A high protein diet has been touted as the key to weight loss for years.
In fact, according to Medical News Today, diets such as Atkins still top the list as the preferred way for Americans to lose weight.
Before you give your diet a makeover, however, take a look at the pros and cons of upping your protein intake.
1. PRO: You won’t feel hungry on a high protein diet
Here’s protein’s biggest advantage: it keeps you full for longer. That’s because your body takes longer to digest protein so you’re not hungry again just a couple of hours after your last meal. No hunger means no cravings and not reaching for a snack or an extra bite without even realizing it.
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In a study published on The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people who increased their protein intake not only felt less hungry but also lost more weight and burned more fat.
2. PRO: You lose weight faster
Experts agree that a high protein diet causes faster weight loss during the first few months when compared to other types of diets. According to a study published by The Journal of the American College of Nutrition, this is because you’re actually eating less food than usual (since you’re fuller for longer periods of time) but also because proteins don’t retain as much water as carbs do.
Plus, the study points out that a high protein diet seems to increase thermogenesis. In simpler words, that means it takes your body more energy to digest protein, so you’re burning more calories without additional effort.
3. PRO: Less water retention
Carbs are like a sponge: they retain lots of water, making you look and feel bloated. Once you banish carbs and focus on proteins, all that extra bloat will disappear quickly.
This gives you a flatter stomach but also prevents bloating in the ankles and legs, which can make it uncomfortable to stay active.
4. CON: Your bones might pay the price
When you increase the amount of protein you eat, your body becomes more acidic. This is a problem because acidity can leach calcium out of your bones and muscles. Over time, this could mean everything from stress fractures to cramps (calcium helps with muscle contraction).
The good news is that you can slow down calcium loss by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables to help balance your acidic/alkaline levels, according to a study published by The Journal of Nutrition.
5. CON: There’s a risk of kidney damage
High-protein diets place added stress on the kidneys. That’s because the kidneys have to work extra hard to eliminate urea, produced when protein is digested.
In addition, restricting carbs (which most high-protein diets do) means your body has to turn to liver glycogen to produce energy. Glycogen robs your body of water – and water is essential to help your kidney flush out toxins and work properly.
- Medical News Today: What are the eight most popular diets today?
- The Journal of the American College of Nutrition: The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review
- WebMD: Pros and Cons of High-Protein Diets
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Protein, weight management, and satiety
- The Journal of Nutrition: Excess dietary protein can adversely affect bone