You’ve fought a losing battle with your weight for so long, the dieting roller coaster is making you dizzy. You’ve tried high carb diets and Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem and starvation diets and the Grapefruit Diet. Everything you tried failed to work. But have you tried a high protein diet?
If you have never tried a high protein diet, it may be because of all the myths and untruths that have swirled around high protein consumption for the past few decades. And that’s what they are — myths and untruths. The truth is, a high protein diet provides many health benefits, and it also supercharges weight loss.
Here is everything you need to know about a high protein diet, and how it will help you win the weight loss war.
High Protein Diet for a High Protein Body
Proteins are long chain amino acids, which are essential for building and repairing the body. Twenty percent of the human body is made up of protein. The human body has about 100,000 different types of protein, some of it present in varying amounts in your hair, skin, muscles, bones, organs, nails and certain hormones. Protein is needed to grow, heal, and perform almost every chemical reaction in the body.
Twenty-one amino acids can form protein in the human body, and they are found in various foods. Some of these amino acids are nonessential, meaning your body can make them on its own. Others are essential amino acids, meaning your body cannot make them and you must obtain them from your diet.
Though amino acids are present in vegetables, the highest sources are those in animal products, such as meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Because each protein source has different amino acids, it is important to eat a variety of protein foods. If you do not eat a range of proteins, you risk a deficiency of certain amino acids, called a protein deficiency.
Symptoms of a Protein Deficiency
Though protein deficiency in the U.S. is rarely mentioned because most American consume enough protein, that doesn’t mean they get enough of the right types of protein. In fact, many people are deficient in certain amino acids, a type of protein deficiency. Here are some symptoms that could occur if you have an amino acid/protein deficiency.
Reduced muscle mass
Fluctuating blood sugar levels
3 Health Benefits of a High Protein Diet
Estimates suggest the average American’s diet is composed of 12% to 16% protein. By contrast, a high protein diet contains 20% protein, and a very high protein diet contains 30% protein.
Whether you choose to eat a high or very high protein diet, you’re in for a treat. Research shows there are many health benefits of a high protein diet. Here are three of them.
1. Increases Muscle Mass
The body is in a constant state of muscle loss and gain. Eating a high-protein diet helps build muscle and prevent muscle loss. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, so it’s not surprising that many studies have shown an adequate intake of protein is necessary for building and maintaining muscle mass. (Eating protein triggers protein muscle synthesis, which builds muscle tissue.) Protein also prevents a breakdown of muscle for several hours after consumption, ensuring lean muscle mass.
It is also important to eat a high protein diet when you’re losing weight to prevent muscle loss.
2. Helps Maintain Strong Bones
Approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weak and brittle bones. Another 44 million American have low bone density, which increases their risk of this disease. Though calcium has the reputation for “building strong bones and teeth,” protein delivers. Several studies have shown a higher protein intake strengthens bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
The reason? A high protein diet increases the strength of hormone IGF-1, which regulates bone metabolism. Higher protein consumption also has an indirect effect on the bones. After all, higher protein consumption increases muscle mass, and increased muscle mass strengthens the bones.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 103 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. This is a serious issue because high blood pressure is a major cause of stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease. Surprisingly, a high protein diet might help.
Several studies have shown a high protein diet to lower blood pressure. One such study showed it lowered systolic blood pressure an average of 1.76 11Hg, and diastolic blood pressure by 1.15 mmHg, though researchers noted this needs further investigation.
Studies also show a higher intake of lean animal protein reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, insulin resistance, and osteoporosis while not impairing kidney function.
Other Health Benefits of a High Protein Diet
Those are not the only health benefits of a high protein diet. Studies also show a higher intake of lean animal protein reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and insulin resistance, while not impairing kidney function.
Weight Loss Benefits of a High Protein Diet
A high protein diet also has many weight loss benefits. Here are just a few of them.
Research shows a high protein diet is filling, with a lot less hunger than other diets. This is because protein consumption sends signals to the short- and long-term satiety hormones, so your meal fills you up fast and keeps you full longer. When you’re full, you’re less likely to gorge on starchy carbs and other inSANE food, so you’ll automatically consume fewer calories.
In a University of Washington Study, participants ate an unlimited amount of food while researchers increased the portion of protein in their meals from 15% to 30%. They unconsciously ate 441 fewer calories per day without feeling hungry.
A high protein diet increases metabolism in two ways.
Protein goes through such a difficult metabolic process that it takes more calories to digest protein than either of the other two macronutrients — fats and carbohydrates. This means your metabolism must rev up just to digest protein, thus increasing your metabolism.
