Second Nature Care Blog

High Protein Diets - Do They Work and How?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 21, 2015 11:59:00 AM / by Dr. Isadora Guggenheim


Paleo and other high protein diets are being adopted by millions of Americans who want to lose weight, prevent processed carb-related dementia, stabilize blood sugar and boost the immune system.  

Do you know why and how it works?

High protein diets have two benefits.  They make you feel full and it decreases your fat mass. When you eat protein you secrete two "feeling full" hormones - GIP and GLP-1.  When you feel full you stop secreting another hormone called ghrelin.  Ghrelin, produced in the stomach, makes you feel hungry, initiates stomach acid secretion and stimulates intestinal motility to make room for the possibility of incoming food. Ghrelin works along the hypothalamic tract in the brain.  

When we eat protein our metabolic furnace kicks up and we have improved blood glucose. High protein means higher intake of branched-chain amino acids which presents a bigger acid load to the kidneys. If you are sedentary or do low intensity activities then excess protein can convert to glucose or ketones and you might not lose weight.  

Most well-known diets from Atkins to South Beach to Stillman to Zone have high protein and low carbohydrates.  High protein in the diet improves metabolic markers in weight loss.  My patients feel better on a higher protein diet and I stress the importance of good quality protein sources for detoxification. Depending on the individual, I recommend vegan and non-vegan protein formulas from Xymogen. 

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Your protein should range from 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men which equals 0.8g/kg of body weight.  My product Good Gut gives 25 grams of protein in each serving or two scoops so two shakes per day is perfect.  

If you feel hungry while dieting then your diet will probably fail.  You must have sustained satiety to stick to your weight loss plan. Protein gives us the most satiety.  If you have satiety then you will eat less.  

Different types of protein give different effects on feeling full.  Whey protein rated far better than casein (milk protein in dairy products) and soy. If you eat whey, your hunger goes away and you have higher levels of amino acids present in serum (leucine, lysine, tryptophan, isoleucine and threonine).  Lysine has anti-viral properties against herpes, tryptophan gives you that fuzzy Thanksgiving feeling and threonine is used to treat depression.  Tryptophan is a precursor to making serotonin; another hormone that allows you to feel good without eating food.  

It gets better. Another researcher compared several combinations of whey, pea protein hydrolysate, milk proteins and found that pea protein hydrolysate was the winner in suppressing hunger followed by whey protein in second place and casein lagged in the rear.  

If you drink a high quality protein shake from Xymogen (OptiCleanse GHI) you will have more energy, higher levels of serotonin, amino acid metabolites and stable blood sugar.  You feel full, eat less and have a better thermic effect to burn calories and lose weight.  

The higher amount of protein raises the thermic effect of food.  This is called diet-induced thermogenesis or DIT.  Eating food temporarily increases our energy expenditure.  Eating high protein increases your diet-induced energy expenditure or DIT for 24 hours.  It increases your sleeping metabolic rate so even while you sleep you can burn fat.  Increased DIT makes you feel fuller.  

For the biochemically-minded scholars keep reading . . .

It takes more oxygen to process proteins.  When you use more oxygen you have more satiety.  

High protein diets might work through some other mechanisms to make you feel full.  GIP and GLP-1 are incretin hormones that get released when we eat. They signal insulin release from the beta-cells in the pancreas to metabolize your food into glucose. This action inhibits another hormone called glucagon so you feel full and have appetite regulation.  

Dietary proteins stimulate Cholecystokinin or CCK secretion, a hormone in the brain and gut, to start the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, gallbladder contractions, intestinal motor activity and stop the stomach from emptying.  When CCK gets released in the gut you reduce your food intake and your meal size and you feel full.  We really need a side of CCK instead of a side of fries.  

High protein diets increase plasma amino acid concentrations in the blood.  This creates a vagal nerve feedback signal to the nucleus tractus solitarius in the brainstem and hypothalamus to make you feel full. Compared to carbs and fats you can't get this same response.  

The liver makes usable glucose (gluconeogenesis) for energy and to maintain plasma glucose levels.  To do this, two key enzymes, PEPCK and G6P, are needed. Gluconeogenesis is stimulated by a high protein diet.  When you eat a high protein diet you produce ketone bodies which suppress the appetite.  

When you are losing weight you need high protein intake to preserve your lean body mass.  When we eat you secrete insulin to breakdown that incoming food. Insulin prevents fat cells from burning.  A meta analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials found older adults (above 50 +) preserved lean body mass during weight loss by eating a high protein diet. 

We need some carbs for strength and endurance performance, but if you are overweight you want to choose a good protein source over carbs because carbs prevent you from burning fat. Low carb high protein diets prevent fat tissue from developing.  

215 obese subjects were studied for 12 weeks comparing high protein to standard protein diets.  Those in the high protein diet group had lower cholesterol and triglycerides and better weight control.  

Once thought to be a problem with bone breakdown, high protein diets favor intestinal calcium uptake and improve bone mineral density.  If you are prone to forming kidney stones you can easily balance your high protein intake with alkali-forming fruits and vegetables to balance your acid/alkaline balance. I test patients for kidney function when we move to high protein diets. Second Nature patients take 1/4 tsp. of baking soda dissolved into 8 oz. of water and drink this 2-3 times per day as added insurance against acid build-up. 

The jury is in.  Choose your proteins wisely and shift to a high protein, low carb and not in excess, but good quality fats in your diet. 

Here some other high protein choices besides meat.  Second Nature Care has answers to your weight loss questions.  

High protein foods for weight loss.  Second Nature Care for your individualized weight loss programs.

Topics: Healthy Living, Weight Loss and Obesity

Isadora Guggenheim, ND, FNP, RN, MS, CNS, LMT, owner of Second Nature Naturopathic Care, LLC
For all appointments: Tel: 845 358-8385 Fax: 845 358-2963