12 January - 20 June 2016

Maintaining muscle mass during weight loss

31 July 13

A review published in the Nestle Nutritional Institution Workshop Series by Oregon State University researcher Melinda Manore has addressed the concept of dynamic energy balance and dietary approaches that can be successfully used with active individuals to facilitate weight loss, while retaining lean tissue.   Manore states it is difficult to lose weight and retain lean tissue if calorie intake is restricted too dramatically or if weight is lost too fast.  Calorie restriction can mean athletes become too tired and don’t have the energy to exercise.   Combining severe calorie restriction with intense training can result in metabolic adaptations that actually can make it more difficult to lose weight.  For example total energy expenditure will be influenced by total energy intake and macronutrient composition of the diet, which can change the thermic effect of food and substrate oxidation during exercise.  Conversely, high intensity exercise can blunt appetite regulating hormones, which could reduce energy intake.  Whilst some athletes can be active outside of training, other can be sedentary which can decrease energy needs below predicted levels.  The paper lists a number of criteria which may help an athlete determine optimum body weight including weight that takes into consideration genetic makeup and family history, weight that is appropriate for age and level of physical development, including normal reproductive function in women and weight that can be maintained without constant dieting and restraining food intake.  It outlines a number of weight loss strategies for athletes, including adopting a low energy dense diet plan which is high in whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains and incorporates low-fat dairy, legumes/beans and lean meats.  Research has indicated that this diet allows an individual to consume a greater volume of food for an overall energy intake and still feel satisfied.  Manore notes that reducing the energy density of the diet is more effective than reducing portion size.  Increasing intake of foods high in water and fibre promote satiation, while reducing both high fat foods and low water and fibre foods.   Eating breakfast and timing of meals is also important for an athlete, as consuming breakfast has been found to lower energy intake and bodyweight and has been associated with better diet quality and weight management.   Consuming high quality protein throughout the day especially after exercise and at breakfast can make sure that adequate protein is available for building, repair and maintenance of lean tissue throughout the day and also can increase satiety and reduce energy intake.   Manore states that athletes should avoid high calorie beverages and avoid fad diets. The review concludes by noting that weight management plans need to be individualised, considering both the sport and the weight loss goals.

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