A high protein diet also triggers something called “protein muscle synthesis,” which builds and repairs muscle. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism and the more calories you burn.
Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin is a fat storage hormone, and it is released by the pancreas when you consume carbohydrates. Refined carbs, such as donuts or pasta, are converted into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream quickly because there is no fiber to slow it down. This causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, which can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues.
A high protein diet does not affect blood sugar levels. In fact, research shows eating protein can even slow down the absorption of sugar from other foods in the meal.
High Protein Diet Controversies
No article on a high protein diet would be complete without discussing some of the controversies about high protein consumption.
Too Much Protein Harms the Kidneys
This is 100% false. In fact, hundreds of studies show that a high protein diet is good for health and does not harm the kidneys.
But the myth that too much protein harms the kidneys didn’t come out of nowhere. It seems it came from studies in which animals were fed extreme amounts of low-quality proteins. When they started having health problems — including problems with the kidneys — a myth was born that persists to this day.
Just remember all the studies showing a high protein diet is good for you and your weight loss goals, and you’ll be fine.
Protein Causes Cancer
This is an example of a misunderstanding that is just ridiculous. Since high-quality protein promotes the repair and growth of all cells — even cancer cells — a rumor or myth or just plain lie started going around that protein causes cancer.
No, protein does NOT cause cancer. If you already have cancer and consume excessive protein…then, yes, protein will make those cancer cells grow. But eating a high protein diet will not give you cancer.
Protein Causes Osteoporosis
This myth almost certainly arose because of the fact that the digestion of protein requires more calcium that the digestion of fat or carbohydrates. Some people think this means protein will suck the calcium from your bones.
There could be some truth to this, but only if you consumed extremely high amounts of protein. If you adopted a SANE high protein diet in which you ate at least 10 servings of non-starchy vegetables per day, however, there would be no need for protein to take calcium from your bones. Green leafy vegetables, it might surprise you to know, contain high amounts of calcium.
But this might not matter because while protein may increase your need for calcium, it also increases your ability to absorb calcium. Your body, then, actually makes better use of calcium when you consume more protein.
High Protein Diet: Is there a Vegan or Vegetarian Option?
As previously stated, amino acids are present in vegetables, but the highest sources are those in animal products.
If you’re a vegetarian, seafood is your best high protein option. It’s a little more tricky if you’re a vegan, however, as the protein in plants tends not to be as bioavailable or complete as that from animal sources. To obtain your protein, then, you might want to add protein powders made from rice, hemp or pea to your diet.
Vegans and vegetarians should also take a branched-chain amino acid supplement to provide the amino acids a plant-based diet lacks. They should also take a vitamin B12 supplement, as vitamin B12 is found only in animal products.
5 High Protein Foods to Include in your Diet
Here are 5 high protein foods you’ll want to include often in your diet.
1. Wild Caught Salmon
Wild caught salmon is something you’ll want to make a regular part of your high protein diet. A 3.5 ounce serving of King salmon provides 26 grams of protein and 1700 mg of omega 3. (Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, promote heart health, and provide many other health benefits.) It is also loaded with vitamins and minerals.
2. Grass-Fed Beef
Grass-fed beef supplies nearly 50% the RDA of protein, and it is also loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. The combination of its protein and healthy fat content has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve blood sugar levels.
3. Nonfat Greek Yogurt
Nonfat Greek yogurt contains 67% protein, making it a metabolism-boosting option for your high protein diet. It is also loaded with essential nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
4. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a tasty, health-promoting addition to any meal. Small curd cottage cheese contains 25 grams of protein per one cup serving. It is also rich in several important vitamins and minerals, such as riboflavin, vitamin B-12, and niacin.
5. Organic Chicken
Chicken is a versatile food that you can add to any meal. It is also a high protein source, supplying over 30% of the RDA for protein. Chicken is also a great source of B vitamins, which are important for heart and brain health.
A SANE High Protein Diet
On the SANE eating plan, you will enjoy 30-55 grams of nutrient-dense protein per meal. Keep in mind that not all proteins are created equal. Just because a food contains some protein does not make it a good protein source.
Nutrient-dense protein is a concentrated source of protein, meaning that more calories in that food come from protein than from fat or carbohydrates and that the protein can readily be used by the body.
Here are just an example of nutrient-dense proteins you will enjoy when you go SANE:
Nonfat Greek yogurt
When you combine nutrient-dense protein with SANE non-starchy veggies, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits, your weight loss battles will be over.
Next Step: Start Your High Protein Diet with SANE
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