Strength Training's Role in Mitigating High-Protein Diet Risks

Paul Lyngso

High-protein diets, popular among athletes and bodybuilders, have raised concerns about their potential negative effects, especially for those with sedentary lifestyles. A recent study by the Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison investigates how strength training might counteract these effects.

The Study's Exploration of Diet and Exercise

The study delves into the contrasting effects of high-protein and low-protein diets. High-protein diets are often recommended for muscle growth and are standard among athletes, with a recommended intake of 1.2 - 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. On the other hand, a lower protein intake of 0.8 grams per kg is advised for sedentary individuals, as low-protein diets are linked to improved metabolic health and reduced diabetes rates.

In the experiment conducted by the university’s lead researchers, mice were divided into groups and fed either a low-protein (7% of total calories) or high-protein (36% of total calories) diet. They also underwent either progressive resistance exercise or a sham exercise for 18 weeks. The study monitored various health parameters, including body weight, fat mass, and glucose tolerance.

Findings and Implications

The study found that mice on high-protein diets consumed fewer calories but gained more weight than those on low-protein diets. Notably, high-protein-fed mice engaged in resistance exercise gained more lean mass and less fat compared to sedentary ones. 

In contrast, low-protein-fed mice showed better glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. The research suggests that while high-protein diets can promote muscle growth when paired with resistance exercises, they can lead to weight and fat gain without physical activity. Low-protein diets, however, offer better glycemic control.

Study Limitations

The study, while informative, presents certain limitations. Primarily, its reliance on a mouse model restricts the direct applicability of its findings to human health. The physiological differences between mice and humans, particularly as the study focused only on male mice, limit the ability to generalize these results broadly.

Additionally, the study did not explore the molecular mechanisms underlying the observed outcomes. This omission means that the specific reasons and processes behind the results remain unclear, necessitating further research for a deeper understanding.

Lastly, the duration of the study and the nature of the resistance exercises used may not accurately represent long-term human conditions. The brief period of the study and its limited sample diversity suggests the need for more extensive and varied research to validate and expand upon these findings.


The study by the Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison provides a focused examination of how strength training might influence the effects of high-protein diets. This study reveals that while high-protein diets can support muscle growth when combined with resistance training, they may lead to increased weight and fat accumulation in the absence of physical activity. Conversely, low-protein diets are associated with improved glucose control, suggesting a preferable option for individuals with less active lifestyles.

However, the study's applicability to human health is limited due to its exclusive use of a male mouse model, highlighting the need for caution in extrapolating these findings to humans. The absence of analysis on the molecular mechanisms behind the results and the short duration of the study further underscore the necessity for more comprehensive research. This would help in understanding the long-term implications of high-protein diets and strength training in diverse human populations.


From fitness trainer to gym owner to establishing an online fitness brand, host of The Missing Piece podcast, philosophical thinker and optimist, loving husband and father. Paul Lyngso practices growth and optimizing life in each phase and season.

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