Avoid the High Protein Diet Craze! It's Not Such a Great Idea...

High Protein Diet

You may be interested in losing weight by implementing a high protein diet that many people advocate...

You've experienced all the hype and read all the "testimonials" about people losing weight on this diet plan. There're many popular diet books, newspapers, infomercials and magazines out there that further put this protein-rich diet on a high pedestal. But why?

The basic idea behind a high protein diet (and conversely a low carb diet) is to send your body into ketosis, a state in which fatty acids are broken down to acetyl-CoA and, finally to various types of chemical compounds known as ketones (glucose substitutes which are produced in the liver).

Although ketones are used in the body for energy (except for the liver), they're mostly reserved for emergency situations such as in low-carb diets and starvation.

What do I mean by this? Well, when eating a high protein diet, it'll also be difficult to eat enough carbohydrates to maintain a steady supply of glucose and glycogen for everyday activities, let alone a workout routine.

In fact, the main energy source for the brain, nervous system and liver is glucose, which is most easily obtained from carbohydrates and poorly from fats and proteins.

What's happening here is that the carbohydrates that are required to maintain blood glucose levels are absent along with a renewable energy source for your brain, muscles, and all other tissues. Instead, your body utilizes ketones (obtained from the breakdown of fats) for the same energy purposes. Ketosis results as so-called "ketone bodies" build up in the blood (the product of fatty acid breakdown in a low carb diet). So, no harm no foul, right? Wrong!

The fact is that your liver cannot use the ketones that it makes for energy purposes. Where does the liver get energy from, you ask? Well, your muscles are broken down into their component amino acids which are shuttled into gluconeogenesis (a chemical process through which glucose is made from fats and proteins). Your muscles will break down!

But, because little energy is available for this chemical process under a low carb diet (because your liver can't use ketones for energy), amino acids build up and end up in the urine. And because amino acids are charged molecules, water follows them into the urine!

In other words, if you're eating a high protein diet, expect to lose a lot of water and become dehydrated. In fact, this is why a high protein diet calls for an increase in water consumption to replace that which is lost in the urine. Muscle wasting is also prominent.

You may be asking, "How do people lose weight on a high protein diet?"

The answer is calorie deprivation and ketosis.

What many of the diet books don't tell you is that their plan is definitely a low calorie diet plan as well as a high protein diet plan. If you're taking in fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight (muscle mass, fat and water) no matter what you eat.

So what does this mean for your weight loss? Well, believe it or not, the weight you may lose on this diet over a longer period of time will be mostly muscle and some fat tissue due to calorie deprivation. However, the fat will return when your brain eventually forces you to eat more carbs.

You'll also lose plenty of water due to ketosis (because water will follow the charged amino acids into the urine). Some people report they’ve lost 3 pounds over the course of 2 or 3 days...How?

In fact, this is the reason high protein diets became so famous. People were reporting significant weight loss in their first week. However, this weight loss is false. The water weight that they've excreted is the cause. Nothing special here, folks, just dehydration.

Also, because you'll have ketones running through your blood, you'll also be exhaling these compounds. Do you want your breath to smell like acetone?

Furthermore, following this type of diet for a long period of time may result in a lowered blood pH and a condition known as ketoacidosis which is mostly seen in diabetics and is potentially dangerous.

Who Came Up With This Diet, Anyway?

The marketable catch phrase they chose to use was "high protein diet" because this was supposedly "different" from the previous low carb diet craze that many people were struggling over at that time. Long story short, it was basically an attempt at making a few bucks.

Many people reply to this sort of statement by citing the credibility of the source...for example...

"But, a cardiologist wrote it!"

This may be true, but that cardiologist also knows what people want to hear and knows what's marketable in our society. That cardiologist is out to make a few extra bucks.

Bottom line? Stay away from those very low calorie, low carb, high protein diets. Not only can it damage your kidneys (it works overtime to get rid of the excess amino acids - this is why diabetic patients are placed on protein-restricted diets) and cause dehydration, but your metabolism will slow considerably, hampering your body's ability to efficiently use the energy obtained from food and to recover after a workout. You'll constantly feel tired, sore and hungry!

In fact, there is no reason whatsoever for a diet elevated in protein. Large amounts of protein are detrimental, even for the weightlifter. This is another myth that many companies have capitalized on: the idea that protein will improve physical condition and muscle development.

Although some athletes and bodybuilders may have slightly higher daily protein requirements (because they have larger amounts of muscle and are currently building muscle), this requirement is easily met by the typical American diet which is relatively high in protein anyway. Therefore, amino acid and protein supplementation is usually unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, protein is good for you! I'm not saying eliminate protein from your diet. This is how the media chooses to blur nutrition for their own monetary gains. Remember, there's always a too much and a too little to everything when talking about nutrition. Never eliminate or overdo any certain portion of your diet.

Remember, following a high protein diet for the purpose of losing weight is not a good idea! Dehydration, kidney problems, calorie deprivation, chronic fatigue and hunger will result. Not only that, but you'll gain all the weight right back anyway!

What diet should you follow? A balanced one! Enough proteins, enough fats and enough carbohydrates will suit you well, no matter your lifestyle. Never too much and never too little!

Top of Page

What are your thoughts on protein and protein supplements?

Let's hear your thoughts and comments!

Enter Your Title

Tell Us Your Story![ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]

Add a Picture/Graphic Caption (optional) 

Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

Your Name

(first or full name)

Your Location

(ex. City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

Check box to agree to these submission guidelines.

(You can preview and edit on the next page)

Return from High Protein Diet to the Smart Strength Training Homepage

Return to the Smart Strength Training Homepage

Top of Page

TIP for Web Publishers

Set up a link to this site from your site.

Do you own your own website? Would you like to have a link on your site so that you or your visitors could easily get to this site? If so, here is the text link code (just copy and paste the code onto whichever page on your site that you wish to set up the link).

Smart Strength Training