Protein before exercise helps women burn more calories

Eating protein before your next workout could help you burn more calories than exercising on an empty stomach, according to new research from the University of Arkansas.

The study found that women who had a high-protein meal followed by 30 minutes of moderate exercise had greater total energy expenditure than women who ate protein but didn't exercise after or women who didn't eat protein but exercised on an empty stomach.

“We looked at the effects of protein consumption alone on total energy expenditure, and protein consumption combined with exercise,” said study author Ashley Binns, a doctoral student in kinesiology and exercise science. “We found that with exercise, there is a trend for a continued increase in caloric expenditure with higher protein consumption. Additionally, the consumption of the high- or low-protein meals resulted in greater energy expenditure than the fasted state. That means that eating prior to exercise does provide fuel to burn, making us more like an energy-burning machine.”

Protein is the power player

For diabetics, protein is key in helping to stabilize blood sugar. And while high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are the general prescription for most people with the blood sugar condition, this type of eating – without exercise – can actually lead to muscle loss, Binns said.

“With just a high-protein diet and no exercise, the body heats up to break down the protein, but what also happens is it breaks down muscle,” she said. “You have individuals who are losing weight on a high-protein diet because their metabolism is increasing. The body first burns fat but then it also starts to burn muscle as fuel. We want to see individuals keep their muscle mass with a high-protein diet so that they are more energy efficient.”

Binns' graduate adviser, Michelle Gray, assistant professor of kinesiology, said that Binns' study is the first of its kind – most research on high-protein diets tends to examine extreme populations: the very athletic or the very obese.

"If simple changes can increase our energy expenditure, then they may have a large impact on weight loss or weight maintenance," Gray said.

Source: University of Arkansas

Photo credit: Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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