This is a definitive guide to starting a high protein diet. In this guide you will learn everything you need to know about losing weight and feeling great the high protein diet way.
Not only are high protein diets for weight loss. By just changing a few things in your diet, your energy levels should stabilize, helping you to generally feel great all day – without feeling hungry. You can even speed up your metabolism.
The question is how do you actually incorporate high protein into your life?
Let’s first explore how high protein diets work.
How High Protein Diets Work
All foods are made up of three basic building blocks called macronutrients:
You need all of these macronutrients to be healthy as each one has a unique function in your body. Protein has many roles. It is needed to repair muscle, skin, hair and bones. Protein is different to the other macronutrients because protein is not stored in the body. As a result we need to include protein in our diets on a daily basis. The general daily recommended intake for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, or 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, when you increase the amount of protein in your diet, there are many benefits. o find out what they are, read on.
How Does A High Protein Diet Burn Fat?
One of the most sought after benefits of protein dieting is weight loss. We will now explore why increased protein results in weight loss.
1. Feel Fuller and Eat Less
In a study that included 19 people, two separate diets were tested. The subjects were put on the two diets consecutively. After each session, their blood was tested. On the first diet, 15% of their caloric intake was protein, while 50% was carbohydrates. On the 2nd diet, they consumed 30% protein, while their carbohydrate intakes remained the same, essentially doubling their protein intake. Their blood was sampled after each phase. During the phase where the protein was increased, the subjects felt more full and having reduced hunger pangs resulting in weight loss.
In another study, different groups of overweight men were put on different diets. Some of the diets where normal in protein while others were high in protein. The results were that the groups that consumed the higher levels of protein had reduced levels of food obsession which led to less instances of late night snacking.
2. Increase Your Metabolism by as Much as 35% to Increase Fat Burning
Protein doesn’t only have the effect of higher levels of satiation, it also affects your metabolism. A higher metabolism means that you will burn more calories during the day – without any extra effort. This works because in order to digest proteins, your body needs to burn more calories than it takes to burn carbs or fats.
Higher levels of protein have been shown to raise your metabolic rate by as much as 20% – 35%. Just for comparison, digesting fats or carbs increase your metabolism by 5% – 15%.
3. Increase Your Metabolism to Reduce Dieting Plateaus
This boost in metabolism also helps to reverse the negative effects that dieting has on your metabolism. Have you ever noticed when on a diet, as time passes you find it harder and harder to lose weight? Here is the reason.
When you diet, your body doesn’t only lose fat. It also loses muscle, which essentially slows your metabolism down. Muscles are hungry for energy. The more muscle you have the more energy you burn. Even with the inevitable loss of muscle mass, your metabolism will still increase on a high protein diet.
Getting Started on a High Protein Diet
In this section you will learn the practical steps you need to start losing weight and feel great. Here is an outline of the steps. Below I will explain each step so that you know exactly what to do.
Step 1 – Increase Your Protein
In order to start you need to first calculate how much protein your body needs. Once you know what your protein goals are, you can begin to increase your protein intake. To do this you need to know what your body weight is. The general daily recommended intake for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, or 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Once you have that figured out you should double this amount. It is however recommended for the average person to avoid more than 2gm protein/kg (which may be different from an elite athlete or professional body builder).
In order to reach this goal, gradually add extra protein to your meals. Do this for about a week, gradually increasing the protein you eat to about 20 – 30 grams of protein at each meal. When you do this, make sure to decrease your fats and carbs. This is important because calories matter even on a high protein diet. Raising the overall calories you consume might even result in weight gain.
Try to spread your protein intake out over the day, making sure not to eat this amount at once. This will allow your body to use the protein efficiently.
Step 2 – What Proteins Should I Eat?
There are many ways to include more protein in your diet. The diet can be tailored to your lifestyle. Whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, or don’t eat dairy, you can still enjoy the benefits of a high protein diet. You can either carry on eating the same things you are accustomed to eating, while increasing the amount of healthy protein you eat, or you can choose a specific high protein diet plan.
Before getting started, make sure you are getting high quality proteins. Low quality proteins can result in health problems. Some processed meats have high amounts of added salt while others even contain sugar, antibiotics or fillers. As a rule of thumb, try to always eat whole foods. The more processed the food, the more likely they are of low quality.
Another point to consider is that your body needs nine essential amino acids.
