High protein diets have recently become more popular in the Fitness and Nutrition world. There are low carbohydrate diets like The Atkins Diet to nearly 0 carbohydrate diets like The Carnivore Diet.
Given so many options there are many questions and confusion that surround them along with the benefits and disadvantages they may bring.
Given that high protein diets are generally low carb, we cannot answer these questions, without understanding what carbohydrates are and the roles they play in our bodies.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients along with fats and proteins. Most health experts say that carbs are the body’s main source of energy. In turn, that means that we need them to generate energy for sport, strength, and general activities.
In addition, most foods that are rich in carbs also carry fiber which plays important roles in how we digest our foods and allow us to have regular bowel movements.
With this understanding, let’s discuss the pros and cons of high protein diets and how we may apply them in our dietary approach.
- 1. High protein diets are filling.
On average, our bodies are less efficient at breaking down proteins. Our bodies take a longer time to break down proteins vs carbohydrates. That is to say that on high protein diets, we stay full for longer. Therefore, we have fewer cravings which leads to us eating fewer calories.
- 2. High protein diets often lead to weight-loss.
As mentioned above, we will eat less calories on high protein diets. That is to say, sustaining such a diet over time, coupled with a proper training protocol will lead to us eating less than we burn. Most fitness experts will agree that overtime, we will sustain weight-loss if we burn more calories than we consume.
- 3. High protein diets leave less room for excess carbohydrates.
I mentioned in the overview that we use carbs for energy. Well, what happens when we eat more carbs than we need for energy? Consequently, our blood sugar levels may get too high.
In other words, this tells our pancreas to create excess insulin which tells our cells to store the extra energy as fat. That being said, constantly eating excess carbohydrates generally leads to weight gain.
- 4. High protein diets may increase strength, muscle size, and improve recovery.
Proteins break down to chains of amino acids in the bloodstream. Amino acids play key roles in strength, muscle building, and muscle recovery.
Many experts say that amino acids are key in fueling our muscles. That is to say, they play key roles in us getting stronger. In turn, lifting heavier and recovering faster.
- 1. Vitamin & mineral deficiency.
Some foods that are rich in carbs are also rich in vitamins and minerals. Do not neglect micronutrients in an attempt to eat less carbs. Make sure to monitor your vitamin and mineral levels and supplement accordingly.
- 2. Uric acid overload.
Eating excess meat may cause the build-up of uric acid, in turn leading to gout flare-up. Monitor your levels of uric acid and/or moderate your intake of meat or other foods that may lead to excess uric acid.
- 3. Excess stress on your kidneys.
This is why it is important to increase your protein in stages. The excess stress on your kidneys can lead to renal failure and other issues.
- 4. High blood pressure.
Simply put, eating a lot of salted meat, mainly red meat may raise your blood pressure. In other words, monitor your intake of red meat.
- 5. High cholesterol.
Traditional medicine tells us that there are 2 types of cholesterol, HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). Traditionally, the goal is to increase your HDL and decrease your LDL.
That is to say, you need to monitor your cholesterol levels. Try to eat less saturated fat and/or foods that are rich in cholesterol.
- 1. Review the pros and cons.
It is important to understand the risks of any dietary approach.
- 2. Talk to your doctor and/or dietitian.
This becomes more significant if you struggle with any of the underlying issues mentioned above.
- 3. Be mindful of allergies.
That is to say, you may want to test what foods you are allergic to, especially if you are not aware. Your doctor should be able to test you or recommend a specialist.
- 4. Download a nutrition tracking app.
MyFitnessPal, Samsung Health, and Apple Health are some that allow you to set goals for calories, and more importantly, macronutrients.
- 5. Implement in phases.
All or nothing approach rarely works and in most cases, it is not sustainable. Therefore, I generally recommend adjusting your macronutrient goals once per month or in some cases, every 2 months.
- 6. Eat more unsaturated fat vs. saturated fat.
Most health experts agree that unsaturated fat is healthier for your heart than saturated fat. Most foods that are rich in saturated fat, i.e. meat, are rich in cholesterol.
- 7. Do not over-consume protein.
In most cases .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body-weight is sufficient. However, some may require more protein, i.e. athletes and power-lifters.
- 8. Enjoy what you eat.
Consequently, if you do not enjoy what you eat, you will not be able to sustain the healthy lifestyle. In other words, eat healthy and eat well.