There are countless ways to approach a healthy lifestyle and start losing weight – it's not all about eating cottage cheese! However, many of the most popular weight loss methods you see today use a combination of eating more protein and fewer carbohydrates each day. While ultimately the best plan for you can depend on many individual factors, there is something to be said to this style of eating for optimum results.
In this article, we'll explore the benefits of choosing a high protein low carb diet, the potential weight loss results, if this diet is appropriate for you, and how to get started today.
How Do I Make A Meal Plan High Protein and Low Carb?
A low carb high protein diets uses a calorie controlled approach to weight loss that is achieved by changing up your daily macronutrient intake. The macronutrients you eat include protein, carbs, and fat, and they are where all of your food calories come from.
Adjusting the amounts of each macro you consume can not only help you cut calories for weight loss, but can also offer additional benefits that come along with macronutrient based diet approaches. But how much of each macro should you be eating to be considered low carb and high protein?
The terms high protein and low carb are fairly generalized and the right amounts of protein and carbohydrates needed to achieve the right balance can differ depending on the person. Generally speaking, most low carb high protein weight loss diets use a macronutrient ratio of 30% to 40% protein, 30% to 40% carbohydrates, and 30% to 40% fat.
A healthy diet recommended by the USDA suggests that around 50% to 60% of your calories should come from carbohydrates. Based on a 2,000 calorie a day intake, that would equate to roughly 250 to 300 grams of carb each day.
Low carb typically means eating fewer than 150 grams of carbohydrates per day. Very low carb would be below 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
For protein, the USDA suggests an intake of 15% to 20% of your calories, or around 75 to 100 grams of protein per day. For higher protein around 30% to 40% of your calories from protein, that would equal 150 to 200 grams of protein a day. However, an even better way to calculate your daily protein needs is using your body weight.
Your remaining daily calories should come from dietary fat.
It is important to note that the most significant factor in any weight loss plan is making sure you stay within your total calorie needs. Sure, adjusting your carb and protein intake can help you in your fat loss efforts, but make sure you pay close attention to your total calorie intake.
What are the Benefits of a High-Protein And Low-Carb Diet?
- Reduces your appetite
- Improves weight management
- Improves body composition
- Better blood sugar control
Low-carb diets are a way of eating that limits your intake of carbohydrates while increasing your intake of protein and healthy fats. There are many benefits to this way of eating, including:
Additionally, it is thought that because carbohydrates are quickly digested and can cause spikes in blood sugar, this may lead to increased cravings and hunger spikes. Thus, controlling your sugar intake and balancing it with more healthy fats and proteins, can help (4,5).
Improved weight management
Improved hunger levels, decreased cravings, and positive changes in food choices all accompanied with choosing a high protein low carb eating style can support your weight loss and weight management goals (6).
Improved body composition
Increasing your protein intake is also associated with improved body composition, especially if you are incorporating any strength or resistance training into your plan. You may find this diet helps you tone up and lose fat more efficiently.
Better blood sugar control
A low-carb diet might be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance. By reducing your intake of carbohydrates, and eating a more balanced diet you can help to improve your blood sugar control (7).
Is a High Protein Low Carb Diet Right for You?
While a low carb high protein diet can offer many potential health benefits, it's not appropriate for everyone. In general, this diet may be appropriate for you if:
- You're looking to lose weight
- You’re interested in maintaining more lean muscle mass
- You're looking to decrease your appetite and improve your energy levels
- You enjoy eating plenty of meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables
However, there are some people who may not be good candidates for a low-carb diet, including:
- Anyone following a strict vegan meal plan
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- People with a history of eating disorders
- People with liver or kidney disease
- People who are underweight
It's important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new diet or exercise program.
How to Plan a Low Carb High Protein Menu
Here is your step-by-step guide to mastering this dietary approach:
- Step 1: Calculate your daily needs
- Step 2: Build your menu
- Step 3: Track your results
Step 1: Calculate your daily carb and protein goals
The exact amount of carbs and of protein you will want to strive for depend on your age, height, current weight, fitness level, and individual health needs.
The easiest way to determine your individual needs is to use an online macro calculator that will estimate how many grams of protein, fat, and carbs you need each day to stay within your weight loss calorie goal.
You can also calculate your macronutrient needs if you know your daily calorie goals using the following chart:
*Chart uses a percentage breakdown of 35% fat, 35% protein, and 30% carbohydrates.
Step 2: Build your menu
Once you understand your nutrition needs, the next step is finding food options that help you achieve your goals. This means plenty of high-protein foods, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats.
Start by building your meal around your favorite protein sources like meat, fish, eggs, greek yogurt, or any low carb plant-based option you enjoy. If you aim to get at least 30 grams of protein per meal, you will be well on your way to hitting your goal.
Then pair your protein with a heaping portion of non-starchy vegetables that pack a ton of nutrients and very few calories per portion. Great options include leafy greens, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and just about all vegetables except peas, corn, and potatoes.
Snack on low sugar fruits like berries or melon, and pair it with a healthy fat like peanut butter, almonds, or low fat cheese.
Tips for Success:
- Don’t forget about beverages. Drinks also count towards your calorie and macronutrient intake.
- Learn better portion control by using a nutrition tracking app that forces you to measure or weigh everything you consume.
- Be mindful about the amount of added fat you use while prepping your meals, these calories can really add up.
- Look for nutrient rich foods that you enjoy eating. This will help ensure you stick to your plan long term and see better results.
- Learn how to meal prep to give your weekly menu more structure and make hitting your weekly goals a bit easier.
Step 3: Track your results
The key to seeing results is tracking them! Download a nutrition tracking app or grab a journal and start writing down your daily metrics. The best things to track are your daily weight changes, food intake, mood, energy levels, and sleep habits. The more you track, the more data you have to work with.
Tracking your progress will also help hold you accountable, highlight any areas that may need some work, and show you just how consistent you are with your daily habits.
How Quickly Can You Lose Weight on this Diet Plan?
With healthy sustainable weight loss on this diet type, you can expect to lose about 0.5% to 1% of your body weight per week. Although weight loss will fluctuate and some days you may see slight increases - this is normal on any new eating plan. The key is that you are seeing the scale trend down over time.
It's important to note that weight loss results can vary depending on many factors, including your starting weight, gender, age, and activity level.
High protein and low carb diets are both associated with quick weight loss. However, it's important to remember that this type of rapid weight loss is often the result of a reduction in water weight, rather than fat loss. When you reduce your intake of carbohydrates, your body uses up its glycogen stores, which hold onto water. This can lead to a rapid reduction in weight, but it's not necessarily fat loss.
Stay consistent and keep working towards your goals. Over time you will get there!