High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are popular ways to lose weight. But according to the Mayo Clinic, high-protein diets can be difficult to maintain, do not always support long-term weight loss and can be unhealthy. Individuals should consult a doctor prior to starting a high-protein diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that the most effective weight loss plan is moderate calorie restriction and increased physical activity.
Dr. Robert Atkins invented the Atkins Diet. According to a 2001 article from the American Heart Association’s publication Circulation, the Atkins Diet is 27 percent protein, 5 percent carbohydrates and 68 percent fat. Federal dietary guidelines recommend a diet that is 10 to 15 percent protein, 40 to 60 percent carbohydrates and 20 to 35 percent fat. The Atkins Diet allows all types of protein and fat, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, butter and oil and restricts carbohydrates like bread, pasta, fruit, milk, alcohol and starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas and corn.
The high fat content of the Atkins Diet can be unhealthy for the heart. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, health risks associated with the Atkins Diet include colon cancer, bone loss, kidney damage and ketoacidosis, a condition that causes dizziness, weakness and irritability.
South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet was created by Dr. Arthur Agatston in 2003. It is based on the glycemic index, a system that ranks foods according to how fast it takes their sugars to enter the blood. The University of Colorado notes that the South Beach Diet allows 20 to 90 g of carbohydrate per meal and is healthier than other high-protein diets because it encourages consumption of whole grains, beans and legumes, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and healthy, unsaturated fats like olive oil and fat from fish and nuts. The downside of the diet is its restriction of healthy foods like fruits and carrots because they are high on the glycemix index.
Dr. Barry Sears invented the Zone Diet in the mid 1990s. Dieters are in the “zone” when their diet is 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat. Many foods are allowed on the Zone Diet as long as the proportions of the diet are met, but the diet does limit bread, pasta and certain fruits. One benefit of the Zone Diet is that it encourages regular, low-calorie meals for weight loss.
Protein Power Diet
Drs. Michael and Mary Eades created the Protein Power Diet in 1996. The Protein Power Diet is approximately 26 percent protein, 16 percent carbohydrates, 54 percent fat and 4 percent alcohol. The Protein Power Diet allows all types of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, nonstarchy vegetables, butter, oil and salad dressing. It also allows alcohol in moderation. Foods that are avoided on this diet include fruits, starchy vegetables, grains and milk.
Sugar Busters Diet
The Sugar Busters Diet is 27 percent protein, 52 percent carbohydrates and 21 percent fat. The Sugar Busters Diet allows all proteins and fats, low-glycemic foods and moderate alcohol intake. The diet restricts potatoes, white rice and bread, corn, carrots, beets and foods made from refined, white flour.
The Stillman Diet is the highest protein diet, at 64 percent protein, 3 percent carbohydrates and 33 percent fat. The Stillman Diet is based on the theory that protein helps burn fat and carbohydrates are stored as fat. The Stillman Diet encourages lean proteins like lean meat, skinless poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and low-fat cheese while limiting fat, oil and carbohydrates like bread, pasta, fruit, vegetables and dairy products.
- “Circulation”; Dietary protein and weight reduction; S.T. St. Jeor, et al.; 2001.
- Mayo Clinic: Low-Carb Diet
- University of Colorado Extension: Weight Loss Diet Books
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Low Carb Diets