High Protein Diet

Updated on 27. Dec. 2018
High Protein Diet - What is it?
High Protein Diet - What is it?

Everyone is talking about a high protein diet. It is mostly known as a diet for bodybuilders or marathon runners but there are some in the diet community who say that a high protein diet can be beneficial for all of us. It is mostly known for its benefits to control hunger, which will ideally promote weight loss. But what exactly is it and is it a healthy way to lose weight?

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What is a high protein diet?

As the name states, a high protein diet consists of a diet which is focussed on a high protein intake. Mostly, carbs are cut to balance out the greater amount of proteins that are consumed and to induce a state of so-called ‘ketosis’, which is explained below. However, it should not be confused with a low-carb diet. A low carb diet mainly consists of more fats. Whereas a high protein diet is mostly done by those who want to build muscle and lose fat.

What happens in your body?

When on a high protein diet and cutting down carbohydrates, the body starts to lose water and begins burning fat in place of the carbs that your body would typically burn first. This process, called ‘ketosis’, affects the body by a loss of appetite, nausea or tiredness. This leads to a lower calorie intake, which is the aim of a high protein diet. The body starts to be hungry while reducing the awareness of that feeling.

High protein foods take longer to digest and increase the metabolism, which in turn burns more calories. Therefore, following a high protein diet could be a good way to kickstart weight loss. The body uses the amino acids in proteins to build muscles, making a high protein diet great when done in combination with an exercise regimen.

What do experts say?

In a long-term experiment, experts took two groups. One was advised to eat a high protein diet, the other group was instructed to start a medium protein diet. The study showed that, after a 6-month high protein diet, the weight loss was greater than in the group that was following a medium protein diet. In fact, after 12 and 24 months only the high protein group appeared to be able to maintain the weight loss.1

Another test showed that people who ate eggs instead of cereal or a croissant for breakfast tend to eat less for lunch and dinner, as eggs are great at keeping the body satisfied. Therefore, there is less temptation for snacking or overeating.

A study published in Nutrition Metabolism proved that if the protein intake is increased by 30 percent, the subject group tend to eat 450 fewer calories a day.2

Heather Leidy, who led a study on high protein diets at the University of Missouri, reports that ‘most Americans have their biggest meal at night’,3 while many studies have shown that a light dinner and a heartier breakfast is the way to go. She recommends eating at least 1.2 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds of body weight per day. Accordingly, weight and fat loss seem to be most efficient while maintaining lean mass.

How much protein should you eat per day?

Women on average need about 50 grams of protein, while men should consume around 60 grams per day. When following a high protein diet, these amounts can be much higher.4

Starting the day with a high protein meal appears to be beneficial for a lasting feeling of fullness. The recommended amount of protein for a filling breakfast on a high protein diet amounts to 30 grams, which is about 1 ½ cup of yogurt or a four egg omelet. While 30 grams may seem like a lot, a high protein diet is all about planning ahead. Therefore, it is a good idea to decrease the amount of protein in each meal throughout the day. Meaning dinner should include the smallest amount of protein a day.

What kind of protein should I consume?

Most foods contain protein, however, there has to be a distinction between high and low-quality proteins. High proteins can be found in meat, fish, dairy products, and soy. Vegetables and grains tend to be lower in proteins. In addition, vegetables and grains do not have one or more essential amino acids and are therefore not complete proteins.

What are the risks of a high protein diet?

For most people, following a high protein diet is not harmful. However, the long-term consequences are still being researched.

Some risks can be:

  • Some high protein diets prohibit carbohydrates too strictly. Results could be nutritional deficiencies causing bad breath, headache, or tiredness.
  • Red meats and full-fat dairy products, which are included in many high protein diets, may increase the risk of heart disease
  • Cholesterol may rise because some high protein diets include high-fat foods, whole dairy products, and meat.

Accordingly, it is always good to consult your doctor before starting a high-protein diet.

What kind of diets are there?

The South Beach Diet

This diet was created by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston in 2003. He invented a system, the so-called ‘glycemic index’, that ranks food according to how fast their sugars enter the blood. Hence, the overall balance of foods that are included in a normal diet change. The diet aims to find a good balance of carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Therefore, it is known as a nutrient-dense diet and is rich in fiber.5 It allows 20 to 90 grams of carbohydrates per meal and is known as one of the ‘healthier’ high protein diets as it recommends whole grains, vegetables, and unsaturated fats like olive oil. On the other hand, it prohibits the consumption of fruits and carrots, as they are high on the ‘glycemic index’.

