High Protein Diet: The Best Weight Loss Diet For Meat Lovers
If you work out or visit health sites on the web, chances are good that you have probably come across a lot of people promoting a high protein diet as a way to lose weight and build up muscle. And you’re also probably wondering if these diets really work — or even if they are safe.
Just What is a High Protein Diet?
A high protein diet is one which emphasizes the consumption of high-protein foods (both from plants and animals) in order to replace some of the calories that you spend on carbohydrates during the day. While there are many variations of this diet, some of the most popular examples of this include the Atkins, the Paleo, the Dukan and the Zone diets. All of these have gained some serious attention in the media in recent years.
What Foods Can You Eat?
A high protein diet does allow some variety of foods (though such diets are not as broad-based as many other diets). While there is a lot of variation in what these diets will allow, some of the most common recommendations include:
- Meat, including beef, pork, poultry, fish and seafood
- Dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Non-starchy vegetables (like broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers or leafy green
- Oils like olive oil
- Some fruits (though not all allow fruits)
What Foods Should You Avoid?
Again, there is a lot of variation in what high protein diets will allow or forbid. However, some of the most common foods that these eating programs avoid include:
- Grains, including both refined and whole grain products (this includes all foods made from or with wheat, corn, rice or other grains)
- Sugar and natural sugar substitutes like molasses, honey or maple syrup
- Starchy vegetables (like potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn)
- Legumes (like peas, beans or lentils)
- Most or all fruits
As you can see from the list above, some versions of these high protein diets can be very restrictive — which can make them harder to follow in the long term. However, as you will see from the following section, there are very good reasons why these foods are restricted in regards to weight loss.
What are the Pros of a High Protein Diet?
To begin with, there do seem to be a number of advantages to a high protein diet. They can help you if you are bodybuilding or working out since a lot of protein is necessary to build up muscles and achieve a lean and toned body. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and if you are working out a lot or just very physically active, you will need the protein to support this muscle growth and develop lean body mass.
These diets have also been proven to help you shed extra pounds – and since obesity is a growing problems not only the U.S. but around the world, this can offer people a way to achieve their weight loss goals.
How does it work?
It’s actually fairly simple. Your body can use carbohydrates or fats for fuel. If given the choice, it will burn carbs first because they are easier and quicker to break down into glucose. But when you eat a diet that restricts carbohydrates — like those found in starchy vegetables, grain-based products, sugars and legumes — your body turns from carbs and begins to burn fat instead. This is why weight loss on a low carb diet can be quite rapid. There have been several studies done where low carb, high protein diets were more effective for weight loss than were diets that were low in fat and allowed moderate carb intake.
What Drawbacks Should You Be Aware Of?
However, there are some drawbacks that people should be aware of before deciding on this kind of diet. In some cases, restrictions on certain foods are so severe that they can lead to malnutrition and to low levels of certain nutrients (like most essential vitamins and minerals) in the body. Also, it is a diet which can be low in fiber if not followed carefully — and this can lead to problems like constipation and even colon cancer in the long run. Lots of protein can also be tough on the kidneys and can make it easier to form painful kidney stones.
However, there are ways to reduce these risks. Making sure that you are eating plenty of low-carb but high-fiber vegetables (like cauliflower, asparagus, or leafy green vegetables, for instance) can help you get enough fiber while still sticking to your plan. Also, if your eating plan is really restrictive, talk to your doctor about which dietary supplements might be helpful to avoid any nutrient deficiencies. These two simple steps can make any high protein diet much safer.
In short, while there many proven benefits to a high protein diet, including weight loss and the building of muscle mass, there are some health risks to take into consideration, too. If you are someone with a history of kidney or heart disease, you should definitely discuss it with your doctor before beginning this kind of diet. However, that same advice applies to any eating program. And for many people who are struggling to shed extra pounds, high protein diets can help them to achieve weight loss goals and lead an overall healthier life.