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Do High Protein Diets Work?

by Jeanne Rhodes

Yes, high protein diets work extremely well - that is, they work well in the very beginning. Then, they “fall apart” as does any other fad diet. Why does the initial rapid weight loss that dieters cherish end with a “crash”?

The basis of high protein diets such as the Atkins diet is severe restriction of carbohydrate calories. This high fat diet causes ketosis (increased blood ketones from fat breakdown) which, in turn, suppresses appetite, which then contributes to caloric restriction.

The initial rapid weight loss is not fat loss but is primarily due to excessive water loss. Here’s how: For every one gram of glycogen the body stores, it must store three grams of water. If carbohydrates are limited, the body breaks down its stored carbohydrate (glycogen) for energy. And what do you suppose gets released and excreted when the glycogen gets broken down? That’s right - stored water - 3 grams for every 1 gram of glycogen - lots of water! This gives the false appearance of a major weight loss on the scales! If it’s fat you want to lose then this is certainly no cause for celebration. Dieters cherish this rapid initial weight loss and assume it represents fat loss. Actually, their fat stores are virtually untouched. And, later on, as the body adjusts for the water deficit, weight loss slows down or ends.

But, many do feel an attachment to Atkin’s and other high protein plans because a great number truly do lose weight. Unfortunately, this and many other fad diets will not serve your long-term health or your long-term success at weight control (and we do assume you want to keep the pounds off forever?)

Do you honestly feel that a low carb diet is something you can live with the rest of your life? If not, then it’s just a temporary fix like all the other fad diets. Think about it - no more chocolate, mashed potatoes, cake, pie, Christmas cookies, french fries, spaghetti, macaroni, or other favorites. FOREVER! Even Atkins admitted that if you increase carbs, the pounds will return with a vengeance! Sadly, many caught in the initial weight loss euphoria of the high protein diets, will ignore the research, hoping yet again to beat the odds!

The only carbs you need to restrict (yes, restrict, not totally avoid) are the refined ones - foods made with white flour and sugar, ranging from sodas to sugary breakfast cereals.

You really don’t need another diet, do you? What you really need is a healthy lifestyle that includes all foods you like because the bottom line is that no food group, whether fats or carbs, is made up of heroes or zeroes.

Lives and health need not be sacrificed if we simply remember what we already learned in the 70’s - high protein diets don’t work long term and will eventually take a heavy toll on health.

Rhodes, B.A., M.A., is a Nutritionist, Wellness Lifestyle Strategist, Author, and Director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown.

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