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Benefits of a High Protein Diet Plan

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/31/2008

High protein diet plans are somewhat controversial, in that there are many conflicting reports on the safety and efficacy of such plans. Is following a high protein diet plan sensible, or dangerous?

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    High Protein Diet Plan Basics

    As the name suggests, a high protein diet plan is one in which a greater proportion of calories come from protein, rather than from carbohydrates or fats. In most cases, these types of plans increase the proportion of protein consumed, and reduce the proportion of carbohydrates.

    The average Western diet includes around 15% of calories from protein. A high protein diet plan might include anywhere from 30% to 50% or even more calories from protein, depending on the individual and the purpose of the diet plan.

    High protein diet plans—particularly the Atkins diet—have come under fire because they are perceived as being high in fat, in particular saturated fat, and exclude vegetables and fruits. In fact, the opposite is true. When starting the Atkins diet the dieter is restricted to twenty net carbs per day, but can fill up on protein and fats, as well as vegetables. The Atkins dieter is also encouraged to choose lean protein and heart-healthy fats such as olive oil.

    In fact, the Atkins diet actually excludes grains, rather than vegetables. The diet requires excluding fruits for the first two weeks, but following this period, the Atkins follower can slowly reintroduce fruits and other carbohydrate-based foods into their diet. However, the Atkins diet does recommend limiting the consumption of grains and pure sugars on a more or less permanent basis. Throughout their time on the diet plan, an Atkins follower will get almost all of their carbohydrates from vegetables.

    Depending on the diet plan, various amounts of fat and carbohydrate can be included. The South Beach diet, for example, allows slightly more carbohydrates than does the Atkins diet, but reduces the amount of fats allowed.

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    Who Benefits from following a High Protein Diet Plan?

    So what are the benefits of these low-carbohydrate high-protein diet plans?

    Perhaps the most significant is the speed of weight loss which can be achieved on such a plan. By limiting the amount of carbohydrates consumed, the body is forced to begin burning fat for a consistent source of energy. The body is able to convert protein into glucose, but only at a very slow rate. Fats, however, can be converted into a more readily-usable source of fuel.

    A second benefit is that a low-carbohydrate diet—particularly one which excludes grains and sugars—is known to help stabilize blood sugar in diabetics. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics, as well as people with metabolic syndrome, can benefit from a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet plan in this way.

    High protein diets are also beneficial for atheletes and body-builders, where protein is often consumed in an easily digestible form (such as whey powder) to aid in the repair and recovery of muscles.