People who want to lose weight often decide to adopt a high-protein diet. Eating protein helps a person feel full, which can make them eat fewer calories overall. High protein diets usually include a lot of protein and only a small amount of carbohydrates. Bud does it really work for weight loss? What are its pros and cons? Read on to find it out.
What is a High-Protein Diet?
Protein is an essential nutrient for good health. It is responsible for several important body functions, including hormones, enzymes, cell repair and maintenance. A high-protein diet encourages eating more protein and fewer carbohydrates and fats to promote weight loss, boost energy, and improve athletic performance.
High protein diets help reduce hunger, increase satiety, boost metabolic rate, and maintain muscle mass. However, when it comes to diets, one size does not fit all, and what works for one person may not work for another.
What does the Science Say?
There has been much research on the role of protein in short-term weight loss and muscle gain. However, the long-term effects of high-protein diets need further study.
Some studies have shown that long-term consumption of high-protein diets has the potential to lead to health problems. The authors of a review article focusing on high-protein diets warn that it may lead to higher acid loads in the kidneys and that people may be at risk for health conditions associated with eating large amounts of animal fat.
In addition, diets that restrict carbohydrates may harm a person’s health. Children and adolescents are at particular risk of malnutrition due to inadequate carbohydrate intake.
Nevertheless, most studies suggest that high-protein diets are beneficial for weight loss, at least in the short term.
Pros of A High Protein Diet
There are several benefits of a high protein diet.
- You’ll feel fuller for longer. Including protein in your meals and snacks can help you feel full and satisfied, which may help with portion control.
- You’ll build and maintain more muscle mass. A strong body performs better throughout your daily activities, and muscle also burns more calories than fat, even at rest.
- You may be more inclined to choose nutrient-dense foods. When you plan a meal around lean sources of protein, you’ll have less room on your plate for less nutritious foods. And learning to eat different types of protein may also improve your diet. For example, if you eat tuna, you benefit not only from the fish’s protein, but also from the healthy fats it provides.
- May help with weight loss and weight maintenance. There are several benefits to consuming a diet that includes high amounts of lean protein when you are trying to lose weight. A diet high in protein helps build and maintain muscle mass, boosts your metabolism, and increases satiety.
- Promotes calorie burning. When you eat protein, you also burn some extra calories because your body has to work harder to chew and digest the food. However, keep in mind that the number of extra calories burned is very small, so you shouldn’t base your entire weight loss program on this benefit alone.
Cons of A High Protein Diet
Like most diets, there are potential drawbacks to eating a high-protein diet.
- Nutrient deficiencies are possible. High-protein diets are often lacking in dietary fiber, which can lead to constipation and other health problems. Getting enough dietary fiber is not only important for colon health, but it also helps reduce inflammation and prevent cancer.
- High-fat and processed foods are sometimes encouraged. Some versions of high-protein diets also advocate eating high-fat foods such as fatty beef, full-fat dairy products, processed and cured meats such as deli meats, sausages, bacon and hot dogs. These are not the best choices for a balanced diet, as foods like these are often associated with heart disease and cancer.
- Too much protein may not be safe for people with chronic diseases. People with kidney disease should not follow a high-protein diet without first talking to their doctor. The body converts excess protein into glucose for energy, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike in people with diabetes.
- It may be restrictive. Some high-protein diets severely restrict carbohydrates and can lead to nutritional deficiencies and lack of fiber, which can lead to constipation and other health problems. In addition, high-protein diets may lead to bad breath.
- May not be suitable for people with kidney problems. Excess protein is excreted through the kidneys, which may worsen kidney function in people with kidney disease. Nitrogen must be excreted through the urine. Therefore, people on high-protein diets are at increased risk of dehydration and need to drink more water.
- Saturated fat content can be high. While most high-protein diets advocate lean meat choices, other diets include and even encourage protein sources high in saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fat can increase your risk of heart disease, and studies have noted an association between processed meat intake and cancer.
How to Follow a High-Protein Diet
A high-protein diet is easy to follow and can be customized to fit your food preferences and health-related goals.
For example, you may want to follow a low-carb, high-protein diet to keep your blood sugar under control.
If you avoid milk products, you can follow a protein-rich, dairy-free diet.
Even a vegetarian diet can be high in protein if it includes eggs or dairy products and plenty of beans and other plant proteins.
Here are some basic guidelines for following a high-protein diet:
- Keep a food diary: Start a food diary using an app or website that provides protein values for thousands of foods and allows you to set your own calorie and macronutrient goals.
- Calculate protein needs: To calculate your protein needs, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.6-0.75 grams or your body weight in kilograms by 1.2-1.6 grams.
- Eat at least 25–30 grams of protein at meals: Studies have shown that consuming at least 25 grams of protein at three meals may promote weight loss, maintenance of muscle and better overall health.
- Include both animal and plant proteins in your diet: Eating a combination of both types will help make your diet more nutritious overall.
- Choose high-quality protein sources: Focus on fresh meats, eggs, dairy and other proteins rather than processed meats such as bacon and lunch meats.
- Consume well-balanced meals: Balance high-protein foods with vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods at every meal.
The Bottom Line
While protein is an important part of any diet – many nutritionists and health experts recommend some protein at every meal and snack – the health benefits of a high-protein diet may be overstated unless you are an athlete or are recommended for other health reasons. If you’re considering a high-protein diet, you’ll want to consult your doctor first and make sure you’re still making enough room for essential vitamins and nutrients and choosing a healthy protein source that’s not too high in saturated fat.