What Is the High-Protein Diet? Pros, Cons, and What You Can Eat

At Verywell, we imagine there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all method to a wholesome way of life. Successful consuming plans must be individualized and take the complete individual into consideration. Prior to beginning a brand new weight-reduction plan plan, seek the advice of together with your well being care supplier or a registered dietitian, particularly if in case you have an underlying well being situation.

A high-protein weight-reduction plan encourages consuming extra protein and fewer carbohydrates or fats to spice up weight reduction, enhance power, and improve athletic efficiency. Protein is a necessary nutrient for well being. It is accountable for plenty of vital features in the physique, together with hormones, enzymes, and cell restore and upkeep.

High-protein diets have been round for hundreds of years. People indigenous to the Arctic area—the place vegetation is scarce—subsisted solely on marine life and caribou. Maasai warriors in Kenya had been historically identified to outlive totally on animal blood, milk, and meat. And some Native American tribes sustained themselves with largely buffalo and vegetation.

During the late-Nineteen Seventies, high-protein diets grew to become fashionable with the Scarsdale weight-reduction plan, which really useful a weight-reduction plan of 43% protein, 22.5% fats, and 34.5% carbohydrates. Modern diets that target high-protein consumption embody the Atkins, South Beach, and Dukan diets.

Some analysis suggests {that a} weight-reduction plan excessive in protein may also help obese and overweight girls lose extra fats whereas retaining lean muscle mass. Diets which are excessive in protein assist to lower starvation, enhance satiety, increase metabolic rate, and protect muscle mass. However, with regards to diets, one measurement would not match all; what works for one individual could not work for an additional.

What Experts Say

“A high-protein diet often means cutting carbohydrates. A healthier approach is a balanced diet that includes about 50% of calories from carbs, 20% from protein, and 30% from fat.”

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

What Can You Eat?

In common, a high-protein weight-reduction plan recommends getting greater than 20% of your whole energy from protein. That usually means consuming fewer energy from carbohydrates or fat to maintain your energy in stability.

There are not any meals which are expressly forbidden on a excessive protein weight-reduction plan. It is really useful to eat extra lean proteins and fewer refined carbohydrates, sugars, and fats.

There is no suggested meal timing for a high-protein diet, although some people on a high-protein plan also practice intermittent fasting, which involves restricting calories to certain days of the week and fasting on others, or going for longer periods of time without eating, such as 16 hours a day.

What You Need to Know

Any healthy diet for weight loss or wellness should include a balance of three macronutrients (or macros): fat, carbohydrate, and protein. A high-protein diet contains at least 20% of calories from protein. The amount of protein you should eat depends on a few factors including your age, gender, body size, and activity level.

General guidelines advise eating between 10% to 35% of your total calories as protein. Active adults may require 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. This equates to 82 to 116 grams for a person weighing 150 pounds. The official recommended daily allowance (RDA) for healthy adults is a minimum of 0.8 g/kg/day (which is 54 grams of protein for a person who weighs 150 pounds).

If you use a calorie tracking app or website to count calories, it’s easy to check your daily protein intake. Many people on a high-protein diet use apps to track their macronutrient intake to ensure they are getting the right ratios of protein to carbohydrate and fat.

A suggested ratio to start a high protein diet is 30% of calories from protein, 30% of calories from fat, and 40% of calories from carbohydrates. After a few weeks on the plan, you may find you do better with a little more or a little less of a macronutrient, and you should adjust your macro settings as needed.

What to Eat

  • Lean proteins, such as lean meat, seafood, beans, soy, low-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds
  • Low glycemic fruits, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
  • Vegetables, including leafy greens, peppers, mushrooms, and cruciferous vegetables
  • Whole grains

What Not to Eat

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and white rice
  • Saturated fats and fried foods
  • Sugar, including candy and sweetened condiments

Following a high-protein diet does not need to be difficult. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Include protein at every meal. Plan meals around a protein, such as lean beef, chicken, or pork, and fill the rest of your plate with vegetables.
  • Skip processed carbs. Instead of eating refined grains, like white rice, pasta, and bread, including small portions of whole grains that are high in protein, like amaranth or quinoa. You can also replace pasta with spiralized zucchini or carrots, and substitute riced cauliflower for white rice.
  • Snack on protein. Keep high-protein snacks on hand for when between-meal hunger strikes. Almonds, Greek yogurt, hummus, ricotta, and string cheese all make convenient snacks on the go.
  • Start your day with protein. Eggs make a protein-rich and filling breakfast. If you don’t have time or don’t like eggs, a smoothie made with protein powder, such as whey, pea protein, or collagen, leafy greens, and berries can be a satisfying breakfast.

Pros and Cons


  • Builds muscle
  • Burns more calories
  • Can improve diet
  • More filling


  • Could lead to nutrient deficiencies
  • May be harmful to kidneys
  • May increase risk of heart disease
  • Protein turns to glucose in the body

Like most weight-loss plans, a high-protein diet has its share of benefits and drawbacks. Review the pros and cons associated with a high-protein diet to determine whether it’s the right diet plan for you.


  • You’ll feel fuller longer. Including protein in your meals and snacks can help you to feel full and satisfied after you’re done eating. This feeling of fullness may help you to eat less throughout the day.
  • You’ll build and maintain more muscle mass. A strong body not only performs better throughout daily activities, but the muscles that shape an attractive figure also burn more calories than fat, even at rest.
  • You may be more inclined to choose healthy foods. When you plan a meal around a lean source of protein, you have less space on your plate for foods that aren’t healthy. And learning to eat different types of protein may improve your diet as well. If you eat tuna, for example, you not only benefit from the protein in the fish but you also benefit from the healthy fat it provides.


