The science behind the high protein diet

The science behind the high protein diet

2 October 2022

Decades of hype turned protein into a superfood. Salad niçoise is now repackaged as “high-protein tuna”. And on Pinterest, you can choose “protein” as one of your interests, along with “cute animals” and “inspirational quotes”.

But what is it that drives a person to drink a flask of beige slurry and call it lunch?  Here’s the thing, there’s nothing strange about the fact that we see protein as valuable, because it is. Along with fat and carbohydrates, it’s one of the three basic macronutrients, and arguably the most important.

High protein means different things to different people. To some it symbolizes weight loss, while to others, it means more muscle. And if, like most successful dieters, you’re burning calories through exercise – as well as counting them – protein is doubly essential for making sure you lose fat, not muscle.

So, how does it work? High-protein foods take more work to digest, which means you burn more calories processing them. They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner, and for a longer period of time. Protein keeps your metabolism humming and uses the amino acids in the macronutrient to build lean muscle and burn calories, even when you’re not active.

However, there are risks. Although protein is super important in a high-protein diet, it’s not the only food group that should be considered. It’s important not to sack all the other food groups that had your back before.

Carbohydrates such as fruits, veggies, and wholegrains are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber – all of which play a crucial role in health and disease prevention. Healthy fats provide energy, enhance nutrient absorption, and support cell growth. So, focusing solely on protein and neglecting these other vital nutrients can increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies and may take a serious toll on your health over time.

Although protein is good for you “everything in moderation” applies here too. According to experts a healthy approach is a balanced diet that include about 50% of calories from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and 30% from healthy fats. In fact, overdoing protein can have a negative effect on your health. For example, if you eat more protein than your body needs, excess amounts will be stored as fat, leading to weight gain. An excess amount of protein can also force your kidneys to work harder, which may worsen kidney function in those with kidney disease.

It’s important to choose healthy sources of protein on a high-protein diet. Salmon, chicken without the skin, and grass-fed beef are all highly nutritious, but processed meats like bacon, cold cuts, and corned beef, are often pumped full of additives and preservatives that can be harmful to your health. Also, remember, when you eat more protein, it’s crucial to up your water intake. Protein is broken down by the body into amino acids which contain a compound called nitrogen. Excess nitrogen is flushed out of the body with fluids, which is why it’s important to drink more water when following a high-protein diet.

Be sure to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietician before embarking on a high-protein diet to ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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