High Protein Diets


Diets rich in protein, and low in carbohydrates have long since been popular regimes for body-builders and certain groups of athletes. In recent years this popularity has spread to the general American public that see its drastic drop in calories as a great way to lose weight. While there are many variations to this diet the essential element never changes; 30-40% of your daily caloric intake should be protein. The other 60-70% of daily calories should then come from non starchy vegetables. Carbohydrates such as breads, sugars, potatoes, rice, and pastas should all be avoided.

For the general public this is a drastic change in eating style, as carbohydrates usually provide over half of our daily calories. It should then come as no surprise that once carbohydrates are limited or avoided; there is a significant reduction in calorie intake.

But high protein diet advocates say that it’s not just reduced calories alone. In fact, they say that by drastically cutting down on your carbohydrate intake (the body’s usual source for energy), the body is then forced to turn to fat stores for its fuel which helps the brain, heart and other organs to perform their daily functions. By eliminating carbohydrates you are giving your body no choice but to use up those fat stores (i.e.: fat reserves in your stomach, thighs, butt, etc!)

Furthermore, when your body is burning its own fat for fuel it enters into a different metabolic state. This process of using fat stores, instead of the normally easy to access carbohydrates is referred to as ketosis. When the body is in ketosis, you tend to feel less hungry, and thus you’re likely to eat less than you might otherwise. The decreased hunger is also often attributed to the fact that it takes your body more time to digest fat and protein, thus you feel satiated for longer periods of time.

Another reason why high protein dieters see such rapid initial weight loss is partially a loss of water weight, not just fat. When you initially decrease your carbohydrate intake, your body burns glycogen. Glycogen contains large amounts of water, so burning glycogen leads to the release of water and increased urination, causing weight loss.

Risks of Too Much Protein

We need protein; there is no doubt about it. Protein is essential to bodily function; is an active part of all cells, muscle, and bone; and is needed for growth, and development in all bodies. Yet too much protein has many health experts stating some serious potential long term health risks.

Firstly, consuming large amounts of protein puts added strain on the kidneys. Perhaps this would not be an issue for the average person, but anyone suffering from weak or diseased kidneys could potentially end up with kidney failure.

Furthermore high-protein diets have a tendency towards higher-than-normal fat consumption. Fat is not necessarily a bad thing, but animal proteins are rich in saturated fat and bad cholesterol. This type of diet is thus likely to promote high LDL cholesterol, heart disease and even some types of cancer. To help prevent high fat intake look for protein sources that are nutrient-rich and lower in fat and calories, such as lean meats, beans, soy, and low-fat dairy.

Things to Consider About High Protein Diets

  • When embarking on a high protein low carbohydrate diet, you will inevitably consume considerably less bread and cereal products. With this, unfortunately, also usually means less fiber in your diet. Consider using a fiber supplement for the duration of the diet.
  • Not vegetarian friendly. Although there are vegetarian protein sources, they are not sufficient to get the daily protein intake that the high protein diet stipulates.
  • With such a high level of protein intake, it becomes even more important that the remaining calories be used for consumption of foods rich in vitamins and nutrients. Even still it will be very difficult to get them all.
  • Like any diet that limits or avoids certain food groups it becomes difficult to maintain over time. Thus, although dieters experience great weight loss in the beginning, the chances are high that the weight will be put back on once the diet is over.

Atkins Diet- (High Protein Example)

The Atkins diet is the driving force behind the low carbohydrate, high-protein craze that has hit America full speed this last decade. In this diet regime delicious carbohydrates such as bagels, pastas and potatoes are tossed aside for larger portions of steaks, nuts, cheese and other high-protein goodies.

HOW IT WORKS: The Atkins theory is simple: Carbohydrates are the first source of energy that your body turns to, with its easily accessible sugars. By cutting out carbs, your body is forced to turn to its fat stores to give you energy. Thus these otherwise untouched fat stores are being used up and you begin to shed the pounds more quickly.

SAY GOOD-BYE TO:
Sugar and carbs. After a stringent regimen during the first few weeks (including no more than twenty grams of carbs a day), gradually up your carb intake and ease into a diet low in trans fats, sugars, refined flours, and processed foods.

Atkins Diet Sample Menu

Breakfast

  • 3 Soft or hard boiled eggs (chopped lightly and mixed with 1t fresh herbs, of choice, 1t butter, and 1T cream)
  • 4 turkey sausage links
  • Decaf Coffee or Tea

Lunch

  • Chef salad (Turkey strips, ham strips, chopped egg, and grated cheese over 2c salad greens)
  • 2T Dressing

Dinner

  • Lamb roasted in Mint and rosemary sprigs
  • 1c Salad greens
  • 1T Dressing of Choice
  • 1c Cauliflower with butter and cream

Create Your Own High Protein Diet

Designing your own high-protein, low carbohydrate diet is also an option. This gives you the flexibility to include the foods you enjoy, while avoiding the ones you don’t. Some tips, include minimizing the amount of grains, beans, fruits, breads, sweets, pastas and starchy vegetables that you consume, and eating more fish, lean-meat, poultry, nuts, and low fat dairy. But the key word is limit. Health experts agree that it is never healthy to completely eliminate an essential food group. There are temporary diets that do eliminate for various health incentives, but this should not be endured for longer than several weeks at one time.

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