High protein diet plans for weight loss

April 9, 2015
How to Prep for a Mile

By Diane Welland, MS, RD
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 12 No. 2 P. 34

How effective is this eating plan for shedding pounds? Examine the evidence to determine whether a carefully constructed diet emphasizing lean protein sources is a good fit for your patients.

High-protein diets have come and gone for decades, their popularity rising and falling like waves in the ocean. Who hasn’t heard of The Zone, the Atkins diet, or Sugar Busters? With unbalanced meal plans that sometimes restrict entire food groups, these fad diets often fail to meet humans’ essential needs for vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but they do usually lead to weight loss.

Several studies comparing high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets with high-carbohydrate, low-protein diets found high-protein diets to be just as effective and sometimes even more effective than their high-carbohydrate counterparts when it comes to weight loss. The latest study, published in The Journal of Nutrition in March 2009, looked at how a moderately high-protein meal plan measured up to the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid diet over a 12-month period. Although weight loss results were similar in both groups, the high-protein subjects lost more body fat and had better blood lipid profiles than the high-carbohydrate dieters, according to the journal article.

This study is just one of many in a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that the right high-protein diet may be a tool worth using in the fight against obesity.

The Diet Defined
With the media touting so many high-protein diets, it’s hard to pin down exactly what is considered a high-protein diet. Dietary Reference Intakes recommend a wide range—anywhere from 10% to 35% protein based on total calories. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are set at a minimum of 0.8 g/kg body weight, or about 0.4 g/lb, but most nutrition professionals should plan on about 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg. Which method should you use?

“Whenever you’re talking about weight loss, you should always base protein needs on body weight, not percentage of calories, ” says Donald Layman, PhD, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois. “Percentage of calories is very misleading. Drop your calories and protein can easily dip below minimum levels. Keep the amount of protein the same and it can be considered high protein on one diet and low protein on another, yet it’s still the same amount of protein.”

Layman, who categorizes his diets as moderate in protein, aims for intakes between 120 and 130 g/day, or about 1.4 to 1.5 g/kg body weight (nearly double the RDA). “The average American woman eats about 70 g of protein a day, a man around 90 g per day, so most people would consider this a high-protein diet, ” says Layman.

The rest of the diet is balanced between carbohydrates and fats. “Most traditional high-protein diets run about 40% to 45% carbohydrates, 25% to 30% protein, and no more than 30% fat, which turns out to be a pretty achievable diet, ” says Roberta Anding, MS, RD, LD, CDE, CSSD, an American Dietetic Association media spokesperson and the director of sports nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Some high-protein diets even go as high as 35% protein.

In addition to protein, Layman’s laboratory diets usually include five servings of vegetables, two to three servings of fruit, and three servings of complex carbohydrates.

Why do we need so much protein? In his commentary on adults’ protein needs published in Nutrition & Metabolism in March 2009, Layman cites research showing that increased protein intake can benefit patients with osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and sarcopenia, in addition to obesity. Furthermore, as we age, our ability to utilize protein efficiently decreases.

“If you asked the average consumer who needs more protein, a 16-year-old or a 65-year-old, most people would say the 16-year-old, ” says Layman. “In reality, it’s the 65-year-old. They likely need fewer calories, but they need more high-quality, nutrient-dense protein (along with exercise and specifically resistance training) to prevent muscle wasting.”

And while conventional weight-loss teachings generally reduce calories across all macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbohydrates—Layman says weight loss itself raises protein needs. “Losing weight is a stress on the body, ” he says, “and any stress will increase protein needs.”

Protein Power
What gives protein the edge over carbohydrates when it comes to weight loss? In a word: satiety. Protein has greater satiety than either carbohydrates or fat, making people feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time. As a result, they are better able to control their appetite and eat less.1, 2

“I deal with mainly morbidly obese clients, and you just can’t get that satiety on a high-carbohydrate diet. They’re always hungry, ” says Anding. “On a high-protein diet, clients feel less hungry, so they’ll stay with it.”

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Source: www.todaysdietitian.com
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