How to Lose Weight with a Healthy High Protein Low Carb Diet

chicken and salad plate
There are all kinds of fad diets to help you lose weight. A recently published study shows that a higher protein and lower carb diet can help you lose weight and keep it off, but you have to also eat healthy at the same time. 

European Weight Loss Study

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in November 2010 that shows how a high protein low carb diet is the way to keep the lost weight off [1].

The DiOGenes study conducted at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark study was to find out how to keep from regaining weight after a diet. Completing the study were 548 overweight adults from eight European countries who had first lost at least 8% of their body weight or an average of 24 pounds (11 kg). They initially lost this weight eating a low calorie diet of 800 calories per day, which is actually below the recommended amount of calories male or females should eat per day.

The patients were then randomly put on one of five different diets for a 26-week period to find out which diet would work best to prevent regaining the weight. The five diets were:

  • Low-protein and low-glycemic index (GI) diet 
  •  Low-protein and high-glycemic index diet
  •  High-protein low glycemic index diet
  •  High protein high glycemic index diet
  •  A control diet consisting of the current dietary recommendations, moderate amounts of protein and no limit on carbs.

Of these five diets, those in the low-protein high-glycemic index (GI) diet regained the most weight, regaining an average of 4 pounds. Those on the high protein and low carb diets showed the least amount of weight gained back.

Weight Gain and the Children’s Study

The Faculty of Life Sciences also conducted a study with 827 children ages 5 – 18 years old. These children did not participate in the losing weight part of the study; they only followed the diet that their parents were put on.

The study found that of the 465 children who completed the study, those who maintained a lower protein and high glycemic index diet increased body fat significantly more than the other diets.

The group of children who ate the high protein low glycemic index (GI) foods lost body fat. The number of overweight children in the high protein lower GI foods group dropped by 15%. They didn’t count calories; they just followed this healthy diet.

The children’s study conclusion was that a low-protein high-glycemic index combination can increase body fat and a diet more in line with high protein and low glycemic index foods was protective against obesity and body fat in children [2].

Glycemic Index Foods

The glycemic index or GI ranks carbs according to their effect on the blood sugar or blood glucose levels. Foods that are low GI cause less fluctuation in blood glucose and insulin levels. A food with a GI rating of 55 or less is considered low and a GI of 70 + is considered high GI. The glycemic index of glucose is 100.

Use the glycemic index as a guide since it can sometimes be misleading. For example milk chocolate has a lower GI reading than brown rice does, but it is healthier to eat a bowl of brown rice than it is to eat a bowl of chocolate.

Low Carb Diet Does Not Mean No Carb

When people hear the diet phrase low carb diet, they might think that means a no carb diet or an all meat diet. Eating a diet with no carbs or even few carbs is not healthy. You have to remember there are healthy good carbs and there are bad carbs, our bodies and brains need the good carbs to function properly.

The healthy way to lose weight and keep it off is simply eating a well rounded diet, just not to much of it. You do not need any type of special diet to lose weight or keep it off.

A Healthy High Protein and Low Carb Diet

The main concern with this way of eating is that meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, has no fiber and too much protein is bad for the kidneys and can deplete the body of calcium. And a higher protein diet does not mean eating more hamburgers with the buns from the fast food place either. Buns are the bad carbs, the white or refined flour that put weight and fat on you.

Like all plant foods, whole grains, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains have their own unique nutrients, healthy fiber and phytochemicals and should be included in a well rounded diet. Just don’t overdue it with the grains. And if you notice yourself gaining weight or feeling a little more bloated, just back away from these carbs for a while.

You should replace some meat with plant proteins like beans, lentils, legumes and quinoa. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, the article How Vegetarians Get Enough Protein could be of interest to you.

You could also add in healthy yogurt like Greek yogurt which is high in protein. Eat as simple and healthy a diet as possible. Simple and healthy means the least amount of processed foods. Eating lean meats doesn’t mean eating processed meats; stick with grass-fed beef, buffalo and range fed chicken and non-farmed fish. Grass-fed beef has more vitamins, nutrients and healthy omega-3 fats than the feedlot type beef.

My Personal Experience

Even with a vegetarian diet, I started to gain weight and feel bloated. I was eating too many good carbs like brown rice, potatoes, quinoa and whole wheat breads. I continued eating healthy except I replaced the above mentioned carbs with big salads and vegetables like broccoli and lost over 10 pounds in two months.

Replacing some carbs with vegetables can help lose excess weight and get rid of that bloated feeling. After you feel like you have lost the bothersome excess weight, you can add back the other foods again to your diet.

Copyright © 2010 Sam Montana


[1] NEJM - Diets with High or Low Protein Content and Glycemic Index for Weight-Loss Maintenance. N Engl J Med 2010; 363:2102-2113November 25, 2010DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1007137

[2] Pediatrics - Pediatrics Vol. 126 No. 5 November 1, 2010 pp. e1143 -e1152 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-3633)

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