Higher-protein, lower-carb diet with resistance exercise best for fat loss

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I am not an out-and-out fan of aerobic exercise for weight loss, on account of the fact that, well, it doesn’t work so well for this (though it is good for general health). In recent years I’ve grown more interested in resistance exercise, at least in part because it can make a big difference to the shape and overall look of the body. Also, resistance exercise helps preserve of even improve muscle strength, which is hugely useful in life, particularly as we age.

I came across a study recently where resistance exercise was applied alongside dietary changes in a group of overweight and obese women (average age 46, average BMI 33) [1].

The exercise intervention was the same for all women: it entailed three, 30-minute resistance-based circuit classes each week. This intervention lasted 10 weeks. All of the women were put on a low-fat, calorie controlled diet. 1,200 calories per day were permitted in week one, rising to 1,600 calories per day for the rest of the study.

Half the women ate a high carbohydrate diet, while the other half ate a lower carbohydrate diet somewhat richer in protein.

Taking all the women as a whole, the interventions led to significant improvements in weight, fat mass, blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic blood pressure (the higher of the two blood pressure readings), waist circumference and fitness.

Interestingly though, the women eating the lower-carb, higher-protein diet did better in terms of:

Weight loss (4.4 kg v 2.6 kg)

Fat loss (3.4 kg v 1.7 kg)

The results of this study are reminiscent of another study [2] I reported on here.

Two diets (one higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate than the other) were tested alongside resistance training (or no exercise) in a group of overweight and obese Type 2 diabetics. 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 groups was also split into two, with only one of these groups engaging in resistance exercise 3 times a week. The study lasted 16 weeks.

Those who did the best were those who ate the higher-protein, lower-carb diet and did resistance exercise too. These individuals lost an average of 11.1 kg of fat and 13.7 cm off their waists. (In comparison, non-exercising individuals eating a lower protein diet lost an average of 6.4 kg of fat and 8.2 cm off their waists).

For those seeking to shed fat and inches of their waist, some resistance exercise coupled with a relatively protein-rich and low-carb diet looks like a good way to go.


1. Kreider RB, et al. A carbohydrate-restricted diet during resistance training promotes more favourable changes in body composition and markers of health in obese women with and without insulin resistance. Physician and Sports Medicine. 2011;39(2):27-40.

2. 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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