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Intermittent Fasting, Whey Protein, and Weight Loss?

Intermittent Fasting, Whey Protein, and Weight Loss?

For those of us who’re looking to lose weight, a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition might offer some hope.  Losing weight is never easy as it requires a lifelong commitment to changes in dietary habits as well as activity level.

Years ago, I read a book by Greg LeMond, the former three-time Tour de France winner.  I loosely recall him mentioning something about you can’t lose weight by sitting on your couch eating hot-fudge Sundaes.

Conventional wisdom is the usual edict of calories in and calories out hold true for the most part.  However, some recent research suggests that intermittent fasting might offer an unconventional weight loss strategy.

intermittent fasting

The Myth of Six Small Meals?

Though I’m not going to bother citing a reference here, the Body for Life book by Bill Phillips was probably the first mention of the often promulgated advice of 6 small meals per day.  The purported benefit of this meal plan was that it would prevent your metabolism from slowing down while also keeping you in an anabolic state for those who engage in resistance training.

For most people, if you’ve ever tried the eat 6 small meals per day method, you probably find that you end up getting used to never feeling hungry.  After awhile, chances are you lose discipline over portion control and the next thing you know it leads to simply eating too much and too often.

Not wanting to stop at my intuitive feelings over the meal frequency myth, I found a very recent review study that has debunked this myth.  A review published in the Journal of Nutrition made the following conclusion:

Taken together, these findings suggest that increased eating frequency (>3 eating occasions/d) has minimal, if any, impact on appetite control and food intake, whereas reduced eating frequency(<3 eating occasions/d) negatively effects appetite control.

Okay, so this review only addresses the effect of meal frequency on appetite control and food intake, what about weight loss?  From a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, they found that meal frequency had NO benefit on promoting weight loss in obese subjects on a calorie restricted diet:

We conclude that increasing MF (meal frequency) does not promote greater body weight loss under the conditions described in the present study.

Intermittent Fasting?

Contrary to this diet regime, a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity suggests that intermittent fasting can not only be effective for lowering insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cholesterol, but also promotes weight loss.  This and other studies in this area contradict the fear that your metabolism will ‘slow down’ causing you to gain weight if you don’t eat 6 small meals per day.  In fact, intermittent fasting was more effective than calorie restriction at reducing insulin resistance in this particular study.

Okay, so now we’ve established that eating frequently won’t suppress your appetite, reduce your energy intake, or help you lose more weight.  If you want to improve your insulin resistance and lose weight, intermittent fasting is an option worth considering (in consultation with a health professional).  What if you just want to suppress your appetite to help you lose weight, is there anything that works?

Effects of whey protein on suppressing appetite:

Speaking of losing weight…  Another recent study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that there’s a dose-response effect for drinking a whey protein beverage 90 minutes prior to eating.  Participants in this study, however, were already within a healthy weight range (BMI 19-25, both men and women).

In this study, the participants drank a 400 ml  [400 calories] beverage 90 minutes prior to eating an ad libitum test meal.  In addition to a placebo beverage containing flavored water, they were also randomized to a 400 calorie beverage containing 12.5, 25, or 50% of the calories from whey protein.

Energy intake after preload:

  • placebo – 987 Calories
  • 12.5% protein beverage – 841 Calories
  • 25% protein beverage – 808 Calories
  • 50% protein beverage – 681 Calories

From this data, consuming a whey protein beverage prior to large meals, particularly dinner, may be beneficial for those looking to reduce their appetite and lose weight. Regardless of the ability to lose weight, some people are bothered by excessive chin fat which can be treated in Edmonton with BELKYRA®.


  • Charles

    I would imagine that simply eating a whole food meal containing a larger percentage protein would have the same effect. The effect would probably be even more pronounced given the statiating power of whole food vs. liquid calories.

    • Jarret Morrow, M.D.

      Hey Charles, that's certainly a possibility though it seems the idea in that study was to consume a protein beverage 90 minutes prior to eating a whole meal. It wouldn't make much sense to eat two full meals in a row in that time span, right?

  • Susan

    Hey Jarret, my opinion on why the higher meal frequency doesn't work is because people end up eating too much by the time the day ends. The basis of higher meal frequency is to keep hormones balanced so you don't over eat but in the end, people aren't limiting their meals to 200-300 calories when they increase their meal frequency. Anyway, I am not convinced increased meals elevated metabolism. I think it's a myth. Intermittent fasting is really the cadillac of caloric restriction right now. One of the best things it does is balance your hormones so you really don't have any cravings. Add that to reduced caloric intake and enhanced growth hormone secretion and you start to wonder why everyone isn't jumping on the bandwagon. And for those folks who think skipping meals slows metabolism it really isn't true. Research shows you can go something like 3 days without eating before you see a decrease in metabolism. As for the whey, I am not as well versed on the topic. However, I have read that having a breakfast of at least 30% protein will increase your metabolism by 20%. true or not, I have no idea, but I know you will lose more weight this way that stuffing yourself with carbs.

