The high protein diet for weight loss, a complete guide? As much disdained and criticized by some doctors, dieticians, and nutritionists, as propagated in the world of gyms by the various “gurus” of the sector.
The question of protein requirements and how many proteins to consume on a daily basis is a subject of constant debate.
Despite the scientific evidence found to date, we find people who still carry out the thesis on the damage generated by excessive protein consumption over time (problems, diseases, etc.).
The protein intake is a factor of absolute importance both from the health point of view and from the one more aimed at sporting performance in the gym and not at achieving a certain aesthetics and body composition.
The purpose of this article is not to deal with the role of proteins and what are the different pros and cons of a high protein diet, but it is to provide all those practical measures that, if applied correctly, can bring advantages during a protein diet suitable for weight loss.
What Is A High-Protein Diet?
Is The High-protein Diet A Diet Like Any Other?
Yes, that is, it works or not depending on how you manage it and if you follow common sense, without going extreme. But first, you have to know it in order to put it into practice.
What Is The High Protein Diet?
When proteins cover at least 35% of the total caloric intake consumed or the protein quota exceeds the RDA value of 0.8 g protein/lbs of body weight; this second parameter is preferable.
At a physiological level, proteins are broken down into amino acids, which interact mainly with the lean mass to consolidate their plastic, energetic and structural functions.
So why is total body weight usually taken into account? Simply because most people do not really know their own amount of lean mass, which can be obtained through various body composition measurement techniques ( bia, DEXA, etc.).
Given that for people with % of fat we say acceptable, therefore not beyond the threshold of 19-20% for men and 29-30% for women.
The difference between total body weight and lean mass is not so incredibly high, a few grams of extra protein will not give rise to substantial differences from a practical point of view.
Since bodyweight is easily detectable by anyone, even on a daily basis, for convenience the latter is used as a reference rather than lean mass.
For those who are overweight, with a high % BF, it is more logical to take lean mass rather than body weight into total consideration.
This is because excess body fat will almost shield muscle catabolism and once they enter a low-calorie diet, these subjects will tend to be much more likely to keep their muscle mass intact and therefore the protein requirement will be lower since the weight loss will be almost exclusively due to water and fat.
Benefits Of The High-Protein Diet
Proteins have a protective and longevity function for bone health; numerous studies have shown how changes in protein intake during childhood and adolescence can influence growth and the achievement of optimal bone mass.
Especially for elderly people, a low protein intake is associated with bone mineral density problems, particularly in the proximal part of the femur and lumbar spine.
Furthermore, in the more purely low-calorie context, proteins compared to other macronutrients guarantee greater satiety and therefore an extra chance for adherence to the diet.
To the advantage of proteins, there is also the maintenance of a high food-induced thermogenic effect and the contribution to maintaining lean mass despite the deficiency.
In the latter case, it does not mean that a high-protein diet makes the body immune to muscle loss, but only that it minimizes it compared to other low-protein diets.
In fact, when you are low-calorie catabolic processes prevail in general and not only specifically on the fat mass.
Is The High-Protein Diet Bad For You?
Even proteins are not free from false myths and alarmism if you started to listen to all the “hearsay” the healthiest food could be the one that does not have carbohydrates because they make you fat, lipids because they raise cholesterol, proteins because they cause kidney damage and hepatic.
There remains therefore only water, which is certainly necessary but in a state of not sufficient importance. The “hearsay” is better to leave them aside or listen to them and understand if they are valid or not, even if ( spoiler ) tend to not.
The liver has all the metabolic pathways for the utilization of amino acids which can derive from diet but also from intense physical effort or prolonged fasting.
It could be that more proteins cause the liver to work harder and therefore that the organ is more “stressed” and likely to be damaged.
In reality, the liver adapts to an increased protein intake it responds with an increase in the enzymes responsible for amino acid metabolism, and the theory according to which the more an organ works intensely the more likely it is damaged is absolutely not verified.
There is still no evidence that a high-protein diet is responsible for liver damage, even if, for the sake of completeness, long-term studies in this area have not yet been carried out.
When the protein intake is high and well accompanied by carbohydrates and lipids, proteins help to counteract water retention, especially if you combine weight training.
If the high protein intake is not supported by the other macronutrients you get the opposite and undesirable effect and water retention increases.