  • Nutrient deficiencies are a possibility. A high-protein diet is often lacking in dietary fiber which could cause constipation and other health concerns. Getting enough dietary fiber is not only important for colonic health, but it also helps reduce inflammation and protect against cancer.
  • High-fat and processed foods are sometimes encouraged. Certain versions of high-protein diets also advocate for eating high-fat foods, such as fatty cuts of beef, full-fat dairy, and processed and cured meats such as deli meat, sausage, bacon, and hot dogs, which are not the best choices for a healthy, balanced diet since foods like these are often associated with heart disease and cancer.
  • Too much protein may be unsafe for those with chronic diseases. People with kidney disease should not follow a high protein diet without speaking to their doctor. The body converts excess protein to glucose to be used for energy, which could cause a spike in blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

While high-protein diets may have many benefits, there are some potential negatives. While this diet type may be an effective strategy for losing weight, important food groups such as fruits and grains are often cut out, which does not provide a well-rounded diet.

Is a High-Protein Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

Many experts recommend following a reduced-calorie, high-protein for weight loss. A diet focused on lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is considered a healthy way to lose weight.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines present suggestions for a wholesome, balanced weight-reduction plan. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans really useful share breakdown of macronutrients is:

  • Protein: 10% to 35% of each day energy
  • Fat: 20% to 35% of each day energy
  • Carbohydrates: 45% to 65% of each day energy

For wholesome adults, the really useful dietary allowance for protein (RDA) is 0.8 grams per kilogram of physique weight per day. That means at a minimal daily you must eat barely lower than 1 gram of protein for each kilogram of physique weight. For instance, in case you weigh 150 kilos (68 kilograms) you must eat at the very least 54 grams of protein every day.

A high-protein weight-reduction plan that features greens, fruit, complete grains, lean meats, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and wholesome oils matches inside the good well being tips. The USDA recommends consuming roughly 1,500 energy per day for weight reduction, however this quantity varies based mostly on age, intercourse, weight, and exercise degree. Use this calculator to find out the proper variety of energy for you.

There are a couple of completely different kinds of high-protein diets together with the Atkins Diet, Dukan Diet, and Whole30. Here’s how they evaluate:

  • Atkins weight-reduction plan: The Atkins Diet is a low-carb, high-protein weight-reduction plan that limits carbs to 20g of carbs per day to begin, rising to 100g a day, and ending with a upkeep section.
  • Dukan weight-reduction plan: The Dukan Diet is a low-carbohydrate, low-fat, and high-protein weight reduction program It relies on the premise that it is onerous to reduce weight when you find yourself hungry and focuses on lean proteins and fat-free dairy, which increase satiety.
  • Whole30: The Whole30 is a 30-day weight-reduction plan that eliminates sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy, and most legumes, which principally leaves meat, greens, and fruit. Intended as a short-term “reset” of your physique, the plan goals to scale back cravings and break sugar dependancy.

If you train for weight reduction, you could wish to devour extra protein. A position assertion developed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) the Dietitians of Canada (DC), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that exercisers ought to devour between 1.2 grams and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of physique weight per day.

Health Benefits

Eating a weight-reduction plan that features loads of lean protein supplies a number of advantages, particularly whenever you’re making an attempt to reduce weight. High-protein diets assist build and protect muscle mass, increase your metabolism, and enhance satiety.

You additionally burn a couple of additional energy whenever you eat protein as a result of your physique has to work tougher to chew and digest the meals. This is named the thermic impact of meals. Keep in thoughts, nevertheless, that the variety of additional energy is small so that you should not create a whole weight reduction program based mostly solely on this profit.

Health Risks

Some high-protein diets severely prohibit carbohydrates and may end up in dietary deficiencies and an absence of fiber, which might result in constipation and different well being issues. In addition, a high-protein weight-reduction plan could cause dangerous breath.

People with diabetes could discover a high-protein weight-reduction plan can increase their blood sugar ranges. In addition, individuals with diabetes who use insulin could have problem managing blood glucose as protein causes delayed blood sugar spikes.

Excess protein is excreted by the kidneys, which can worsen kidney perform amongst individuals with kidney illness. In addition, protein metabolism ends in nitrogen (ammonia) manufacturing. Nitrogen have to be excreted by way of the urine and subsequently, individuals on excessive protein diets are at elevated danger of dehydration and have to drink extra water.

A weight-reduction plan excessive in saturated fat can enhance your danger of coronary heart illness, and research have famous an affiliation between processed meat consumption and most cancers.

A Word From Verywell

The finest weight-reduction plan for you is the weight-reduction plan that you may follow. For some, this can be a high-protein weight reduction plan. If consuming extra protein lets you eat much less all day and build a stronger, extra energetic physique, then it could be the finest program for you. But do not forget that energy matter most whenever you’re making an attempt to reduce weight. So observe your whole energy and protein to reduce weight and preserve a wholesome weight for the long run. If you’ve gotten any well being situations, all the time contact your doctor earlier than beginning any weight-reduction plan plan.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term weight-reduction plan will not be vital for you and many diets on the market merely don’t work, particularly long-term. While we don’t endorse fad weight-reduction plan developments or unsustainable weight reduction strategies, we current the info so you can also make an knowledgeable choice that works finest on your dietary wants, genetic blueprint, and finances, and objectives.

If your objective is weight reduction, do not forget that shedding pounds isn’t essentially the similar as being your healthiest self, and there are various different methods to pursue well being. Exercise, sleep, and different way of life elements additionally play a serious function in your total well being. The finest weight-reduction plan is all the time the one that’s balanced and matches your way of life.

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