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The Advantages of a High Protein Diet


Protein is well-known as one of the essential macronutrients. It’s needed to support optimum health, growth, and repair in your body as well as to promote recovery. While there are questions to be considered about the potential risks of eating far too much protein, high protein diets also yield some pretty impressive advantages.

When we talk about high protein diets throughout this piece we’re referring to an increase of 1.2-1.8g per kg of body weight compared to the 0.75kg reference intake from the British nutrition foundation. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of following a high protein diet:


High Protein Diets Support Muscle Gain and Repair

This is one of the most frequently discussed benefits of high protein consumption. After all, there’s a reason why protein powders and shakes appear to be a gym staple across the world, right? Research has found[1] that, during an overall calorie deficit, higher protein diets are considerably more effective at increasing lean body mass than lower protein diets.

This isn’t too surprising given that the amino acids in protein are the primary building blocks of muscle and all the other tissue in your body. In fact, protein deficiency has been linked not only to poor gains in the gym but even serious illnesses such as metabolic diseases in offspring[2].   


High Protein Diets May Help Improve Your Mood

Some of the amino acids in dietary protein sources are essential in keeping your hormones in proper balance. For example, the neurotransmitter dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine while serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan.[3] Both dopamine and serotonin are intimately connected with mood, with serotonin even being dubbed the “happiness molecule.”

There is one surprising twist, though. While protein rich foods are an essential source of those essential amino acids, your serotonin production is actually halted for a while after eating a protein-rich meal. To ensure that your body can properly transform those protein-rich foods into serotonin, add some high-carb-no-protein snacks into your daily meal plan (just don’t overdo it!)[4]


High Protein Diets Stabilise Your Blood Sugar Levels

High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) is a leading cause of unwanted weight gain and type-2 diabetes, and also comes with a host of other negative effects including recurring bladder and skin infections, tiredness, blurred vision, and the need to constantly use the toilet.

It just so happens that protein has a minimal effect on blood sugar levels, whereas carbs spike blood sugar substantially – the more carbs you eat, the greater the spike.[5] In fact, some studies have even found that a high protein diet reduces blood sugar and improves overall glucose control. [6]


High Protein Diets Can Promote Fat Loss

While studies have shown some conflicting results about the ideal diet for fat loss, there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that high protein intake is linked with satiety (or, “feeling full”) and that this can be a major element in maintaining a healthy weight and in shedding excess fat.

One 2005 study found that a high-protein diet resulted in consistent reductions in appetite and body weight, despite other factors.[7] An overactive appetite is perhaps the key reason why dieters give in to temptation and end up relapsing into old eating habits. A protein-rich diet can help prevent this.


Protein Keeps Your Bones Strong

There’s a common myth going around that following a high-protein diet (especially a diet high in animal protein) causes weaker bones due to mineral leaching and other factors. That isn’t, however, what the research shows.

Instead, high protein diets are associated with greater bone mass and fewer fractures, as long as calcium intake is sufficient.[8] One 2003 study on the elderly found that those who consumed a low protein diet (16-50 grammes per day) suffered the greatest loss in bone density. Protein seems to be an essential component in good bone health, especially in older people.


High Protein Diets May Promote Heart Health

Despite some widely publicised concerns that protein might be bad for your cardiovascular health, the research actually paints the exact opposite picture.

One 2005 review[9] of the available data found that high protein diets are associated with a lower risk of hypertension and congenital heart disease, while diets which included very low levels of animal protein were associated with a significant increase in the risk of a haemorrhagic stroke.

What this means is that you might be doing your heart more favours by dishing up a juicy steak, than by eating a kale salad.



[1] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2016/01/26/ajcn.115.119339

[2] http://www.news-medical.net/news/20150919/New-study-finds-link-between-maternal-protein-deficiency-during-pregnancy-and-metabolic-diseases-in-offspring.aspx

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8697046

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9416027

[6] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/734.short

[7] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/41.full

[8] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/5/1567S.full

[9] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/242S.full

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