High protein diet plans are among the more popular diets promoted by mainstream fitness magazines. They are said to be good for people wanting to lose weight and because of the high protein content, dieters don’t need to be worried about losing muscle.
Before I get into the pros and cons of a high protein diet, let me start by presenting a typical high protein diet plan menu:
High Protein Diet Plan Menu – 1500 Calories
- scrambled eggwhites of 4 eggs (3/4 cup)
- 1 slice multi-grain toast
- 1 small apple
- 1 small banana
- 1 protein shake (e.g. Myoplex)
- 2 oz fresh deli cut turkey breast
- 1 tablespoon regular mayonnaise
- 2 slices multi-grain bread
- 1 cup fresh baby carrots
- 1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese
- 1 protein bar (20g protein)
- 1 medium roasted, skinless chicken breast
- 1 cup lentil soup
- 2 celery sticks with nonfat cream cheese
High Protein Diet Plan Foods
As the name would suggest, the typical foods on a high protein diet must be high in protein content. Because these diets are followed by people who wish to lose weight, the diets should also be low in fat. Typical high protein diet plan foods include:
- Protein Shakes and Bars
As you can see in the diet plan menu above, these protein shakes and bars seem to feature quite heavily. That’s because they contain a lot of protein and are usually low in carbohydrates and fats. They’re also convenient for people on the run. However, if you’ve been reading this blog you know that I don’t really like “fake foods” that are just chemicals that have been commercially manufactured. If you’re on a high protein diet it may be necessary to have protein shakes and/or bars at certain times, but I think it’s a good idea to try to consume natural foods as much as possible.
Beef is what comes to mind instantly when you think of high protein foods. In fact, beef does have a lot of protein – for instance, two ounces of sirloin steak have 19 grams of protein and no carbohydrates, and is also low in fat. This is one thing to keep in mind – when buying beef to have on your high protein diet, make sure that it is low in fat. If you get ground beef or cuts, try to get low fat types. You can also cut off visible fat when you’re preparing the beef. Good options that are low in fat are low-fat mince beef, shoulder steak, bottom round, eye of round and T-bone steak. (Reference: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN00924)
Eggs are one of the most common foods in a high protein diet. They contain a lot of protein – for instance, one egg has 6 grams of protein and only 1 gram of carbohydrates. Eggs do also have a high cholesterol content, however, so if your doctor has warned you to avoid cholesterol, or if you have heart disease, you probably shouldn’t have too many eggs. However, according to the Harvard Medical School, eggs do not actually affect your blood cholesterol levels and are safe to eat! (http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/egg-nutrition) The Harvard study mentions that diabetics who consume an egg daily do have a greater chance of heart disease… so as with most things, I would recommend that you take your doctor’s advice and play it safe.
Chicken and other kinds of poultry like turkey are also good sources of protein, and are low in carbohydrates. A 4 ounce serving of chicken breast has 28 grams of protein and 0 carbohydrates. However, when buying chicken or poultry make sure you are getting leaner options like chicken breasts. Make sure your meat is skinless (skins contain a lot of fat) and opt for white meat which is lower in fat.
Fish is one of those high nutrition value foods that I really love – and if you’re on a high protein diet, then this is a great way to get more protein. Fish is high in protein and low in carbs; some varieties of fish are also high in omega-3 fats which are “good” fats that reduce plaque build-ups in arteries and lower blood triglyceride levels. However, you should try to avoid canned fish which is high in sodium. The best options are fresh fish that you buy from the market.
- Ham, Bacon and Corned Beef
These processed meats do have a high protein content and low carbs. For instance, a three-and-half ounce serve of corned beef has 26 grams of protein and 0 carbohydrates – however, it will be very high in fat. In general, I think it’s best to stay away from processed meats do to their high preservatives, sodium and fat content. However, these could be an option for you if you are pressed for time. You could also try to find low-fat versions to try to reduce your fat intake.
Cheese is one of my favorite foods, it tastes so yum! And if you’re on a high protein diet then cheese is a great way to get enough protein – one ounce of cheddar cheese has 7 grams of protein and no carbohydrates; however, it also has 9 grams of fat. So the best option would be to find a low-fat or reduced-fat cheese.
Popular High Protein, Low Carb Diet Plans
Currently, the following high protein, low carb diet plans are quite popular:
- The Atkins Diet
- South Beach Diet
- Sugar Busters
- The Zone
How Does a High Protein Diet Work For Weight Loss?
A high protein diet plan works by putting the body into a state of ketosis. For a person who eats normally, the body will transform carbohydrates in energy to burn during the day. However, once the body is deprived of carbohydrates due to the high protein diet, it will look to alternate forms of energy – that is, it will theoretically start burning fat. Proponents of the high protein diet say that this diet will not affect muscle mass since protein is being consumed.
