You may have an easier time sticking to a reduced-calorie diet that's high in protein than one that's just low in calories. Foods high in protein help satisfy hunger better than foods high in fat or carbs, according to the European Food Information Council. But as with any weight-loss diet, you still need to burn off more calories than you eat to drop the pounds. Consult your doctor before starting any weight-loss plan.
Balancing Calories and Protein
Even though the focus is on protein, all high-protein diets help you lose weight by limiting your calorie intake. Calorie needs for weight loss vary and depend on gender, body size and activity.
According to recent studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, calories on a high-protein diet to promote weight loss range from 1,300 to 1,600 calories a day. The amount of protein on these calorie-restricted high-protein diets ranges from 30 to 35 percent of calories, with 40 percent of calories from carbs and 25 to 30 percent from fat.
Benefits of a High-Protein Diet
A high-protein diet can help you retain more of your muscle mass while you lose the fat. Preserving your muscle mass means your body is able to burn more calories. A high-protein diet may also help you lose weight a little more quickly, according to a review study published in 2012 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, to retain the most muscle mass, you should not lose at a rate faster than 2 pounds a week.
The one concern about high-protein diets is the type of proteins you include. People are often attracted to these diets because they promise all the steak, bacon and eggs you can eat. But for heart health on your high-protein diet, you should eat mostly proteins that are low in saturated fat. Good choices include skinless poultry, seafood, lean red meats, and low-fat cheeses and other dairy foods. Also, plant-based proteins make good choices, such as legumes, soy foods like tofu or tempeh, nuts and seeds.
These diets also label carbs as bad. But including healthy carbs, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, can help balance your intake and make sure you're getting nutrients you need for good health.
Not for Everyone
While these diets may be helpful for weight loss, a high-protein diet is not the best diet for everyone. If you have kidney disease, getting too much protein in your diet may worsen kidney function, so talk to your doctor first.
Also, some high-protein diets restrict carb intake so much that it may increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies. Constipation is also a common complaint of people following a high-protein diet because many of the allowed foods don't contain fiber.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effect of an Energy-Restricted, High-Protein, Low-Fat Diet Relative to a Conventional High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet on Weight Loss, Body Composition, Nutritional Status and Markers of Cardiovascular Health in Obese Women
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of Energy-Restricted High-Protein, Low-Fat Compared With Standard-Protein, Low-Fat Diets: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
- U.S. News and Health: High-Protein Diets for Weight Loss: Are They Healthy?
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Healthy Eating Plan
- European Food Information Council: What Makes Us Full? The Satiating Power of Food
- MayoClinic.org: Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight
- Harvard School of Public Health: Low-Carbohydrate Diets
- MayoClinic.org: Are High Protein Diets Safe for Weight Loss?
- Photo Credit Maria_Lapina/iStock/Getty Images
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