Let’s back up a step and understand what that means.
Proteins are made up of compounds called amino acids. To be healthy your body needs 20 of these amino acids. Of the 20, your body is not able to produce 9 of them. Because your body doesn’t store up amino acids long term, it is essential that you get them through your diet on a daily basis.
In general, proteins that we get from animal sources, such as fish, dairy, meat and eggs are complete proteins, giving you all the essential amino acids. Plant based proteins on the other hand are often missing in some of the essential amino acids. If you are a vegetarian, don’t sweat. Just make sure you are getting all of the required amino acids during the day by eating a variety of plant based proteins. Just as a side note, you don’t need all the amino acids during every meal. As long as during the duration of the day you eat foods with all of them, you will be healthy and get everything you need.
Also make sure to choose sources of protein that you enjoy. This will help you maintain your new eating plan.
Healthy Plant Based Proteins
Here is a short list of healthy plant based proteins.
- Lentils are a great protein source. They also contain fiber and other key nutrients. Lentils can be added to stews, soups and even salads.
- Almonds are high in protein. They are also high in healthy fats and vitamin E.
- Peanuts as well as peanut butter are high in protein as well as healthy fats. If you are eating peanut butter, try to find a sugar free option. Also try not to overdo the peanut butter as it is high in calories.
- Quinoa is a great protein option. As well as including many other nutrients quinoa is a complete protein. This versatile food can be enjoyed in stews, soups or salads.
- Beans and rice are a great combination for protein. Together they form a complete protein.
Healthy Animal Sources of Protein
- Lean meat
Step 3 – Make Sure the Other Macronutrients are High Quality
Once you have figured out your protein needs, it is time to look at the carbs and fats you eat. This means you should avoid refined sugars. If you absolutely love sugar, (don’t we all), don’t beat yourself up about it. You can gradually wean yourself off unhealthy food. This is a gradual process and the great news is the less sugar you eat, the less you crave.
Carbs to include are:
- Whole grains
- Low fat milk and yogurt
- Legumes such as beans
Fats to include:
- Nuts and seeds
Apple and peanut butter are a truly great combination. This dynamic duo not only taste great but are great for your health. Apples are high in fiber and polyphenol antioxidants. Peanut butter benefits your heart health. It is advisable to not overdo the peanut butter as it is high in calories.
Step 4 – Meal Planning for Success
This step is not absolutely crucial, but is highly recommended to have success in your diet. Try planning ahead. The reason is simple. We all live busy lives. Once the week begins, we have to run just to keep up. What do busy people do when they are hungry? Most of us go for that quick snack option. You know the type of snack I’m talking about. We eat whatever is around that will fill the void. A few of those can make a huge impact on your health and weight loss goals.
Meals can be planned ahead for a week at a time. To save time, many of the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.
The great news is you can still snack and lose weight at the same time. The key here is to plan healthy snacks long before you get hungry. Done right, healthy snacks can help keep you full throughout the day, helping you fight off those hunger pangs with ease. Here are a few healthy snack options:
My favorite snack, nuts are really filling, helping you lose weight. They are high in protein, healthy fats and fibre. Nuts are one of the easiest snack options as they don’t require refrigeration.
Whole fruits are an easy snack option. They are a great quick option and don’t require any preparation. Just make sure to eat the fruit whole, rather than the juice, as fibre will slow the rate that your body takes to absorb the sugar into your bloodstream. This will keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing, preventing that post-crash hunger.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Hard boiled eggs are some of the best weight loss food options available. They are low in calories and have high levels of protein as well as vitamins B12, D and K2.
This easy to prepare snack tastes great and is filling. Not only that, it is great for boosting your metabolism. Just make sure to get unsweetened coconut.
Apple slices with peanut butter
Apple and peanut butter are a truly great combination. This dynamic duo not only taste great but are great for your health. Apples are high in fibre and polyphenol antioxidants. Peanut butter benefits your heart health. It is advisable to not overdo the peanut butter as it is high in calories.
Step 5 – Drink Enough to Avoid Dehydration
Drinking water is often neglected. Many people go through their days dehydrated and are not even aware of it. If you are on a high protein diet it is imperative that you increase the amount of water you drink because high protein diets cause dehydration. Drink even if you are not thirsty. In a study, the hydration status of five endurance athletes was monitored. The athletes were on high protein diets. The results were the more protein they consumed, the higher the levels of dehydration. What is alarming is that they did not report higher levels of thirst. If you find you don’t generally feel thirsty, try scheduling times to drink water. An easy way to do this is to drink before meal times. This will not only help you stay hydrated, it will actually help you eat less during your meals.
