Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are high protein diets good for fat loss?"
I'm 31 and male. I want to lose fat. Thinking high protein is the way to go. Anything else I should do?
Greater than 50% of the population of the United States is overweight or obese and the health effects of this problem such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are rapidly assuming epidemic proportions. The first option most people try in order to loose weight is dieting. In general, dieting can work if an individual can sustain the change to their diet over the long term. The greatest problem with dieting is that most people either can not tolerate the change to their normal eating patterns and either frequently "cheat" or just give up on the diet all together after a short period of time. The best medical weight loss plan is a small change in diet, such as increasing the proportion of vegetables, decreasing portion size, measuring portions, and avoiding foods with a high caloric density such as fried foods, high fat foods, candy, etc. These are the kind of changes that are effective and are minor enough so that they are easily sustained. The other component to effective weight loss is ALWAYS exercise. If you want to see rapid weight loss, institute a plan that incorporates at least a 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 3-4 times per week. If you already exercise, try to increase the frequency or intensity of your current exercise regimen by at least 50%. I know you asked about high protein diets, so I will give you some general information about them. High protein diets are appealing to people due to the effective short term weightloss most people experience and the fact that high protein foods (like meats) fit well into what most Americans like to eat. The body is designed to derive energy from carbohydrates and when the body does not see these coming in via the diet, it is fooled into thinking that it is starving. In starvation the body transitions into making carbohydrates out of fats and proteins, the process of which burns some energy and is less efficient. Thus diets high in protein and low in carbs result in weight loss. The major drawback to these diets is that they restrict many foods that are common in the American diet and that many people find desirable like sweet things, fruit, and bread. For that reason people very frequently cheat or abandon these diets, then regaining the weight they have lost. Occasionally high protein diets can exacerbate certain diseases such as gout or certain metabolic diseases, so it is advisable to consult with a doctor who knows you well and a dietician or nutritionist before embarking on any given dietary plan. As always, physical assessment and consultation with a licensed primary care physician is advisable prior to instituting any diet and exercise plan. I recommend you follow up with a primary care doctor to further discuss diet, exercise, certain helpful medications, and even surgical options if you are thinking about losing weight.
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