Likely you know someone who has tried a high protein diet to control his or her weight. Before jumping on the bandwagon, learn the possible drawbacks of a high protein diet from a TMH registered dietician.
Lack of Carbohydrates = Lack of Balance
Remember that old adage, “everything in moderation?” It sounds boring but it has a powerful, subtle effect when it comes to our diets—it creates a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates, which is exactly what our bodies need.
“Our brains can only use glucose (from carbohydrates) for energy, not protein or fats. That’s why we see people on high protein diets sometimes come in feeling fatigued, dizzy and unable to concentrate,” says a TMH dietician. Healthy fats, such as salmon, nuts and avocados, do support neurological pathways in our brains, but fats do not provide the “gas” our brains need to function.
A TMH dietician recommends a diet that consists of 55-60% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, and 20-30% fat.
Our Bodies Need Only So Much Protein
High protein diets often mean consuming more protein than what our bodies need. A TMH dietician explains that the average man of 200 pounds needs 72 grams of protein a day, or .8 gram per kilo of weight. A 150-pound woman needs just 54 grams.
A high protein diet easily supplies 80 or 90 grams or more of protein daily. People on high protein diets drop weight quickly for a surprising reason.
“Protein is a dehydrating nutrient. It takes more water to absorb than carbohydrates do. People lose a few pounds, feel less bloated and their muscles are more defined. At first, it’s simply water weight loss,” adds a TMH dietician.
The Type of Meat you Eat, Matters
A TMH dietician believes some high protein diets are healthier than others. Sticking to very lean or lean meats is important for keeping heart disease risk in check.
According to the American Cancer Society, eating large amounts of processed meat has been linked to an increased risk of colon and stomach cancer. The ACS also says how you cook your meat, matters. Research suggests that grilling, broiling and frying meats at high temperatures releases certain chemicals that might increase cancer risk.
Cutting out Fruits Eliminates Important Nutrients
Some high protein diets do not allow fruits, yet cutting out fruits means cutting out proven diseasefighting phytonutrients (beneficial natural chemicals found in food) and fiber.
“Yes, fruit is a carbohydrate, but it’s also an important food group. Without fruit, we lose the benefits of fiber and healthy nutrients such as antioxidants and vitamin C,” says a TMH dietician.
Finding a Diet that Works for You
“Instead of a diet high in protein, I think about moderating, not eliminating, carbohydrates. Make dessert occasional, have one carb-free day a week, but mostly eat less,” advises a TMH dietician.