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Protein diet

The protein diet is without a doubt the diet that has been the most talked about in recent years. In fact, there is not one, but several protein diets and the offer is constantly renewed every year. These high-protein diets generally consist of consuming meat, eggs, fish or even protein powders at will and drastically restricting the consumption of other foods. Protein diets are very controversial in the nutrition and health community.

Characteristics of the protein diet:
  • Based on all-you-can-eat meat, eggs and fish at every meal
  • Represents a risk to the renal and cardiovascular systems
  • Dramatic but often short-lived weight loss
  • High risk of side effects, deficiencies and transit disorders
  • The vegetarian protein diet seems to be a more interesting alternative

The main principles of the diet

Protein diets are diverse and varied, they range from the protein diet designed by Pierre Dukan to diets based on protein powder sachets or protein shakers, which are widespread in the sports world. These diets have been around since the 1970s and are regularly updated with new products or books that still follow the same basic recommendations.

How does the natural protein diet work?

In high-protein diets, you can eat lean meat, fish and eggs as much as you want, as well as vegetables. Fruits and oilseeds should be consumed in moderation while grains and legumes should be banned from the diet. The goal is to have a significant and rapid weight loss.

How does the protein diet make you lose weight?

It is by drawing on sugar reserves (glycogen) that weight loss is triggered. Fat mass only decreases slightly during this type of diet, it is the diuretic effect that allows you to eliminate several kilos of water with a high-protein diet.

The high protein intake allows you to feel full and to reduce the feeling of hunger that can exist when following a low-calorie diet.

How long does the natural protein diet to lose weight last?

The duration is very variable depending on the method chosen. On average it lasts between 1 and 6 months. It is strictly inadvisable to go beyond this because of the numerous health risks that these diets represent.

The foods allowed and the foods forbidden in the protein diet

There is not one but several different protein diets. Even though the basic principle remains the same, the foods allowed and the foods prohibited may vary slightly from one method to another. In general terms, here are the foods that are allowed and the foods that are not allowed in most protein diets. For the exact frequency of consumption allowed, please refer to the method in question (e.g. Dukan).

Permitted foods                                                         
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Game
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Oat bran
  • Some green vegetables 
Prohibited foods    
  • Starchy foods
  • Cereals
  • Bread
  • Fats
  • Some sweet vegetables (carrots, beets, etc.)
  • Sweetened fruits (banana, cherry, grape)
  • Sweetened products
  • Industrial and processed products
  • Sodas
  • Alcohol

Protein diet menu (women and men)

Here is a typical menu for a day on a high-protein diet. The portions indicated correspond to the needs of a woman of average build and with normal physical activity (30 minutes per day). For men, athletes, or other special situations, be sure to increase the caloric intake. To do this, you can add one or two snacks between meals.

  • 1 coffee
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 slice of chicken breast                                                             
  • Veal cutlet 150 g
  • Zucchini with turmeric
  • Fruit salad
  • 1 handful of almonds
  • Pumpkin soup
  • Cod en papillote with spinach 150 g
  • Cottage cheese

Advantages and disadvantages

The positive points of the high-protein diet

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Satiety facilitated by the protein intake
  • Requires little cooking

The negative points of the natural protein diet

  • Weight regain and inevitable yo-yo effect
  • Weakens the renal system
  • Increases cardiovascular risk and blood cholesterol
  • Not compatible with an active social life
  • Unpleasant side effects (bad breath, fatigue, etc.)
  • Monotonous and frustrating
  • High risk of deficiencies
  • Too little fiber and carbohydrates
  • High cost because meat and fish must be eaten in large quantities

Recommendations and precautions to take

Are there any risks?

This diet is not recommended for people with kidney failure and can damage the kidneys if too much meat and fish is consumed on a daily basis.

In addition, some high-protein diets indicate that red meats can be eaten as much as you like, but they contain saturated fatty acids, even in lean cuts, which tend to raise blood cholesterol levels. In the long term, this type of high-protein diet represents a risk for the cardiovascular system.

Is this diet right for you?

Whatever your situation, following a high-protein diet over the long term is not recommended. With such a diet, you are almost certain to regain the weight you lost and to weaken your body. Nothing beats a high quality and varied diet to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Do protein diets and sports (weight training) go well together?

Contrary to popular belief, the high-protein diet is not adapted to intensive sports that require carbohydrate intake to rebuild muscle after exercise. Adopting a protein diet does not promote weight gain, and it is considered that an intake of more than 2g of protein per kg per day is of no interest to the body. It is even at this point that it becomes dangerous.

Is there a vegetarian protein diet?

There is a vegetarian variant of the protein diet. This variant is only based on vegetable proteins and has the merit of not encouraging the consumption of red meats rich in saturated fatty acids. Moreover, it is suitable for vegetarians. In this variant, animal proteins are replaced by cereals, oilseeds, tofu, soy or even cereal-based meat substitutes. The vegetarian protein diet also promotes the consumption of vegetables and quality fats. Starchy foods are not banned but their consumption is moderate. It seems that this vegetarian protein diet is a much better option for your health.

How to keep the weight off?

Following such a restrictive diet, weight regain and the yo-yo effect are almost inevitable. To avoid this, nothing beats a varied and balanced diet combined with regular physical activity.

Dietitian's opinion on the protein diet

This diet is, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous for the body since it weakens the renal system and can lead to important cardiovascular complications. With the numerous restrictions it implies, it also tends to isolate the person following the diet and does not help to develop good eating habits. At the same time, the ecological impact of this type of diet is considerable in view of the large quantities of meat consumed. In conclusion, I do not recommend this type of diet in any way, as it goes against all sensible nutritional recommendations.

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