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High-Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diets
Confused about all the high-protein, low carbohydrate diets that supposedly allow you to eat all the fat and protein you want? You're not alone. Unfortunately, many people "try out" these popularized diets without fully realizing how they work, their poor potential for long-term success or the risks they pose for negative health consequences.

Most claims made in their favor are based on anecdotal reports and testimonials, not scientific study. Why are these diets so popular? Yes, some people are successfully losing the weight. But why? Several factors combine to cause this weight loss:ˇ

  • In some books, meal plans are described that are not only "high protein, low carbohydrate" but also "low-calorie". If portions and sample menus are provided, calories are being controlled. In some cases, menus suggested are around 800-1200 calories. This low calorie level will result in rapid weight loss for the average adult.

  • In other diets, no meal plans are provided or the meals described are not low calorie. In these situations, weight loss will occur initially as a result of water and carbohydrate losses despite no significant calorie reduction. If the diet is stopped at the time weight loss slows, these essential body constituents will quickly be restored to normal levels and weight regained. If the diet is continued, weight loss will slow and be primarily due to less food due to lower appetite.

  • Protein, and possibly fat, represent a large percentage of total calories eaten. Foods high in these nutrients take longer to digest and increase the feeling of "satiety" with meals.

  • ˇAppetite is less stimulated by carbohydrate metabolism because the body's fuel system has become less reliant on blood sugar. Fat is the primary fuel source. Sources of fat include dietary sources and, based on calorie deficit of the diet, body fat utilization.

While these diet reduce appetite and result in less drive to eat, several problems must also be recognized.
  • First, it is very difficult to maintain the very restricted high protein, low carbohydrate diet long-term. Most people who begin them will gain weight back quickly after returning to their usual eating habits.

  • ˇHigh-protein, low carbohydrate dieters can also suffer from a mild dehydration, which can cause headaches, fatigue, or loss of appetite. This will be more problematic for those who have a regular exercise program or physically strenuous daily routines.

  • ˇBesides fatigue, mild dehydration can cause existing gout to be made worse, increase kidney strain and potentially accelerate kidney problem in vulnerable groups (those with diabetes or kidney disease).

  • ˇAnd finally, when portions are not limited, protein intake can become very high. This is known to increase calcium losses in urine and adds to the risk of osteoporosis. It is of special concern for women, teens and the elderly.

The Real Truth about High-Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diets
The bottom line is that excessive calories lead to fat storage and lowering calorie intake will help people to lose fat weight. Carbohydrates do not make people fat. Too many calories, no matter where they come, from cause people to store fat and gain weight. A healthy diet is one that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a protein source at each meal, and a variety of foods. Carbohydrates should be the largest component of the diet but, like fat or protein, excess carbohydrate calories can be turned into body fat. The key is balancing daily calorie intake with daily calorie expenditures. If you want to lose "fat" weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. Maintaining a consistent exercise program, which includes aerobic exercise and strength training is extremely important for quality weight loss and weight maintenance.

Carbohydrate Management As Alternative for Appetite Management
Although it is true that eating too many carbohydrates can be problematic for people, a healthier way to apply this concept is by modifying carbohydrate in the diet, not a total restriction of it. The diet guidelines below promote carbohydrate management though appropriate carbohydrate distribution throughout the day. This is a healthier diet option.

In diet recommendations for better appetite management and less stimulation, total carbohydrate as a percent of calories can remain at 55-60% of calories. This is not a carbohydrate-restricted diet, but rather a carbohydrate-managed diet. The objective is not to over-restrict but rather to make wise selections of carbohydrate foods, both in starch and sugar forms, and to distribute it throughout the day. To avoid eating too much carbohydrate at any one meal or snack, follow these suggestions:

1. Add lean protein foods to each meal.
Protein increases the satiety value (fullness and digestion time) of a meal or snack. When protein is eaten along with carbohydrate, less carbohydrate is needed to feel satisfied.Skinless poultry, fish, shellfish, very lean red meats, cottage cheese, skim milk, skim milk cheeses and soy products.
2. Add cooked dry beans and peas to the meal.
Dried beans and peas contain protein, and more. They increase the satiety value of a meal because of the combined effect of their protein, soluble fiber and starch-blocking (anti-amylase) components. A meal always seems to last longer and be more satisfying when legumes are included. Black beans, red beans, navy beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, lentils, split peas, bean salads, bean soups.
3. Add a little unsaturated fat.
Fats, along with protein and legumes, increase the satiety value of a meal and can also lower the amount of carbohydrate needed. It is important to remember, though, that unsaturated fats are much healthier than saturated ones. When selecting foods or oils that add fat to a meal, choose olive, canola, nuts, seeds and avocado more frequently. Avocado, olives, almonds, almond butter, peanuts, peanut butter, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds, olive oil, canola oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, canola oil mayonnaise, salad dressing.
4. Take most of your carbohydrate in whole food forms.
Fresh, raw fruit and vegetables and whole grains. Whole foods, or those, which are close to their natural form and unprocessed, usually take longer to digest and contribute more fiber to one's diet. This enhances satiety and can lower the glycemic effect of meals.

1. Cut back on the amount of table sugar, brown sugar, honey or syrup called for in a recipe whenever possible. When cooking calls for sugar, try fructose as the sweetener instead. Although fructose is a sugar, it is sweeter than table sugar so less is needed. Alternatively, heat stable non-nutritive sweeteners (Saccharine, Acesulfame K) can be substituted
2. If you drink fruit juices, limit the amount to 1/2-cup servings. Fruit juices are concentrated sources of sugar. Add water to dilute juice if the amount of liquid in not enough to satisfy your thirst. Or use an alternative beverage sweetened with non-nutritive sweetener.
3. Be aware that beer, ales and non-alcoholic beers all have malt sugar. This will raise blood sugar quickly.
4. Read food labels to identify added sugars and, in some cases, to assess the amount. Nutritive sweeteners are listed in the ingredient section of food labels. In the nutritional section of the label, grams of sugar will sometimes be listed as a portion of the total carbohydrate. Every 4 grams of sugar on a label equals 1 teaspoon of sugar.
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