  • Project Swole

    Intermittent Fasting is my favorite new diet strategy right now. I'm planning on adopting IF for at least 5 days a week, eating at noon, 3 more meals timed around a workout, and a dinner around 7-8pm, then start fasting. It is based on Martin's 16 hour fast for the Leangains protocol. I'm debating consuming BCAAs for breakfast and before bed, but I think I'll stick with the basics before I start introducing any new theories.

  • Amanda

    Is intermittent fasting somewhat similiar to the after 6pm diet? I'm on it now and it's been effective for me. The first noticeable weight loss was in the first two months. Now I'm able to maintain my weight with the help of a dietary supplement and, of course, regular exercise. I really think it's more effective than eating often, albeit in small portions.

  • Bob Stanke

    Thanks for the post - good stuff for sure. I just listened to a back episode of the podcast "The Paleo Solution" with Robb Wolfe. He talked a little bit about intermittent fasting and recommended the 16/8 plan. So I am going to give that a try first and see what happens. I blogged about it tonight and included a link back to this post you wrote. Thanks again! Bob Stanke

  • Clint - Crude Fitness

    I've been intermittently fasting for around 3 months now ( style). Has worked fabulously. My abdominals have never looked sharper in my 10+ years of training.

    • Jarret Morrow, M.D.

      Hi Clint, Thanks for your feedback. In terms of intermittent fasting protocols, Martin's (lean gains) certainly seems to be well-thought out and very popular.

    • Kat

      hey, i am trying to train myself for a six pack, how long will it take?

  • Matt

    Sounds to me like there will always be conflicting information out there. I don't know whether it's psychological, but I actually feel better eating smaller meals. I don't get bloated.

  • Jeff

    Hi, Comment and a Question: First, I have recently been fasting two days out of every seven. For each day I fast, I try not to consume anything for around 16 to 24 hours. I also do a very light cardio regime on these days for about 45 mins of walking (burning 300 calories on average). On the days I fast, I consume water and have one whey protien shake in the morning before I start my day and one at night before I go to bed. On the days that I don't fast, I consume between 1800 and 2000 calories from foods such as eggs, chicken, salad, rice, pasta, etc... ( Absolutely no junk.) On Sundays, I allow myself a cheat meal with a couple of slices of pizza or something similar - but I still keep the amount of calories very low. I have been doing this for 2 1/2 months now and I have lost over 15 pound and dropped two belt sizes. I also work out and speed walk 4-5days/week. My question is this: Do you think this is healthy? And, should I not drink the whey protien shakes on the days that I fast. I'm a little worried about muscle loss. Any info would be appreciated, Thanks

    • Michael

      if you take a BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) supplement it helps prevent the deterioration of muscle tissues while fasting. you can pretty much buy them at any GNC. Also you should take a BCAA supplement if you are working out an taking protein it will help with Protein synthesis.

  • Nancy

    What I like best about IF & other fasts is that it benefits a body beyond weight loss, which is more of a side effect. Digestion is the hardest work your body can do, so keeping your digestion fired up for 6 meals a day may certainly contribute to weight loss, but it leaves the body no time to dispose of waste & dead matter that build up in our organs. Plus there's toxicity from unclean foods & environmental toxins that build in our fat. When we get rid of all that junk, our bodies just work more efficiently at everything, including digestion. Fasting also is an opportunity to reevaluate our relationship to feelings around food. "I'm hungry. For what & why?" If you learn you're craving ice cream because of a childhood link to ice cream but you can't have it and can't replace it with another food, you're forces to process the emotion. That's a powerful thing

  • Diane Williams

    This is interesting. I have these shakes that I sometimes drink and I think it really helps me eat less. I also feel energized but not so full where I'm feeling sluggish from eating solid food. So it makes me want to workout every single time. I am hearing alot about the intermittent fasting method. One of my clients is doing this. She does it every single weekend since she's been training with me. She has lost 35 lbs. so far.

  • James Katt

    The problem of the study cited is that the subjects still ate greater than a 1000 calorie meal despite preloading with whey protein. Three meals like that a day guarantees obesity.

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