Are High-Protein Diets Actually Healthy?
You see them gripping on their respective exercise machines…all gritty with determination to lose those extra pounds and build muscles. Instead of taking weight-loss pills they have decided to improve their physique by getting that expensive gym membership where they can workout their way to optimum health. Aside from lifting weights, these “gym rats” also religiously follow a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet prepared by their personal trainers and sports nutritionists. Each fitness gym promotes various fitness fads and routines from yoga, pilates, core fitness ball method, tae-bo, pole and belly dancing, and a host of other exercises. Still, the gym members are carefully taught that these exercises can only fully benefit them if they also follow a well-prepared diet. Workouts, they are told, will not work if the “weight watcher” refuses to limit food intake.
It is along those lines that diet formulas have gained popularity in the fitness world. One such diet formula is the Atkin’s Diet, undeniably among the most well-known diets that had already gained a strong following. Developed by Dr. Robert Atkins, the diet was first promoted in the 1960s as a solution to the emerging weight problems among many Americans. Considered a high-protein diet, the Atkins’ formula spawned other methods or plans to control food intake. The diet craze gave birth to the “Stillman” diet in the 1970’s, and the “Scarsdale” diet in the 1980’s — both of which promised leaner bodies and smaller waistlines.
Atkins, Stillman, and Scarsdale made similar claims about the benefits of high-protein diets. They said that eliminating or taking minimal amounts of carbohydrates will lead to controlled weight and increased muscle size.
According to physiologists and diet specialists, muscles literally break down when one works out or exerts physical action. Protein, as a muscle-building substance, is needed to build and re-build the muscles that are in constant daily use. People, especially athletes, who regularly expend large amounts of energy and utilize different muscle groups need regular supply of protein to build or retain muscle mass. Without enough protein in the body, the goal to increase muscle mass cannot be achieved. Additional protein is also needed to develop hard and ripped muscles. Weightlifters, all of whom aim to gain muscle mass, are the foremost followers of these high-protein diets. They are often found gulping protein shakes and consuming lean meat and tuna.
High protein diets are popular because they initially cause one’s weight to drop. Protein promotes the metabolism of body fat without reducing one’s calorie intake. But doctors also warn that this drop is a reflection of fluid loss and not fat. Recent researches indicate these restrictions on carbohydrate intake coupled with fluid loss may cause an unusual metabolic state called ketosis. In ketosis, the body burns fat for fuel. During ketosis, a person may even feel less hungry and eat less. Still, ketosis has ben associated with health problems such as kidney failure, colon and prostate cancer, and osteoporosis. Ketosis may also cause less serious health problems such as weakness of breath, headaches. diarrhea, sleep difficulties, bone loss, and fatigue. Additionally, some studies claim that high-protein diets may lead to increased lactic acid in the body. Muscle pains according to studies may be experienced due to the increased lactic acid levels in the body.
However, it is important to point out the importance of protein as part of a healthy diet. Amino acids found in protein are actually the body’s building blocks. These type of acids are responsible for the repair of muscles, red blood cells, and several kinds of tissues. Protein’s primary function is to provide amino acids to maintain an anabolic state. Some health experts believe that the consumption of 20 to 30 percent of calories containing protein per day us the ideal amount. The general rule is for inactive people to consume 0.4 grams grams of protein per one pound of body weight. Active people or those who engage in regular exercise need 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Athletes, on the other hand, need as much as 0.90 grams.
A lot of popular low-carb diet books give people the impression that carbohydrates are bad for health. Many researchers claim that high-carbohydrate foods trigger the body to stock excess fat. In reality, carbohydrates must be consumed as fuel for the body. Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for the human brain, heart, and several organs. Nutritionists believe that carbohydrates should compose 50 to 70 percent of one’s calorie intake. Complex carbohydrates, natural sugars and a fair amount of protein are all necessary to have a health diet. It is also important to avoid the use of over processed sugars. Most complex carbs are low in calories and low in fat and are usually found in beans, whole-wheat pasta, and vegetables.
Understanding proper nutritional intake can make a difference in people’s health and in the overall quality of their lives. Indeed, good food is the key to a good life!