High Protein Diet – Pros & Cons

Almost everywhere you go, you’ll see high-protein options. From your favorite TikToks to the supermarket down the road, everyone’s raving about high-protein diets. But are they beneficial, and should you try one? Is there anything you should watch out for when on a high-protein diet? If you’ve been puzzled by these questions, let’s dive in. 

Anastasia Kolesnikova
MRes, Biochemist, Scientific Officer

What Is a High Protein Diet?

Let’s start with the basics. What is a high-protein diet? A high-protein diet is one with higher protein consumption than suggested dietary intake. 

Typical dietary guidelines suggest that our daily food intake should have fats, carbs, and protein. In the US, the suggested split is:

  • 10-35% of your calories should come from protein
  • 20-35% of calories should come from fats 
  • 45-65% of calories should come from carbs 

How much protein a day should you eat?

Everyone has a minimal protein requirement, and it’s about 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of your weight. This is what your body needs to have enough protein to survive. On a high-protein diet, you’ll be increasing this amount.

The exact amount of protein in a high-protein diet plan can depend on what you’re trying to get from a high-protein diet. Typically, ranges between 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight are acceptable. 

Starting a High-Protein Diet

How can you go about starting a high-protein diet? 

The first step is to adjust your nutritional split. This means that because you’ll be eating more protein, you’ll need to lower your carbohydrate and fat intake. Start by estimating how many calories you consume in a day. That may mean tracking food for a week or using something like this calculator

Then, estimate how many calories will come from your protein intake. Multiply the grams of protein you plan to eat a day by 4. For example, if you’re a 70 kg person trying to get 1.6 grams of protein, your total would be:

70 x 1.6 =112 grams of protein

112 x 4 = 448 calories from protein

In general, you want to get around 25% of your calories from fat. The rest would be calories from carbohydrates. 

Let’s say the same 70 kg person requires 2,000 calories a day. Around 450 will come from protein, 500 (25%) from fats, and 1,050 from carbohydrates. 

These will be the new dietary guidelines for you to stick to. 

As with any diet, it’s essential to remember that it’s a lifestyle change rather than a temporary tool to reach your body composition goals. Therefore, it’s worth researching and preparing yourself to stick to it. 

You may first want to consider how you’ll help yourself stick to it long-term. This may come in the form of an accountability buddy. Some people may find tracking their food helpful intake to see how much protein they’re getting. This can help you make changes if you cannot meet your nutrient goals. 

The second thing to consider is your food preferences. Starting a diet with more protein than usual can be a challenge. It’s good to understand your current dietary habits. What foods do you like, and what are you happy to go without? Would you be open to incorporating protein powders and supplements into your routine? Do you have limitations? Maybe you’re vegan or allergic to some foods, which can impact your shopping list. All these are key in transitioning to a different diet – after all if you don’t like what you’re eating, you won’t stick to it. 

The third thing is to consider how the new diet may affect your daily life. Will you need to prep high-protein snacks and meals to take to work? Will you need to change your approach to ordering food in restaurants when out with friends? Many of us may find that social situations can lead to deviating from your nutritional plans, so having a way to deal with them constructively can be beneficial. 

You may want to consult our handy guide on sticking to nutritional plans to help you understand how to make this diet a lifestyle change. 

Sample Meal Plan

So, what’s on the menu for a high-protein diet? 

Breakfast: Start with a high-protein breakfast like oatmeal with a cup of plain low-fat Greek yoghurt. Add some berries or nuts for more nutrients. Alternatively, try our protein breakfast pot with some fruit and wholemeal toast. It uses chia seeds to boost fiber.

Lunch: For those who eat fish, try a tuna salad sandwich with some fruit. A curried tofu wrap can be an excellent idea for vegetarians and vegans. Make sure to include plenty of veggies for fibre and micronutrients. 

Snack: As an afternoon pick-me-up, consider a protein smoothie. Alternatively, some low-fat cheese with crackers and fruit and veggie sticks can be a great option. 

Dinner: Cook some chicken breast with a grain like quinoa and your favourite veggies. For vegans and vegetarians, why not try a veggie protein chilli with plenty of beans and sweet potato? 

