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Benefits and Disadvantages of High Protein Diet

Published on Aug 17, 2020

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By Dr. Surya Bhagwati
Chief In-House Doctor
BAMS | 30+ Years of Experience

Protein is one of the three main nutrients or macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fats. It is therefore an essential part of any healthy diet. Protein is vital for muscle growth and repair, which is why it is so popular with athletes and body builders. The nutrient is also needed for the maintenance of the organs, bones, ligaments, and tissues. At the same time, high protein intake is associated with some risks, especially if your protein intake is higher than recommended. This can happen if your diet focuses exclusively on high protein foods or if you consume protein supplements, but don’t count them in your caloric intake. A better understanding of the benefits and risks of high protein diets can help highlight the importance of getting more protein in a safe manner.

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Advantages & Benefits of High Protein Diet

Benefits of High Protein Diet

Better Appetite Regulation

This is one of the main reasons why high protein diets help with weight loss. Protein intake triggers an increase in levels of the hormone that causes a feeling of fullness - peptide YY. At the same time, it reduces levels of the hormone that increases the feeling of hunger – ghrelin. This results in better appetite regulation and a lower risk of food cravings. This is backed by evidence, with studies showing that an increase in protein intake (from 15 to 30% of food calories) could lead to a reduction in daily calorie intake of about 450 calories. 

Muscle and Strength Gains

Amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscles, which is why a more apt slogan than ‘no pain, no gain’ would be ‘no protein, no gain’. It is the single most important reason why bodybuilders and athletes take protein supplements. Studies demonstrate that high protein diets can promote an increase in muscle growth and mass if accompanied with weight lifting or strength training.  Good protein intake can also help prevent muscle loss if you are on a low calorie diet and trying to lose weight. 

Improved Metabolism

Your body uses some amount of energy to digest and absorb nutrients in foods. This is described as the thermic effect of food. Foods that have a higher thermic effect will boost metabolism as they require more energy to be broken down. We know from research that protein has a higher thermic effect at about 20–35% as compared to the 5–15% for fats and carbs. Not surprisingly, study findings also point to a metabolic boost from high protein diets. 

Reduced Hunger and Cravings

The most common complaint of dieters is that they are constantly hungry in their eating regimen. This is not the case with high-protein diets, which control hunger and cravings significantly better than the majority of other diets.

Diets high in carbohydrates are frequently associated with poor blood sugar regulation, characterised by rapid rises and dips in blood glucose levels. These abrupt drops in blood sugar levels, brought on by insulin, resulting in hunger and desires for anything that will elevate blood glucose levels again.

Even if you are not attempting to lose weight, a high-protein diet might help you feel filled for longer because protein is the most satiating macronutrient. Not only can high-protein diets improve blood glucose regulation, but they also suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin in our bodies.

Good for your Bones

The idea that protein, especially animal protein, is bad for your bones is a myth that keeps going around. This is based on the idea that protein makes your body produce more acid, which makes calcium leave your bones to neutralise the acid. But studies show that protein, even protein from animals, is very good for bone health. People who eat more protein tend to keep more bone mass as they get older and are much less likely to break bones or get osteoporosis. This is especially important for postmenopausal women who have a high risk of getting osteoporosis. A good way to stop that from happening is to eat a lot of protein and stay active.

Faster Recovery

Amino acids in protein aren’t just required for muscle growth, but also for recovery and tissue repair. In fact, improved recovery and tissue repair itself promotes muscle gains and increased strength. However, this protein benefit is also important for anyone who has suffered an injury or illness as protein is needed for any tissue repair. There is plenty of evidence supporting the use of high protein foods and supplements in recovery diets for convalescing patients or in individuals who have suffered injury. 

Disadvantages & Side Effects of Excess Protein

Disadvantages of Protein

Increased Weight

High protein diets can aid weight loss, but if you aren’t careful you will easily end up gaining weight. Excess protein from food is stored as body fat, while the excess amino acids are excreted. Over time this is going to add up and lead to increases in weight, rather than weight loss. This risk is higher if you consume protein shakes and supplements but do not include those calories in your daily calorie count. But if you are looking to gain healthy weight, there are weight gain powders out there that can provide weight gain of upto 1.2kg/month.  

Constipation

Most high-protien diets found online suggest restricting fibre and carbohydrates in the diet. This can result in constipation due to the lack of fibre in your diet. To remedy this solution, you should increase your fibre and water intake while taking Cosntipation Relief for quick relief from constipation. 

Imbalanced Nutrition

A high protein diet significantly increases the risk of nutritional imbalances and deficiencies as most protein rich foods are meat based. For this reason, high protein diets can lead to a reduction in fiber and carb intake. While protein intake can be increased safely within 25% of total calories and in proportion to your bodyweight it gets harder to achieve this safely as your protein requirements increase. Inadequate fiber can cause a variety of problems, most notably increased constipation. Additionally, high protein intake increases the risk of bad breath, possibly because of ketosis.  

Poor Cardiac Health

High protein diets can significantly increase the risk of heart disease, especially if most of your protein is coming from red meats and full-fat dairy. These foods are also higher in saturated fats and cholesterol, which could be the cause for this increased risk. This is also evident from studies, which show that high intake of red meat and high-fat dairy can make you more vulnerable to coronary heart disease, while the risk is lower if protein comes from poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and vegetarian sources. 

