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"Protein and Weight Reduction"

iPB Protein Bite

Body weight management is a primary concern for many people, especially in developed countries where food is more abundant and physical activity reduced. As the incidence of overweight and obesity has dramatically increased over the past decades, many people engage in energy reduction efforts to lower their body weight for aesthetic, health and fitness reasons. Protein is a key nutrient during energy reduction to minimize the loss, maintain or even build fat free mass (FFM), primarily skeletal muscle. Thus, greater attention is now focused on protein requirements during energy reduction, particularly with more dramatic energy imbalance and/or coupled with exercise. The current evidence clearly points to higher base protein requirements for individuals engaged in caloric reduction to reduce body weight and/or increasing leanness.

2022 iPB Consensus Statement on Protein Requirements for Body Weight Reduction

Based on the most up-to-date research and understanding of the issue, the International Protein Board presents its 2022 Consensus Statment on the protein requirements for body weight (fat) reduction:

"Extended periods of energy reduction to lower body weight and/or body fat increase protein requirements. Protein consumption above minimal requirement standards will help minimize the loss of fat free mass (FFM) and potential maintain or build FFM when resistance and other high intensity exercise is applied."

iPB Survey 2022

Protein Requirements for Body Weight Reduction

iPB SURVEY QUESTION "The current dietary requirements for protein stated by several countries is an adequate diet planning level for daily intake for people who are attempting to significantly lower their body weight (e.g. 10% or more) by energy restriction intake."

iPB ANSWER SCORE: The iPB survey score is 4.82 with answers range from 1 = Strongly Agree to 5 = Strongly Disagree.

Higher Protein Requirements for Body Weight Reduction

2022 iPB Brief

Overweight and obesity levels in developed countries has dramatically increased within the past several 4 decades. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016, about 39% and world's adult population (>1.9 billion) were overweight based on BMI (Body Mass Index) standards.1 At that same time, approximately 13% of adults (11% of men and 15% of women) were obese, translating to over 650 million people. In the United States of America in 2017, nearly 38 percent of adults are obese including nearly 8 percent subcategorized as extremely obese.2 Global trends show stability or favor increase incidence of obesity versus a reduction and these trends also extend to children.

Energy, Macronutrients & Obesity

The rise in obesity in many countries is most often tied to an increased availability and consumption of total calories and is particularly true when physical activity is minimum.3 With regard to protein, even when protein is increased as a portion of total calories, its relative contribution to total calories has been noted to decrease in some countries.4 For instance, in Australia, where the prevalence of obesity was reported to increase from 10% in 1983 to 20% in 1995, averaging a rate of rise of 1% annually, more of the incremental energy intake reported is derived from carbohydrate with reduced relative contributions from fat, protein and alcohol.

After that, the rate in the rise in obesity slowed to 0.5% annually to a level of 28% of Australian adults in 2012.4 The potential relationship of different macronutrients, and perhaps more importantly the proportionality, has been reported in other countries as well.5,6 This yields additional questions related the relationship of macronutrients, particularly protein, and undesirable weight gain as well as strategies for weight reduction efforts. This iPB Brief will focus on the latter while a different brief for address the former throughout the lifespan.

Weight Reduction Considerations

With the percentage of people classified as overweight or obese on the rise globally, weight loss efforts are commonplace in most industrialized societies. The classic approach to reducing body weight is to create a daily energy imbalance whereby energy consumption is reduced below expenditure, which over time results in weight reduction. Despite the simplicity of this model, there are important considerations. First, is it just a matter of merely reducing energy intake from macronutrients in general, or should special consideration be paid to specific daily macronutrient levels as well as for meal planning? Secondly, how can one plan for the most desirable change in body composition as body weight is reduced?

One important facet of weight gain due to energy imbalance overtime is that, despite the composition of the diet, there is a highly disproportionate accumulation of fat in adipose tissue. Body carbohydrate storage is not expanded dramatically, while body protein will increase to support of more structural and functional roles of the expanding body mass; however, its contribution (%) to total body mass is reduced. This means that weight reduction strategies should focus on maximizing the reduction in body fat and minimizing the potential loss of body protein.

Weight Loss and Diet Composition

By and large, manipulation of carbohydrate and/or fat content of the diet to lower energy intake has shown reasonable success, at least in the short-term.7 However, there are some considerations if energy reduction includes protein along with carbohydrate and/or fat. These include achieving meal and daily protein levels that would support the most desirable outcome. For instance, if a reduced-caloric target (e.g. 1200 Calories (≈ 5000 kilojoule)), combined with protein percentage of total calories often applied (e.g. 15%), the daily protein level would be 45 grams or approximate the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of 46 grams for women in the US and Canada. This level of protein would fall below the RDA factor of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight which would yield a higher protein requirement. However, it is important to recognize that requirement standards such as the RDA were not intended to apply to overweight and obese conditions, especially during weight loss efforts. Moreover, if that level of protein is split over 3-5 meals the level of protein per meal is susceptible to acute inadequacy (9-15 grams/meal) especially in a weight reduction energy imbalance. This is an important consideration as dietary protein has numerous mechanisms (e.g. satiety, thermogenic, body protein sparing) that might indeed be supportive of more effective weight loss.8

