I have never been a fan of the fad diet if you are trying to lose weight. However, the concept of adding more quality protein to your diet at the expense of other foods like simple carbohydrates makes a great deal of scientific sense. The trendy paleo diet takes it a bit far, but in balance, more lean protein builds a healthy body.
And as a method of reducing your weight and improving your overall health, the addition of more protein and the reduction of simple carbohydrates is a safe and effective way to lose weight.
More Protein? No Problem
Contrary to some popular beliefs, consuming more protein does not damage your kidneys, cause dehydration or increase your risk of heart disease. Eating lean sources of protein that contain less saturated fat is a good way to avoid any problems. You should also be drinking at least two quarts of water every day to keep well-hydrated—whether you consume a lot of protein or not.
The calories contained in protein (four per gram) should not worry you, as the “metabolic cost” of processing this protein (also known as the thermal effect of food) burns about 30% of the calories in higher-protein foods. So when you eat 100 calories of a high-protein food, you only take in 70 to 75 calories. This is compared to the 90 to 95 calories in carbohydrates or the 97 to 100 calories from carbohydrates and fat together.
Your Body on Protein
Incidentally, your body almost never uses the protein in your food as a source of fuel energy unless faced with potential starvation. The nutrients in protein, namely the amino acids, are used to make proteins in the liver and they are not stored as body fat.
Protein added to your diet, and 50% of the total calories, happens because simple carbohydrates help to keep blood sugar much lower and won’t encourage large surges of insulin after a meal. This prevents you from storing excess fuel as body fat and helps to improve body fat utilization as a fuel source during exercise. The added protein also can help encourage lean tissue growth by helping you build muscle.
Another bonus, added protein can influence the part of the brain that tells you it’s time to eat. Protein works by helping your brain with hormones like grehlin and leptin which will keep those cravings away.
Burning Fat and Carbohydrates
The added degree of fat-burning as fuel from fat cells produces a chemical called ketone.
Although the formation of ketones is not a serious issue, it tends to make your urine smell sweet. Your kidneys take care of the rest. If you consume more than 30 g of carbohydrates per day, there is less of a chance this will happen at all.
As far as carbohydrates are concerned, try shifting to vegetables, whole grains, sweet potato and brown rice. Ditch the processed, refined carbohydrates and sugar completely!
When you combine this strategy with the consumption of at least four to five ounces of lean protein with every meal, you will begin to see a real change.
For better results, perform aerobic exercise at least 45 minutes per day combined with resistance training at least 30 minutes three to four times per week. This will stimulate fat-burning and help you shed the weight, too.
Foods high in high-quality protein include fish, white poultry, tuna, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, lean beef, eggs and whey protein.
Now that’s smart eating!
Barr, S.B. and Wright J.C., “Postprandial energy expenditure in whole-food and processed-food meals: implications for daily energy expenditure,” Food Nutr.
Res. July 2, 2010; 54, doi: 10.3402/fnr.v54i0.5144.