High protein, low carb diets are becoming more and more popular as a way to lose weight. While these diets may be an effective way to build muscle mass and lose weight, they can also lead to serious health consequences.
Pro: Increased Muscle Mass
One of the most important benefits of a high protein, low carbohydrate diet is a possible increase in muscle mass. Muscles are made almost entirely from amino acids, which in turn are found in protein. Studies have shown that those who start and stick to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet¬†have significantly greater amounts of muscle mass than those who do not eat substantially higher amounts of protein. Participating in a regular strength training program may provide additional gains for those interested in increasing muscle mass.
Pro: Weight Loss
Typically, the reason that most people choose to participate in a high protein, low carbohydrate diet is to lose weight. This occurs for a number of reasons. First, as described, high protein diets translate into an increase in muscle mass. Similarly, an increase in muscle mass has been found to lead to an increase in metabolic rate. Therefore, diets that promote high protein consumption likewise promote an increase in metabolic rate. High protein, low carbohydrate diets can also promote weight loss due to changes in calorie consumption.
Typically, foods such as bread, pasta and baked goods, which are high in carbohydrates, are also surprisingly high in calories. In contrast, beef, chicken, fish and legumes, which are high in protein, contain significantly fewer calories. Therefore, eating foods rich in protein and avoiding those with high amounts of carbohydrates can produce a significant calorie deficit. Differences in the ways protein and carbohydrates are digested and metabolized can also lead to significant weight loss.
Con: Decreased Mental Capabilities and Energy
Unfortunately, one of the most serious consequences of a high protein, low calorie diet is a significant decrease in mental function. In order to work properly, the brain requires carbohydrates. Since a low carbohydrate diet prevents the brain from receiving the carbohydrates that it needs, it cannot function as it once did. When the brain does not receive the energy that it needs from carbohydrates, it enters a state called ketogenesis. Initially, this produces minor changes in mental capabilities and reasoning. However, as the condition becomes more severe, brain functioning diminishes, and some unconscious processes of the body, including respiration, digestion and other similar functions struggle to continue.
Since carbohydrates are one of the body’s main sources of energy, if you deprive your body of carbs, your energy levels will suffer. This type of diet can leave you feeling lethargic and sluggish, which will also interfere with your exercise schedule and ability to engage in physical activity. As a result, your health and happiness will be compromised.