HEALTHY LIVING | 6 things you need to know before going on a high-protein diet

Photo by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com.

Subsisting on a high-protein diet, which usually includes protein shakes, doesn’t mean you’re avoiding sugary, fatty and high-cholesterol foods. Balance is still key when dieting. Eat well and eat the right foods. Photo by Peter C. Marquez, InterAksyon.com.

Admit it. At some point, if you’re a woman, you’ve probably tried going on a high protein, low carb diet to lose weight; and if you’re a guy, you’ve tried a protein bar or shake as part of your fitness regimen.

High protein diets are the backbone of several, if not most, “quick and easy” weight loss diet plans and muscle building diets. Generally, they claim that by eating more protein and restricting carbohydrate intake, you lose weight quickly and gain more muscle mass. Sounds heavenly doesn’t it? What most of you don’t know is that any claims it makes may only be in the short-term and can be attributed mostly to water loss and exercise.

Although any long term effects of high protein diets have yet to be studied, nutritionists and dieticians from Manila Doctors Hospital are here to educate you on certain things you should be aware of if you’re planning on going on a high protein diet.

1. You could still be on a high-fat diet.
Yes, high protein diets do result in weight loss, but this is mostly temporary and partly due to water loss. Protein rich diets tend to be low in carbs causing your body to use up its energy stores. Protein also takes longer to digest than carbohydrates leaving you less hungry longer.

However, forcing the body to use its energy stores may result in ketosis, which occurs when your liver converts your fat stores to energy and produces excessive amount of ketones making your blood acidic. Plus, the weight loss really doesn’t last long; because such diets can be high in fat, and any excess intake of nutrients the body cannot use gets stored as fat all over again. Weight training can help reduce it but any excess would still get stored.

2. It can harm your bones.
Studies have shown that very high protein intakes can in fact cause osteoporosis. This is mostly due to the fact that the calcium in bones gets leached out because of ketosis and those with already inadequate calcium intakes may be further compromising their bone health.

3. You may get gout.
Uric acid, the chemical responsible for gout, a painful inflammatory joint condition, is a by-product of protein metabolism. When animal proteins are broken down, they result in higher amount of the substance and eating more than the recommended amounts can cause such an increase in uric acid levels in the body. High levels of uric acid may trigger gout in high risk individuals, according to a study done in the American Heart Association (2001).

4. It could increase your risk for heart disease.
Increased consumption of protein is almost synonymous to increased fat in the diet. All animal sources of protein contain some amount of saturated fat and cholesterol, even the lean cuts. By eating more protein at the expense of your carbohydrate allowance, you’re also displacing fiber intake from fruits and vegetables, thus increasing risks for long term development of heart disease and its complications.

5. It can strain your kidneys.
It may not directly cause kidney dysfunction, but a diet high in protein can strain and unnecessarily overburden your kidneys contributing to possible future conditions, not to mention aggravate kidney function in people with existing kidney disease. The kidneys have to work double maybe even triple time just to eliminate the increase in nitrogenous wastes that are part of protein rich diets. It may also put you in a higher risk of developing kidney stones from the increased calcium and oxalate in excretion.

6. It could place you at a higher risk for cancer.
Restricting your carbohydrate intake to make way for a high protein diet can result in less fiber in the diet, not to mention leaving out certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs. Studies have shown that meat eaters, compared to those who ate more fruits and vegetables and other fiber-rich foods, had higher risks for cancer development because they miss out on certain nutrients that work to prevent it from developing in the first place.

It’s true that protein is an essential nutrient needed by our body for a variety of purposes, mainly muscle and tissue repair, and although it may play a part in weight loss and lean muscle mass development, it’s not an easy fix for the disadvantages. Long term weight loss is still better achieved through a balanced diet just as lean body mass is developed by weight training and exercise. Excessive amounts of protein in the diet have little benefit and may predispose you to certain risks or conditions that may otherwise be avoidable. Remember, as with everything in life, moderation is key to a healthy and fit lifestyle.

Want to know more? Manila Doctors Hospital’s resident nutritionists and dieticians at the PROHEALTH Center offer diet counseling services that are tailor-fitted to your lifestyle. They also offer nutrition and disease education on common medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

• PROHEALTH is open from Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at the ground floor of Manila Doctors Hospital, #667 United Nations Ave., Ermita, Manila. For inquiries, (+632) 524-3011 local 4718. For more information, visit http://www.maniladoctors.com.ph or http://www.facebook.com/maniladoctorshospital.