Eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet to lose fat without feeling hungry or suffering food cravings. High-protein, low-carb diets are beneficial for body composition any time you want to lose fat, and they are relevant as the holidays near because they can help you avoid holiday food cravings or eating things that you really don’t want to eat.
Abundant research shows that high-protein, low-carb diets are more effective than energy restricted low-fat diets for fat loss and weight maintenance. For example, a recent review of high-protein diets compared to low-fat diets showed that high-protein eating produced an average 6.3 kg of weight loss compared to 5 kg in all low-fat diet studies. People on high-protein diets lost between 1.2kg and 3.7 kg more weight than those on low-fat diets, across all comparison studies.
Research shows there are three main reasons that high-protein, low-carb is the way to go if you want to live a lean lifestyle. First, protein is more satiating, and when people eat a greater percentage of their diet from protein, they feel more satisfied and eat less calories overall. For instance, one research group found that for every 1 percent increase in protein intake, people naturally decrease calorie intake by between 32 and 51 calories daily. That alone could lead to gradual fat loss over the long term, but protein also increases energy expenditure and how nutrients are used in the body, aiding fat loss.
Second, protein helps manage blood sugar and insulin, whereas there is considerable evidence that high-carb, low-fat diets promote insulin resistance and have been shown to worsen type II diabetes. Research shows that when people eat a higher protein diet, and specifically avoid grains, sugar, and processed foods, they will spontaneously experience fewer food cravings for these carbohydrate foods. The mechanism behind fewer cravings for sweets, bread, pasta, and the like is thought to be the more moderate, even insulin and blood sugar levels.
Third, the resting energy expenditure—the amount of calories the body burns at rest—is greater after you eat protein than carbs. Plus, one study showed that when subjects ate animal protein (meat) they had an increase in energy expenditure of 17 percent more than the people who ate vegetable protein (beans and plant sources). Of note for strength trainees and athletes, energy expenditure has been found to be significantly greater in response to taking whey protein over casein or soy.
For best fat loss results with a high-protein diet, use the following suggestions:
• Shoot for less than 50 grams of carbs from the following whole food sources: vegetables, fruits, and beans.
• Avoid all grains and all processed or packaged foods. Round out the diet with animal protein, eggs, seeds, nuts, and “smart” fats.
• A macronutrient breakdown in the range of 35 percent fat, 35 percent carbohydrates, and 30 percent protein has been suggested by food scientists. These ratios can be adjusted according to how you feel and individual genetic differences—for instance very good fat loss results have been seen from increasing the fat percentage (as long as it’s from good fat sources) and decreasing carb intake by as much 15 percent.
• Focus on getting enough fiber. This is EXTREMELY important because one negative effect of decreasing carb intake is less fiber intake. Shoot for at least 25 grams a day—35 grams is better and has been shown to induce even greater fat loss. Get this fiber from veggies, fruit, and take supplemental fiber if necessary.
Acheson, K. Diets for Body Weight Control and Health: The Potential of Changing the Macronutrient Composition. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012 Published Ahead of Print.