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Should we pump UP or pump DOWN the protein?

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Do you want them to get those gains? Are you convinced that you do not have enough protein in your diet? We all know someone who's on a high-protein diet, or perhaps you are on one for yourself. In this blog, a Nutrition Ph.D. student Sofia shares the science behind a rich in protein diet.

A high-protein diet is one that emphasizes protein over other macronutrients, such as carbohydrates and fat. While there is no one-size-fits-all definition of a high-protein diet, most people who follow this type of diet consume between 1.2 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

High-protein foods may help us lose weight.

It is important to firstly note, that any restrictive or vigorous sudden change in diet is a bad idea. If you are interested in losing weight or increasing muscle mass do so gradually and do plenty of research using established sources.

High-protein foods such as meat, fish, cheese, or eggs are usually calorie-rich, so unless you are training or recovering from illness, all of them extra calories will be turned into fat, and not muscle. Also, protein is the most expensive macronutrient to ingest. So, if you're over-eating protein, you will just be having very expensive pee as the excess nitrogen from the protein is excreted through your urine.

In addition, red and processed meat has been linked to increased levels of heart disease and cancer, therefore it’s not a good idea to overload on these foods.

However, protein can help you feel full and satisfied, which can lead to eating fewer calories overall. In fact, a recent analysis of the current literature on this topic found that people who ate a high-protein diet ate fewer calories throughout the day than those who did not have a high-protein diet [1].

Importantly, those studies did not use highly palatable sources of protein such as protein bars and shakes. So, if you’re trying to lose weight stick to whole food sources of protein such as meat, eggs, beans, lentils, or tofu. From an overall health point of view, you also do not want to be sacrificing fiber and vegetable intake for a high-protein diet.

High-protein foods can aid in muscle and bone health.

Protein is also essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. When you exercise, your muscles break down and protein is needed to repair and rebuild the muscle fibers to come back stronger than before. This is why high-protein diets are often recommended for athletes and bodybuilders.

In addition, protein can help you train harder and recover faster [2]. Protein can also help improve your bone health. Studies have shown that people who eat a high-protein diet have a lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures. This is because protein helps to build and maintain strong bones.

Here are some tips for following a high-protein diet:

  • Start your day with a high-protein breakfast. This will help you feel full and satisfied throughout the morning. Some good options include egg omelet, Greek yogurt with fruit, and porridge with peanut butter, and fruit.

  • Include protein at every meal and snack. This will help you keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent overeating. Some good options include chicken breast, fish, beans, tofu, nuts, and seeds.

  • Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. These are good sources of protein and calcium. Although, keep an eye on the sugar content of those foods.

  • Limit processed meats and red meats. These foods are high in saturated fat and can increase your risk of heart disease.

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These foods are low in calories and high in nutrients, including fiber and vitamins.

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water will help you stay hydrated and prevent constipation.

Following a high-protein diet can be a great way to improve your health and fitness, but its important not to go overboard. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new diet, especially if you have any health concerns.

1. Halton, T.L. and F.B. Hu, The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2004. 23(5): p. 373-385.

2. Cintineo, H.P., et al., Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr, 2018. 5: p. 83.

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