Low-Carb High-Protein Diet: Benefits and Drawbacks
General Nutrition • • minute to read • By INFS, INFS Faculty
Weight loss is a topic that has gained a lot of attention in recent times. People are constantly looking for new and innovative diets to help them shed unwanted pounds. One such diet that gained popularity in the late 90s was the Atkins Diet, which is a Low-Carb High-Protein diet. This type of diet involves replacing a percentage of carbohydrates with protein for energy requirements while limiting the intake of saturated fat.
But how do you follow this diet? Is it as simple as eating a carb-free diet or adding high protein low carb foods to your diet? In this article, let’s dive deep into this diet and help you decide if it’s the right fit for you and your health.
Understanding the Science and Macros of a High-Protein, Low-Carb Diet
Although there is no set macronutrient ratio for this diet, it is primarily based on the allocation of carbs and proteins. The low-carb high-protein diet typically contains up to 2 grams per kilogram of ideal body weight, evenly distributed over three meals, preferably with 30 grams of protein per meal. The definition of a low-carb diet varies from 50 grams to less than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day or less than 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates. The protein content in the low-carb diet ranges from 27 to 30 percent.
Low Carb High Protein versus Low Carb High Fat: Which is Better?
When you eat a low carb high fat diet such as Keto, the body exhausts its stored sugar (form of carbohydrates) quickly and begins to burn fat for fuel leading to ketosis. This does not mean that your fat stores start to diminish. The calories (from fat) from your meals, will replace the fat burned as fuel for the body.
Research has found that Keto is not necessarily superior for fat loss and one has to watch their total calorie intake even on a Keto diet to see results.
There are some side-effects also to being in the state of Ketosis: It causes temporary headaches, irritability, nausea, bad breath, and sleeping problems for some people. However, these symptoms usually go away in a few days once your body adapts to fats as the new source of energy.
The main issue is that such a diet is difficult to follow. The other is that fats are higher in calories and it is easy to go overboard on total calories consumed in a day.
A low carb high protein diet is one of the other alternatives. On a high-protein diet, you will likely feel more satiated. That’s because your body takes longer to digest protein, which helps prevent cravings and sustains muscle mass. Plus, the diet has lower amounts of fats and saturated fats as compared to a low carb high fat diet which also makes it easier to control calorie intake.
In both diets, when carbohydrates are reduced, weight loss occurs quickly due to water loss. This is one of the main reasons for the popularity of diets following this macro split, like Atkins and Keto. People see inch loss quickly in a matter of a few days. However, they dont realise that the weight loss is water weight, which one will gain back once they go off their low carb intake diets.
The Downside of Low-Carb High-Protein Diets
Short-term Weight Loss
Most of the weight lost through this diet is short-term as it cannot be followed for an extended period.
Individuals who follow these diets commonly experience nutrient deficiencies. Sources of carbohydrates, such as whole grains, millets, fruits, vegetables, and tubers, also provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Long-term restriction of these nutrients can lead to nutritional deficiency diseases ranging from headaches to osteoporosis, kidney stones, and more.
Some research has shown links between consumption of a high protein diet, with high cholesterol, certain cancers and also kidney issues in those who already have compromised kidney function.
Most carb sources, such as whole grains, offer prebiotics to the body that help in digestion. Limiting consumption over the long term of these helpful nutrients can weaken gut health, which can affect digestive health and cause constipation.
Before you start the Low Carb High Protein Diet
If you’re thinking of following a Low-Carb High-Protein Diet, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t follow this type of diet for an extended period
- Consult a health coach, discuss and create your diet plan
- Practise mindful eating
- Check with a physician and, based on their prescription, take supplements
- Sleep for 7 to 8 hours
- Do regular physical activity
- Check biochemical parameters
The nutritional requirement generally depends on age, gender, physiological status, physical activity, and medical reasons. People with lifestyle diseases should follow a balanced diet, along with physical activity and sleep. It is highly recommended to consult a nutritionist or your family physician before starting any diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a low-carb high-protein diet, and how does it work?
A low-carb high-protein diet, also known as a high protein low carb diet, is a dietary approach that involves consuming foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. The primary goal of this diet is to limit the intake of carbohydrates, forcing the body to use stored fat as an energy source, leading to weight loss.
What are the benefits of a low-carb high-protein diet for weight loss and overall health?
The rationale behind this diet is that when you limit your carbohydrate intake, your body uses fat as its primary energy source instead of glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates. Consuming high-protein foods helps to maintain satiety, while limiting calories will inadvertently result in weight loss.
What are some common sources of carbohydrates and protein on a low-carb high-protein diet?
To follow a high protein low carb diet, you must eat foods that are low in carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. You should focus on consuming high-protein foods, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Can a low-carb high-protein diet help with muscle building and athletic performance?
Yes, when monitored carefully and complemented with regular strength training, one can build muscle on this diet too. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, and consuming high-quality protein sources can help improve muscle recovery and growth.
Additionally, limiting carbohydrates can help improve insulin sensitivity, which can lead to better glucose uptake by the muscles during exercise. This can result in improved energy levels and endurance during workouts.
However, it is important to note that it should be done in moderation. Carbohydrates are still an essential nutrient for energy production, and consuming too few can lead to fatigue and poor athletic performance.
It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine the appropriate balance of macronutrients for your individual needs and goals, especially if you are an athlete or engaging in intense exercise. Additionally, staying properly hydrated is crucial for optimal athletic performance, so make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Is a low-carb high-protein diet suitable for vegetarians or vegans?
A low-carb high-protein diet can be suitable for vegetarians or vegans, but it may require more planning and creativity to ensure that adequate protein is consumed without relying on animal products.
Some plant-based sources of protein that are low in carbohydrates include tofu, tempeh, seitan, nuts, and seeds.
However, it is important to note that some plant-based protein sources may also contain carbohydrates, so it’s essential to keep track of the macronutrient content of the foods you’re consuming. A registered dietitian can help you plan a balanced low-carb high-protein vegetarian or vegan diet that meets your nutritional needs.
It’s also important to note that some low-carb high-protein diets rely heavily on animal products, which may not align with the ethical or environmental values of vegetarians or vegans. In this case, a modified or alternative dietary approach may be more appropriate. Again, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before making any significant dietary changes.
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