Proteins do not generate problems of kidney fatigue unless the subject already has a predisposition of genetic makeup or previous pathologies.
All the studies that have shown that an excess of protein compared to the RDA of 0.8 g/lbs would promote chronic kidney diseases, due to the increase in pressure of the glomeruli, due to an increase in their filtering activity, were carried out on people with kidney disease already in progress.
All the studies carried out with protein intake that even exceeded twice the RDA amount on healthy subjects did not give rise to changes in renal functions.
Low-Calorie High-Protein Diet Scheme
Rather than assimilating all the protein in a single solution, it is better to divide the total daily protein into at least 3-4 similar intakes, possibly a little more in meals close to training.
In this way, the body will have less difficulty in carrying out any excess nitrogen, thus maintaining a balance during the 24 hours.
There is no certain limit of how many proteins your body is able to assimilate at a time, in fact in the protocols of intermittent fasting the protein quota is consumed all in a narrow time range with however significant improvements.
What Foods To Include In A Low-Calorie High-Protein Diet?
As with any diet, varying sources throughout the day and week is the best choice, not limited to the classic 7 days a week “rice and chicken”, which has nothing more than other foods.
In fact, rotating food is, in general, an important factor in improving the various enzymatic functions, accustoming the body to correctly manage the various substances.
The only restriction exists in the event that there is a full-blown food intolerance or if you frequently accuse digestive problems with a particular food: avoid or limit this food and prefer the others.
Protein foods are not only lean meats like chicken and turkey but also soy, all legumes, low-fat dairy products.
In the daily protein total, it also counts the “non-noble” proteins (cereals, legumes) which, although they do not have a complete amino acid spectrum, are still proteins and as such affect energy intake, nitrogen balance, and protein turnover.
Since it is not always easy to be able to reach the daily protein quota only through food, protein powders are a valid aid they do not make you stronger or raise your metabolism but you simply reach the predetermined quota.
Example Of A High-Protein Diet
The following are just EXAMPLES that are not personalized at all and just want to give you an idea of which foods you could choose and how to distribute them throughout the day.
Protein at breakfast helps maintain a good sense of satiety throughout the morning, and you can also choose between sweet and savory.
Some ideas: low-fat or Greek yogurt, healthy toast with lean meats, protein pancakes, oats, eggs, protein powders, nuts.
High-protein Diet Of 800 Kcal
- Breakfast: 2 fried eggs, 40 g toasted wholemeal bread, coffee, and tea without sugar
- Lunch: 60 g wholemeal pasta, 80 g natural tuna, 100 g salad tomatoes
- Dinner: 200g grilled turkey breast, 100g rocket
1400 Calorie High-Protein Diet
- Breakfast: 200 g skimmed cow’s milk, 3 brown rice cakes, 50 g light strawberry jam, 150 g orange juice
- Snack: 20 g cashews
- Lunch: 100 g rice, 50 g dried mushrooms, 50 g parmesan, 100 g salad tomatoes
- Dinner: 230 g chicken, 10 g extra virgin olive oil, 100 g yellow peppers, 50 g rye bread
1800 Calorie High-Protein Diet
- Breakfast: 170 g Greek yogurt 2%, 20 g pine nuts, 10 g honey
- Snack: protein shake (1 banana, 30g protein powder, 100g skim milk)
- Lunch: 100g wholemeal pasta, 60g dried lentils, 100g broccoli
- Snack: 20 g salt-free crackers, 100 g bresaola
- Dinner: 200 g potatoes, 100 g mackerel, 1 apple
How Much Protein To Take Per Day?
“More is not always better ”. Wanting to overdo the protein intake at all costs will not bring you better benefits but potentially only drawbacks.
The proteins must obviously be counted in the daily caloric intake and therefore if you decide to increase them, even though you are already consuming a quantity considered sufficient, you will then have to go and cut on the other macronutrients, a choice that in principle is not very sensible.
The ranges shown below are based on studies and scientific evidence ascertained to date you may find indications with slightly higher or lower values but roughly this is it. By subjects:
- For sedentary people who have no aims of any kind in terms of body composition, the recommended value is a minimum of 0.8g/lbs of body weight.
