[Article updated on 19/09/2023]
Protein is one of the nutrients that produces the most satiety. They help us eat less during meals and throughout the day. Likewise, these are also the nutrients that cause the greatest expenditure of calories during their metabolism. Protein diets are therefore among the most popular options for losing weight. I explain to you how to follow a protein diet correctly so that it works.
Before reading on
I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.
The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.
What is the protein diet?
In a protein diet or high protein diet, the percentage of protein in the diet is strategically increased at the expense of other macronutrients such as fats and carbohydrates. Protein is, above all, a structural nutrient. They provide 4 calories per gram and can only be stored in the body in structures such as bones, teeth, muscles and others. Excesses are generally eliminated from the body. Proteins are the macronutrients that produce the most satiety. They help to control not only the amount you eat during the day but also what you consume at each meal.
As if that wasn’t enough, protein is one of the most complex nutrients to metabolize. They require a large expenditure of energy to be digested, broken down into amino acids, and then absorbed or used. Thanks to all this, protein is a very useful nutrient when losing weight. And protein diets are therefore very effective for losing weight.
Who do specialists recommend a protein diet for?
A protein diet is not suitable for everyone. Specialists recommend high-protein slimming diets in cases where weight loss is resistant. This is particularly the case in trained athletes and in certain cases of type II diabetes. A protein diet consists of protein foods. You can eat lean meat, vegetables, eggs, fish and dairy products such as low-fat cheese and yogurt. Protein shakes are another essential part of protein diets.
Like other diets, there is also a list of “forbidden foods” in the protein diet. In this group are foods rich in carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, rice and pasta. Due to their high fructose content, fruits should only be eaten in small quantities, just like whole foods. Fats which can increase cholesterol levels should be consumed in small quantities. In this sense, special precautions must be taken with sausages. Because although they contain plenty of protein, they also tend to contain high amounts of unhealthy fats.
Polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega 3 fatty acids, are highly recommended. On the other hand, trans fats, which are found in fried foods and pre-cooked products, should be avoided at all costs.
Why does the protein diet make you lose weight?
Protein helps burn more calories. Although they provide 4 kcals, like carbohydrates, the body must use more energy than it needs to metabolize any other nutrient. Additionally, some studies have shown that overweight women burned more fat when their breakfast and lunch were high in protein.
Another advantage of protein over carbohydrates is that it takes longer to digest. They therefore help you feel full and prevent you from overeating. They also help your body synthesize peptide YY, which reduces hunger and helps control cravings.
Protein diet: how should it be conducted to be beneficial?
When on a protein diet, the increase in protein should be reasonable. The most reasonable is to gradually increase the proportion of protein in the diet.
This gradual increase in protein intake aims to prevent muscle loss following a reduction in calories. That is, to lose weight we must create a calorie deficit (take in fewer calories than we burn so that the body uses our fat stores and burns them). If we increase the amount of protein in the diet just a little, the body will use fat rather than muscle as a source of energy.
Additionally, the reduction in other food groups, especially carbohydrates, should also be moderate. That is to say, we cannot base the diet solely on proteins as in the Dukan diet.
It is necessary to moderate the consumption of carbohydrates and fats. Above all, you must ensure that these hydrates and fats come from nutritionally interesting foods, such as whole grains or olive oil.
How to maximize the effects of the protein diet?
If you eat more protein at breakfast, you’ll consume fewer calories throughout the day and lose more fat. In fact, having a large portion of your daily protein at breakfast or lunch will make you feel fuller and prevent snacking in the afternoon and before dinner.
Another secret of the protein diet is training. For this same reason, the protein diet must go hand in hand with regular physical activity. For example, research from the University of Guelph (Canada) supports that a low-calorie diet rich in protein is more effective for weight loss if accompanied by an exercise program that includes cardiovascular and strength training.
How much protein should you take during a protein diet?
According to nutritional guidelines, adults need 0.8 g for every kilogram of body weight. It’s easy to calculate, just multiply your weight by 0.8 to get the amount of protein in grams. For example, if you weigh around 65 kg: 0.8 g of protein x 65 kg (your weight) = 52 g of protein per day. But, as we said, to lose weight you need to gradually increase the amount of protein you take.
And remember, this isn’t 65g of food. That is, it is not 65 g of chicken, but the amount of protein that the food contains. In this case, 125g of chicken provides 25g of protein.
Animal or plant proteins?
This is another controversial point. The best-known high-protein diets such as the ketogenic diet or the Dukan diet recommend animal proteins. But… the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that plant proteins represent 75% of the diet, and animal proteins, 25%.
We always associate protein with steak, but it’s not like that. Imagine that 100 g of cooked red meat provides 25 g of protein to the diet while a cup of cooked soy provides 22 g of protein. Your choice of proteins must therefore include both animal and plant origins.
