There is always controversy, and numerous different opinions about the benefits versus the disadvantages of a ‘high-protein, low-carb’ diet. As you know, certain aspects of this regime are helpful, but if taken to extremes, eating very high protein and limiting carbohydrates can be terribly harmful. Protein contains nitrogen, which the body converts into ammonia and then urea; this is excreted by the kidneys. This highly acidic process can be undertaken safely all the time, as long as the correct amount of protein is being eaten, but if your diet is consistently high in protein then your kidneys can begin to suffer from the effects of the extra work they need to do. This can be felt as anything from a slight backache to – at worse – full kidney failure.
A long-term high-protein diet has other potentially serious negative effects. For example, the body becomes too acidic and to combat this, it extracts calcium (which is very alkaline) from the bones and dumps it into the bloodstream to compensate. Over time, this can lead to osteoporosis, as well as an increased risk of heart disease, because circulating calcium makes the blood very viscous (scratchy) and can damage artery walls. High-protein diets also prohibit the intake of fruits and vegetables (which is not a good thing); although they do also limit high-GI refined carbs (which is a good thing).
For an optimum fat burning body you need to increase the amount of muscle tissue (LBM) in your body in order to maximize the amount of fat you can burn. However, this is not done by eating vast amounts of protein. Your body decides how much protein to use for muscle growth (as opposed to many other things) based purely on how often and how much you use your muscles. If you sat on your bed and consumed vast numbers of protein shakes, you would still get fat.
Your body is smart – it has an intelligence beyond comprehension. It operates solely on feedback, so if your muscles are not sending messages to your brain saying, ‘I need to be stronger’, then no extra protein will be delivered for muscle growth. If, however, you are exercising and challenging your muscles and eating good quality protein, then your muscles, and therefore your metabolic rate, will increase.
In terms of diet, the problem is that many foods that contain protein also contain fat. In fact, there are very few foods that contain protein that don’t also contain fat (specifically oils and butter). Relying solely on meat to get your protein is not a healthy way to eat a balanced diet. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater, you must ensure that you consume vegetables and grains and non-meat sources of good quality protein such as the following:
Fresh, uncooked seeds
Fresh, uncooked nuts
Low-fat dairy products (preferably organic).
Quinoa (a grain/fruit from South America)
Soya (e.g. tofu)