While there has been no shortage of fad diets that have come and gone over the past few decades, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have stayed around in one form or another for many years. Adding more protein to your diet while limiting carbohydrates is seen as an efficient way to lose weight since it encourages the body to burn fat. The reason for this is that the body metabolizes carbohydrates, proteins and fats differently.
Like every other diet, your calorie intake needs to be restricted when on a high protein, low-carb diet. If you are obtaining more of your calories from protein, you will be obtaining fewer from carbohydrates. By restricting carbohydrates, you cause your body to go into a different metabolic state called ketosis. Normally the body burns carbohydrates for fuel. If your body is in ketosis, you are getting your energy from the breakdown of fat stores.
In short, your body changes from a carbohydrate-burning machine into a fat-burning machine.
There are two major advantages to a low-carbohydrate/high-protein diet. First, protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates and leaves you feeling full and satisfied longer. Second, that slow digestive process will tend to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. You will also tend to feel more energetic and avoid the drowsy feeling that comes after a high carbohydrate meal.
Another advantage of limiting carbohydrates is that it will severely restrict your intake of refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are foods such as white bread, white rice, and sugary foods such as cookies, jams, jellies and many boxed cereals. These refined carbs are digested quickly giving you a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. The excess sugar that your body can’t immediately use is stored as fat.
Reducing refined carbohydrates, eliminates empty calories and helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels more stable. There is a wealth of research to support the suggestion that keeping blood sugar levels stable has many health benefits in addition to weight loss.
By substituting “healthier” carbs, you not only limit your total caloric intake of carbs, you get a lot more nutrition out of every calorie. The carbs that are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide generous amounts of nutrients and antioxidants in addition to being an energy source.
Typically, carbohydrates are evaluated by what is known as their glycemic index (GI). GI is a measure of how quickly your blood sugar levels increase after eating a particular foods. Low GI foods (good carbs) include whole grains, many fruits and vegetables.
The quick spike in blood sugar from high GI foods, such as white bread and sugary/starchy foods causes higher levels of the hormone insulin. For many reasons, including increased hunger, high insulin levels are not good for you.
Each of us should find the diet program that works best for them. However, most diets limit intake of refined carbohydrates because they are not healthy. A high protein, low-carbohydrate diet builds on this by adding that increased protein for purposes of building muscle.
While we need carbohydrates for energy, we need protein to build muscle. One of the dangers of dieting is that, done incorrectly, we lose muscle. A diet that restricts calories may cause your body to cannibalize itself and utilize muscle for fuel. A diet rich in protein helps build muscle while burning fat.
Additionally, research has suggested that satiety is a major ingredient in successful weight loss. People on a low-fat high carb diet tend to overeat because they do not feel full. They also get hungry sooner because carbs are digested and utilized quickly.
The healthiest weight-loss goal is designed to result in not only weight loss but long term maintenance of that weight loss.
High protein diets generally recommend dieters obtain 30% to 50% of their total calories from protein. High-protein diets restrict intake of carbohydrates to “good carbs” but, this nutritionally dense, protein-packed foods leave the dieter satisfied and satiated. It is much easier to maintain your weight loss when you are not feeling hungry.