The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of 2016, 71 percent of American adults over the age of 20 had overweight or obesity. Some health professionals recommend a low-carb, high-protein diet as a way to lose weight. Is this the answer to the quest for quick weight loss?
The average weight loss on these diets can be substantial, though research into the overall health benefits of high-protein diets is not conclusive. Always speak to a registered dietitian before undertaking any major weight-loss plan.
Short-Term Weight Loss
One of the main reasons that low-carb, high-protein diets have become popular is that some studies have shown they produce faster weight loss in the short term than a traditional calorie-restricted diet. So while everyone's low-carb diet weight loss expectations are different, people seem to see some weight loss.
A study in StatPearl's March 2019 issue looked into the impact of low-carb, high-protein diets and found low-carb diets to be effective for weight loss. The researchers noted that out of all the low-carb diets studied, the keto diet was the most effective. In general, though, followers of these diets experienced immediate weight loss.
Eventually your weight loss will taper off. Once the initial weight loss tapers, these diets become similar to other diets in regards to their impact on weight. So while there can be big losses in the beginning, in about a year or so that will begin to fade.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Fat Loss
Water Loss and Weight Loss
No carbs for two weeks results in exceptionally high average weight loss due to a loss of total body water weight rather than excess fat burning. A study in the May 2018 edition of the Nutrition Source, explained that once the body burns all of its glucose from carbohydrates, it starts burning fat. At that point your liver produces ketones from the fat, signaling the entrance into ketosis.
Each of these metabolic processes cause your body to expel more water than normal, creating greater weight loss. Eventually though, you will expel all of the water that your body has retained. Once that happens, you will see the weight loss taper off because there won't be any more water weight to lose.
Diet Comparisons to Consider
There are several different types of low-carb diets out there to choose. It's hard to know which one is the right one for you. Each one has its benefits and downsides, and you need to look at your personal dietary needs to determine which ones will be best for you.
The Atkins diet was the low-carb diet of the 1990s. But The Nutrition Source article found that the keto diet is the better choice. It's been around since the 19th century, which means it's one of the better researched low-carb diets out there. The keto diet is typically broken down into 70 to 80 percent fat, 15 to 20 percent protein and 5 to 10 percent carbs — that's a lot more fat than the Atkins diet recommends.
If you have a medical need to maintain a larger carb balance in your diet, than there are less extreme low-carb, high protein diet options available for you. The moderately low-carb diet is similar to the South Beach diet in that it focuses on lean protein and high-fiber foods. Carbs are limited to nutrient-rich sources such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains while white flour products are completely out.
Read more: Negative Side Effects of Low-Carb Diet
Though low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets have been proven effective for weight loss, there are some possible negative side effects you should be aware of. As with any diet change, it's important to make sure that it's not contraindicated for any medical conditions that you already have.
In January 2015, the Continuum of Care Project, published by the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, listed some of the possible side effects of the keto diet:
- High cholesterol
- Hyperacidosis (large amounts of acid in blood)
- Kidney Stones
To avoid these reactions, the report recommends easing yourself into the keto diet. The recommendation would be great for working with other low-carb, high-protein diets, though the moderately low-carb diet doesn't need a gradual approach.
So on the first day, try doing one-third of the diet's recommendations, increasing by a third each day, so that the second day you're eating two-thirds and the third day you're fully into the diet.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Overweight Prevalence"
- StatPearls: “Low Carbohydrate Diet”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss”
- Mayo Clinic: “Weight Loss”
- Hormone Health: “Diets that Work”
- University of New Mexico School of Medicine: “Continuum of Care Project”