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Protein Intake Linked To Reduced Central Abdominal Fat

Posted on Thursday, 2 February, 2012 by anthony

Protein intake and abdominal fatRecent research (Loenneke et al., 2012) provides evidence of the benefit of quality protein intake in reducing central abdominal fat (CAF). In this study researchers looked at the amount of quality protein that was consumed in a 24 hour period and the amount of times that the essential amino acid (EAA) threshold was reached in a day – the EAA threshold was defined as when ~10g of EAA was consumed at a meal. EAAs play an essential role in stimulating muscle synthesis and previous research has demonstrated that approximately 10g of EAAs is sufficient to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis – greater intakes of EAAs do not appear to provide additional benefit as muscle protein synthesis appears to plateau above 9-10g of EAAs. 

The research looked at EAA consumption amongst 27 healthy males (n=12) and females (n=15) (Age = 22 ± 3 yrs.; Weight = 71.7 ± 13.9 kg). EAA consumption was determined from a 3 day food record, averaged across the 3 days, and the amino acid profile was determined using a computer programme. The CAF level was determined using a total body DXA scan. 

The researchers found that both the quality of the protein consumed and the distribution of the protein consumption throughout the day, was an important factor in determining the level of central abdominal fat. The researchers also found a significant relationship between how many times the EAA threshold was reached per day and the percentage of CAF, with subjects who reached the EAA threshold more times having a tendency to have lower levels of CAF. The researchers did not find significant association between carbohydrate or fat consumption and CAF levels amongst this group of healthy subjects. They concluded that the results of their study “indicate that quality and distribution of protein may play an important role in regulating CAF, which is a strong independent marker for disease and mortality.”

Why are EAAs believed help to regulate body fat levels?

EAAs are known to increase the levels of muscle protein synthesis which can increase the quantity of lean muscle mass. Since, muscle mass is a significant contributor to the resting metabolic rate any increase in lean mass will also lead to increases in the resting metabolic rate. The results of this study will not come as a particular surprise to many in the fitness industry who have routinely taken protein supplements, particularly whey protein supplements, for both increasing lean mass and as an aid to reducing body fat levels.

How much EAAs are in whey protein?

The quantity varies depending on the protein concentration of the whey protein powder but typically you would need between 25g (whey protein consisting of 90% protein) and 30g (whey protein consisting of 70% protein) to achieve the EAA.

How many times a day should you take the whey protein to maximise results?

The results of this study suggest that the greatest benefits occur when you consume 10g of EAAs on two or more occasions daily. Therefore, you may benefit from consuming 30g of whey protein on 2-3 separate occasions daily. You should try to separate each serving by around 2-3 hours and try to take away from meals.

What are the nine essential amino acids

The nine essential amino acis are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Some good natural sources of essential amino acids include: Eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, soybeans, salmon and tuna.


Loenneke J P, Wilson J M, Manninen A H, Wray M E, Barnes J T and  Pujol T J (2012) Quality protein intake is inversely associated with abdominal fat. Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:5

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