High-protein diets have become an increasingly popular way to lose weight. These diets aren’t like the carnivore diet, which involves eating only meat. Instead, high-protein diets focus on increasing your protein content while maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Instead of the standard recommended daily allowance of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, high protein diets recommend consuming 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram. Regular exercise and increased protein content can help you lose weight, and also help with your appetite, cardiac health and metabolism.
Healthy Daily Amounts of Protein
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Based on the average heights and weights of men and women, this works out to an average of about 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women. Most people consume a little less or little more protein than this. However, certain diets recommend eating more protein. These diets include the Atkins, ketogenic, low carbohydrate and paleo diets.
High protein diets aren’t suitable for everyone, but are often recommended for athletes. According to an interview with Christopher Mohr, PhD, RD, in Today’s Dietitian, a range of 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended for endurance athletes; 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended for strength and power athletes.
High protein diets are also suitable for weight loss and improving metabolic issues. Although you may question doubling your protein content, these values really are the standard. According to a 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1.2 to 1.6 grams is the ideal amount of protein for weight loss and many other health benefits
Unhealthy Daily Amounts of Protein
While increasing your protein content can be safe and even beneficial, don’t increase your daily amount of protein too much. According to the Harvard Medical School, 2 grams or more of protein per kilogram of body weight can be harmful. Excessive consumption of protein can result in increased:
- Cholesterol that results in a higher chance of heart disease.
- Digestive system issues, including diarrhea and constipation.
- Kidney problems, including kidney stones.
- Risk of cancer.
Too much protein can, ironically, even cause weight gain.
To make sure you’re getting the right amount of protein each day, use the United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Reference Intakes Calculator, which shows you all the nutrients you should consume each day, or another protein calculator. Many fitness apps on smartphones can also help you determine the appropriate amount of protein needed for weight loss or muscle building. Remember that the number of calories you need can change based on your level of activity each day.
Healthy Sources of Protein
Protein doesn’t just mean meat — it comes from a wide variety of sources. Good, healthy protein-rich foods include eggs, cheese, legumes, poultry, meat, nuts, seafood, seeds and soy products. All these sources of protein are healthy, although many should be consumed in moderation. When increasing your daily amount of protein, be sure to consume protein from varied sources.
Try to limit the amount of processed meat you eat, because it can increase your risk of colon cancer. Instead, try to incorporate vegetarian-friendly sources of protein, like nuts and seeds, into your diet. Additionally, don’t forget to diversify. Fatty fish, which contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked to a wide range of health benefits, are also a good source of protein.
- New England Journal of Medicine: Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates
- Today's Dietitian: Lose Weight the High-Protein Weigh
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes
- Popular Science: Please do not try to survive on an all-meat diet
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance
- Food and Nutrition Board: Dietary Reference Intakes
- Harvard Medical School: When it comes to protein, how much is too much?
- Today's Dietitian: Athletes and Protein Intake
- USDA: DRI Calculator
- Ascent Protein: Protein Calculator
- Health.gov: Dietary Guidelines 2015
- Harvard Medical School: How much protein do you need every day?
- BBC Good Food: How much meat is safe to eat?
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Omega-3 Fatty Acids