Highs and Lows: What to Eat on a High Protein Diet

By: 
True You
January 19, 2022

If you are going to lose weight, there is a good chance you have run across advice telling you to eat a low-carb, high-protein diet. That might make sense in principle, but the devil is always in the details. Where many peoples’ diet plans fall apart is knowing exactly what needs to end up on the plate. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a registered dietitian to be sure you are getting the protein you need to change your diet for the better. 

What are the Benefits of Eating Low-carb Foods High in Protein?

Low-carb diets have been all the rage in recent years. New research has shown that reducing your carbohydrate intake can help you lose weight faster by keeping your blood sugar levels lower and forcing your body to burn fats instead of readily available sugars. 

For many years, nutritionists and dietitians advised people to eat low-calorie, low-fat diets to lose weight, with little concern given to the amount of sugar people were eating. New research and understanding on how blood sugar and cholesterol affects metabolism and fat storage has helped us understand that carb intake and dietary sugars have more of an effect on weight loss than was previously thought. 

Some diets take this to the extreme. The keto diet in particular is designed to deprive the body of all carbohydrates, forcing fat to be metabolized in the liver in a process known as ketosis. This is more metabolically expensive than burning simple sugars, and as a result your body has to work harder, burning more fat reserves to make up for energy you had previously been getting through your food. 

One of the longer-term benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet filled with great sources of protein is helping your body build and maintain muscle mass. This may seem counterintuitive if your idea of weight loss is simply the number on the bathroom scale. Contrary to what many people expect, adding lean muscle mass helps you burn fat faster, which in turn helps you lose weight more quickly and keep it off more easily.

What Foods are High in Protein but Low in Carbs?

If you are just beginning a low-carb diet full of high-protein foods, then you may be facing a new challenge: how to make meal plans that contain fewer calories, fewer grams of carbohydrates, and more grams of protein in every meal. Increasing your protein intake doesn’t mean eating a steak every day, as there are many high-quality protein sources available. This will probably be welcome news if you thought keeping to a weight-loss diet was going to mean a lifetime of eating nothing but veggies. 

Protein can be hiding in many places you might not think to look for it. Yes, a lean chicken breast is a sure-fire win if you are looking to get as many grams of protein on your plate with the smallest number of calories possible, but there is more to the picture. A few other great sources of healthy fats and proteins includes:

  • cottage cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • soybeans
  • some deli meats
  • fish 
  • omelets
  • avocados
  • lean beef
  • eggs
  • shrimp
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • nuts
  • peanut butter

You do need to take care in watching your calorie intake with some of these protein sources. Many sources of protein are nutrient dense, and unless you increase your activity levels as you change your diet, you could still be in a position where you are gaining weight. Any form of weight loss plan is going to involve being in caloric deficit, where you are burning more calories than you are taking in, and simply removing the simple sugars that make fat storage easy is not enough on its own to start dropping pounds. 

It is also important to talk to your doctor before you begin any form of diet or exercise, especially if you have been struggling with obesity for years. Being overweight can put you at greater risk of heart disease, and suddenly beginning a new workout program could put you at an elevated risk of a heart attack or other cardiac event. 

What Else to Eat on a High Protein Diet

To get the full benefits of a high-protein diet, you need to balance your protein intake with other macronutrients. Healthy fats from sources like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and other sources high in saturated fats can help your body stay healthy and properly metabolize the protein you are ingesting. Happily, the health benefits of these foods are wide ranging, with other important nutrients like antioxidants found in many veggies and omega-3 fatty acids appearing in eggs, vegetables like avocados, and fatty fish. 

Supplements can also help you make the changes needed in your diet. The protein powder smoothie is a staple for individuals starting a high-protein diet. The body can only absorb so much protein at any given time, and making a healthy protein-packed smoothie with fruit instead of other added sugars or sweeteners can help you feel full while keeping your total calorie count relatively low. You will need to be careful about fruit if you are trying to avoid all carbohydrates, as even the healthiest fruits can increase your total carb intake. 

How you diet is more than what goes on the dinner plate. Throughout the day you have a chance to replace unhealthy foods with options that are going to put nutritious food in your body. Snacking is one of the areas where many people ruin even the best meal plans. Avoiding snacks full of added sugars can help you avoid this pitfall. Some better options include:

  • edamame
  • hummus
  • one large egg
  • pumpkin seeds
  • peanut butter and apple slices

Going Beyond Low-carb Foods

No matter what you do to keep tabs on your diet, simply changing how you eat may not be enough to help you achieve the weight loss goals you have set for yourself. Measuring the amount of protein in your food and trying to count every gram of carbs can help you understand what is going into your body, but if you have been struggling to lose excess body weight for many years, there may be more to the story. 

For some people who struggle to lose weight, diet and exercise may not be enough. In some cases, obesity may itself be a blocker to the exercise that could help you get healthy. Poor heart health, injury, and other factors could leave you looking for other options. 

It was only a few years ago that bariatric surgery such as a gastric bypass was the only real option available for individuals looking for medical assistance in losing weight. Today, things have changed, which is why we offer many different services at True You Weight Loss. Not everyone is a good candidate for gastric bypass, and even those who are may be a risk of serious side effects down the road. 

New procedures such as endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, gastric ballooning, and even injections such as the newly approved Wegovy weight loss medication provide many different ways for you to lose body mass without some of the more frightening side effects of traditional bariatric surgery. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do for you at True You Weight Loss, request a consultation today.

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