Are you curious about the buzz surrounding high-protein diets? Is it the right for you? Is it healthy? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll be covering:
- How a high-protein diet can affect your lifestyle
- What benefits it offers
- The potential risks to watch out for
We’ll also unravel the various versions of this diet – from those who simply increase their protein intake to others who completely change their carb and fat consumption.
Get ready to explore the ins and outs of a high-protein diet and discover how you can easily incorporate it into your everyday routine.
Why is Protein Important?
Protein is an essential part of any diet. Whether you get it from animal or plant products, your body needs protein to repair cells and grow new ones. Protein also helps your body build and repair muscles, bones, tissues, cartilage, and skin and enables it to produce important hormones and enzymes required for optimal functioning.
How Much Protein Do You Need Per Day?
The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for a healthy adult . For instance, if you weigh 70kg, you should consume at least 56 grams of protein per day.
That said, many experts and researchers believe this amount of protein intake is insufficient to promote optimal muscle health in all population groups, especially in older adults and those who are physically active .
What is a High-Protein Diet?
There isn’t a universal definition of what constitutes a high-protein diet. But in general:
A high-protein diet refers to a diet in which protein makes up more than 20% of the daily calories you consume.
Increasing your protein consumption usually goes hand-in-hand with reducing your intake of other foods (macronutrients) like carbs and fats to balance out your total calorie consumption.
There isn’t an exact macronutrient ratio you’d have to follow on a general high-protein diet, and there aren’t any specific types of foods you’d have to avoid, either.
However, it is recommended that you go for lean proteins and reduce your intake of carbs and proteins that are highly processed.
The recommended amount of protein to consume each day depends on various factors, such as:
- Your age
- Body size
- Breastfeeding status
In general, guidelines recommend a protein intake that constitutes at least 10% of your total calorie consumption . So consuming enough protein to make up 20-25% of your total calorie intake is a great place to start if you want to adopt a high-protein diet.
Of course, before making any drastic changes to your diet, it’s best to err on the side of caution and seek advice from a healthcare professional.
What are the Benefits of a High-Protein Diet?
Not surprisingly, high-protein diets have become very popular because protein is known to help maintain satiety, keeping you full for longer and less likely to snack. So, a high-protein diet is believed to help suppress your appetite and at the same time promote weight loss.
Let’s dig deeper into the benefits of increasing your protein intake.
1. Helps with Weight Loss
Did you know that going beyond the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein can have some fantastic benefits? Various studies have revealed that consuming more protein than the standard recommendation can actually lead to weight loss and a reduction in fat mass, all while preserving your valuable fat-free mass. And here’s the best part – this holds true whether you’re on a calorie-restricted diet or sticking to your usual calorie intake .
Research has also shown that a high-protein diet is a winner for your heart health. By incorporating more protein into your meals, you may be able to lower risk factors for heart disease, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure .
And that’s not all – a high-protein diet can be a powerful ally in the fight against obesity and related conditions, including fatty liver disease, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
2. Promotes Muscle Growth
Adding more protein to your diet can actually boost your muscle mass and lean body mass, according to research . When you consume proteins, they support muscle growth by making your muscles bigger, a process known as muscle hypertrophy. This happens when muscle protein synthesis (building) outpaces muscle protein breakdown.
Here’s a cool bonus: if you pair protein intake with resistance training, like lifting weights or doing strength exercises, the muscle-building effects become even more potent . So, if you’re looking to get stronger and grow those muscles, consider adding protein to your diet and getting active with some resistance training
3. Maintains Muscle Mass
Getting enough protein becomes extra crucial for older adults because it helps maintain our precious muscle mass and guards against a condition called sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia is a sneaky little thing that comes with aging – it’s the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength, often leading to muscle weakness.
But don’t worry. A high protein intake can be your secret weapon in the fight against sarcopenia. By making sure you get enough protein in your diet, you can help sustain your muscle mass and keep those muscles strong and sturdy [5, 6].
What Are the Risks of a High-Protein Diet?
While a high-protein diet can have its benefits, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks and limitations it carries.
