Risks and Benefits of High Protein, Low-Carb Diet

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Dieters today are bombarded by claims that low carbohydrate, high protein is THE way to go… but is it really? Protein is an essential nutrient needed for the creation and renewal of muscle, skin, hair, nails, blood and other body tissues. Protein also helps in many other biologic functions. However, carbohydrates fuel the body. Without carbohydrates, the body would be without energy to build and rebuild tissue. People on high protein diets place their bodies in altered metabolic states…

When there are not enough carbohydrates introduced in the body via diet, the body starts converting fat and protein into carbohydrate. Over time, this process can strain the body as the conversion of fat and protein into carbohydrate produces excess uric acid, urea and by-products called ketones. These toxins can cause headaches and kidney problems.

Yet high protein diets remain popular because they indeed provide weight loss results. They do this in a couple of ways. One is by helping blood sugar levels remain constant, thereby reducing hunger pangs and the total number of ingested calories, inducing weight loss.

Another is that high protein, low carb diets are reasonably restrictive as they eliminate many food groups, causing a decrease in one’s total calorie pool. High protein diets also cause weight loss through water loss as the body tries to flush out the resulting ketones. How often have you heard that high protein, low carb diets are unhealthy? Several times undoubtedly. This is simply because they can indeed cause harm.

These diets can cause:

  1. An increase in calcium excretion and increased risk of osteoporosis.
  2. Reduced intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber and cancer fighting phytochemicals from elimination of some food groups.
  3. The kidneys to produce concentrated urine.
  4. Diabetics with neuropathy to suffer even further kidney damage.
  5. Headaches
  6. Bad breath from ketones.

Athletes such as body builders may believe their bodies need large amounts of protein to build muscle. However working the muscles builds muscle, eating huge amounts of protein does not. People need only about 0.8 of protein per kilogram of body weight. Serious body builders may need up to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. It is important to eat the carbs for working out as it is these carbohydrates that fuel muscle contractions.

Granted, high protein, low carbohydrate diets can help with weight loss, but the potential for health problems are cause for concern. High protein diets are not your magic weight loss bullet.

No surprise here, your best bet is to get yourself on a structured, calorie appropriate, standard 55-60% carbohydrate, 25-30% fat and 10-20% protein meal plan. Exercise will help you burn calories and increase your metabolism, both of which aid in long term weight loss.

Another reason to avoid high protein diets is the simple fact that the brain runs on carbohydrate energy, not fat or protein. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, proves that people who consume carbohydrates in the morning perform better in task and memory tests. High protein, low carb is for the birds – well, not even them. Go with the tried and true way of eating.

Here we have listed the USDA recommended dietary guidelines:

  1. Eat a variety of foods.
  2. Maintain healthy weight.
  3. Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  4. Choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, and fruits
  5. Use sugars only in moderation.
  6. Use salt and sodium only in moderation.
  7. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

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