Is this the diet we've all been waiting for? (image) iStock
There are a lot of diets that promise the world and deliver nothing but headaches, cravings and strange visions of doughnuts visiting you in the middle of the night.
But new Canadian research has uncovered what's been dubbed the "Holy Grail" of diets because it lets you build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
It's a big call in an industry that's usually fixated on either "cutting" (losing fat, which typically leads to muscle loss as well) or "bulking" (gaining muscle, which usually adds fat).
The premise of the Holy Grail diet is simple: eat really low calories (40 percent under maintenance, or the amount your body needs to stay at its current weight) and really high protein (almost 2.4g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day, well above the 1.7g typically recommended for muscle building).
But that's not all – the diet also involves high-intensity interval training (HIIT) six days a week.
The young men involved in the study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, gained up to 1.2kg of muscle and lost up to 5kg of fat in one month.
Researchers from McMasters University in Ontario enlisted the 40 young, overweight men and split them into two groups.
One group was given a diet exceptionally high in protein (2.4g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day), and the other group was given a diet low in protein (1.2g per kilo of bodyweight).
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Both groups ate an enormous calorie deficit – consuming almost 40 percent less calories than what they would normally require – and underwent a month's worth of intense weight training.
The results were spectacular.
The high-protein group lost 4.7kg over the month, and the low-protein group lost 3.6 kilos. Most interestingly, the high-protein group experienced 1.2 kilos worth of muscle gain, and the low-protein group did not gain any muscle at all.
"These guys were in rough shape, but that was part of the plan. We wanted to see how quickly we could get them into shape: lose some fat, but still retain their muscle and improve their strength and fitness, " says Phillips.
The study adds further evidence to the claim that you should lift weights when trying to lose weight because it helps your body hold on to precious muscle, giving you added shape and definition.
"Exercise, particularly lifting weights, provides a signal for muscle to be retained even when you're in a big calorie deficit, " says Phillips.
The results of this study could have profound implications on the diets of people who are trying to lose weight and retain muscle at the same time. Even more importantly, it's not just for overweight young men – the researchers believe it could work for a whole variety of people, including women.
"We designed this program for overweight young men, although I'm sure it would work for young women too, to get fitter, stronger, and to lose weight fast, " says Phillips.
"It's a tough program and not something that's sustainable or for those looking for quick and easy fix, " says Phillips.RELATED: