By Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.
If you’ve been following my Senior Fitness column, you understand how resistance exercise, supplemented with high-quality protein, is the key to losing the right kind of weight (fat versus muscle). However, if this is your first time reading my column, I welcome you to retrieve my article, “Do You Like M & Ms.” It clarifies the importance of resistance training, lean muscle tissue, and the relationship between muscle and metabolism, as well as how much protein is required to build muscle mass and to lose fat weight.
For all intents and purposes, this article will summarize several published weight loss studies led by Dr. Wayne Westcott, our fitness research team, and me. I will then provide details of our upcoming exercise and nutrition study. But first, let’s begin with our preliminary protein and body composition study.
What prompted us to conduct a protein and body composition study? We learned about a Shaklee Corporation 12-week clinical study where subjects participated in a weight loss plan (no exercise protocol) eating three meals a day, two consisting of a high quality protein shake that included the amino acid L-leucine known to help maintain muscle. We were pleased to learn that the study participants retained 100 percent muscle. It piqued our interest so we asked the question “What would happen to the muscle if we add resistance training into the mix?”
STUDY ONE – Protein and Body Composition Study
We conducted our first protein and body composition study back in 2006. Our male and female subjects, average age 59, were placed in two groups. Under strict supervision by our certified fitness staff, groups 1 and 2 exercised two or three times per week on 10 different resistance machines for every major muscle group of the body. Group 1 was the only group who ingested a meal-shake twice a week that included the amino acid L-leucine, responsible for maintaining muscle—26 grams of protein, and 34 grams of carbohydrates immediately after completing their exercise. We found that those who drank the supplemental protein shake lost 41 percent more fat and gained 83 percent more muscle than those who did not drink the shake.
This led us to a second study where we explored whether post-exercise protein shakes would increase muscle mass and bone density with no diet restrictions.
STUDY TWO – Bone Density Study
In this nine-month study subjects underwent a pre- and post- DEXA Scan to determine bone mineral density. The exercise protocol of resistance training and aerobic activity was similar to Study One (above). Subjects trained on the same 10 strength training machines two or three times per week. The bone density study subjects were placed in three groups: (1) Exercise Only Group, (2) Exercise Plus Shake Group, and (3) Non Exercise/Non Shake Group. The exercise plus shake group increased bone density by 1 percent while the non exercise, non shake group had a 1 percent reduction in bone mineral density.
Although the exercise only group did not increase their bone density, they did, in fact, maintain their bone density. In other words, they did not lose bone. According to research, adults who do not partake in resistance exercise tend to lose 1 to 3 percent bone mineral density each year! This study indicated that resistance training, combined with adequate supplemental high quality protein, increases bone density, which is excellent news for those suffering with osteoporosis.
We decided to conduct a weight loss study next emphasizing building muscle while losing fat.
STUDY THREE – Weight Loss Study
In this 6-month weight loss study, published in February, 2017, participants followed a sensible exercise program and a sound diet plan. The male subjects consumed 1,500-1,800 calories daily, and the female subjects consumed 1,200-1,500 calories daily. All of our subjects consumed two daily meal replacement protein shakes (24 grams of protein, and 36 grams of carbohydrates). The workout entailed 20 minutes of aerobic activity and 20 minutes of resistance exercise, two or three days per week. On this program, our subjects improved their body composition by almost 18 pounds, losing 14 pounds of fat and adding about 4 pounds of lean (muscle) weight. In addition, our program participants made significant reductions in their hips, waist, resting blood pressure, and blood sugar readings (HbA1c).
The weight loss program was so successful that we followed up with a weight maintenance study to see if body composition would continue to improve during a maintenance phase.
STUDY FOUR – Maintenance Study
We followed our weight loss study with a weight maintenance study, in which the participants continued the same basic and brief exercise program of aerobic activity and resistance training. The weight maintenance study subjects had no caloric restrictions, but consumed 1 daily meal replacement shake to ensure sufficient protein intake. To our astonishment they continued to improve their body composition, losing fat and adding muscle throughout the study, while avoiding the weight regain other dieter’s experience. In fact, this was the first study to establish these impressive results that were published in the Journal of Clinical Exercise Physiology, 2018.
Subsequently, in the New Year we will be conducting a Nutrition and Exercise Study to compare body composition, resting blood pressure, and exercise compliance between two intervention groups.
With these four studies in mind, here are some some key points and other pertinent facts:
Our goal is to address the occurrence of the obesity epidemic our nation is facing. Plainly, the leading cause is age-related loss of muscle mass and reduction in metabolic rate that directly link with fat accrual. Typical diets are temporary fixes that result in fat loss, and, unfortunately, muscle loss as well, making it challenging to prevent regaining the lost weight.
Our research studies along with others, have demonstrated that one can expect to lose fat and gain muscle improving the chances of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and ideal body weight by supplementing with the appropriate amount of high quality protein in conjunction with regular resistance exercise.
STUDY FIVE – NEW! Nutrition and Exercise Study
Starting in January, we are conducting a new weight loss study at our Quincy College Community Health and Fitness Center. We are located at President’s Place, 150 Hancock Street in Quincy, right across from the Quincy MBTA Station. Our facility is COVID compliant and our fitness staff is nationally certified. Please contact, Dr. Wayne Westcott, Professor and Director of Exercise Science at Quincy College, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him directly at 617.984.1716 if you would like to participate and/or would like more information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Rita La Rosa Loud holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology with additional education in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training. She is NASM Certified and has been actively involved in the fitness industry for over 35 years. She is also an author and writes fitness related articles for various fitness publications. Currently, she is a Fitness Researcher who Co-Directs the Health & Fitness Center at Quincy College with Dr. Wayne L. Westcott.