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Home/Blog/High-Protein Diet Benefits, Principles & Sample Meal Plan

High-Protein Diet Benefits, Principles & Sample Meal Plan

By Joe Boland

June 30, 2024

High protein diet

In recent years, the high-protein diet has gained immense popularity among fitness enthusiasts, athletes and those looking to shed a few pounds. This diet emphasizes the consumption of protein-rich foods, which play a crucial role in helping build muscle, maintain satiety and support overall health.

So what exactly does a high-protein diet entail, and is it right for you? Keep reading to learn how to make informed choices about incorporating protein into your diet.

As always, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen.

What Is a High-Protein Diet?

A high-protein diet focuses on increasing the intake of protein while moderating the consumption of carbohydrates and fats. Typically, this means consuming 30% of your daily calories from protein sources, which can include meat, fish, dairy, legumes and plant-based proteins.

This dietary approach is designed to support muscles, promote a healthy metabolism and encourage feelings of fullness, making it easier to control overall calorie intake.

How much protein do you need to consume in order to follow a high-protein diet?

The exact amount varies depending on individual needs and goals, but it typically falls within the range of 15 percent to 30 percent of total calories. This translates to a daily intake that can range from 100 grams for moderately active people to 200 grams or more for athletes and individuals focused on muscle building.

Is a High-Protein Diet Always Low Carb?

Contrary to popular belief, a high-protein diet is not necessarily low in carbohydrates.

While some variations, such as the ketogenic diet, combine high protein with low carb intake, others allow for a balanced or even higher carbohydrate intake. The key is to adjust the macronutrient ratios based on individual goals, whether it's healthy weight maintenance, muscle gain or maintaining overall health.

You also want to choose the right types of carbs – complex carbs like whole grains, vegetables and fruits – to ensure sustained energy and a balanced diet.

Benefits

1. Supports muscle growth

Protein is essential for helping repair and build normal muscle tissues. Athletes and bodybuilders often follow high-protein diets to support their training and recovery processes.

2. Can help increase satiety

High-protein meals are more filling, which can reduce overall calorie consumption and help with healthy weight management.

Feeling satisfied after meals can help prevent overeating and unhealthy snacking.

3. May help aid a healthy metabolism

Protein has a higher thermic effect compared to fats and carbohydrates, meaning the body burns more calories digesting protein-rich foods.

4. Bone health support

Protein supports bone density, particularly important as we age. Some recent studies on the elderly in the U.S. show that the greatest bone density occurs in people with higher protein intake per day.

5. Healthy weight management

Protein promotes satiety, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and potentially reducing cravings, which can aid in helping to manage a healthy weight.

6. Aids healthy brain function

High-protein foods contain amino acids that are involved in brain health, and proteins are also needed to make enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters that are vital for healthy cognition.

Thus, following a high-protein diet could have positive effects on one’s outlook, cognitive function and learning, according to some scientific studies.

7. Helps promote longevity

Protein helps synthesize glutathione, a peptide amino acid often dubbed the master antioxidant. As you normally age, your body doesn’t synthesize glutathione on its own as well, but following a high-protein diet can help.

In addition, protein has been shown to help promote heart health, in addition to muscle, brain and bone health, all of which helps support healthy longevity and healthy, normal biological aging.

Possible Drawbacks

1. Potential kidney impacts

For some individuals, a high protein intake can put additional strain on the kidneys. For them, consulting a doctor before embarking on a high-protein diet is crucial.

2. Nutrient shortfalls

Focusing too much on protein can lead to a lack of intake of other essential nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins and minerals often found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

3. Digestive impacts

High-protein diets can sometimes impact digestion, due to limiting other foods, such as lack of fiber intake.

4. Cost

High-quality protein sources can be more expensive than carbohydrate-rich foods, potentially increasing grocery bills.

5. Bad breath

Consuming a lot of animal protein can sometimes contribute to bad breath.

In addition, some high-protein diet regimens don’t differentiate between healthy and unhealthy protein foods, which can lead to overconsumption of unhealthy processed foods.

A high-protein diet can also be high in fat, and if you eat the wrong types of protein foods, you could possibly consume more bad fats. Focus on high-quality proteins that provide more healthy fats than unhealthy ones.

Principles

1. Choose high-quality protein sources

Opt for lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes and plant-based proteins

2. Balance macronutrients

Adjust your intake of carbs and fats according to your specific goals and dietary needs.

3. Stay hydrated

Adequate water intake is crucial to support kidney function and overall health. Drinking plenty of water is essential when consuming more protein, as it helps the body process and eliminate waste products.

4. Incorporate variety

Ensure your diet includes a wide range of foods to cover all essential nutrients. Include a range of protein sources from lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts and seeds.

5. Monitor portion sizes

Even protein can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excessive amounts.

6. Don't neglect fruits and veggies

Ensure a balanced intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains for essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.

7. Don't neglect carbs and fats

Choose healthy complex carbs and good fats like those found in avocados, olive oil and nuts for overall health.

8. Consult a healthcare provider

If you have any underlying health conditions, speak to your healthcare provider before starting a high-protein diet.

Sample Meal Plan

Breakfasts

  • Greek yogurt with berries and a handful of almonds.

  • Yogurt with berries and chia seeds, scrambled eggs with spinach and whole-wheat toast.

  • Avocado toast with turkey bacon and a protein shake.

Lunches

  • Grilled chicken breast with quinoa and steamed vegetables.

  • Chicken salad with brown rice, avocado and a light vinaigrette.

  • Lentil soup with a whole-grain roll.

Snacks

  • Cottage cheese with sliced cucumber and cherry tomatoes.

  • Cottage cheese with chopped fruit, protein shake made with almond milk and fruit, a handful of almonds.

  • Protein smoothie with spinach, banana and protein powder.

  • Celery sticks with almond butter.

Dinners

  • Baked salmon with sweet potato and a side salad.

  • Grass-fed beef with roasted vegetables and brown rice.

  • Grilled chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts and brown rice, tofu stir-fry with whole-wheat noodles.

High-Protein Supplements to Support Your Health Goals

Protein shakes can be a convenient way to boost your protein intake, especially after workouts. While eating high-protein foods is the best way to follow a high-protein diet, the following supplements can also help support your health goals:

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