High protein diets have been shown to be effective for weight loss and weight maintenance, but what exactly is a high protein diet and is it right for you?
With the abundance of fad diets and diet trends out there, it can be hard to know what does and doesn’t work. So, when choosing a weight loss diet for yourself, you need to look for one that is scientifically proven and that you’ll be able to stick to long-term.
This guide will show you how a high protein diet covers both those criteria.
Protein is one of three macronutrients (along with carbohydrates and fat) that gives your body energy. Protein is essential for helping your body grow; it forms the building blocks that support muscle and bone growth, as well as supporting healthy skin, hair and nail growth.
A high protein diet is a style of eating that features high amounts of protein and varying amounts of carbohydrates and fat. Some high protein diets, like the ketogenic and Atkins diets, are very low carb and high fat, while others, like the paleo diet, are low carb and moderate fat.
The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet is a higher protein, low GI eating style, with moderate carbs and fat.
The current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend the following daily amount of protein:
However, for optimal weight loss, these intakes are too low. According to recent CSIRO research the ideal amount of protein to consume each day for weight loss is between 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Individual protein requirements also vary from person to person. People who do a lot of resistance exercise have a higher protein requirement, as do older people whether they are actively losing weight or not.
One of the biggest benefits of consuming protein is that it fills you up without adding too many kilojoules to your diet.
The energy in protein-rich food is released slowly so you stay fuller for longer after eating. Compare this to high GI refined carbohydrates (sugar-rich and starchy foods), which give you a big energy spike right after eating followed by a sudden energy drop.
If your meals keep you full after eating, there is less chance you’ll grab a quick – and usually unhealthy – snack soon after.
A high protein diet also helps you retain muscle mass, which is key during weight loss. When you’re eating for weight loss, you mainly lose body fat, but you also lose some muscle mass. Muscles don’t just help you look good – they’re essential for supporting your joints and bones, so you want to minimise loss as much as possible. Enter protein, which helps reduce the loss of muscle mass during weight loss.
CSIRO has shown for decades how a higher protein diet is beneficial for weight loss. Newer research suggests that protein should be spread more evenly across all meals, and especially at breakfast. For most this means eating more protein at breakfast and lunch and less at dinner.
This philosophy is what we call Protein Balance – a more equal distribution of protein throughout the day. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet offers a range of Protein Balance meal plans that are centred around this weight loss-enhancing research.
Higher protein diets can lead to better appetite control, enhancements in metabolism, reduced cravings, reduced overall energy intake and improved body composition.
Not all protein sources are created equal. There is a difference between good sources of protein and not so good sources of protein. According to the CSIRO Diet Score report Australians consume far too much protein through junk food, which means the overall energy (kilojoule or calorie) intake is too high.
Protein sources like bacon, deli meats and sausages are considered low-quality, thanks to their high levels of processing with unhealthy additives. On the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, these types of processed meats are considered an Indulgence and don’t count towards your Meat & Protein units. This is to encourage you to eat protein from healthy sources.
So, where should you get your protein?
As with most food, the unprocessed option is the healthier option. Healthy sources of protein include:
To boost your protein intake, you can choose higher protein dairy products where possible, like protein-fortified milk and yoghurt.
A high protein diet doesn’t mean you have to eat meat at every meal. There are plenty of high-quality plant-based sources of protein that also provide a range of other nutritional benefits. Healthy plant-based sources of protein include:
Protein shakes or meal replacements are popular – not just for those trying to build muscle, but also for people who want to lose weight.
Meal replacements can be seen as an easy solution but they have real benefit for people who want to lose weight. Especially at the start of a diet plan, meal replacements can help you get off to a good start and give you a boost of early motivation.
Our Fast Start Program replaces 1-2 meals every day with a protein shake for the first 3-6 weeks and our members have experienced great results on the program.
There has been extensive research into the merits of a high protein diet for weight loss over the last two decades. CSIRO has determined this eating style is an effective diet for weight loss and weight maintenance.
CSIRO research has shown that losing weight with a high protein diet can be done healthily, sustainably and maintained long-term. A high protein diet like the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet doesn’t require you to exclude any food groups from your diet, which is essential for being able to stick to a style of eating over time.
Plus, a high protein diet doesn’t require any specialised ingredients, meaning you can eat on a budget, with everything you need easily available in most supermarkets.
The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet’s higher protein, low GI style of eating is designed to help you lose weight (without restricting any types of food), while providing you with all the nutrients your body needs to function optimally every day.