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Eat As Much Protein As You Want — You Won’t Gain Weight [Study]

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Image: Lky7Sports


What if I told you that you could eat as much as you wanted and you wouldn’t gain any weight? As long as you’re chugging protein, that might very well be the case. And that’s in the face of the nebulous belief that engulfing too much protein leads directly to body fat storage.

It doesn’t. A new study published in April’s JISSN debunks the protein overdose theory, and more.

The experiment ran 8 weeks and split 30 resistance-trained men/women1 into two groups: an uber-high protein group and a control group. The high protein group was instructed to eat a megadose of protein — 4.4g per kg of bodyweight every day, averaged at 309 grams per day — while the control group maintained the same exact diet they were already following (they averaged 138g of protein per day). Protein came from a combo of whey and casein powders, on top of whole foods. All subjects continued the exact same training regimen throughout the study.

Concurrently, the high protein group ate significantly more calories; and not just from the inflated protein levels. Here’s how it all went down:2

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What happened? Absolutely nothing. Despite scarfing down an additional 800 calories per day, the test group didn’t gain any body fat. Their fat mass and body fat % dropped by an average of .44 lbs and .6%, respectively. Compare that to the lower calorie control group—they gained .7 lbs of fat mass, but decreased their BF% by .9%—and there was no difference whatsoever.

It gets better. The high protein group built significantly more muscle mass: +4.5 lbs vs. +2.9 lbs in the control group. WITHOUT GAINING FAT. Keep your protein intake jacked up — it’s a viable tactic to inflate calories and accelerate muscle gain without the usual bulk-phase fat explosion.

And if building muscle isn’t your primary objective, just shift a few of your carb-calories over to the protein side. You’ll shrink, in a tight-and-toned sort of way.

So go ahead, down a little extra protein to take the edge off. It’s on the house.


Make Protein Your Dietary Backbone

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All of this science-y gobbledygook leads to one of our quintessential lean rules: always make protein the centerpiece of your meals. It has the power to completely revamp your entire diet.

Not only does protein quench appetite and support lean muscle growth, it’s metabolically efficient — meaning it burns significantly more calories through digestion than carbs or fat do (via thermogenesis). It also actively mitigates the insulinogenic effects of carbs and sugar. That slows digestion and keeps blood sugar levels from skyrocketing, which reduces the propensity of whatever you’re eating to store as body fat.

Eat eggs with breakfast. Chug a whey shake as a snack. Combine incomplete proteins — like with peanut butter and wheat bread. Make fish or chicken the core of your dinner, and then accessorize it with veggies, fats, grains, beans, and lean carbs. Max out on protein-dense, calorie-devoid green veggies (spinach, broccoli rabe, and asparagus). Sink your spoon into a tub of Icelandic yogurt.

There are eight bazillion possibilities. We’ve got recipes, too. Get creative and stuff your face — you really can’t overdo it, especially as a hunger buster.

Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Owner & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
Bryan DiSanto is the Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, an ACE-CPT & CSN, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness/nutrition nutjob.

He also contributes to Men's Health Magazine.

When he’s not working on his (or somebody else’s) abs, whipping up Eggocados, or running a Tough Mudder, he’s probably off yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.
Bryan DiSanto
Follow Lean It UP on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for real-time fitness/nutrition tips, advice, info and updates.


References, Notes, Links

  1. These aren’t candidates for “newbie gains.” Participants had been resistance training for the last 8.9 years, for an average of 8.5 hours/week. []
  2. Antonio et al. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2014 []


  • Kelcey Z

    Wow. This is super super super interesting. Thank you Bryan!!!!

    • Laurie Tam

      Interesting article. I already know about having protein in each meal but going nuts during the study of it for a short period of time definitely helped.
      Great article.

      • Bryan DiSanto

        You got it! More is definitely advantageous, especially if it displaces lower quality carbs.

  • Jeff

    This has been the main diet change for me and I can tell you this has worked wonders within the past 5 months of eating this exact way.

    I lost 15 lbs of fat and am finally at my target goal and look 100 times better.

    Follow this and you will be on your way to showing off some abs with exercise or looking very toned without exercise!

    I wouldn’t go ape shit on the amount of protein but just change how you look at your meals and you’re good to go!

    • Bryan DiSanto

      Wow, that’s impressive Jeff, awesome for you! Awesome to hear about your massively positive results.

      I completely agree though — don’t go bonkers, but consistently prioritize it.

  • Trainer 4761

    Is there a chance that the control group whose diet remained the same weren’t getting enough protein to begin with? Also how much of the extra Protein from the high protein group was just wasted. Maybe the protein group needed a little extra Protein in there diet which explains why the gained extra muscle compared to the control group. Added lean muscle mass raises your basal metabolic rate with would explain why they lost that little extra body fat. Food for thought. Also some people believe that excess protein can potentially lead to certain health problems including Gout.

    • Bryan DiSanto

      The CON group was eating ~138+-42g/day; the PRO group ate ~162+-69g/day — both are roughly in line with the protein reco for muscle growth, recovery, performance, etc.

      And the gout point (and other health metrics) is definitely valid, but 8 weeks is too short to legitimately conclude anything about a chronic condition(s). I don’t think anyone is practically downing 300+g on a regular basis though, and I wouldn’t recommend it for potential health reasons (purely speculative).

      Takeaway being, more protein is a good thing as far as physique development, satiety, and body comp are concerned.

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