Why is the protein diet so popular? The benefits of the diet
With the protein diet, weight loss occurs very quickly and easily. It also has the following advantages:
- Easy to implement;
- No feeling of hunger because the proteins in powerful appetite suppressants;
- Very fast results;
- No need to count calories, you can eat as much as you want;
- Reduced risk of rebound effect;
- Increased metabolic activation occurring over a longer period of time;
- Calories burned faster;
- Effect effective fat burner
- Protects against loss of muscle mass in the event of a negative energy balance.
Because protein is satiating longer and contains fewer calories than carbohydrates, you don’t feel hungry despite the calorie deficit that occurs. Thanks to the slower assimilation of proteins in the body, the metabolism remains active longer and more calories are burned during digestion.
Thus, excess kilograms fall quickly with reduced calorie intake. A complementary training plan intensifies the effect even more. In the case of reduced calorie intake, the body meets its energy needs by reducing its own body substance and uses muscle cells as an energy source. With a greater protein intake, the loss of muscle mass is counteracted.
In addition, the probability of a rebound effect is, according to nutritionists, lower than with other diets. Vegetarians or vegans can achieve a protein diet using plant proteins.
Long-term risks: the disadvantages of the diet
Of course, eating a lot of protein can carry risks. Here are some of these risks:
- Headaches and migraines due to lack of sugars
- Fatigue, general and muscular
- Sleep problems
- Bad breath
- Kidney problems
Typical day: Special menus & recipes for the diet
|3 slices of gray or whole wheat bread +60 grams of lean meat, spreadable cheese (light), light fromage blanc or toppings
1 serving (60 g) of cornflakes, muesli or oatmeal, containing less than 10 g of fat per 100 g + 1 low-fat dairy product + 1 fruit
|1 Fruit + a light dairy product
|Lean meat (beef, chicken, veal, rabbit, turkey, etc.) OR white fish, crayfish, lobster, crab, shrimp with a maximum of 120g of fat + Vegetables boiled in water or steamed, or raw, as desired (200-300 g) + Potatoes (200 g) + Couscous, rice, wheat or quinoa 1 to 2 times a week (80 to 100 g).
|Cookies or bananas
|4 slices of gray or whole grain bread + 60 grams of lean meat, spreadable cheese (light), light cottage cheese + vegetable soup (boiled or steamed). Always try to eat vegetables at night. Avoid sauces like mayonnaise, pink sauce, etc.
The proportions of foods displayed on the menu vary according to age, gender, physical activity and whether the person has illnesses or not. It is therefore important to call on a nutritionist. The latter will carry out a complete assessment and determine the most appropriate proportions.
Is a protein diet healthy?
Before starting a diet, it is always necessary to consult a specialist doctor. a medical consultation allows you to rule out possible metabolic problems and adapt the diet to your lifestyle, weight and age.
Experts warn that the protein diet can have serious health consequences, especially if it is not done with medical supervision. Cholesterol, uric acid or hair loss are just some of the main consequences.
Likewise, according to a recent study, an excess of red meat in our diet can cause cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes or even lead to the appearance of cancers of the colon, esophagus and stomach.
What are the opinions of health professionals on the protein diet?
There has been a lot of research into the role of protein in short-term weight loss and muscle gain. But the long-term effects of a high-protein diet need further study. Some studies suggest that health problems can potentially result from eating a high-protein diet for long periods of time.
The authors of a paper focusing on the high-protein diet warned that it could lead to increased acid loads on the kidneys. According to them, people following a protein diet could be at risk of health problems linked to consuming large amounts of animal fats. Additionally, diets that restrict carbohydrates can be detrimental to your health. Children and adolescents may be particularly at risk of malnutrition due to insufficient carbohydrate consumption.
Most research indicates that high-protein diets are beneficial for weight loss, at least in the short term. It is important to consult a specialist before starting a high-protein diet. If you are diabetic, have cardiovascular disease or kidney failure, these diets are not suitable for you.
A regular on the protein diet says on a forum: “It’s a cellulite-friendly diet. We have a dream body after this miraculous diet.” Then she is quick to point out a yo-yo effect attributable to her lack of rigor.
Tombone, another follower of the protein diet, is fully satisfied with it and gives his testimony which motivates more than one. He explains that he has had a body mass exceeding 100 kg since he became an adult. And when he stopped smoking in 2000, he still gained extra pounds. Tombone said he weighed 110 kg in April 2003 and decided to follow a protein diet.
On August 30 of the same year, he found himself weighing just under 77 kg. He says he followed all the phases of the diet seriously. He continues to weigh 77 kg after returning to sport and eating normally, without depriving himself. But he says he bans sugar (while replacing it with a sweetener) and avoids excess fat.