Low Carb High Protein Diets: Why They Work for Weight Loss

There is a lot of information, misinformation, hype, and everything in between out there about low carb, high protein diets. Since I am a science and fact-based individual, I wanted to take a look at the myths and facts about low carb high protein diets and address why they work for weight loss.

Low Carb, High Protein Diets Have Gotten a Bad Reputation

Over the past few years, low carb, high protein diets have gotten a bad reputation due to the misconception that the only way to go low-carb is to eat mountains of fat-laden bacon, sausage, egg, and cheese. However, this type of diet is a direct path to a heart attack. Let’s take a look at what research and science has to say about how carbohydrates are assimilated by our bodies and how altering this macronutrient could play a huge role in reaching our fitness goals and building a healthier body. I myself have chosen this type of diet for my nutrition plan as I train for my first female figure competition.

What Constitutes a Low Carb, High Protein Diet?

When discussing a diet low in carbohydrates we have to consider the amount of protein and fat needed for the total daily caloric intake. In a low carb, high protein diet carbohydrates are lower than 50 to 60% of the total calories for the day. Thus either fat calories or protein calories must be increased to still meet daily energy needs. This is where much of the controversy of low-carb high our best interest? An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) study suggests that a high-glycemic carbohydrate intake can be linked to obesity, heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer. Other studies show interesting data in terms of weight management and fat loss. Higher-protein diets were associated with greater satisfaction, increased weight loss, and less hunger. A 2009 study on obese patients found that those following a high-protein, low-fat diet had less weight regain than those following a high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet. Even with a modest increase in dietary protein (from 15% to 18%), there is 50% less weight regain and even allows for continued modest weight loss and a decrease in body fat after the diet ended.

A low carb, high protein diet really means a reduced carb, higher protein diet. Completely eliminating carbohydrates or any macronutrient (such as fat) from your meal plans is not a good idea because each of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) play an important role in providing your bodies with energy and nourishment. However, it is choosing better options for these macronutrients and eating them in the proper ratio that will help with fat loss.

Tips for Implementing a Low Carb High Protein Diet

So what are some tips for reducing carbohydrates and increasing protein in our diet? A reduced carbohydrate diet is great for changing the focus of the diet to real food rather than processed, packaged options. It is important to choose nutrient-dense foods such as lean or grass-fed meats, plenty of non-starchy vegetables, whole grains instead of specially marketed “low-carb” processed foods, and healthy fats. Some great sources of lean protein include egg whites, skinless boneless chicken breasts, turkey, white fish (tilapia, haddock, cod), tuna, white albacore tuna, salmon, whey protein, and 1% cottage cheese. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potato, vegetables, and some fruit have lots of fiber. This helps you feel fuller and more satisfied after a meal, gives you sustained energy rather than a “sugar high” and then a subsequent crash, and prevents eating too much carbs that will then be stored in your body as fat. Finally, some great sources of healthy fats are nuts (which people commonly think are a source of protein), olive oil, flax seeds, fish oil, and avocados. This type of low carb, high protein diet also has the capability to enhance fat-burning.

High protein diets go hand in hand with low-carbohydrate diets. Nutrients must be displaced from carbohydrates in order to increase protein and not exceed daily calorie needs. Fat is a necessary component in a healthy diet as well. The optimal diet is not necessary “high protein”, but rather it is moderate protein. Reducing carbohydrate intake while increasing healthy fats and protein is very useful when losing fat and getting lean is the goal. So what is a good ratio of macronutrients to follow? The AJCN article recommends 30% protein, 50% carbohydrates, and 20% fat.

It is important to note, however, that the success and benefits of a low carb high protein diet depends on a person’s individual goals, workout plan, and health status. Low-carb diets are not ideal for endurance athletes, very lean individuals, or those with some health conditions.

Do you know of someone who could benefit from a low carb, high protein diet? Make sure you share this information with them so that they can benefit from it as well!

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