- For those who perform a physical activity such as running or similar or who are very active during the day or who want to try to lose body fat while preserving lean mass in the best possible way, the recommended range is 1.2-1.5 gr/lbs of body weight.
- Who carry out activities against resistance and which aim to increase their lean mass the recommended range is 1.6-2.2 gr/lbs of body weight.
- Who carry out activities against resistance and who want to try to lose body fat, while preserving lean mass in the best possible way, the recommended range is 2.3-3 gr/lbs of body weight.
The advice is to start near the lowest end of the ranges listed above, and then in the final stages of weight loss, possibly go towards the highest one or even slightly exceed it in some cases. This appears to have a positive impact on maintaining lean mass.
How Much To Drink Per Day
An increase in protein implies a greater work of filtration and protein reabsorption in the kidney, and insufficient water supply does not best support this fundamental mechanism.
Very often people ask themselves questions and struggle to understand which is the ideal split of macronutrients and the best timing of meals and the most effective supplements, etc. and they do not take into account their daily water consumption.
How many times have you heard the phrase have you heard that you are made up of at least 70% water?
Well, your muscles are made up of over 70% water so it is clear how much a correct water supply is of fundamental importance for many, too many aspects at a muscular level but also at a hormonal and physiological level.
A good general rule is to consume at least 1 liter of water for every 40 lbs of body weight (for sportspeople who train).
Also, choose a water with a low fixed residue (<50), this will facilitate the body in the demineralization of the latter and in a correct diuresis.
How Many Pounds Can You Lose?
The pounds you lose are neither more nor less if you choose another diet: adherence to the diet and the calorie deficit is the only two fundamentals that allow you to lose weight.
Certainly, the high-protein diet compared to other dietary types can count on a greater sense of satiety and on support for the maintenance of lean mass despite the prevalence of catabolic processes, which physiologically are established for all tissues when the caloric intake is lower than as needed.
Low-Calorie High-Protein Diet For The Gym, And Bodybuilding
High-protein diets are recommended more for athletes who perform intense workouts rather than for the sedentary since they have a
If you are a sportsman who goes to the gym and does intense workouts, surely the high-protein diet is more useful to you than those who do not train you have a higher protein requirement and a greater lean mass that must be maintained.
The minimum recommended intake is 1.6 g of protein per lbs of body weight, to be consumed preferably in the hours close to training.
Why Can't I Lose Weight With A Low-Calorie High-Protein Diet?
Among the many “whys” of life, there is also this, a great classic in the field of slimming: “I eat” little “and I do not lose weight … Why?”. Probably that “little” is not really “little” (are you still in normo caloric? Or even high calorie?).
You eat and accumulate calories, fast (any time you don’t eat) and spend calories, it is guaranteed that if the accumulated calories are more than those spent.
The energy consumed does not vanish into thin air, but remains in the body; she and all the biochemical processes that regulate metabolism are the cause of not losing weight.
What does it mean? That although your diet contains fewer carbohydrates and less fat than other diets, you can still gain weight.
Does the body mainly look at the calorie balance: too many calories than necessary? You gain weight, regardless of whether these come from carbohydrates, fats, or proteins. So then also clear the concept of “carbohydrates make you fat” and “fats make you fat”.
High-Protein Diet Duration
The high-protein diet is to be seen as a period of time that must not substantially represent the “natural life” dietary habit.
It is still not clear whether in the chronic (many years) consuming important protein requirements really generates concrete negativity.
The advice is to alternate phases with high quantities during periods of weight loss, with phases with more moderate contributions, especially in periods of caloric surplus where the protein share takes on less significant importance.
Another reason why not to follow the low-calorie high-protein diet for a long time is that often with this type of diet, no indications are given regarding calorie consumption, but simply the motto “eat protein until you are full” is valid.
Initially, this works protein satiates you more and you lose weight because you eat less. In the long run, however, the body adapts, you have less sense of satiety and you start eating more, not losing weight anymore.
Conclusion On The High-Protein Diet
Unless you have pathologies, the high-protein diet for a fixed time does not lead to any kind of problem.
Indeed, if you are a sportsman it helps you to maintain a good protein dose to support muscle mass and protein turnover.
If you try to lose weight the proteins guarantee you a good sense of satiety and lower consumption of foods rich in fats and carbohydrates since you will prefer foods with a higher protein fraction.