A Protein-First Diet for Overweight Cops... and You

Bad Boys, Bad Boys. Watcha Gonna Do When They Waddle For You?

What happens when overweight police officers eat more protein while trying to lose fat? And does the type of protein matter? Hint: It does.

Why are there so many overweight cops? Heck, my job is sedentary and almost never involves chasing down bad guys, and I still want to be as capable as possible just in case the figurative feces hits the fan. Is it the stress? The donuts? The stress-eating of donuts?

Anyway, the study below used overweight, untrained police officers, which should not be a thing. But it does teach us a lot about diets, protein, and resistance training. Let’s investigate.

The Study

Researchers gathered up a bunch of husky cops and divided them into groups for this 12-week study:

  • Group 1: Diet Only – These LEOs reduced caloric intake by 20% below maintenance, didn’t train, and didn’t use protein powder.

  • Group 2: Diet + Whey Protein – These officers also adopted a 20% caloric deficit but lifted weights four times per week and supplemented with 75 grams of whey (two shakes per day).

  • Group 3: Diet + Casein Protein – Same as the whey group, but they used casein hydrolysate.

The Results

Here’s what happened:

  • The diet-only group lost 5 pounds of fat on average but also lost about a pound of muscle. (Don’t diet without weight training, kids.)

  • The whey group lost 9 pounds of fat and gained about 4 pounds of muscle.

  • The casein group lost 15 pounds of fat and gained 9 pounds of muscle.

Yes, those are impressive gains. The researchers guessed that the two trained groups may have been gaining back previously built muscle (“muscle memory”). Still, pretty cool.

What Does This Teach Us?

It teaches us that the po-po needs to eat less, lift weights, and drink protein shakes. But let’s take a deeper look.

  • Even in a caloric deficit, the trained groups gained a nice amount of muscle. “But you can’t build muscle when dieting!” Well, they did, so shut up with your definitive statements.

  • Protein is the secret sauce. While the control group consumed 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, the other two consumed 1.5 grams. That means a 215-pound guy had about 147 grams of protein per day. Not that much, really. A good rule of thumb for fat loss goals is to estimate your ideal body weight and eat that many grams of protein. So, if our hypothetical 215-pound police officer needs to lose 25 pounds, he’d consume 190g of protein daily. This study required less protein, but it shows us that extra protein makes a big difference in body comp.

  • Some secret sauces are superior to other secret sauces. The big takeaway here is that casein is way better than whey. This is particularly true for fat-loss goals. With the same diet and training program, the casein group lost more fat and gained more muscle than the whey group. The researchers concluded, “This significant difference in body composition is likely due to improved nitrogen retention and overall anticatabolic effects caused by the peptide components of the casein hydrolysate.”

  • This study once again supports the Protein First Eating Strategy. In a nutshell, eat more protein or have a couple of protein shakes per day, as the study participants did here, for better results.

Micellar Casein Takes It Up a Notch

While whey protein is good stuff, multiple studies show that casein is superior for lifters. For example, both types increase protein synthesis, but casein also inhibits protein breakdown. And that’s just referring to generic casein.

So, casein is superior to whey, but micellar casein is superior to generic casein. It’s better for sustaining protein synthesis, building muscle, and stimulating metabolism. It’s also filling, making dieting much easier, and ridiculously anticatabolic.

The ideal protein supplement contains a blend of whey and micellar casein, so you get it all. Oh, and hey, we make it! You knew that was coming, right? MD Protein (on Amazon) contains the perfect blend and happens to taste like a Dairy Queen milkshake. Our buy 3 get 1 free deal will keep you supplied for months.




  1. R H Demling, L DeSanti. “Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers.” Ann Nutr Metab. 2000;44(1):21-9. doi: 10.1159/000012817.

Cops, come and try to snatch my sups.

…it almost rhymes.

It’s honestly surprising what a difference a quality protein supplement makes. I always went for bargain pricing. In turn, I was getting bargain results. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned getting older is that it’s worth spending the extra money for the stuff you’re putting INSIDE your body!

Also awesome that this article discusses the value of training while in a caloric deficit. Outside of if we can or cannot gain muscle under those conditions (which the study showed CAN happen), @Dan_John has written before about how exercise plays a valuable role in preventing “metabolic derangement” (which is an AMAZING term) during periods of calorie restriction. It benefits nutrient partitioning to help ensure we are vectoring toward FAT loss rather than lean tissue loss.

Would have been interesting to see what would have happened if, along with lifting weights 4x a week, the cops had engaged in a daily 2 mile walk or similar low intensity cardiovascular work.


:musical_note:Fat boy on a diet, don’t try it
I’ll jack your ass like a looter in a riot

I always loved that line.

Amen. And the crazy thing about studies is that the researchers are often on a budget. So when they say, “Let’s see if ingredient X works” they’ll procure the cheapest possible form of ingredient X (unless a company supplies it, but that makes people sus about the findings).

This is tricky with protein, because even when you narrow it down to, say, casein, it turns out there are different grades of casein, like 4 or 5 of them, from cheap to pricey. The better the casein, the better its effects. So it can throw off some research. Still, even with a C or B-grade form of casein, these results are impressive. Maybe using micellar would have improved results further.

Great term. Dan has a way with words. Yeah, it’s unscientific to say, but the old “remind your body it needs to hang on to muscle” by training when dieting is very true.


This is a really cool study!

It’s nice when they do real measurementes because, had this just been some department biggest loser kind of challenge, the winning group actually would have done the worst.

@Chris_Shugart what role do you think absorption speed plays? It’s interesting that the casein was a hydrolysate.


I’m not sure. Nothing wrong with casein hydrolysate really (it’s part of Mag-10). TC had a good breakdown here.

1 Like

15 years as a cop… 5 on SWAT

American police are largely embarrassingly out of shape.

And worse yet there are ZERO consequences for it. Departments are a disgrace. We owe it to those whom we serve to be as fit as possible


9 pounds of muscle gained in only 12 weeks??? C’mon

We host the local SWAT team occasionally here at the T Nation Training Lab. Seems like they take it a little more seriously than the average LEO. Or maybe they’re given a fitness test regularly? Seems like that should be standard, but I suppose it’s like the military: not many applicants these days, lots of LEOs finding another career.

1 Like

Some teams have standards… ours were lacking. But our op tempo was insane

1 Like

The researchers said they expected some of that to be “muscle memory.” I assume these guys had been trained at some point. Still, the whey-only group didn’t get the same results, even with their muscle memory effect happening too.

1 Like

Conclusion ?? Besides too many fat ass cops