Higher-protein diet with resistance exercise best for fat loss

There are a myriad of ways to lose weight, but I lean generally towards diets relatively low in carbohydrate and rich in fat. This is on the basis that such diets consistently out-perform diets explicitly low in fat in terms of weight loss. Also, such diets tend to, generally speaking, bring about desirable changes in markers for disease including blood pressure, blood fat and blood sugar levels.

When it comes to exercise, I am not particularly enthusiastic about conventional advice to take plenty of aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, swimming, cycling). While this may be good for all manner of things (e.g. reduced risk of disease and improved mental health), it tends not to work for weight loss. Over the years, I’ve become a gradual convert to resistance exercise. Part of the reason for this is that it can improve body composition, might reduce muscle loss during weight loss, and also generally improves functionality (particularly important as we age).

I was interested to read of a recent study in which two diets (one higher in protein than the other) were tried in a group of overweight and obese individuals with type 2 diabetics [1]. The breakdown of these two diets in terms of calories contributed by carbohydrate, protein and fat, respectively were:

Conventional diet – 53:19:26

Higher-protein diet – 43:33:22

Each of these group was also split into two, with only one of these groups also engaging in resistance exercise 3 time a week. The study last 16 weeks.

A number of body measurements were made, including weight, fat mass and waist circumference.

Overall, the people who did worst, were those who ate the ‘conventional’ diet and did not engage in resistance exercise. Those doing best were those who ate the higher-protein diet, who did resistance exercise too.

For example, non-exercising conventional diet eaters lost an average of 6.4 kg of fat and 8.2 cm off their waists. In comparison, the higher-protein diet eating exercisers lost an average of 11.1 kg of fat and 13.7 cm off their waists.

If I had my way, for optimum results, I’d swap some of those carb calories for fat. Nevertheless, this study supports the idea that for the most effective weight loss, diets lower in carb and richer in protein, coupled with some resistance exercise, delivers the goods.


1. Wycherley TP, et al. A High-Protein Diet With Resistance Exercise Training Improves Weight Loss and Body Composition in Overweight and Obese Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2010;33(5):969-976

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15 Responses to Higher-protein diet with resistance exercise best for fat loss

  1. Di 7 May 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    Would running be considered resistance exercise. If not, what is?

  2. anonymous 7 May 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    This article is very interesting. Only, could you explain what you mean by “resistance exercise”? I’ve been doing stretching exercises for a while, with good results, would yopu please tell me what that other exercise implies? Thanks.

  3. Dr John Briffa 7 May 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    Di and anonymous

    Running is not considered a resistance exercise. Resistance exercise are those where weights, body weight or something else (e.g. giant elastic band) are used to provide ‘resistance’ against which a muscle or muscle group is exercised. Weight training and press-ups are examples of resistance exercises.

  4. Jamie 7 May 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    I got half way through this post & after seeing the composition of the diets, I thought to myself that the high protein group should have sacrificed some of the carbohydrate energy for more fat – say 40% fat. Then I saw your comment “If I had my way, for optimum results, I’d swap some of those carb calories for fat.”

    Just to clarify, for those asking, resistance training is anaerobic by nature and involves repetitions near maximal MUSCULAR contractile effort over a short time frame (seconds).

    Cycling uphill, while providing resistance, is still largely driven by the aerobic system. In order to get the likes of running & cycling to approximate the type of resistance work Dr Briffa is referring to here, you would need to perform very short, maximal power sprints with prolonged rest periods. E.g. sprinting hard for 6-10 secs then taking several minutes recovery before repeating.

  5. Mallory 7 May 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    i like body weight resistance exercise because it works with your body and feels as if your body develops the strength is needs instead of bulking to proportions unequivilent to your own body.

  6. donald 8 May 2010 at 12:05 am #

    When I Cycle for excercise and fun I try and ensure my route includes a resonable amount of uphill cycling , should that not qualify as resistance excercise ?

  7. Mike 8 May 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    It’s too bad the control group for the conventional diet didn’t include typical LSD, low intensity, longer duration type steady-state aerobic training; while I 100% subscribe to and endorse the idea of RT over LSD, I think this study lacks any quality controls to actually extrapolate any solid conclusions. Swap RT for LSD, and compare to a sedentary group, and we might have come up with the exact same results.

    I do like your line of thinking about diet and exercise, though, Dr Briffa. Please keep up the great blog posting!

  8. Alexander 9 May 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    I am your old follower. I have lost 10 kg easely and several friends of mine who use your dietary advices acieved the same or better result.
    My question is about people who wants to gain weight. Does your prime diet and all your other advices help them? If, yes in what way? Can you advise something special for them?


  9. chris 11 May 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    was there a group who did non-resistance exercise in this study? Otherwise it looks like there wasn’t the controls expected…


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