If only there was a magic weight loss wand you could wave to help you shed fat, rev-up your metabolism and hold onto your muscle. Well, magic wands are in short supply, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

That’s the good news from a new study released in February this year by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. Their findings show that you can lose a significant amount of fat and augment your muscle in just 28 short days. But before we find out how they came to that conclusion, here’s a bit of background.

The metabolism factor.

Typically, conventional weight loss programmes have you eat less calories than your body needs for its daily required processes. As a result your body taps into its energy reserves. These reserves come in the form of stored body fat and lean body mass (muscle). When someone embarks on a diet and exercise programme absent of strength training, the body will instinctively use a percentage of its muscle in order to hoard more of its fat.

This is a situation you want to avoid because muscle tissue is, for the most part, what determines your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). So, lose a little muscle and your metabolism proportionally slows down.

Bring on the protein.

Researchers over the past decade have gained a greater appreciation that, when it comes to weight loss, strength-training is vital in the prevention of unwanted muscle loss. Plus they know that the amino acids in protein help muscle tissue to maintain itself and grow. Many studies have demonstrated that low-calorie diets sufficient in protein can reduce the effects of muscle loss compared to similar diets without adequate protein.

The question that remained in the Canadian researchers mind: what was the best dose of protein that would achieve maximum fat loss and lean body mass (muscle gain) on a diet low in calories, particularly done in conjunction with intense exercise training or HIT? So they took 40 overweight men and split them into two groups - the difference between them was the percentage of calories consumed between fat and protein. Both groups reported to the lab to complete an intense full-body weight training circuit (HIT) three days per week interspersed with high intensity interval cardio training (HIIT) on separate days, over 28 days.

It’s all in the composition.

The results were not so surprising. All the subjects in the study had torched off the same 5.4 kgs of weight over the 28 day period. However, their body composition results were quite different. The men on the high protein-low calorie eating plan had in fact gained approximately 1.1 kgs of muscle during the month. They also lost 1.3kgs more fat. On the other hand, the group consuming less protein had no movement in their muscle mass. Although their fat loss wasn’t as great, their muscle mass was maintained, preserving their resting metabolic rate.

These results strongly suggest that a little over the daily recommended allowance of protein (2.4g per kilogram of weight) is more advisable during a low calorie weight loss programme to avoid stripping yourself of muscle and assist in maximum fat loss. It’s also worth noting that the McMaster University researchers said that, “it is more than likely, however, that our results were due as much, if not more, to the addition of resistance exercise.”

At BodyTech Gym, we’ve always known that when it comes to efficient fat loss and the retention of metabolism in a weight loss programme, high intensity strength training is key. Combined with a diet that considers the optimal balance between all the macro nutrients of protein, carbohydrate and fats, it’s the proven way to achieve better, faster results. It’s no magic wand but it works like one!