute of Medicine recommends that 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories should come from protein to reduce risk of chronic disease in adults. Although most people meet minimum protein requirements represented by the RDA (0.8 g/kg/d) at the lower end of this range, many may benefit from a meal plan moderately higher in protein to support muscle protein and metabolism.
  • study evaluating NHANES 2001-2010 data, for example, found that eating a higher protein diet (1.0-1.5 g/kg/d) was associated with lower BMI and waist circumference and higher HDL-cholesterol.

Incorporate high-quality dairy protein in meal plans

  • One easy way for your clients to embrace a diet higher in protein is to include dairy sources of high-quality protein such as milk, yogurt, cheese and whey protein in meals and snacks.
  • When it comes to protein source, whey may have an advantage. Whey protein is a rich source of leucine, a potent stimulator of muscle growth. A growing body of science supports an association between whey protein as part of a higher protein eating plan and improvements in body composition – whether it replaces calories from other foods or is added to a meal plan.
  • In addition to its benefits for muscle, a review of the literature found that eating whey protein may have beneficial effects on some symptoms of metabolic syndrome as well as a reduction in cardiovascular risk factors.

Include dairy foods/ingredients in higher-protein meal plans for weight management

  • Emerging evidence indicates higher-protein meal plans that included dairy foods or whey protein helped minimize bone and muscle loss while losing weight in both pre- and postmenopausal women.
  • Most recently, a short-term 14-day clinical weight loss trial in overweight and obese adults found that supplementing with 27 grams of whey protein twice a day as part of a higher protein diet helped maintain muscle protein synthesis more effectively than a similar amount of soy protein or a carbohydrate supplement of similar calories.


So whether your client’s goal is to manage weight, or build/maintain muscle, this resource will help explain how dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt (traditional and Greek), and cheese, can help meet protein needs. In addition, these recipes will show you ways to use high-quality whey protein in delicious meals and snacks.


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