Pros & Cons of High Protein Diets

High-protein diets are a popular way to lose weight fast. Some people stay on a high-protein for just a few weeks, while others decide to maintain a high-protein lifestyle indefinitely. A high-protein diet has both advantages and disadvantages. It is important to weigh the pros and cons when determining if a high-protein diet is right for you.

A bowl of cottage cheese topped with almonds and raspberries. (Image: Yulia_Davidovich/iStock/Getty Images)

Pros

There is no arguing with the fact that a high-protein diet provides quick initial weight loss. Some of this weight is water and will quickly return once the dieter begins eating more carbohydrates. For many people, this quick loss is extremely motivating and strengthens their willpower, making the diet easier to stick with. Many people that begin a high-protein diet will initial experience a drop in their cholesterol levels as well. Since high cholesterol is often a side effect of obesity, lowering this number is a health benefit. Finally, a high-protein diet typically leaves the dieter feeling satisfied. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and fats, so it remains in the stomach longer.

Cons

Some of the drawbacks to a high-protein diet are that after the initial phase of weight loss, the dieter's LDL cholesterol, which is the bad type, often increases. The body, with few carbohydrates to burn for energy, goes into a state of ketosis. While this leads to rapid weight loss, it also causes headaches and irritability. High-protein diets are often high in unhealthy saturated fat and low in healthy fruits and vegetables.

Deciding What's Best

Someone looking for quick weight loss, perhaps for a vacation or to jump-start a more moderate plan, can expect results with a high-protein diet. For someone with a great deal of weight to lose, a high-protein diet can also be an effective tool. Anyone planning to remain on a high-protein diet for more than a few weeks may want to consider carefully choosing lean cuts of meat, fish which contain healthy fats, beans and other forms of healthy protein. Make room in the diet for a variety of vegetables, and don't be afraid of carbohydrates, particularly whole grain products. Finally, anyone with a history of liver or kidney problems should speak with their physician before going on a high-protein diet. Processing excess protein can add stress to already-weakened body functions.

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