The Role of Dietary Protein in Body Weight Regulation among Active-Duty Military Personnel during Energy Deficit: A Systematic Review

Robert E. Anderson, Shanon L. Casperson, Hannah Kho, Kyle D. Flack

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Active-duty military personnel are subjected to sustained periods of energy deficit during combat and training, leaving them susceptible to detrimental reductions in body weight. The importance of adequate dietary protein intake during periods of intense physical training is well established, where previous research has primarily focused on muscle protein synthesis, muscle recovery, and physical performance. Research on how protein intake may influence body weight regulation in this population is lacking; therefore, the objective of this review was to evaluate the role of dietary protein in body weight regulation among active-duty military during an energy deficit. A literature search based on fixed inclusion and exclusion criteria was performed. English language peer-reviewed journal articles from inception to 3 June 2023 were selected for extraction and quality assessment. Eight studies were identified with outcomes described narratively. The study duration ranged from eight days to six months. Protein was directly provided to participants in all studies except for one. Three studies supplied additional protein via supplementation. The Downs and Black Checklist was used to assess study quality. Five studies were classified as good, two as fair, and one as excellent. All studies reported mean weight loss following energy deficit: the most severe was 4.0 kg. Protein dose during energy deficit varied from 0.5 g/kg/day to 2.4 g/kg/day. Six studies reported mean reductions in fat mass, with the largest being 4.5 kg. Four studies reported mean reductions in fat-free mass, while two studies reported an increase. Results support the recommendation that greater than 0.8 g/kg/day is necessary to mitigate the impact of energy deficit on a decline in lean body mass, while intakes up to 1.6 g/kg/day may be preferred. However, exact recommendations cannot be inferred as the severity and duration of energy deficit varied across studies. Longer and larger investigations are needed to elucidate protein’s role during energy deficit in active-duty military.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3948
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
S.L.C. is funded by USDA ARS #3062-51000-057-00D.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • active-duty military
  • body composition
  • body weight
  • energy deficit
  • fat mass
  • fat-free mass
  • protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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