Although many diet plans are available for use in weight loss, not all are desirable or effective, depending on your personal tastes. While fad diets abound, one of the few types of weight-loss diets supported by medical research is the high-protein meal plan. Despite the potential effectiveness of high-protein diets, you should consult a doctor before beginning one to ensure safe and effective weight loss.
Protein is one of four macronutrients, the others being fat, carbohydrate and alcohol. Protein provides your body with four calories per gram, the same amount as carbs. Protein performs several crucial roles in your body, such as helping to build and repair bodily tissues, including muscle and bone. Protein is present in every cell in your body, which doesn't store protein in the same manner as other nutrients, so you need to consume protein every day for optimal health.
Unlike other diets, such as the Zone, which have strict definitions for macronutrient intake, high-protein diets are subjective. MedlinePlus recommends consuming 50 to 65 g of protein each day, so a diet containing more than that amount could be considered "high-protein." But how much is too much? Nutrition and supplement researcher Dr. John Berardi suggests that consuming up to 1 g of protein per pound of body weight can be safe and beneficial for body composition. Consuming that much protein might not be essential. The Harvard School of Public Health suggests that consuming a diet in which 20 to 25 percent of your calories come from protein can aid in weight loss.
Some studies have indicated that high-protein meal plans are effective. A study published in the February 2002 issue of the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" suggests that high-protein diets produce an enhanced rate of energy expenditure, or calorie-burning, compared with diets lower in protein. Additionally, research from the October 2004 edition of the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" indicates that high-protein meal plans offer enhanced satiety, or feelings of fullness, and fat loss compared with meal plans with lower protein content.
Although high-protein meal plans might promote weight loss, potential side effects exist. Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky suggests that consuming a high-protein diet might exacerbate existing, or cause new, liver and kidney problems due to the strain of processing protein and its metabolic waste products. In addition, prioritizing protein might interfere with your ability to consume adequate levels of fiber and other nutrients that carbohydrates provide.