Kidney Damage

To be fair, the risk of kidney damage is not high for everyone on a high protein diet. However, it can be dangerous for anyone who suffers from kidney disease or has an undiagnosed kidney condition. This is because excess protein and byproducts like nitrogen are excreted via the kidneys. This increases stress on the kidneys, which can prove excessive if you already suffer from kidney damage. This risk is not associated with healthy adults on high protein diets, but its best to err on the side of caution and to keep protein intake within the daily recommended limits. 

Bad Breath

Too much protein in your diet can lead to bad breath. This is especially true if you have a low carb intake. Experts suggest this happens because having a high-protein, low-carb diet can put your body in a metabolic state of ketosis.

Benefits of Plant-Based Protein

Whey protein is often considered the king of protein supplements. However, Plant Protein is a great option for anyone who wants a high-quality protein source that's easy to digest, fast-absorbing, and safe for those who are lactose-intolerant. 

Some of the best plant proteins come with added herbs like Methi, Ashwagandha, Kaunch Beej, and Gokshura. These super herbs work to boost protein digestion and absorption, helping you maximise the gains you get with Plant Protein Powder

Final Word on the Benefits and Disadvantages of High Protein Diet

Like every nutrient, protein plays an important role in human health. How it impacts your health depends on how you use it. If you increase your protein intake carefully, choosing the right foods, ensuring balanced nutrition, and making sure to maintain or reduce your calorie intake, a high protein diet can help significantly. 

FAQs on the Benefits and Disadvantages of High Protein Diet

Q: Can a diet high in protein be harmful?

Healthy people who eat a high-protein diet for a short time won't get sick. But too much protein that hasn't been ordered by a doctor can be bad for the body. Also, a balanced diet is always a good thing.

Q: Does eating a lot of protein have any disadvantages?

Eating a high-protein diet for a long time can cause calcium homeostasis and bone problems, problems with how the kidneys and liver work, an increased risk of cancer, problems with how the liver works, and a worsening of coronary artery disease.

Q: What happens when you start eating more proteins?

If you eat more proteins, your body will store them as fats. This will cause you to gain weight over time. But it can also cause bad breath, trouble going to the bathroom, becoming dehydrated, and making you throw up.

Q: Which organ is affected by too much protein?

If you eat too much protein, it can hurt your liver. When the liver is overworked, it releases ammonia and other poisons into the bloodstream. Also, overeating protein can worsen kidney disease symptoms or cause kidney damage in otherwise healthy people.

Q: What kind of kidney problem can too much protein cause?

When too much protein is in your urine, the glomeruli stop working right, and too much protein gets into the urinary system. Nephritis is when the glomeruli are damaged.

Q: What does "protein poisoning" mean?

Protein poisoning happens when the body overeats protein without getting enough fats and carbs for a long time. It can hurt the way the kidneys filter waste and keep the balance of electrolytes. In general, you should eat a healthy amount of protein.

Q: What are the pros and cons of eating a lot of protein?

Some of the pros of this kind of diet are less hunger, more muscle and strength, and a faster metabolism. Some of the cons are weight gain and an imbalance in nutrition. Make sure you don't eat too much of foods that are high in protein.

Q: Can eating too much protein make you tired?

Yes, too much protein can make you tired because it puts stress on your liver, kidneys, and bones. Also, your body makes serotonin from an amino acid called tryptophan, which makes you feel tired and sleepy.

References:

  • Weigle, David S et al. “A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 82,1 (2005): 41-8. doi:10.1093/ajcn.82.1.41
  • Bosse, John D, and Brian M Dixon. “Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 9,1 42. 8 Sep. 2012, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-42
  • `Halton, Thomas L, and Frank B Hu. “The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 23,5 (2004): 373-85. doi:10.1080/07315724.2004.10719381
  • Frankenfield, David. “Energy expenditure and protein requirements after traumatic injury.” Nutrition in clinical practice : official publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition vol. 21,5 (2006): 430-7. doi:10.1177/0115426506021005430
  • Delimaris, Ioannis. “Adverse Effects Associated with Protein Intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults.” ISRN nutrition vol. 2013 126929. 18 Jul. 2013, doi:10.5402/2013/126929
  • Wang, Zeneng et al. “Impact of chronic dietary red meat, white meat, or non-meat protein on trimethylamine N-oxide metabolism and renal excretion in healthy men and women.” European heart journal vol. 40,7 (2019): 583-594. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehy799
  • Friedman, Allon N et al. “Comparative effects of low-carbohydrate high-protein versus low-fat diets on the kidney.” Clinical journal of the American Society of Nephrology : CJASN vol. 7,7 (2012): 1103-11. doi:10.2215/CJN.11741111

Dr. Surya Bhagwati
BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine, and Surgery)

Dr. Surya Bhagwati is an established, well-known Ayurvedic expert with over 30 years of experience in treating and consulting in the field of Ayurveda. She is known for the timely, efficient, and patient-centred delivery of quality health care. The patients under her care receive a unique holistic treatment comprising not only medicinal treatment but also spiritual empowerment.

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