Increasing the contribution of energy derived from protein during weight loss has the potential to yield a higher percentage of contribution derived from body fat.9,10,11 For instance, research efforts have suggested that doubling of typical global standards for protein requirements (1.6 vs 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight) repeatedly outperformed the RDA (0.8 g/kg) for preserving lean body mass and reducing fat mass.12,13 Elsewhere, 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram body weight was determined to be better than lower-protein for improving body composition in hypocaloric conditions.10,16

In general, exercise coupled with reduced energy with proportionately more protein can improve body composition outcomes.13-18 Even higher levels such as 2.4 grams per kilogram of body weight did not yield even better results for preserving lean body mass until it was combined with resistance exercise and other high intensity exercise movements.13,14 Moreover, structured resistance exercise combined with higher protein, particularly dairy protein has been reported to gains in lean body mass in women.19,20 Higher protein intakes can be supportive of more positive outcomes after weight is reduced.21

Protein and Meal Distribution

While it is reasonable to plan for protein intakes exceeding base requirement standards when trying to lose weight and/or improve body composition. In doing so, higher protein percentages of energy during weight loss can achieve minimal protein targets per meal. For instance, greater than 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram body weight split over 4 to 6 meals with 30% protein energy (coined “protein pacing”) demonstrated superiority over lower-protein and lower-frequency diets for improving body composition in hypocaloric conditions.10,16 Furthermore, it is reasonable to conclude that a protein-rich meal should be consumed early in the waking hours. Specifically, breakfast meals containing a larger amount of protein (≥30 g protein/meal) and energy (≥350 kcal/meal) and provided as solid foods increased the magnitude of the appetite and satiety response compared with breakfast skipping.23,24

In conclusion, successful weight loss and improvements in body composition can be supported by protein intakes at levels greater than minimum requirements such as RDAs. Daily minimum protein level targeting can be set as the lesser of 1.2-1.4 grams/kilogram body weight or 30% of energy for weight reduction. As a result, distribution of total protein at several meals throughout the day should achieve minimal thresholds (e.g. >20 grams/meal). In addition, while lower intensity exercise will support an increased energy expenditure, higher intensity exercise can help preserve or potentially build lean body mass while supporting maximize weight reductions or body composition change attributable to reduced adiposity.


  1. WHO | Obesity and overweight - World Health Organization 2018 (Access the WHO Data Factsheet)

  2. Centers for Disease Control. CDC and Obesity 2018. (Access the CDC Data Website) (Summarized on #stateofobesity

  3. Amine E., Baba N., Belhadj M., Deurenbery-Yap M., Djazayery A., Forrester T., Galuska D., Herman S., James W., MBuyamba J. Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases: Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation. World Health Organization; Geneva, Switzerland: 2002.

  4. GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators. Afshin A., Forouzanfar M.H., Reitsma M.B., Sur P., Estep K., Lee A., Marczak L., Mokdad A.H., Moradi-Lakeh M., et al. Health effects of overweight and obesity in 195 countries over 25 years. N. Engl. J. Med. 2017; 377:13–27. (Access the Research Study/Review)

  5. Austin GL, Ogden LG, Hill JO. Trends in carbohydrate, fat, and protein intakes and association with energy intake in normal-weight, overweight, and obese individuals: 1971-2006. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Apr;93(4):836-43. (Access the Research Study)

  6. Winkler G., Döring A., Keil U. Trends in dietary sources of nutrients among middle-aged men in Southern Germany. Results of the Monica project Augsburg: Dietary surveys 1984/1985 and 1994/1995. Appetite. 2000; 34:37–45. (Access the Research Study Abstract)

  7. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ, Wildman R, Kleiner S, VanDusseldorp T, Taylor L, Earnest CP, Arciero PJ, Wilborn C, Kalman DS, Stout JR, Willoughby DS, Campbell B, Arent SM, Bannock L, Smith-Ryan AE, Antonio J. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 14;14:16. (Access the ISSN Position Stand)

  8. Pesta D, Samuel V. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2014;11(1):53. (Access the Scientific Review)

  9. Arciero PJ, Ormsbee MJ, Gentile CL, Nindl BC, Brestoff JR, Ruby M. Increased Protein Intake and Meal Frequency Reduces Abdominal Fat During Energy Balance and Energy Deficit. Obesity. 2013; 21, 1357-1366. (Access the Research Study)

  10. Arciero P, Ormsbee M, Gentile C, Nindl B, Brestoff J, Ruby M. Increased protein intake and meal frequency reduces abdominal fat during energy balance and energy deficit. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21(7):1357–66.

