Objectives: This retrospective clinical study was intended to assess the ideal number of calories in the Mediterranean-style diet (MD) required for maximum weight reduction through a greater decrease in fat mass (FM) and maintenance of fat-free mass (FFM). Methods: We analysed the data of 90 non-smoking subjects (56 females, age = 32.5 ± 9.6 years, BMI = 28.3 ± 5.4 kg/m2, data as mean ± SD). The participants underwent two-month individualised MDs with similar macronutrient composition (55% carbohydrate, 30% fat, 15% protein and fibre > 30 g) but different amounts of energy, which varied daily from 374 kcal to 1305 kcal compared with the total energy expenditure measured by metabolic Holter. The sample was divided into nine groups of 10 subjects in order to establish the amount of energy restriction that was most effective in terms of achieving fat loss and maintaining muscle mass. Results: All subject groups had significant improvements in body composition parameters (weight loss = 2.7 ± 1.8 kg, FM loss = 2.2 ± 1.2 kg and FFM loss = 0.5 ± 1.3 kg). Differences between the nine groups were not significant but higher FM loss was observed in groups one, three, six and eight. Groups one and four had the highest FFM increase and groups two, three and eight had the highest FFM loss. Conclusions: These data suggest that increasing the amount of energy restriction in a low-calorie MD might be useless in terms of obtaining a higher FM loss but a lower restriction could be more effective for maintaining FFM.
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