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Use of higher-protein diets for body composition improvement in non-obese, active individuals


A significant amount of weight loss research has been performed on obese, overweight and/or sedentary individuals. There is little research available looking at the same weight loss techniques in athletes, even though this population is continually attempting to lose weight and/or alter body composition. It is hypothesized that a higher-protein diet will result in greater weight loss and a decrease in percent body fat in lean individuals when compared to similar individuals on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.


Thirty active, military males (age=25 ± 4 yr, body fat=15 ± 7%), competing for a place on the Army Combatives team participated in a six-week training camp that had supervised physical activity 10 hours weekly. During the six-week training program, subjects were prescribed one of three diets: higher-protein (PRO), traditional low-fat, high-carbohydrate (CHO), or control. The PRO diet was designed to be 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fats. The CHO diet was designed to be 65% carbohydrates, 15% protein and 20% fats. The control group participated in all physical activity but was not given any dietary restrictions.


Thirteen subjects completed the study. Control group consumed 16,489±4,823 kJ daily, 41±10% carbohydrates, 23±2% protein and 33±9% fats. PRO group consumed 8,339±2,173 kJ, 36±10% carbohydrates, 30±10% protein and 35±8% fat. CHO group consumed 14,536±6,879 kJ, 58±10% carbohydrates, 17±2% protein and 26±10% fat. Control group consumed 224±62 kJ/kg body weight with 5±1g carbohydrates/kg body weight, 3±1g protein/kg body weight, and 2±1g fat/kg body weight. PRO group consumed 120±50 kJ/kg body weight with 3±2g carbohydrates/kg body weight, 2±1g protein/kg body weight and 1±0g fat/kg body weight. CHO group consumed 213±122 kJ/kg body weight with 7±3g carbohydrates/kg body weight, 2±1g protein/kg body weight and 2 ± 1g fat/kg body weight. Body weight changes were as follows: CHO group loss 1.1±5.2 kg, PRO group loss 0.2±2.2 kg, and control group gained 1.0±1.0 kg. PRO group had the greatest decrease in percent body fat, followed by CHO group and then control group with -1.2±0.8 kg, -1.1±0.9 kg and -0.6±1.5 kg, respectively. Control and PRO group increased FFM, 1.7±1.2 kg and 0.8±1.5 kg, respectively. CHO group lost -0.2±3.8 kg FFM. PRO and CHO groups lost 1.0±1.0 kg and 1.0±1.8 kg of FM, respectively. Control group lost 0.7±0.7 kg FM.


It appears that a higher-protein diet can improve FFM retention during weight loss in non-obese, active individuals.


Thank you to Kelcie Hubach, James Lattimer and Dave Durnil for their assistance during data collection, Kristin Hodges for a critical reading of the manuscript and Allison Teeter for guidance during statistical analysis.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Case, J.A., Haub, M.D. Use of higher-protein diets for body composition improvement in non-obese, active individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7 (Suppl 1), P6 (2010).

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