Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient. Without protein and amino acids (the building blocks of protein), you couldn’t build muscle, heal wounds, or synthesize hormones.
When you eat a high-protein diet, you’re taking a stand. You’re ensuring you aren’t deficient in this crucial macro.
So, is high-protein living right for you? What benefits does it offer? And how can you successfully implement a high-protein diet?
Stick around for five minutes, and you’ll get your answers. Let’s get started.
What Is a High-Protein Diet?
A high-protein diet is a diet high in protein. (Thanks, genius!) The real question is: what does “high in protein” mean?
That’s where things get tricky. Some sources classify high-protein as at (or above) 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight, or about 73 grams of daily protein for a 200-pound person.[*]
That’s the RDA, but it may not be sufficient. Along these lines, research published in the journal Food and Function suggest the following daily protein targets for various levels of physical activity:[*]
- 1 gram per kilogram body weight for sedentary people (90 grams for a 200-pound person)
- 1.3 grams per kilogram body weight for moderately active people (120 grams for a 200-pound person)
- 1.6 grams per kilogram body weight for very active people (150 grams for a 200-pound person)
The more active you are, the more protein you need. That’s the operative principle here.
Once you satisfy your protein needs, the remainder of your calories will come from fat and carbs, in varying ratios - depending on your health goals. For instance, a high-protein low-carb diet (a form of Keto diet) may be helpful for fat loss and other potential ketosis benefits.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the benefits of noshing on protein now.
Benefits of a High-Protein Diet
Consider these potential benefits if you’re thinking about dialing up your protein intake.
#1: Weight Loss
Is a high-protein diet good for weight loss? The evidence points to yes.[*]
Why? One reason is satiety. Eating more protein reduces hunger hormones, helping you stay fuller for longer.[*] (Pro tip: combine high-protein with low-carb for an appetite-lowering super-combo.)
Another reason is increased calorie burn. As it happens, digesting protein requires more energy than digesting other macros.[*]
Finally, high protein intakes slow digestion and limit spikes in blood sugar.[*] This not only helps with hunger but also with fat loss.
#2: Body composition
If you want to build or maintain muscle, you need to:
- Strength train
- Consume enough protein
Why protein? Because protein contains amino acids (like leucine) required to promote muscle protein synthesis. Without them, your muscles would decompose.
When this muscle loss happens in older folks, it’s called sarcopenia.[*] The good news is that getting enough leucine-rich protein (meat, fish, whey, etc.) and strength training 2 or more times per week may prevent this debilitating condition.
#3: Other health benefits
Getting enough protein and amino acids in your diet also helps you:
- Synthesize hormones and enzymes that support mood, sleep, DNA repair, digestion, and the list goes on.
- Manage your blood sugar levels.
- Stay full and avoid snacking on refined carbs.
Who Should Consider a High-Protein Diet?
Everyone can benefit from adequate protein, but athletes should be especially keen. Performance becomes difficult when you can’t maintain muscle.
And if you want to turn fat into lean mass, bumping up protein helps there too. You’ll synthesize muscle while staying relatively craving-free.
What about safety? If you have healthy kidneys, there’s little to fear from higher protein intakes. Up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day (2.5 times the RDA) appears safe for long-term consumption.[*] Even some individuals with a history of kidney problems may follow a higher protein diet after discussing it with their physician for approval.
High-Protein Diet Recipes
Check out these delicious recipes for high-protein breakfast, lunch, and dinner options:
Managing Your Macros on a High-Protein Diet
The first step on your high-protein journey is to assess your current protein intake. Just log 1-3 days of meals in the Carb Manager app and see where you stand.
Next, use the app to set a custom protein goal. If you’re active, shoot for the upper end of the protein targets mentioned earlier.[*] (1.3 to 1.6 grams per kilogram body weight.) If you’re less active, you can probably get away with less protein, but consider exercising more frequently for the mood, sleep, and longevity benefits.
Now the fun part: hitting your protein target. (Num nums!) Good protein sources include meat, seafood, eggs, whey protein, and offal. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, look for a well-formulated plant protein powder, or check out our favorite plant-based proteins here to ensure you meet your requirements. All the while, keep logging your meals to confirm you’re staying on track.
What about the other macros? That depends on your goals.
To lose weight, consider a high-protein low-carb diet to minimize hunger hormones, burn fat, and make ketones. A high-protein Keto diet (also known as a modified Atkins diet) is well-documented to help with weight loss.[*]
To eat a modified Atkins diet, consume 50-60% of your calories from fat, 25-35% from protein, and under 10% from carbs. Even if weight loss isn’t your goal, modified Atkins is a sustainable eating pattern that folks—even Keto-resistant folks—can learn to enjoy.
And if you want to bulk up and gain muscle, consider a higher carb intake. (Eating carbohydrates stimulates the all-purpose growth hormone, insulin.) It’s not impossible to build muscle on Keto, but the science suggests that carbohydrate-containing diets are preferable for mass gains.[*]
Track your headway toward these objectives (and track your macros) in your one-stop wellness app: Carb Manager. The more you measure your progress, the more motivated you’ll be to achieve your health goals.
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