  11. Wycherley T, Moran L, Clifton P, Noakes M, Brinkworth G. Effects of energy restricted high-protein, low-fat compared with standard-protein, low-fat diets: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012; 96(6):1281–98. (Access the Research Study)

  12. Layman D, Evans E, Erickson D, Seyler J, Weber J, Bagshaw D, et al. A moderate-protein diet produces sustained weight loss and long-term changes in body composition and blood lipids in obese adults. J Nutr. 2009; 139(3):514–21. (Access the Research Study)

  13. Layman D, Evans E, Baum J, Seyler J, Erickson D, Boileau R. Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2005;135(8):1903–10. (Access the Research Study)

  14. Longland T, Oikawa S, Mitchell C, Devries M, Phillips S. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103(3):738–46. (Access the Research Study)

  15. Thomson RL, Buckley JD, Noakes M, Clifton PM, Norman RJ, Brinkworth GD. The Effect of a Hypocaloric Diet with and without Exercise Training on Body Composition, Cardiometabolic Risk Profile, and Reproductive Function in Overweight and Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2008; 93(9)1: 3373–3380, (Access the Research Study)

  16. Arciero PE RC, Bunsawat K, Gentile C, Ketcham C, Darin C, Renna M, et al. Protein-pacing from food or supplementation improves physical performance in overweight men and women: the PRISE 2 study. Nutrients. 2016;8(5):E288. (Access the Research Study)

  17. Arciero PJ, Baur D, Connelly S, Ormsbee MJ. Timed-daily ingestion of whey protein and exercise training reduces visceral adipose mass and improves insulin resistance: the PRISE study. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2014; 117: 1-10. (Access the Research Study)

  18. Jo E, Worts PR, Elam ML, Brown AF, Khamoui AV, Kim D, Yeh M, Ormsbee MJ, Prado CM, Cain A, Snyder K, Kim J. Resistance Training During A 12-Week Protein Supplemented VLCD Treatment Enhances Weight-Loss Outcomes In OBESE Patients. Clinical Nutrition (2017), Dec 23. pii: S0261-5614(17)31435-8. (Access the Research Study Abstract)

  19. Josse AR, Atkinson SA, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet- and exercise-induced weight loss promotes fat mass loss and lean mass gain in overweight and obese premenopausal women. J Nutr. 2011 Sep;141(9):1626-34 (Access the Research Study)

  20. Josse AR, Phillips SM. Impact of milk consumption and resistance training on body composition of female athletes. Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:94-103.

  21. Pasiakos S, Cao J, Margolis L, Sauter E, Whigham L, McClung J, et al. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. FASEB J. 2013; 27(9):3837–47. (Access the Research Study)

  22. Gentile CL, Ward E, Holst JJ, Astrup A, Ormsbee MJ, Connelly S, Arciero PJ. Resistant starch and protein intake enhances fat oxidation and feelings of fullness in lean and overweight/obese women Nutr J. 2015; 14: 113. (Access the Research Study)

  23. Gwin JA, Leidy HJ. A Review of the Evidence Surrounding the Effects of Breakfast Consumption on Mechanisms of Weight Management. Adv Nutr. 2018 Sep 10. (Access the Review Abstract)

  24. Leidy HJ, Gwin JA, Roenfeldt CA, Zino AZ, Shafer RS. Evaluating the Intervention-Based Evidence Surrounding the Causal Role of Breakfast on Markers of Weight Management, with Specific Focus on Breakfast Composition and Size. Adv Nutr. 2016 May 16;7(3):563S-75S. (Access the Review Article)

iPB Approved Videos

Proteins Meals and Daily Intake

Dr Don Layman presents on the important of protein at meals and getting enough protein throughout the day. Protein Choices. It’s all about Meal Choices. Nutrition Forum – Dr. Donald Layman, PhD

Dr Heather Leidy discusses the importance of starting the day with protein Breakfast in the Classroom for Teachers. Discussion overviews the positive benefits of the protein-rich breakfast for children and teens in school.

Dr Heather Leidy presents on Protein, Particularly at Breakfast, on Appetite, Satiety, and Weight Management Adolescents. Protein-rich breakfast can have a positive impact on weight management for adolescents.

Protein Level and Weight Loss

Dr Stu Phillips presents on weight loss and changing body composition in Protein in Weight Loss: Advantage Protein. Additional commentary includes popular macronutrient manipulation.

Dr Heather Leidy gives a brief overview of how Protein at Breakfast helps with appetite and satiety versus lower protein breakfast or skipping, plus that it might not take a lot of protein at meals to benefit.

Dr Stu Phillips presents on the Macronutrient Mix in Weight Loss: Advantage Protein. Discussion on the importance of the level of protein during weight loss on body composition and quality of weight change.


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