For most healthy adults, a high-protein diet is generally considered safe. However, if you have chronic kidney disease, it’s crucial to exercise caution. High dietary protein might lead to additional kidney injury and damage in individuals with pre-existing, long-term kidney issues .
Another concern is the formation of kidney stones. Some studies suggest that a high intake of animal proteins, as opposed to plant proteins, might increase the risk of developing kidney stones .
It’s always wise to consult with your dietitian or doctor before embarking on a high-protein diet, especially if you have any existing medical conditions or if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Their guidance will help ensure that the diet aligns with your individual needs and health status, promoting a safe and effective journey towards better nutrition and overall well-being.
Top Tips for Starting a High-Protein Diet
When it comes to macronutrient distribution, different guidelines offer varying recommendations. The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide us with the estimated Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR) that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. These ranges are as follows :
- Protein: 15-25% of daily calories
- Carbohydrates: 45-65% of daily calories
- Fats: 20-35% of daily calories
Based on your recommended daily calorie intake, you will be able to estimate how much protein to consume each day.
If you’re keen on getting into a high-protein diet, you should aim consume enough protein to meet 20-25% of your daily calorie intake.
Let’s break it down with an example.
If your daily calorie intake is 2000, aiming for 20% protein means consuming around 400 calories worth of protein, which is roughly equivalent to 100 grams of protein.
However, remember that the exact number of calories and protein intake will depend on various factors like your age, sex, and body weight.
To get the best out of your high-protein diet, follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines. They recommend including lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes, beans, and nuts in your protein sources. Replacing red meats with these healthier alternatives can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Here are some top tips for hitting your protein target:
- Spread your protein intake evenly over meals for more effective use of protein 
- Maintain a well-balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
- Combine both plant and animal proteins for a comprehensive and healthier approach.
- Use smartphone apps, tracking tools, or a personal diary to monitor your macronutrient intake and progress.
Different Types of High-Protein Diets (With Specified Guidelines)
Several popular dietary plans encourage a higher intake of proteins. Some of these diets are as follows:
- The Atkins Diet: The Atkin’s Diet is a low-carb, 4-phrase diet plan that revolves around lowering your intake of carbs while increasing your intake of fats and proteins.
- The Dukan Diet: The Dukan diet is another low-carb, high-protein diet that is split into four phases. This diet is highly-restrictive and is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term.
- The South Beach Diet: This is a low-carb eating plan that involves increasing your intake of healthy fats and proteins. The main focus of this dietary plan is on lean meats, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic-index carbs.
- The Sugar Busters Diet: The primary emphasis of the Sugar Busters Diet is to limit your intake of processed carbs and added sugars while boosting your intake of healthy fats, fibres, and lean meats.
Each dietary plan, of course, comes with various limitations and risks. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and it might take a little trial and error to find a high-protein dietary plan that fits your lifestyle and fulfils your nutritional needs.
Feel free to check out our guide detailing the top high-protein meal plans, which can give you some ideas on the types of foods to include in your daily meals.
A high-protein diet isn’t for everyone. What’s most important is adopting a diet that gives you the energy and fuel you need to meet your lifestyle needs and wellness goals.
For some people, a high-protein diet balanced with an adequate intake of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains is a great tool for weight loss or building muscles.
To maximize the benefits of a high-protein diet, try to spread your protein intake evenly across the day, opt for healthier, higher-quality sources of proteins, and avoid greatly-processed, high-sodium meats.
Explore in more detail
- A Beginner’s Guide to the High-Protein Diet
- High Protein Foods for Muscle Gain and Weight Loss
- Best High-Protein Snacks for Weight Loss, Muscle Gain, & Satiety
- Highest Protein Vegetables
- Top High-Protein Meal Plans for a High-Protein Diet
- High-Protein Diet Tips for Beginners
- 10 Cheap Ways to Add Protein to Your Breakfast
- High-Protein Diet for Weight Loss: What Does Research Say?
- High-Protein Diet Side Effects and Risks
- High Protein Foods for Muscle Gain and Weight Loss