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Say what?! Absolutely not! High protein/low carb fad diets such as those upheld by the South Beach Diet and many of its followers are not helpful in losing weight. The reason that high protein diets have gained popularity is because of their quick weight loss potential - the market surrounds people who want weight loss results yesterday. They want it to happen, and they want it to happen now. Taking in huge amounts of protein to lose weight is not the smart way!
Often, they'll turn to protein supplements for "help" in this area, thinking that they'll be ingesting even fewer calories, they'll feel full for longer along with getting the higher proportion of protein. Now hear this...
Taking excessive amounts of protein to lose weight is not the way to go.
Your body is not a computer - there's no program you can install that'll improve performance or increase functionality (I'm not even sure these exist!). Eating more protein to lose weight is the same idea - it's just not going to happen.
There are studies out there, however, indicating that ingesting slightly more protein and slightly fewer carbs over a long period of time can result in some fat loss. Fad diets take this idea to the extreme - from no carb diets to very low carb diets...let the problems begin.
The biochemical idea behind taking in more protein to lose weight is to cause dehydration and ketosis. Basically, because you're eating much more protein than you need, your body is forced to excrete proteins in the urine. And, because proteins are charged molecules (technically electrolytes), water follows them into the urine, causing significant water loss. This is why you're also told to drink lots of water with your high protein diet, to help maintain your water balance (without adding water weight).
Proponents of these low carb/high protein diets also say that the excretion of the ketones (energy precursors that are used when carbohydrates are unavailable) also means you're excreting calories you don't need, thereby reducing fat storage. Again, false.
Highly ketogenic diets (i.e. high protein diets) create chemical imbalances such as reduced blood pH along with side effects such as acetone-like breath, dehydration, fatigue and nausea. Furthermore, the increased ingestion of protein also means a general increase in fat and cholesterol consumption, thereby increasing your risk for cardiovascular diseases and obesity. They're especially unhealthy for diabetics, individuals with kidney problems and pregnant women. As you can see, using more protein to lose weight isn't the best of ideas.
I've also run across people curious about the low calorie liquid protein supplements and diets. Stay away from these! Not only do these types of protein supplements result in the side effects of having too much protein, but with the added effect of fewer calories. Extreme malnutrition can result. In fact, this diet was popular back in the 70s in an effort to cure obesity, but the results were not good, to say the least. Many people developed other life-threatening problems - some didn't survive.
Just as a side note, no one should consume less than 1,500 calories per day for men and about 1,200 calories per day for women. It's dangerously unhealthy, especially over the long term.
High protein/low carb diets go hand in hand - if you're eating an elevated protein diet, that also means your proportion of carbohydrate intake has also decreased. With that said, high protein diets send your body into a state called ketosis in which your body is forced to burn proteins and fats for energy (because there are much fewer carbs available).
This is the other half of the "weight loss miracle" – in essence tricking your body into burning fat. One problem is that you're also burning off your body proteins resulting in a decrease in muscle tone and mass, resulting in a decrease in metabolism. Taking excessive protein supplements just adds fuel to the fire. The goal of a strength training and nutrition program is to force your body to burn fat while resting, not while working out. The only way to do this is to build muscle. The only way to build muscle is to eat enough carbs both before and after your workout so that you can get through both your workout and the rest of the day without starving.
The kicker behind these fad diets is the fact that they can't be withstood for long periods of time - they can't result in a lifestyle change that'll allow you to live a long, healthy, fit life. You will get tired of it. You'll start getting cravings for that ice cream sandwich you saw at 7-11. Why does this happen?
Because you're not getting your nutrients! This is your body telling you that you're slowly starving - carbohydrates fuel your entire being. There're tons of physiological signals that your body sends out to make sure you're eating - following a low carb diet is no exception to the rule. You will get these cravings, you will get dehydrated and you will feel fatigued. Without carbs, you have no energy. Caffeine exacerbates the problems...aside from irritating an empty stomach.
But people say they lost weight on these diets! I know you've heard about your friends, relatives, and celebrities in magazines who lost 6 lbs last week on a low carb/high protein diet. The fact is that much of this weight loss is water - having more protein than you need forces the proteins into the urine. And, because proteins are charged molecules, water follows them, causing a reduction in water weight.
What people don't tell you is how quickly they gained the weight back! Well, to be honest, this isn't what sells the magazines or the protein supplements. Remember about the cravings I mentioned earlier? Eventually, they'll start getting to you! You'll start digging in, demolishing your low carb diet. What happens when you finally eat that ice cream sandwich?
You'll store all the carbs as fat. This is because your body has been tricked into thinking that the availability of carbs in the environment is low, so it must store the energy for later use. The result is weight gain and probably back to where you started! Back to the drawing board.
And this drawing board should consist of finally learning how to eat healthy and starting a strength training program. This is the only secret to losing weight and keeping it off. I know it's a dramatic lifestyle change, but it's the only way to go.
So...should you eat more protein to lose weight?
I'm sure you know the answer by now. You should never take in huge amounts of protein to lose weight, no matter the circumstances. Your life may be at stake.
Let's hear your thoughts and comments!
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