The high protein diet is exactly what it sounds like: it requires participants to load daily meals and snacks with protein. While front-loading meals with protein, foods offering mainly carbohydrates are drastically reduced or eliminated for the duration of the diet. For example, if a person typically enjoys eggs, toast, and grapefruit for breakfast on this diet, the toast may be replaced with an extra egg.
High protein diets can often help reduce hunger in the short-term, which can lead to initial rapid weight loss. You may be familiar with the high protein diet by its more commercial brands including the Atkins diet and the Zone diet. Both of these branded high protein diets aim to increase the amount of protein consumed at each meal and the occasional snack while reducing the number of simple carbohydrates.
These diets suggest eliminating common sources of carbohydrates such as sandwich bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, and so on with protein-based options such as breadless burgers, edamame or zucchini noodles. Snack substitutions often include nuts, seeds, fruits, and/or vegetables. Both diets offer protein-dense meal options such as bars and shake as meal replacements to increase protein consumption while reducing overall caloric intake.
When beginning a high protein diet, it’s important to ease into it. Begin by replacing carbohydrate-heavy foods with better protein and fiber options. This is especially important for meat-based proteins including red meats, fish, chicken, and pork. To avoid a sluggish intestinal system and/or constipation, a key aspect of a high protein diet is the additional increase of high fiber foods including vegetables and some grains. Starting a high protein diet should evolve over the course of a week or so to allow your body to adjust to the nutritional shift.
And then there are those pesky calories to consider. If weight loss is your ultimate goal, then sit down and really consider the calorie count that specific proteins offer. Nut and legume proteins offer significant nutritional while containing the fewest calories. When switching to a high protein diet, it’s a good idea to rotate your proteins to ensure that you’re getting the most out of each and every meal.
That means a significant portion of your main meals should incorporate leaner proteins such as beans, fish, eggs, meat-alternatives, and skinless chicken. Calorie dense proteins such as red meat or fatty cuts of meat should be consumed far less frequently.
While on a high protein diet it is important to maintain a small level of carbohydrates. The body requires different types of fuel for different processes, so it’s imperative that it receives protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. However, the form of carbohydrates, which are processed into simple sugars, and then used for rapid energy (among other things), can shift. Protein diets should be tailored to both your gender and general level of activity.
Women require approximately 50 grams of protein daily while men need an additional ten grams. These amounts are for typical levels of activity. For those engaged in routine training or otherwise physically demanding activity, the amount of protein required should increase to meet the body’s daily needs.
High protein diets often result in quick initial weight loss. Cutting carbohydrates, which retain water in the body, allows the body to quickly lose water weight. In addition, without carbs to burn for quick energy, the body begins burning fat. This fat-burning process typically results in ketosis. Some people may experience headaches and general irritability and mood swings during this process as the body begins burning fat cells.
For breakfast, typical high protein meals may include a meal replacement shake with either a whey-based protein powder or a legume or pea-based protein powder. Omelets are another favorite—especially when loaded with veggies such as spinach and broccoli. For extra protein, try a Mexican-themed omelet loaded with tomatoes, cheddar cheese, black beans, and avocado.
Lunches can be delicious while offering higher amounts of protein. Consider fixing a salad complete with nuts, seeds, and a lean protein such as chicken. A serving of cottage cheese served with bananas, walnuts, and sunflower seeds is another great choice.
Dinners offer a wide variety of great options. Consider a veggie stir-fry with edamame and pork or grilled salmon with a veggie medley. Need some other great ideas? How about a three-bean turkey chili topped with cheese and avocado or a bunless veggie burger with a chilled three-bean salad side? The possibilities are endless.
For snacks, toss the chips, crackers, cookies, and other go-to from the pantry and replace them with nuts, seeds, trail mixes, and other protein-based snacks. Vegetable crisps can be a great replacement for chips! Also consider keeping easy-to-reach snacks in your fridges such as apples, carrots, celery and other fruits and vegetables to sate both sweet and crunchy cravings.
Whether you’re looking to simply increase your general health or lose weight, the high protein diet can be modified to fit your needs. Just remember: as with any significant dietary shift, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional. This diet may not be appropriate for all people; especially those with kidney or liver issues.
Keep in mind that the body adapts better to new ideas when introduced gradually, so take a week or so to fully replace the majority of carbohydrates with proteins. And the type of protein you select