One of the foremost benefits of a high-protein diet plan for women and men is the possibility of rapid weight loss. While it shouldn’t be adopted as a long-term lifestyle, many have found a high-protein diet effective for losing weight adding additional exercise to your daily regimen. Athletes and fitness buffs also find it useful for meeting their daily protein requirements and building fuller-looking muscles.
A high-protein meal plan usually means reducing your carb intake, which has its own benefits, from improved energy to better heart health. Despite popular opinion, high-protein meal plans can be nutritious and diverse, and the main difficulty is in knowing what to look for. This guide explores healthy protein foods and strategies you can integrate into your weight-loss meal plan.
High-Protein Diet Plan for Weight Loss
Popularized by the Atkins diet, the Dukan Diet, and other diet programs, high-protein, low-carb meal plans have been widely adopted by people looking to lose weight. It’s important to remember that excess calories are what cause weight gain, not carbs or proteins. Recent research shows that proteins may be more effective at curbing hunger by suppressing appetite-stimulating hormones. When you’re less hungry, you’re less likely to eat, which can help reduce your overall caloric intake. Reducing carbs is also believed to help weight loss by decreasing your insulin level and increasing glucagon production, prompting your body to burn more fat for energy. To be considered sufficiently high in protein, your meal plan should reserve more than 50 percent of the allotted calories for proteins. For weight loss, a daily protein intake of 120 grams is recommended.
High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods
- Reduced-Fat Cottage Cheese
- Skim Ricotta Cheese
- Raw Almonds and Almond Milk
- Edamame (Soybeans)
- Nonfat Yogurt
- Turkey Deli Meat
- Egg Whites
Read about our 50 Best Superfoods of 2015
High-Protein Diet Plan for Muscle Mass
If muscle gain is a priority, a low-carb, high-protein diet plan for men or women may not be the best fit. Instead, follow a high-protein meal plan that provides the energy—in the form of carbohydrates—that you need to exercise without muscle fatigue. Building muscle mass depends more on the amount of calories you consume then the specifics of your diet. Based on research, health and fitness experts advise adding an extra 500 calories to your normal daily caloric intake. Ideally, this would result in a weekly muscle gain of one pound. Your meal plan should maintain a good balance of carbs and proteins to maximize muscle gain. You should also consume more protein than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 0.8 g/kg of body weight. Carbs provide energy to burn during exercise, allowing your body to reserve protein for repairing muscle tissue.
Healthy High-Protein Food List for Athletes
- Whole Chicken
- Ground Turkey
- Pork Tenderloin
- Lean Ground Beef
- Fish, such as Tuna and Salmon
- Greek Yogurt
- Meal-Replacement Drinks
- Peanut Butter
Dangers and Side Effects
Protein accounts for less than 20 percent of an average person’s diet. On a high-protein, low-carb plan, you’ll consume much more than that and most likely restrict your intake of nutritious grain products, fruits, and vegetables to less than the recommended daily allowances. If continued over a long period of time, your body might not receive all the nutrients it needs. Eating heavy amounts of red meat and whole milk elevates your risk for cardiovascular diseases and could lead to deteriorating kidney function.
With a high-protein, low-carb diet plan, you might not get enough fiber, which can cause gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation. Additionally, transitioning from a carb-heavy diet to a low-carb diet triggers ketosis, which is often accompanied by headaches, nausea, and irritability. To minimize side effects and health complications, make high-protein meals a temporary weight loss measure and focus on integrating white meats, low-fat dairy, and protein-heavy vegetables.
Before You Start
Health and nutrition experts recommend talking to your doctor before starting a high-protein, low-carb meal plan. People with cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and kidney diseases are strongly advised to talk to their doctors prior to starting such a plan. Knowledgeable health professionals can help you create a meal plan that helps you lose weight without compromising an existing health condition.
High-Protein Diet Menu Plan
A high-protein menu can be varied, tasty, and satisfying. With a balanced menu, you won’t have to completely eliminate your favorite fruits, vegetables, pastas, and breads. For example, Phase 1 of the Ideal Protein diet plan incorporates at least four cups of high-protein vegetables alongside fish, tofu, pork, and other healthy proteins. If you want to go it alone, focus on divvying up smaller portions of your favorite dishes and adapting tried-and-true savory recipes to meet your current dietary needs. Try adding meat and seafood like salmon or generous servings of high-protein vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, or spinach. For breakfast, you could have a banana with two tablespoons of peanut butter, a couple slices of cheese, and a glass of milk. For dinner or lunch, a taco bowl with lettuce, seasoned lean ground turkey, and a handful of tortilla chips makes a nutritious, protein-friendly option.
High-Protein Recipe for Weight Loss
Smoothies are quick, portable, and chockfull of nutrients. Replace a meal by preparing a large glass or enjoy a high-protein liquid snack with one-cup servings. Just dump the ingredients into your blender and mix until everything reaches your preferred consistency. This 300-calorie green smoothie is a nice substitute for lunch and dinner and delivers an impressive amount of nutrients and vegetable-sourced protein. To supplement a workout, add one or two tablespoons of protein powder.
Lightly Sweetened Spinach Smoothie Ingredients
- Two cups of packed spinach leaves
- A large handful of seedless grapes (15-20)
- One pear, chopped
- Two tablespoons of avocado, cubed
- A squeeze of one small lime
- One or two scoops of your favorite protein powder (optional)
High-Protein Vegetarian Diet Plan for Weight Loss
Vegetarians and vegans can also reap the benefits of a high-protein weight-loss diet, even when you’re going low carb. Your animal-free meal plan should feature beans and vegetables in large quantities, along with eggs and cheese if acceptable. Replace typical grains and cereals with lentils and quinoa, which are great in a salad or as a pasta substitute. Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds make great snacks or toppings along with almonds, pistachios, and peanuts. When you’re craving meat, stock up on seitan, which has a meaty texture, lots of protein, and a low calorie count. Soy and almond milk mimic the creaminess and high-protein content of animal milk.