There are hundreds of different diets out there, all endorsed by different experts. Some are for losing weight. Others are for building muscle. A few are recommended for people with specific medical conditions. It’s practically impossible to keep track of them all, much less how they work or what they do. Many are passing fads, and some can actually be harmful if followed improperly or by the wrong people.
So what about high protein diets? Are they healthy? Are they effective? They can be, under the right circumstances, but it depends on a number of different factors.
Proteins and Carbohydrates
Protein, in and of itself, is healthy and essential to your body’s growth and repair. The problems with a diet that’s rich in protein arise from two potential scenarios: restricting your carbohydrate intake, and choosing your protein sources unwisely.
High protein diets and low carbohydrate diets aren’t necessarily the same, but there’s often overlap between the two. The Atkins diet and similar programs have you sharply reduce your intake of carbohydrates in order to lose weight. The plans replace those missing calories with an increase in protein. Thus you can have steak but not potatoes, or a hamburger but no bun.
Carbohydrates are what your body feeds on for energy throughout the day. So the way the diet works is by cutting carbohydrates out, you essentially trick your system into thinking it’s starving. Thus your body feeds instead on its reserve stores of protein and fat, helping you lose weight while still eating well.
This can be an effective weight loss tool in the short term. The problem is that the rising popularity of low carbohydrate diets have convinced the general public that carbohydrates are harmful in and of themselves.In fact, they’re essential to our daily nutritional intake. Too much can cause you to gain weight, it’s true. But too little can cause fiber deficiencies, constipation, bad breath, and other health issues.
In the meantime, as people are increasing their protein intake to make up for the loss of carbs, many turn largely to red meat, as well as full fat dairy products. Too much of these can increase your risk of heart disease. It’s also important to get your protein from a wider variety of sources: nuts, beans, fish, soy, eggs, etc. This is the only way to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Benefits of a High Protein Diet
Even if you’re not specifically reducing carbohydrates, or trying to lose weight, there can be benefits to a high protein diet. For one thing, it can help you build muscle mass. Without enough of the amino acids that come from protein, your body’s organs and tissues begin to break down.
Protein helps prevent this atrophy. Additionally, eating protein-rich foods after you exercise can help you repair and even build muscle.
Protein is also great, not just for losing weight, but for managing it over time. A steak or a handful of nuts can help fill you up, so you’re not as hungry, thus less prone to constant, unhealthy snacking. If you’re a diabetic or otherwise have problems with blood sugar levels, a protein-rich diet can keep things under control.
A sudden large intake of carbohydrates, particularly sugar, can also cause large spikes in your glucose levels, prompting your body to release high amounts of insulin. Protein, on the other hand, slows the rate at which you absorb sugar and helps to keep it manageable.
A high protein diet can be tremendously beneficial if it’s followed properly. But before beginning any new diet or health routine, it’s absolutely essential that you first talk to your doctor about it. Find out whether he or she recommends this program for someone with your particular health history, what kind of benefits you can expect, how to do it safely, and how long you should stay on it. That way you can maintain balanced nutrition and a healthy lifestyle at all times.