High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have been a go-to in the health and fitness world for years, but many people still don’t know exactly what constitutes a high-protein diet.
To answer all your questions, we’ll discuss the benefits and side effects of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, the best foods for success, and even have some helpful recipe ideas for you.
In this article you will find:
- What high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are
- The benefits of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet
- The side effects of this diet
- A list of high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods
- Recipe ideas
 What are high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets?
There are three macronutrients that make up a diet: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Most diets fall into two camps: low fat / high carbohydrates and high fat / low carbohydrates. Low-carbohydrate diets are high in fats and more protein.
Carbohydrates and fats are the body’s two main energy sources. A low-carbohydrate diet tends to eliminate most refined carbohydrate choices such as bread and pasta.
Starchy foods such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and rice are also often removed from a low-carbohydrate diet.
Most carbohydrates in a low-carb diet usually come from vegetables and a limited amount of fruit.
A low-carbohydrate diet is often associated with a lot of protein. Most high-protein foods often also contain fat, so these two macronutrients seem to combine well.
Protein is responsible for maintaining our muscle mass, our metabolism, and some of our hormones.
There are different forms of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets. A very strict form of this is a ketogenic diet, which allows only 30 g of carbohydrates per day.
There are more flexible options with a carb margin of 50 g to 150 g carbs per day.
High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets normally allow for an intake of 50 to 150 g of carbohydrates per day. This depends on weight and activity level and can be adjusted accordingly.
Those with a high activity level and higher body weight may require a higher carbohydrate intake than this, with the intake based on exercise volume and grams per kilogram of body weight.
 Benefits of a high protein diet:
(1) Increased satiety:
To lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. One of the problems with a calorie deficit is that hunger increases – and that’s where protein can help.
Due to the rate of digestion, high-protein diets are associated with increased satiety levels, as it takes much longer to break down and digest – making us feel full longer.
Protein tends to elicit a higher satiety response than carbohydrates, but carbohydrate sources high in fiber will also increase satiety.
(2) Maintain lean muscle mass:
When you are on a diet there is an increased risk of muscle loss.
That’s because there is less fuel from food, causing an increased breakdown of muscle proteins.
Eating a high-protein diet reduces the risk of muscle breaking down to be used as fuel. By maintaining muscle mass, the body’s metabolism decreases less, which is important for weight loss.
(3) Thermal effect of food:
Protein has a high thermic effect compared to other macronutrients. This means that it takes a lot of energy to break it down and digest it.
Carbohydrates and fats use about 10% of the food’s energy to break it down, while proteins use up to 30% of the food’s calories to break it down.
When a food has a higher thermal effect, it means that there are fewer calories to store as body fat. This can indirectly increase the calorie deficit and promote weight loss.
(4) Less choice:
The more choice we have in our diet, the more we can be tempted. If food is limited, dieting can be made easier. By lowering the carbohydrates, the diet “removes” a food group.
This, in turn, can amplify the calorie deficit responsible for the weight loss. Less choice often leads to less overeating.
(5) Increased Fat Usage:
Reducing carbohydrate intake reduces the amount of glycogen stored in your body.
This is important because there is evidence that performing exercises with less glycogen availability will increase the amount of fat used as fuel during that training session.
While your overall energy balance over a 24-hour period (ie, being in a negative energy balance) will have the greatest effect on fat loss, exercising with low glycogen can help speed up fat loss.
Higher protein intake leads to increased satiety, meaning you feel full for longer.
It also reduces the risk of muscle loss, it takes more energy to be broken down by the body, while a low-carb diet means you are less likely to overeat and keep your blood sugar more stable.
 Side Effects of a High-Protein Low-Carb Diet
For most people, there aren’t too many side effects from a low-carb, high-protein diet.
There are a few exceptions, such as people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have other health problems.
Before making any drastic changes to your diet, you should always talk to your doctor first.
For highly active individuals or those with an exercise goal, carbohydrates play an important role in recovery and performance and should be taken into account when reducing carbohydrate intake.
In this case, planning your carb intake around important training sessions may be a better strategy.
Another possible side effect of a low-carbohydrate diet is the potential effect on digestion.
Carbohydrates, especially whole grains, are a good source of fiber and pre-biotics that are important for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
A lack of this in the diet can lead to bloating and constipation.
For most people, the diet is often well tolerated and the most common side effect is weight loss, which, depending on your current weight and goals, maybe a benefit.
Aside from weight loss, few side effects are associated with a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. We recommend that you seek the advice of a medical professional before following such a diet.
 Main food groups for low carbohydrates diet.
Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (a low-carb diet does not mean a “no-carb diet”.)
Try to choose protein-rich foods, such as:
- Eggs and proteins
- Chicken breast
- Low-fat beef
- Turkey fillet
- Fatty fish
- Whey protein
- Casein protein
- Soy protein
- Cottage cheese
When looking at which protein is best, you need to choose sources that are complete, because they have all the essential amino acids available.
These are usually meat, fish, and dairy sources.
However, adding the branched-chain amino acid leucine to vegetarian sources has been shown to improve the anabolic potential (the ability to build muscle) of a plant protein source with fewer essential amino acids.
An additional factor is the digestion speed of the protein.
Protein sources such as whey digest quickly and are usually more beneficial after a workout, while casein protein sources in milk and cottage cheese digest slower and are usually better just before bed.
Choose healthy fats such as:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Various nut butter (check carbohydrate content)
- Chia seeds
- Fish oil
- Limited amount of dark chocolate
The healthiest fat sources are polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fats, and fats rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats have been linked to a huge range of health benefits, including improved heart health and immunity
Healthy carbs to include in a low-carb diet:
- Oats (depending on the total amount of carbohydrates)
Try to choose carbohydrate sources that are rich in vitamins and minerals and high in fiber.
This will help increase the feeling of satiety and keep you feeling full for longer. Their low-calorie content will also help you eat more of them and maintain a negative energy balance.
Now you may be wondering what a good low-carb meal could look like.
Here are some examples of what a low carbohydrate day could look like for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a daily calorie allowance of 2000 Kcal.
Cream cheese pancakes:
- 100 g cream cheese
- 3 eggs
- sweetener of your choice, if needed
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together. Let it rest for a few minutes. Cook on a saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes, then flip for another minute.
Chicken Salad With Avocado And Vegetables:
- 100 g of boiled chicken fillet
- 1 large bowl of lettuce (arugula, spinach)
- cup of cruciferous vegetables of your choice (i.e. broccoli)
- Lemon juice 1 to 2 tsp
- Onions, ½ raw
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the avocado in half and put the insides into a bowl. Puree the avocado and add the chopped onion and lemon juice. Add the chicken, leaves, and vegetables and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
- Half a teaspoon of ground peppers
- 200 g minced meat 10% lean beef
- chicken stock cubes
Preheat the grill to high heat. Mix the peppers and stock cubes in the ground beef. Flatten the whole and make patties from the mixture.
Grill the patties and asparagus until cooked to your liking.
High-protein, low-carb diets are very effective for weight loss. That’s because they are very satiating, have a high thermal effect, and help maintain lean muscle mass.
This is a great diet to follow if you don’t want to track calories and still want to lose weight.
By eliminating the majority of carbohydrates from the diet, there is less food choice, often leading to a calorie deficit.
There are minimal risks and side effects for most people. For those who like a high-fat diet, this is a perfect diet.
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