Moreover, the south beach diet recommends a good amount of exercise, as it boosts the metabolism and prevents regaining weight.

The Zone Diet

Created by Dr. Barry Sears in the 1990s, this diet separates food into ‘zones’. If you are following this way of dieting, you are ‘in the zone’ if your diet consists of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. The diet limits bread, pasta, and certain fruits. However, many other foods are allowed as long as they fit the restrictions of the ‘zone’. Additionally, it encourages regular light meals to lose weight.

The Protein Power Diet

Drs. Michael and Mary Eades established the Protein Power Diet in 1996. It allows all kinds of meat, fish, eggs, cheese, non-starchy vegetables, and even butter. Surprisingly, alcohol is allowed in moderation, while fruits, starchy vegetables, and grains are not welcomed. Dieters are advised to eat 26 percent protein, 16 percent carbohydrates, 54 percent fat and 4 percent alcohol.6 The idea is to lower the body’s insulin level, which regulates the metabolism. Insulin is there to store fat in the body and is produced when eating carbohydrates. Hence, lowering the intake of carbs will lower the insulin levels of the body. This implies that less fat will be stored in the body and weight loss is promoted.7

Which foods are high in protein?

If you are considering incorporating more high protein foods into your diet, here is a quick list of foods that are perfect for a high protein diet.

  • Pork chops (Boneless) (26g protein per 3 oz. serving)
  • Yellowfin tuna (25g protein per 3 oz. serving)
  • Greek yogurt (23g protein per 8 oz. serving)
  • Steak (23g protein per 3 oz. serving)
  • Halibut (23g per 3 oz. serving)
  • Ground beef (18g protein per 3 oz serving)
  • Cottage cheese (14g protein per ½ cup serving)
  • Tofu (12g protein per 3 oz serving)
  • Dried lentils (13g protein per ¼ cup serving)
  • Quinoa (8g protein per 1 cup serving)
  • Eggs (6g protein per 1 large egg)
  • Mixed nuts (6g protein per 2 oz serving)

How to incorporate a high protein diet into your lifestyle?

Whichever high protein diet you want to start: learn all about it. Before starting and to be successful with your diet, it is essential to have a certain kind of knowledge about the diet you are about to begin. Only if you are focused and able to easily follow along with your chosen high protein diet method will you be successful. It is essential to understand why you eat this or why you cut down on that.

Know how much protein you need per day, remember, it is recommended to consume 1.2 grams of protein every 2.2 pounds a day. Start the day off with a protein-packed breakfast to limit your hunger during the day while still feeling satiated.

But most importantly: plan ahead. As most high protein foods like meat, fish, dairy products or beans are not really grab and go foods it requires some planning to be able to incorporate the high amount of protein into your diet. Cooking in advance and creating meal plans can help a lot, and make it easier for you to stick with your diet.

In addition, it can be very beneficial to have some snacks ready to go in your pantry to make sure you are getting the protein you need. Popular snacks include:

  • Hard boiled eggs: They are easy to make and can be cooked in large quantities so you can keep them on hand when you need to quickly curb your hunger.
  • Nuts: As stated above, nuts are a great protein source and very delicious, plus they are easy to keep on hand for easy snacking.
  • Greek yogurt: Packed with protein and versatile, just be sure to stay away from the brands that have a lot of added sugar.
  • Hummus: As you probably know, hummus consists of chickpeas which are a great source of protein and makes a great snack with fresh vegetables.


1. Lagakos, William, Ph.D. "Does a High Protein Diet Help you Lose Weight?" BuiltLean. BuiltLean, 20 Feb. 2016. Web. 

2.Yeager, Selene. "Protein: Your Secret Weight-Loss Weapon." Women's Health. Rodale Inc., 2 Sept. 2010. Web. 

3. Tate, Nick. "4 Ways to Maximize Weight Loss on a High-Protein Diet." Newsmax. Newsmax Media, 13 May 2015. Web. 

4. "High-Protein Diet: Do They Work?" WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 

5. Mayo Clinic Staff. "South Beach Diet." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, n.d. Web. 

6. Fond, Bethany, R.D. "Names of Differnt Types of High Protein Diets." LIVESTRONG.COM. Demand Media, 09 Nov. 2015. Web. 

7. Eenfeldt, Andreas, Ph.D. "Yes, a Low-Carb Diet Greatly Lowers your Insulin." Diet Doctor. Diet Doctor, 09 Aug. 2016. Web. 

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