Benefits of High Protein Diets
Reduced Hunger – Keep Your Appetite in Check
A benefit everyone is searching for is of course weight loss and weight maintenance. High protein is great for this because a high intake of protein makes you feel fuller than the same intake of carbohydrates. This means you will eat less during the day.
Approximately half the structure of your bones consists of proteins. High protein diets will benefit your bones on condition you are also getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Good sources of protein for bone health are fish, milk, meat, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds.
Youthful Looking Skin
The different layers of your skin are made up of different types of proteins. This means in order to have even, youthful glowing skin, you must have enough protein in your diet. Common symptoms of protein deficiency are thin tired looking skin. Some good sources of protein for skin health are:
- Fatty fish
- Sunflower seeds
Better Hair Growth
Not only is our skin made up of proteins, our hair is mostly made up of protein too. This means a diet rich in protein will help nourish your hair from within. This is because your hair is made up of a protein called keratin and eating protein helps your body produce keratin. When you can’t produce enough keratin, your hair will be prone to break. One of the best sources of proteins for hair growth is fish. Fish contain essential fatty acids as well as minerals necessary for healthy hair. Some other proteins that promote healthy hair are:
Protein diets give you even, sustained energy levels. This is sustained longer than the energy you get from carbohydrates. The reason is that carbs (especially highly processed carbs) are digested more easily than protein. When carbs are digested your body quickly converts it into glucose (sugar). This glucose enters your bloodstream raising your blood sugar levels. At the same time your body secretes insulin into your bloodstream in order to maintain even blood sugar levels. To do this insulin causes glucose to be used as immediate energy, or to be stored for later use, either in your muscle cells or your fat cells. As a result, you will feel a sudden drop in glucose in your blood resulting in an energy crash. This is commonly known as a sugar rush.
This is not the case with proteins. Protein takes longer to break down. This means your insulin levels will stay stable. The advantage of this is glucose will be released from your bloodstream at a stable rate giving you stable energy levels. No energy crashes.
For sustained energy, start out your day with a high protein breakfast. Also when you snack, try to incorporate protein and a high quality carbohydrate or fat.
If you eat enough protein you are likely to build stronger muscles. This will help you during your workouts. This means even your cardio workouts will be better, resulting in more endurance.
Increase Your Strength and Muscle Mass
Your muscles are built up of protein. This means if you are doing strength training, eating enough protein is crucial. Protein is also essential if you are trying to lose weight, as losing weight will inevitably result in muscle loss. Eating enough protein will help you maintain muscle mass or at least minimize muscle loss. Numerous studies have concluded that 35% protein is superior in athletes maintaining muscle mass than the recommended 15%.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
Higher intake of protein has been shown to result in lower blood pressure. This is beneficial in reducing the risk of strokes, heart attacks and kidney diseases.
Reduce the Effects of Aging
A common result of aging is a loss of muscle mass. Getting enough protein is crucial in maintaining muscle mass.
A surprising benefit of eating more protein, is better quality sleep.
Here are some answers to questions found around the web. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them in the comments section of this post and I will try to answer them.
The difference is: although both diets are low in carbs, they are applying different strategies. The keto diet is designed to get your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. In this state, your body burns fat for energy. To get into this state you need to eat mostly fats and only a moderate amount of protein. High protein diets on the other hand are designed to make you feel full and banish those hunger pangs. This will help you to eat less.
High protein diets are not bad for kidney health. This widely debated concern has been disproven by scientists at the McMaster University. Several studies that involve hundreds of participants were examined. It was concluded based on the data that protein rich diets do not damage your kidneys over time. However, if you are still concerned, make sure to drink enough water.
To gain weight you simply need to eat more calories than what your body burns. Your body will not gain muscle unless it is in a caloric surplus. This simply requires you to eat more. You should eat foods that are nutrient dense and eat more often. It really doesn’t matter what macronutrients you eat. Where high protein helps you is in muscle building and recovery. A study was conducted to measure the effects protein has on people who overeat. The study concluded that on a high protein diet, many extra calories are turned into muscle. The takeaway? High protein is great for weight gain.