Whey Protein Increases Weight Loss Through Leucine

Published: 08th December 2010
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Many research studies have highlighted whey protein as a way to increase weight loss results; now a new research study from a research group in Galveston Texas has found that the high leucine content in whey may be one of the key reasons for this.

Leucine is an amino acid that is found in particularly high levels in whey protein and other dairy proteins such as casein. But is not found in high amounts in soy products, another common protein source for meal replacements. Leucine, the researchers in Texas found out, helps to stimulate muscle protein synthesis after it is consumed. While, according to lead author and researcher, Dr. Blake Rasmussen, the stimulation of protein synthesis is triggered by leucine, the real effects on weight loss are because this process then burns more energy thereby boosting the individuals’ metabolism.

When meals are consumed several times throughout the day each with high whey protein content and therefore high leucine content, this metabolism boosting effect can have a tremendous cumulative affect according to the study published this year in the International Journal of Exercise Science.

According to researchers this recent finding is simply one of several ways in which whey protein is an extremely good source of protein for people on weight loss programs. Earlier research studies have shown that the high calcium content actually has an effect of making people feel full sooner and on fewer calories than other foods, thought to act through the stomach and small intestine by both stimulating the release of ghrelin a "full" hormone and through binding to extra fat in the food, and thereby reducing the amount metabolized by the body.

In the research study by Dr. Rasmussen and colleagues in Texas, they found that while on a weight loss diet for 12-weeks the individuals on a high whey protein weight loss program lost 10% more weight, 25% more body fat, and actually increased their metabolism during the study period compared to those on a soy based protein diet. These results are significant when considering that by having an increased metabolism will assist the individuals in maintaining the weight loss during the maintenance phase of the program.

Future research by the group is aimed at the timing of taking whey protein to maximize its abilities to increase weight loss. For athletes, the researchers note, taking whey protein directly after exercise enhances recovery and perhaps this will be true for weight loss as well but further research will have to be done.

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