Whether you’re competing in a workplace wellness challenge or training for your first marathon, you probably want more muscle—and less fat—on your frame.
Luckily, new research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that doubling your protein intake can help you build more muscle and burn more fat when you’re cutting calories and performing high-intensity exercise.
Increase Protein and High-Intensity Training
While the current recommended daily allowance for protein intake among physically active individuals is 1.2 grams per kilogram body mass, when study participants ate twice that, 2.4 grams per kg each day, they gained more muscle and lost more fat compared to when they followed the current protein recommendations.
“Both high-intensity training [HIT] and protein likely played a role here,” explains Pamela Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, a sports nutritionist with Abbott. “While HIT likely has the ability to increase lipolysis [fat breakdown], protein intake is essential to stimulating muscle protein synthesis and growth.”
What’s more, Bede notes that study participants consumed whey protein shakes following each training bout. “Whey is known to quickly help the muscles repair. Plus it is rich in the amino acid leucine, which is responsible for stimulating muscle protein synthesis,” she says.
Spread Protein Intake Throughout the Day
To take advantage of the study’s recipe for muscle gain and weight loss, combine your current high-intensity exercise routine and reduced-calorie eating plan with a sizeable boost in protein.
Aim to consume about 2.4 grams of protein per kg body mass, or 1.09 grams per pound of body weight, per day. (For a 180-pound individual, that would work out to about 196 grams of protein per day.) Also, make sure to spread out your intake throughout the day and, after each workout, work in some whey protein. Milk, yogurt, and EAS 100% Whey Protein Powder are all rich in the important muscle building, fat-fighting nutrient.
For individuals who are not restricting calories or carbohydrates, it may not be necessary to set such a high protein intake target. Always talk to a dietitian or doctor for the best plan for you.