Boosting protein intake and cutting carbs is a strategy often effective for shedding pounds and burning fat in problem areas. In addition, high-protein, carb-sparing diets can also uplift you when you're feeling down in the dumps, according to a study published in 2007 in the journal “Appetite.” However, eating too few carbs long term comes with some drawbacks.
Although low-carb diets generally have an allotment of 50 to 150 grams of carbs daily, notes MayoClinic.com, cutting carbs could mean lowering your carb intake by just 5 percent. Some high-protein diets advocate consuming 200 to 400 grams of protein daily, according to a 2006 review published in the “International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.” In comparison, the Institute of Medicine recommends women get at least 45 percent of their calories from carbohydrates and a maximum of 35 percent of their calories from protein.
Shedding pounds and fat loss are main benefits of high-protein, low-carb diets. However, improved mood is also a possibility. A study published in 2012 in “Physiology and Behavior” found that body weight and body fat decreased significantly after following high-protein, carb-sparing diets for three months. The study published in 2007 in “Appetite” found that women who consumed high-protein, low-carb diets experienced improvements in self-esteem and reduced feelings of depression.
Although you can reap benefits from slightly cutting carbs and boosting protein, drastically cutting carbs or overindulging in protein has drawbacks. MayoClinic.com reports that skimping on carbs too much can lead to dizziness, headaches, fatigue, weakness, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, nutrient deficiencies and even bad breath. Eating too much protein can cause metabolic byproducts – or toxins – to build up in your blood, nausea, diarrhea and even death, according to the 2006 review published in the “International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.”
You can reap benefits from high-protein, carb-sparing diets -- without the unpleasant side effects associated with drastically altering carbs and protein -- by following a few simple guidelines. Aim to consume at least the recommended dietary allowance for carbs, which is 130 grams daily for women. Avoid eating more than the maximum safe upper limit for protein, which is 2.5 grams per kilogram of your body weight – or 1.14 grams of protein per pound of your body weight – daily, suggests authors of the 2006 review published in the “International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.” For example, women who weigh 140 pounds should not exceed 160 grams of protein daily.
- MayoClinic.com: Low-Carb Diet: Can it Help You Lose Weight?
- Physiology and Behavior: Relatively High-Protein or 'Low-Carb' Energy-Restricted Diets for Body Weight Loss and Body Weight Maintenance?
- Appetite: Psychological Benefits of a High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diet in Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome -- A Pilot Study
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: A Review of Issues of Dietary Protein Intake in Humans
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.