There are thousands of diet plans available today to individuals seeking weight-loss. Although many are healthy, several fad diets promise quick weight-loss results by restricting food groups and/or keeping calorie counts low. High-protein diets encourage eating foods high in protein while limiting carbohydrates and keeping fat intake moderate. The amount of carbohydrates permitted on high-protein diets varies widely among programs between severe restrictions to moderate consumption. The Mayo Clinic cites that high-protein diets may been effective for short-term results, but long-term evidence is not defined and health risks may increase. Consult with a physician prior to initiating any new dietary regimen.
The Benefits of Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient needed in the body for the growth, development and maintenance of muscle mass. Since muscle has a higher metabolic rate than fat, even at rest, maintaining lean muscle can burn more calories for increased fat loss. Advocates of high-protein diets, such as Dr. Atkins, author of “Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution” claim that protein stabilizes blood sugar levels to satiate the appetite and prevent over-eating. In contrast, carbohydrates spike insulin production in the blood leading to sugar cravings, over-eating and excess fat storage. Foods to include on a high protein diet menu plan include lean chicken, turkey, beef, pork tenderloin, veal, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.
The Benefits of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy for both physical and mental tasks. Although many high-protein diets may restrict carbohydrate intake greatly, such as Atkins’, this may lead to adverse health risks. In addition to general fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating and weakness, individuals are at increased risk for nutritional deficiencies including the B vitamins and zinc needed for energy metabolism. Carbs are also a source of dietary fiber which aids in digestive processes and prevents upsets such as constipation or flatulence. Include carbs in moderation with most meals and snacks throughout the day in the form of whole-grain breads, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal as well as fruits and vegetables.
Since dietary preferences and caloric needs will vary among individuals, it is important to consult a health professional to determine your needs and possible menu plans. However, in general, eating a balanced diet of lean proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats will aid in weight loss and improve health. Processed, simple carbs should be avoided as they are high in sugars, low in dietary fiber and offer little nutritional value. Rather, fruits and vegetables should form the foundation of your carb intake with whole-grains enjoyed according to serving sizes. HelpGuide.org suggests dividing your meals into half non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 with starchy carbs, such as rice or bread, and 1/4 with lean protein. A serving of protein is approximately 3 oz. of meat or 1/2 to 1 cup of non-animal protein sources such as beans or lentils.
Healthy Meals & Snacks
Eating at regular intervals, such as 5 to 6 times per day, may assist with weight-loss by preventing rising hunger levels that lead to over-eating. HelpGuide.org recommends incorporating 3 meals with 3 snacks into a daily menu.