Get the most out of a high-protein diet by using key dietary strategies in order to improve body composition and overall health. High-protein diets can be healthy and effective for long-term weight loss, but there are a few things you have to do to benefit.
First, you need to get enough fiber every day because without adequate fiber, inflammatory markers rise, compromising health and body composition. For example, a study in the journal Circulation showed that C-reactive protein (a primary marker of cardiovascular inflammation) and LDL cholesterol both increase in a high-protein diet that doesn’t contain adequate fiber.
Researchers suggest the best diet for body composition and health will come from diet high in fiber and protein that includes carbohydrates from only low-glycemic sources. But, fiber is so commonly deficient in high-protein diets, that this research group writes that they’d rather see people eat a higher carbohydrate diet because it will automatically be higher in fiber, which has a greater positive impact on cardiovascular and overall health, even if more body fat is present.
The BEST solution is to eat a high-protein diet that is high in fiber from low-glycemic vegetables and fruit. You want to avoid the carbohydrate-rich cereal fibers because they can persistently elevate insulin levels that lead to fat gain and diabetes. You may want to take supplemental fiber because the body will adapt very quickly to certain fibers, meaning that it’s useful to rotate the kind of fiber you take every week or so.
The second thing you must do to make a high-protein diet work is to reach a “threshold dose” of quality protein daily. For example, a study in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that the optimal protein threshold dose to lose the most fat and maintain muscle during weight loss is at least 1.5 g/kg of body weight of protein a day. This dose will stimulate protein synthesis, which will increase energy expenditure, raising the metabolic rate, and further supporting fat loss.
Another strategy to ensure you get the threshold dose of protein is to focus on the quality of protein. One study found that by eating at least 10 grams of essential amino acids (EAAs) three or more times a day, you will maximally stimulate protein synthesis and favor fat burning in the body. For reference, a 25-gram dose of whey protein provides about 10 grams of EAAs.
Take away the understanding that the most important thing you can do to improve a high-protein diet is to get extra fiber every day from a variety of sources. This is critical because it will improve fat loss and support overall health by minimizing dangerous inflammatory markers. Eat low-glycemic carbs, lots of vegetables and antioxidant-rich fruits as well, and shoot for a threshold dose of protein at every meal.
Gogebakan, P., Kohl, A., et al. Effects of Weight Loss and Long-Term Weight Maintenance with Diets Varying in Protein and Glycemic Index on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Circulation. 2011. 124, 2829-2938.
Loenneke, J., Wilson, J., et al. Quality of Protein Intake is Inversely Related with Abdominal Fat. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012. 9(5).
Evans, E., Mohtahedi, M., et al. Effects of Protein Intake and Gender on Body Composition Changes. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012. 9(55).