Is It Really Possible to Lose Weight With a High Protein Diet?
So far, initial studies and anecdotal evidence point towards the fact these high protein diets do work for weight loss. However, a lot of these “studies” are presented by people selling diet plans such as Atkins, and any study that is self-serving needs to be considered with a bit of skepticism. In addition, many people post on internet forums saying that they have lost weight with the protein diet.
However, experts say that most of the weight lost from following a protein diet is water weight (http://www.med.Stanford.edu/school/DGIM/Teaching/Modules/obesity.html#RTFToC7). Carbohydrates cause the body to store water, and when you stop carb intake, your body loses water weight. This is why, when the dieter goes off the diet and eats normally, he or she will put the weight back on. In fact – this is the biggest criticism of the diet in terms of whether it works or not: the fact that any weight lost is put back on in the long run. Studies show that 90% of dieters gain back all their weight and sometimes more (http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/PatientEd/Materials/PDFDocs/nut-diet/nut-other/high-pro.pdf)
More importantly, there are a number of harmful side effects that come about when following a high protein diet.
Side Effects of a High Protein Diet Plan
There are a number of harmful side effects of a protein diet plan:
- Kidney damage:
Due to the high amounts of protein consumed on a high-protein diet, the kidneys become overworked. They need to deal with abnormally high amounts of protein by-products, and are forced to excrete additional quantities of minerals like potassium, calcium and sodium. (http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/PatientEd/Materials/PDFDocs/nut-diet/nut-other/high-pro.pdf)
As someone whose father has kidney damage from eating slightly too much protein (he wasn’t on a high protein diet, he just liked meat), I can personally attest to this being so true. And you really don’t want to have to deal with kidney damage on a day-to-day basis.
- Nutritional Deficiencies
Because of the nature of the high protein diet, it’s not always possible to consume all the vitamins and minerals required for a healthy diet. These diets don’t allow for enough fruit, grains and milk which can cause fiber, Vitamin D, potassium, calcium and folate deficiencies. (http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/PatientEd/Materials/PDFDocs/nut-diet/nut-other/high-pro.pdf)
The principle of the high protein diet plan is that your body goes into a state of ketosis. However, what the institutes promoting these diet plans don’t say is that ketosis is regarded by doctors as a metabolic disorder, i.e. it’s not a good thing! Ketosis reduces a person’s metabolism and leaves them feeling tired, sluggish and lethargic. When the high protein diet is stopped, these symptoms usually go away (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/ans/psychology/health_psychology/carbs.htm). However, ketosis also causes the build-up of ketone bodies, which makes the blood overly acidic, which in turn can be fatal. (http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/PatientEd/Materials/PDFDocs/nut-diet/nut-other/high-pro.pdf) Ketosis also causes more work for the kidneys which increases the chances of kidney damage. Finally, ketosis also adversely affects mental processing and flexibility (Wing, R.R., J.Vazquez and C.Ryan. “Cognitive effects of ketogenic weight reducing diets” International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders. 19(11):811-6, Nov 1995.)
Women who go on a high protein diet increase their chances of osteoporosis according to various studies. (http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100706CampbellProtein.html)
High Protein Diets For Weight Loss – Yay or Nay?
Hmm, at the end of all this I would have to say…. high protein diets just don’t sound very appealing to me.
1. The number of side effects of a high protein diet – these are pretty serious side effects. I mean, one of the major reasons for losing weight is to be healthy, and if you damage your liver or your heart by going on a diet, that doesn’t seem to make sense.
2. This isn’t a long term solution – as the studies show, most people on this diet don’t enjoy long-term weight loss. Once you go off the diet, you just put everything back on again.
3. Lack of food variety – this is one of those strict diets that I’m not too fond of. I like eating what I choose, and I have a massive sweet tooth (though I have fruits and low-fat yoghurt most of the time). I also love my carbs, and though I don’t eat much rice or pasta or bread, I like to have a tiny serving with the rest of my food.
I don’t want to seem to harsh on this diet though – I know that if you’re desperate to lose weight you really want to try anything that has a chance of working.
However, I recommend taking a long term approach that’s easy to do. I’m a fan of the flexible eating guide, Anything Goes, and I used it in conjunction with the Eat Stop Eat guide to lose weight fast. These days (now that I’m very very near my ideal physique) I follow the Anything Goes Diet and do Eat Stop Eat once in a while.
If you actually do go on this diet, please leave a comment to let us all know how you’re doing. And if you’ve been on a protein diet before, please let us know how it went for you
About Alisha: Alisha is a Melbourne-based blogger who is happy to have lost a lot of weight recently! She is now trying to be more fit and lead a more healthy lifestyle. In this blog she shares tips for losing weight quickly and easily. You can read more about her on the "My Story" page.