“The Protein Power diet is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. This diet is based on about 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and lots of lean proteins,” explains Molly Kimball, RD, a sports dietitian at the Ochsner Health System’s Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans.
How Does the Protein Power Diet Work?
The theory behind the Protein Power diet is based on lowering your body’s insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone in your body that regulates carbohydrate metabolism, or breakdown.
High insulin levels are not good. Some effects of high insulin levels include:
- Conversion of dietary fat into body fat
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Increased fluid retention by your kidneys
The theory is that if you keep your carbohydrate intake low and rely on protein and some fats in your diet, your insulin level will be lower. The Protein Power diet authors say that lower insulin and fewer carbohydrates will lead to weight loss.
The Protein Power Diet: Sample Menu
Foods that are encouraged in the Protein Power diet include beef, pork, wild game, and eggs. Restricted foods include cereals, bread, pasta, refined sugars, and large portions of fruit. Here is a sample menu that has about 1,600 calories, of which 25 percent come from protein, 50 percent from fat, and only 25 percent from carbohydrates:
- Breakfast: a poached egg, toast with butter and a one-ounce breakfast sausage, and coffee or tea
- Lunch: three ounces of tuna and one-half of a boiled egg, seasoned with mustard and low-fat mayonnaise, a limited amount of pita bread, lettuce, tomato, bean sprouts, pickles, olives, green onion, and sunflower seeds
- Dinner: four ounces of grilled salmon with one cup of zucchini and one-half tablespoon of butter, a mixed green salad with an oil and vinegar dressing, and four ounces of white wine
- Snacks: typical snacks include two ounces of Gouda cheese and a large orange
The Protein Power Diet: Pros and Cons
“In addition to weight loss and improvement in cardiovascular risk factors, the benefits of high- protein, low-carbohydrate diets include less hunger, which leads to fewer calories,” says dietitian Bonnie J. Brehm, PhD, professor in the college of nursing at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. “This diet also helps preserve lean body mass — dieters retain muscle mass while losing fat.”
On the negative side, says Brehm, “restriction of carbohydrates may lead to inadequate intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals due to decreased intake of grain, fruit, vegetable, and dairy groups. Also, high intake of protein may lead to stress on the kidneys.”
Some other concerns about the Protein Power diet include:
- Insufficient intake of vitamin D and calcium could contribute to osteoporosis.
- Allowing saturated fats in this diet could contribute to heart disease.
- Elimination of carbohydrates such as fruits, sweets, and baked goods could make the diet hard for many people to follow.
The Protein Power Diet: Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
Some good, short-term benefits exist with this diet. It is not too extreme. Eating lean protein, allowing some fat, and eliminating refined sugars are all good strategies. “But for the long term, I’m not sure you would want to give up the benefits of healthy quantities of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables,” says Kimball.
Says Brehm: “For the long-term, a diet moderately increased in protein and modestly restricted in carbohydrate and fat, particularly saturated fat, will have a beneficial outcome.”