Calories Not Protein Lead to Weight Gain

According to a new study, it isn’t necessarily what you are eating but how much that leads to weight gain. While it was previously believed that a high-protein diet could lead to weight gain this new study indicates that protein consumption may not have an impact on body fat after all. It does on the other hand have an impact on how the body uses calories and the loss or gain of muscle mass.


Researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center, under the direction of Dr. George Bray, assembled 25 healthy young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 and over-fed them is a controlled in-patient setting for 8 weeks. On average the participants were fed an excess of 1,000 calories everyday but were given different amounts of protein. One group was given a diet consisting of 5% protein, a second group consumed a more typical diet of 15% protein and a final group was fed a high-protein diet of 25%. All participants were fed the quantity of carbohydrates and the difference in calories from protein was made up in fat.


The low-protein diet group gained the least amount of weight during the 8 week period but the weight that was gained was actually worse for the participants. The average subject on the low-protein diet lost 2.2 pounds of muscle mass where as the high-protein group developed lean body mass that helps the body burn calories more efficiently. Considering that muscle weighs more than fat it would make sense that these participants technically gained more weight.


“Most people are overeating and for those people who are, they need to pay attention to what they are putting in their mouths. If you over-eat a high-fat, low-protein diet, you may gain weight at a lower rate, but you are gaining more fat and losing more muscle,” said Leanne Redman, the study’s co-author.


It is important to take into consideration more than just a number on the scale when evaluating weight gain; one must also look at the body’s composition, levels of lean muscle compared to body fat. A diet that is low in fat and high in protein can lead to an overall leaner and more fit physique. Adding lean proteins like fish, egg whites and white-meat chicken and turkey can turn your body into a lean calorie burning machine but at the end of the day it is also important to keep an eye on the overall number of calories you are consuming as well, over-eating on any type of diet will still lead to weight gain.


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