Consumption of extra protein to stave off hunger to prevent loss of muscle tissue eliminates an important health benefit of weight loss: improvement in insulin sensitivity, which is critical to lowering diabetes risk.
Insulin sensitivity is a good marker of metabolic health, one that typically improves with weight loss. In fact, the women in the study who lost weight while consuming less protein experienced a 25 to 30 percent improvement in their sensitivity to insulin.
Protein is essential for the body to build, grow, repair and maintain every bit of us, including hair, skin, blood – everything – so it’s vital that we eat enough each day. High protein diet fans or bodybuilders operate under the belief that if a little protein’s good for you, a lot must be better, and on a diet like Atkins or the Dukan Diet, protein allowances may be unlimited. One needs 0.8g to 1.2g of protein per kg of body weight per day. For a 70kg woman or man, that would be around 70g of protein per day, give or take a couple of grams. If you’re vegetarian and looking for plant-based foods, tofu, legume, lentils and nuts are all great sources of protein, so make sure your diet includes adequate serves of these.
If you eat too much, or are on a high protein diet that drastically reduces your carb intake, you can put your body into a process known as gluconeogenesis… which is when the body is forced to turn amino acids into glucose. This is when the body is forced to turn protein into carbs to feed the brain.
Challenges of High Protein Diet
- In case of Renal Disease or Diabetes
There is actually little clinical evidence supporting the claim that high-protein diets strain the kidneys and cause long-term complications. But for those people who already have diseases, like renal disease or diabetes that effect the functioning capability of your kidneys, high protein diets may not be the choice for weight loss.
- Lean Protein Choices
If you are attempting a high-protein diet, focus on choosing lean protein choices like beans, lentils, fish, tofu, turkey and chicken. Although these diets typically have positive effects at reducing triglycerides, and raising HDLS levels, there is little change to LDL levels and these diets are typically higher in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics still recommends a limited intake of trans-fats and saturated fats.
- Avoid Red Meat
In addition to red meat being a huge environmental stress, consumption of red meat and processed meats has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer for men, especially if the meat has been cooked at high temperatures.
- Calcium Intake
High-protein diets have shown to increase calcium uptake, support bone health and preserve bone density during weight loss but it is important to balance essential nutrient losses with intake.
- Energy Levels
Some people report feeling mild to acute fatigue. Carbohydrates are the most easily digested foods for energy production for your body and brain. If you are feeling fatigued, consider adding more complex carbohydrates to your diet like starchy vegetables, fresh fruits or whole grains.
The research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is significant in clarifying the common belief that consuming extra protein can help preserve lean tissue, keeping women (postmenopausal) from losing too much muscle while they lose fat.
The findings are available Oct. 11 in the journal Cell Reports.