High Protein Diet (Atkin’s, Zone, & Stillman’s Diets): Benefits vs Risks

High Protein Diet: Benefits vs Risks

A high protein diet is one in which eggs, meat, poultry, fish, beans, and legumes are consumed in abundant quantities.

People who want to lose weight often follow a high-protein diet because protein promotes satiety which leads to overall less calorie consumption.

High-protein diets often consist of a significant amount of protein and a little number of carbohydrates.

People following a high protein diet should also avoid highly processed foods, baked goods, sugar, white refined pasta, bread, rice, and other cereals.

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In this article, we will discuss the types of high protein diets and the benefits and adverse effects of these diets.

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What to eat on a high protein diet?

In general, a high-protein diet calls for protein of more than 20% of total daily calories. To keep your calories in check, you’ll need to eat fewer calories from carbohydrates or fats.

On a high protein diet, there are no foods that are officially restricted; however, it is recommended that you eat more from lean protein sources and less from processed carbs, sweets, and fats.

A high-protein diet has no recommended meal timing, though some people practice intermittent fasting with a high protein diet.

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Permitted and restricted foods on a high protein diet:

Here is the list of foods that are allowed and not allowed on a high protein diet:

Permitted Foods

Restricted Foods

  • Lean means
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Soy
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-GI fruits
  • Saturated Fats
  • Fried foods
  • Sweetened condiments
  • Canned foods
  • Ready to eat foods
  • Refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, refined pasta
  • Sugars and Candies

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Famous High Protein Diets:

Although a person can increase their protein intake without having to follow a particular diet pattern, here are some of the most famous diets that were based on consuming abundant amounts of protein.

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Atkin’s diet:

This famous diet was created by Dr. Robert Atkins. Its diet recommends 27 % protein, 5% carbs, and 68 percent fat daily. But the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 40-60% carbs, 10-15% protein, and 10-35% fat daily

This diet includes all sorts of protein from meat, poultry fish, beans, legumes, eggs, and dairy but limits the carbohydrates.

Although this type of diet might cause some weight loss, the extra amount of fat makes it risky and harmful because it might lead to heart disease.

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Zone diet:

The Zone Diet gained popularity in the mid-1990s. According to this when a person’s diet has 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat, dieters are said to be in the “zone.”

This diet allows a wide variety of meals as long as the recommended proportions are followed but restrict refined bread, pasta, and certain high GI fruits.

One advantage of the Zone Diet is that it promotes weight loss by encouraging low-calorie meals.

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Stillman’s diet:

The Stillman Diet has the largest protein content of all high protein diets, with 64% protein, 3% carbs, and 33% fat.

This is based on the idea that protein aids in fat burning and that carbs are stored as fat.

Lean proteins such as lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, and low-fat cheese are encouraged whereas fat, oil, and carbs such as bread, pasta, fruit, vegetables, and dairy products are limited.

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What is the recommended amount of protein?

According to general recommendations, protein should account for 10–35 of your total calories. Physically active individuals may need 1.2–1.7g/kg body weight on a daily basis.

For a 150-pound person, this makes about 82–116 g daily.

For healthy individuals, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is about 0.8 g/kg/day.

For a 150-pound person, this makes 54 g of protein per day.

A high-protein diet must include about 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates as a starting point

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grilled chicken
Grilled chicken

Health benefits of a high protein diet:

Increasing protein can have amazing effects on your health and fitness. Some of the benefits include:

Maintains Satiety and Aid in Weight Loss:

More protein in your diet may help to decrease your hunger and appetite for several hours after you eat.

The hormone Cholecystokinin (CCK) is released when protein reaches the small intestine, it acts on the brain to reduce food intake. That’s why high protein meals promote fullness.

Protein boosts the synthesis of hormones like PYY and GLP-1, which help you feel content and full. Furthermore, it aids in the reduction of ghrelin (the hunger hormone).

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In a controlled trial of 12 healthy women, those who followed a high-protein diet had higher levels of GLP-1, felt fuller, and were less hungry than those who ate a low-protein diet. [Ref]

A higher protein intake often leads to a natural reduction in food consumption due to these effects on hunger and satiety.

Body Composition:

Protein reduces hunger, enhances fullness, increases metabolism, and can help you lose weight.

In one study, a high protein diet was given to one group and a high carb diet to the other, after 6 months the high protein diet group lost more fat than the other group. [Ref]

Evidence also suggests that eating more protein can help prevent muscle loss and maintain a healthy metabolic rate. [Ref]

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Increased lean body mass:

High protein diets build and preserve lean body mass.

One study suggests that a high protein diet help in building muscles and aids in resistance training exercises. [Ref]

Health Risks of a High Protein Diet:

A diet that is rich in proteins is generally safe but some of the health risks include:

  • Some of the high protein diets restrict too many carbohydrates which leads to a nutritional deficit.
  • It also decreases fiber consumption because protein foods do not supply any significant amount of fiber except for plat protein sources, this leads to constipation and other problems.
  • These diets result in increased production of nitrogenous wastes which might put an extra burden on your kidneys and cause disturbance in kidney function.

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Conditions in which high protein diets must be avoided:

Normally, a moderate increase in protein is well-tolerated by all healthy people, but increasing dietary protein might cause difficulty in managing the following conditions:

  • High protein diets might make it difficult to manage blood glucose levels. People with type 1 diabetes might have trouble managing their glucose levels and hypoglycemia might occur.
  • Patients with acute or chronic kidney disease should not consume an increased amount of dietary protein.
  • Patients with kidney stones must avoid excessive animal protein.

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What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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