Steaks, Bacon, and Burgers

Pros and cons of a high-protein diet.

You’ve no doubt heard of diets like the Zone and Atkins. Along with others, these diets promote weight loss through eating high amounts of protein and limiting carbs. Enjoy as much meat, cheese, and eggs as you like while watching the scale go down. That’s what they promise. However, the tricky part for many people is cutting out carbohydrates. After all, it’s not easy saying goodbye to cereal, bread, pasta, and fruit.

If you’re considering jumping on the high-protein train, it’s a good idea to research the pros and cons beforehand. Ask the following questions: Is the diet plan something you can stick with? Will there be any negative side effects? What results can you expect? And what happens when you stop the diet?

The Weight Loss Theory

Any diet that restricts carbohydrates will produce quick initial weight loss, because you lose water weight. After that you should continue to shed pounds because your body turns to fat stores for energy. Called ketosis, this process makes weight loss more doable because you feel less hungry. It may, however, make you feel irritable and nauseous, while suddenly battling headaches.

Protein is good for weight loss for several reasons. Foods high in protein are harder to digest, so your body burns more calories processing them compared to other types of food. Also, you tend to eat fewer calories overall when you eat high-protein foods because protein stays in your stomach longer, making you feel full quicker and longer. And a diet rich in protein helps build muscle and keeps your metabolism going.

How Much Protein?

Women need an average of 50 grams of protein and men an average of 60 grams of protein each day for good health. But someone looking to lose weight on a high-protein diet may eat twice as much or even more than these recommendations.

The sources of protein matter a lot if you’re intending to lose weight, so be picky. When it comes to meat, go for lean beef to cut out unhealthy saturated fats. As you choose your poultry, buy white meat and remove the high-fat skin. Other great protein sources include fish, eggs, beans, low-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds.

The Possible Risks

Be aware that a diet restricting carbs and bulking up on protein may come with certain health dangers if followed for an extended period of time. You may lack certain nutrients and fiber when you severely restrict carbohydrates, and a nutrient deficiency may lead to headaches, constipation, or bad breath.

You ought to also realize that many sources of protein are high in cholesterol and unhealthy fats that can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. Being choosy about your protein and losing weight, however, can ultimately lead to lower cholesterol levels.

As your body processes protein, it produces waste products that may place a strain on your kidneys. One waste product includes calcium, a mineral you don’t want to lose. High amounts of calcium in your urine may lead to kidney stones and increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. Anyone with kidney problems should avoid high-protein diets.

The Bottom Line

Anyone seeking to lose weight would do well to add extra quality protein to his or her daily diet, but before starting a high-protein diet, you’ll want to get the okay from your doctor.

Remember, you can expect to lose weight on a high-protein/low-carb diet, but as soon as you return to your former diet habits, the pounds will slowly pile back on. The best diet you can do is one you can stick with for years to come and doesn’t come with health risks. So take a good hard look at your next diet to make sure it’s one you can stick with for the long run, whether it’s one high in protein or not!