A hypoenergetic diet with decreased protein intake does not reduce lean body mass in trained females

Alice G. Pearson, Alexander Lee, Oliver Witard, Thomas E. Coughlin, Kevin Tipton, Ian Walshe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Increasing protein intake during energy restriction (ER) attenuates lean body mass (LBM) loss in trained males. However, whether this relationship exists in trained females is unknown. This study examined the impact of higher compared to lower protein intakes (35% versus 15% of energy intake) on body composition in trained females during 2 weeks of severe ER. Methods: Eighteen well-trained females completed a 1-week energy balanced diet (HD100), followed by a 2-week hypoenergetic (40% ER) diet (HD60). During HD60, participants consumed either a high protein (HP; 35% protein, 15% fat) or lower protein (CON; 15% protein, 35% fat) diet. Body composition, peak power, leg strength, sprint time, and anaerobic endurance were assessed at baseline, pre-HD60, and post-HD60. Results: Absolute protein intake was reduced during HD60 in the CON group (from 1.6 to 0.9 g·d·kgBM −1) and maintained in the HP group (~ 1.7 g·d·kgBM −1). CON and HP groups decreased body mass equally during HD60 (− 1.0 ± 1.1 kg; p = 0.026 and − 1.1 ± 0.7 kg; p = 0.002, respectively) and maintained LBM. There were no interactions between time point and dietary condition on exercise performance. Conclusion: The preservation of LBM during HD60, irrespective of whether absolute protein intake is maintained or reduced, contrasts with findings in trained males. In trained females, the relationship between absolute protein intake and LBM change during ER warrants further investigation. Future recommendations for protein intake during ER should be expressed relative to body mass, not total energy intake, in trained females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-781
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
Early online date1 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


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