High protein diets can help you lose weight, but are there any hidden costs? Take a look at what medical experts have to say about the pros and cons of eating more protein.
Losing Weight on a High Protein Diet
- Understand your needs. The average American gets about 16% of their daily calories from protein, which is slightly more than the minimum Recommended Dietary Allowance of 10%. While diets like Atkins advocate consuming as much as 50% protein, most experts suggest sticking to a range of 15 to 35%.
- Feel full. Protein does suppress your appetite so you’re less likely to feel hungry. You may still need other weight loss strategies if you’re dealing with issues like emotional overeating or lack of physical activity.
- Switch your calories. Naturally, you’ll gain weight if you add more protein to your usual fare. Try replacing sugary foods with high protein snacks like roasted chickpeas.
- Choose wisely. Look for lean protein sources, and limit processed meat. Good options include fish, beans, eggs, low-fat dairy products, and skinless poultry. There are plenty of choices for both vegetarians and meat eaters.
- Eat vegetables. Aim for at least 7 servings of fresh vegetables and fruits a day. They’re usually high in nutrients and low in calories, and most contain some protein.
- Drink water. Extra protein can leave you feeling dehydrated. Carry around a water bottle and drink tea.
- Spread it out. Your body uses protein more efficiently if you include it in each meal and snack rather than waiting for dinner. Enjoy an omelet or fish sandwich for breakfast. Snack on yogurt and nuts.
- Make lasting changes. To keep weight off, you’ll need to make lifestyle changes you can maintain for years. A diet with a variety of foods is safer and easier than an extremely high protein regimen.
Other Considerations for a High Protein Diet
- Take extra care. A little extra protein is safe for most adults, but some conditions require precautions. Protein may aggravate kidney troubles or contribute to osteoporosis.
- Adjust for life changes. There are also times when you may need more protein. That includes pregnancy and old age. Extra protein can slow down muscle loss for seniors.
- Muscle up. Regardless of your age, protein also helps muscle recovery after vigorous workouts, especially if you lift weights. If you spend a lot of time at the gym, you may need to aim for the upper range and get 20% to 35% of your calories from protein.
- Focus on whole foods. Protein bars are convenient, but many brands have as much sugar as a candy bar. Read the labels, and save them for special occasions like travel. Quick salads and stir fries will provide more nutrients almost as quickly when you’re at home.
- Save your money. Manufacturers know that protein is popular now so supermarkets are full of high protein breakfast cereals and peanut butter. If the prices look expensive, rest assured that you can easily meet your protein needs with less expensive foods like eggs and tofu.
- Talk with your doctor. Your doctor can advise you about protein consumption and weight loss strategies appropriate for your individual needs. Ask for a referral to a nutritionist if you want more information.
A balanced diet and daily exercise are still the ideal ways to manage your weight. Foods rich in protein can help you feel full with fewer calories, especially if you choose lean versions, and eat them in combination with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.