It’s hard to maintain muscle mass when you’re trying to cut weight or body fat through a combination of training and a lower-calorie diet. Of course you’re going to want to show off all of your hard work, so how do you minimize the loss of muscle while still getting ready to show off that six-pack? Protein.
A recent study from New Zealand led by Eric Helms showed that athletes lost lean mass as they lost body fat. In the study, however, athletes who consumed 2.5 to 2.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day were able to maintain muscle mass during a six-month period of restricted caloric intake plus weight training. Since protein requirements increase during sustained dieting, shoot for at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight if you’re trying to cut body fat.
The best time of day to eat protein? There isn’t one. Another recent study, from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, found that 24-hour protein synthesis was higher when protein was consumed evenly throughout the day as compared when it was consumed more at night. This study used sophisticated radioactive tracer methods to measure protein synthesis.
Sports Nutrition Exercise Metabolism, 24: 127-138, 2014
International Journal Journal of Nutrition, 144: 876-880, 2014