The obesity epidemic has caused a widespread interest in strategies to achieve a healthy "high quality" weight loss, where excess fat is lost, while fat free mass (FFM) is preserved. In this study, we aimed to examine the effect of whey protein supplementation given before night sleep on FFM preservation during a 4-week (wk) period on a very low caloric diet (VLCD). Twenty-nine obese subjects (body mass index (BMI) > 28 kg/m²) completed a 4-week intervention including a VLCD and a walking program (30 min walking × 5 times per week). Subjects were randomly assigned to either control (CON, n = 15) or a whey protein supplement (PRO, 0.4 g protein/kg/day, n = 14), ingested before bedtime. Body composition (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, DXA), blood analysis and physical test were performed pre and post intervention. We measured nitrogen excretion in three 24 h urine collections (Day 0, 7 and 28) to assess nitrogen balance. Changes in nitrogen balance (NB) after 7 and 28 days was different between treatment groups (interaction p < 0.05). PRO was in NB after 7 days and in positive NB at day 28. In contrast, CON was in negative NB at day 7, but in NB at day 28. Nevertheless, no significant group differences were observed in the change in pre- and post-FFM measurements (-2.5 kg, [95% CI: 1.9; 3.1], p = 0.65). In conclusion, ingestion of a whey protein supplement before bedtime during a 4-week period on a VLCD improved nitrogen balance, but did not lead to any significant improvement in the quality of the weight loss in regard to observed changes in body composition and health parameters compared with controls.
Keywords: FFM; VLCD; body composition; protein supplement; weight loss.