Excessive Calorie Intake and Low Protein Contribute to Weight Gain

Key Takeaways:

  • Unregulated consumption of high quantities of calories, particularly in a diet low in protein, can lead to unhealthy weight gain.
  • A diet rich in protein can lead to healthier changes in lean body mass and aid in calorie burning.
  • Different dietary alterations cause varying patterns of weight gain – low-protein diets can result in the increase of body fat and loss of muscle mass.
  • Dr. David Heber suggests a high-protein, low-fat diet with fruits and vegetables for maintaining a balance in weight gain quality, which is more significant than the raw weight or Body Mass Index.
  • This study reinforces the ‘calories count’ principle, urging people to be vigilant about their overall calorie consumption rather than just the sources of these calories.

Unregulated consumption of high quantities of calories, as opposed to a high protein diet, may be the significant factor in causing unhealthy weight gain, according to recent scientific findings.

In an exploratory study that one shouldn’t attempt to replicate at home, 25 health-conscious volunteers altered their diets to include varying levels of protein along with nearly 1,000 extra calories over a period of eight weeks. This study was conducted in a highly controlled inpatient setting, with participants just having concluded a phase of maintaining stable weight for about 13 to 25 days.

Participants following the low-protein diets gained less in terms of weight, but this weight gain was observed to be of inferior quality as it resulted from a rise in body fat. On the other hand, diets rich in protein led to healthier changes in lean body mass and facilitated calorie burning.

“An exceedingly high number of us binge on food, and if you’re prone to overeating, you really need to keep an eye on the content of your diet,” explains study co-author Leanne Redman, an assistant professor of endocrinology at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “If you overconsume a diet high in fat but low in protein, you might gain weight at a slower pace, but the downside is that you are amassing more fat and losing muscle.”

The findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Examining the Effect of Protein Levels on Body Composition

The researchers focused on studying how varying amounts of protein affected body composition, weight gain, and energy expenditure under strictly controlled variables. The subjects were young adults ranging from 18 to 35 years of age.

The diets differed in their calorie proportions derived from protein. In the low-protein variant, protein made up 5 percent of total calories, in the normal-protein variant it was 15 percent, and in the high-protein variant, protein accounted for 25 percent of total caloric intake. Each of these diets included similar carbohydrate quantities while the fats varied according to total calories. Every participant was slightly overfed by approximately 954 calories per day.

Despite different dietary alterations, every participant experienced weight gain. This weight gain, however, differed qualitatively across groups. While those following a low-protein diet lost around 2.2 pounds of muscle mass, those in the normal- or high-protein groups gained muscle mass. This pattern can be attributed to the fact that muscle is denser than fat and therefore weighs more. The surplus calories in those on a low-protein diet essentially transformed into body fat.

The Importance of Balancing Quality of Weight Gain

Dr. David Heber, Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles, stresses that the composition of weight gain – being lean muscle or fat – might carry more weight (pun intended) than the raw weight itself or one’s Body Mass Index. “Calories indeed matter”, Heber said. He proposes a diet high in protein and low in fat, enriched with colourful fruits and vegetables. “We’re suggesting lean proteins such as white chicken, seafood, turkey, egg whites, and certain protein powders. Protein aids in making you feel satiated, hence reducing your appetite,” Heber elaborated.

Connie Diekman, the Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St Louis, emphasizes that “This study reinforces the ‘calories count’ principle when it comes to the percentage of body fat. This study’s conclusion helps remind people to be aware of their calorie consumption rather than only focusing on its sources.”

Additional Resources

Learn more about the importance of dietary protein at the American Diabetes Association.

Jenna A. Fletcher

Greetings from the heart of holistic health! I’m Jenna, originally hailing from the scenic landscapes of Canada and now sharing my unique blend of expertise with the global community. My foundation in psychotherapy has given me profound insights into the intricacies of the mind-body connection.I passionately believe in the power of a holistic lifestyle, especially when paired with the transformative benefits of plant-based living. Nourishing ourselves goes beyond just the physical; it’s an intricate dance of mental, emotional, and environmental well-being. My writings here aim to provide a comprehensive look at how a plant-centric lifestyle can uplift and revitalize every facet of our existence.With each article, I hope to guide, inspire, and enlighten readers on the holistic benefits of plant-based living, drawing connections between our diet, our minds, and the world around us. Join me as we delve into this green journey, weaving ancient wisdom with modern insights for a balanced, vibrant life.
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