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Is there really no benefit from protein supplementation on weight loss maintenance?

There’s reason to think that protein supplementation can be helpful for weight loss. The question of whether it’s useful in weight maintenance is another matter

Study under review: Protein supplements after weight loss do not improve weight maintenance compared with recommended dietary protein intake despite beneficial effects on appetite sensation and energy expenditure: a randomized, controlled, double-blinded trial

Introduction

Popular media and scientific publications are rife with pessimism about dieting and successful weight loss maintenance. Although data is limited, only about 20%[1] of people with overweight who successfully lose more than 10% of their initial bodyweight are able to maintain that loss after one year. Some of the habits of those who are successful are summarized in Figure 1. However, for most people, weight regain after weight loss is an all-too-common phenomenon.

For people who do successfully maintain weight loss, it is unlikely that there is a one-size-fits-all approach. However, there may be commonalities among successful approaches that are worth investigating. For example, protein appears to be more satiating[2] than carbohydrate and fat, and may also benefit[3] weight loss maintenance by promoting the retention of lean body mass and increasing energy expenditure.

Another factor that may come into play is the protein source. Animal protein has been suggested[4] to provide a greater boost to energy expenditure than plant protein, which could affect weight maintenance success. Similarly, calcium supplementation has been reported[5][6] to increase fat loss during weight loss, although the mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. However, no study has yet to compare the effects of supplementing with animal vs. plant protein with or without calcium on weight maintenance success. The study under review examined the effect on weight maintenance of supplementing with whey protein with or without extra calcium, compared to both soy protein and carbohydrate as a control.

Maintaining successful weight loss is hard, but it's not impossible. Studies point toward increased protein intake (especially animal protein) and calcium as potential contributors to successful weight maintenance, but no study has yet to compare all these things. The study under review evaluated the effects of protein supplementation from whey or soy, in combination with added calcium, on weight loss maintenance.

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Other Articles in Issue #34 (August 2017)