Pros of a High Protein Diet

So, why would anyone want to follow a high-protein diet? It turns out that there are actually plenty of benefits of a high-protein diet. 

It can help keep you full. Protein is vital for keeping us fuller for longer. It directly affects our hunger hormone levels, helping us understand that we’re full. In addition, pairing protein and carbohydrates can help with slower digestion of the protein. 

It can support weight loss. Many people trying to lose weight turn to high-protein diets. Partially, it’s because of its fullness-promoting effect, as when you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll typically eat less. This can make you feel hungrier during the day. A high-protein diet to lose weight can help mitigate the newfound hunger. In addition, protein takes more energy to digest than other macronutrients. This plays a role in helping people with losing weight on a high-protein diet. 

It can support muscle mass. Increasing protein intake is a great way to increase muscle mass. Highly active people may require more protein to sustain their muscle mass. In addition, as we age, increasing protein intake can support muscle maintenance. This can lessen the risks of injury from falls. 

It can support bone mass. Protein is a crucial part of bone; we need it for strong bones. Combining a high-protein diet with bone-beneficial micronutrients can support bone mass. 

Cons of a High-Protein Diet

A “protein” diet can also have some risks associated with it. These are primarily associated with the popular high-protein, high-fat diets, such as the Keto diet. Luckily, most of these are easy to mitigate with a bit of planning and not restricting carbohydrates. 

Watch your fiber. When trying to include more protein, people tend to forget about fiber-rich foods. This can be hard on your digestion, leading to constipation. Therefore, ensure you’re getting plenty of fiber-rich foods alongside your protein sources. 

Don’t overdo the fats. This is especially the case for those wanting to follow a high-protein, high-fat diet. Some protein-rich foods, such as certain cuts of meat, may also be high in saturated fats. Instead of making them a regular part of your meals, choose lower-fat cuts and low-fat dairy options. Limit your intake of processed meats or foods.

Check your kidney function. High-protein diets work fine for people with healthy kidneys. However, in people with impaired kidney function, high-protein diets can do more harm than good. In addition, certain health conditions may not suit a high-protein diet. Therefore, before making changes to your routine, it’s a good idea to consult with a medical professional. 

Therefore, the key cons of a high protein diet is taking a high protein diet too far. Try to create a balanced high protein diet that includes plenty of carbohydrate, vegetables, fiber and micronutrients. 

Top High Protein Foods

What foods should you eat if you’re trying to increase your protein intake? Let’s break down the most common high-protein foods. 

Animal meat is one of the best sources of protein. Choose lean cuts to lessen your intake of saturated fat. Limit your intake of beef to around two times a week to support a healthy cardiovascular system. Choose unprocessed meat, as marinades and hams can have a lot of added salt, fat and sugars. 

Fish and seafood are another great high-protein option. The benefit of including seafood in your diet is that these foods are high in beneficial nutrients. One of the key ones is omega-3 fatty acids.

Top performers in the meat category include:

  • Chicken and turkey breast, providing 30-32 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving 
  • Beef and pork roast, providing 27-28 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving
  • Baked salmon providing 25 grams of protein per 100 grams 

Animal products are also great options for high-protein foods. Eggs and low-fat dairy can offer plenty of protein. 

Plant sources of protein are also great options. Pulses, legumes and legume products, like tofu and seitan, can offer a versatile protein source for vegans and meat eaters alike. In addition, they’re typically high in nutrients and fiber. 

For more ideas on high-protein foods, check out our post. 

Tips for Following a High-Protein Diet

If you’ve decided that a high-protein diet is right for you, here are some tips to help you make the most of it: 

  • Strive for balance – make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs 
  • Choose high-quality protein – aim for lean sources of protein and vary between plant and animal proteins if you eat both 
  • Make small changes at the start – too much change can be overwhelming, so take your time 
  • Experiment with new recipes and foods to avoid boredom 

A high-protein diet can be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. Make healthy protein choices to help you improve your body composition and support your muscles. Remember to continue exercising, sleep well, and find time to unwind. A healthy life means striving for balance in your day-to-day life, not only on your plate. 

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