Ideal Protein Diet: Our Supreme Guide

Table full of protein source food

High-protein and low-carb diets are getting a lot of attention as premier diets for weight loss. There are many good reasons for this. High-protein diets, along with exercise, are highly effective in helping most people lose weight and build muscle. Not only do diets high in protein keep you full all day long, but they provide your body with the building blocks it needs to sculpt a strong, lean physique. We have researched four of the most popular high-protein diets to rate their overall effectiveness for weight loss so you will have all the information you need to pick the ideal protein diet to try in your quest for better health.

​​What Are the Most Popular Protein Diets?

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​While you can count calories for yourself and calculate your own macros, it is easier for many people, especially those new to dieting and fitness, to follow a structured diet plan to help them stay on track. We have looked into the top 4 high-protein, low-carb diets to see which ones are the most effective for helping you lose weight and build muscle.

​Ideal Protein Diet

​​The Ideal Protein diet is a specialized diet that is ketogenic in nature but restricts both carbohydrates and fat. Approved, specially selected Ideal Protein Diet meals can only be purchased through authorized centers or clinics, which makes this diet less convenient than some others we reviewed. However, if you are struggling with weight loss, this may be an excellent option because you don’t need to worry about completing meal preps and you can take advantage of 24/7 medical support. The Ideal Protein diet is perfect for dieters that need significant changes in their diets and lifestyles for medical reasons.

Pros

  • ​Great for dieters who have a substantial weight to lose for medical reasons
  • ​Authorized clinics and centers provide customized meal plans and ongoing support

Cons

  • ​May not fit the average dieter’s lifestyle

Ketogenic Diet

​​The Ketogenic diet is currently having a huge “moment” in the fitness community right now. This program has created an almost cult-like following from dieters who have achieved outstanding results.Following this low-carb diet faithfully will send your body into ketosis, which means it will burn stored fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel. Ketosis has many apparent advantages for the body, including increased energy, and it can also lower levels of ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry. For this reason, it is a popular diet for people looking to lose weight fast and boost their energy on a day-to-day basis.This diet requires that you follow a high-protein, high-fat, and very low-carbohydrate eating plan. Because there are no predesignated phases in the Ketogenic diet, it is considered a lifestyle change rather than a quick fad diet. In order to see the best results, dieters should maintain high protein and fat intakes and a low carbohydrate intake throughout the entire course of the diet. Healthy fats and protein dominate, and carbs will make up only 5 to 10% of your diet.

Pros

  • ​Quick weight loss early on is a great motivator
  • ​Ketosis can improve energy levels and focus throughout the day
  • ​Ketosis will improve your body’s ability to burn stored fat for energy

Cons

  • ​Fruits, starchy vegetables and legumes are very limited
  • ​Carb restriction can lead to fatigue and brain fog sensations for some dieters at first
  • ​You may not get enough fiber on the plan, which can cause digestive problems
  • ​Tightest restriction on carb intake of all the diet plans we researched, at only 25 to 30 grams per day

Atkins Diet

​The Dukan Diet is similar to the Atkins Diet, in that it consists of four phases, with the first two phases centered on weight loss and the last two designed for weight maintenance. It is a very high-protein diet, and the entire first phase of the diet involves only eating lean protein for the first week. You are also allowed 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran per day to ensure you are getting adequate fiber for proper digestion. The second phase adds non-starchy vegetables to your diet, and you alternate between strictly lean-protein days and veggies-plus-protein days until you have reached your goal weight.The last two phases will help you to transition from a strict list of allowed foods to a more sustainable eating plan. You will still have one full day per week on which you eat only lean proteins, but on other days you can have all the fruit, whole-grains, and select other items you want. You are allowed two “cheat meals” per week, but you are only allowed two servings of grains per week in total along with the permitted oat bran. The final phase of the Dukan Diet is intended to last 5 days per pound lost so, for example, if you lost 10 pounds you would follow this eating plan for 50 days.In our view, this diet is essentially a strict, more detailed, and rule-oriented version of the Atkins diet. Rather than counting carbs, you are given very strict parameters to eat within and, as long as you follow these rules to a tee, you should see excellent weight loss results. A structured diet plan can be great for people who wish to follow a plan on “autopilot” without having to worry about counting carbs or calories.

Pros

  • ​Great for relatively quick weight loss early in the program
  • ​High protein and healthy fat intake help keep you satiated all day
  • ​The Atkins diet community can provide you with support through your weight loss efforts

Cons

  • ​Some people may have difficulty sticking with an extremely low-carb diet for long periods of time
  • ​Relying too heavily on Atkins-brand products and meal replacements can be costly and less than ideal in other respects
  • ​Constant carb counting can be challenging and wearisome

Dukan Diet

​The Dukan Diet is similar to the Atkins Diet, in that it consists of four phases, with the first two phases centered on weight loss and the last two designed for weight maintenance. It is a very high-protein diet, and the entire first phase of the diet involves only eating lean protein for the first week. You are also allowed 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran per day to ensure you are getting adequate fiber for proper digestion. The second phase adds non-starchy vegetables to your diet, and you alternate between strictly lean-protein days and veggies-plus-protein days until you have reached your goal weight.The last two phases will help you to transition from a strict list of allowed foods to a more sustainable eating plan. You will still have one full day per week on which you eat only lean proteins, but on other days you can have all the fruit, whole-grains, and select other items you want. You are allowed two “cheat meals” per week, but you are only allowed two servings of grains per week in total along with the permitted oat bran. The final phase of the Dukan Diet is intended to last 5 days per pound lost so, for example, if you lost 10 pounds you would follow this eating plan for 50 days.In our view, this diet is essentially a strict, more detailed, and rule-oriented version of the Atkins diet. Rather than counting carbs, you are given very strict parameters to eat within and, as long as you follow these rules to a tee, you should see excellent weight loss results. A structured diet plan can be great for people who wish to follow a plan on “autopilot” without having to worry about counting carbs or calories.

Pros

  • ​A rigorously structured diet plan is great for people who like routine and a strict regimen

Cons

  • ​Too many rules for some people to stick with over the long term
  • ​Lack of nutritional variety on protein-only days means watching nutrient levels is essential while on the plan

Is There a Need to Exercise Along with a Protein Diet?

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​Exercise is an important element of any healthy lifestyle and highly recommended when you are trying to lose weight. While you can also lose weight quickly by drastically cutting your carb intake, as is required in all the diets we have reviewed, exercise is always a key component in attaining a lean, sculpted physique and maintaining your overall health.If you are not able to exercise vigorously, a brisk, daily walk will at least keep your body moving and keep your fat-burning momentum up. You can also try lower-impact exercise routines like yoga to get your body used to exercise if you are new to fitness.However, if you want to (and are physically able to) maximize your dietary efforts by incorporating consistent exercise into your life, you can start with or work up to high-intensity interval training. Such training offers cardio and strength training workouts combined, and this path is the most efficient one for burning fat and building muscle.

How to Choose the Best Protein Diet for You and Your Fitness Goals

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You should always use your current weight and fitness capabilities as a starting point in deciding what the ideal protein diet looks like for you and your lifestyle. If you have a lot of weight to lose, the strict structure of the Dukan or Atkins diet may really help you stick to your goals. These plans provide tons of support for first-time dieters, and this sense of community can be incredibly helpful for your overall success. The structured regimen can also be exactly what you need to start living a healthier lifestyle.On the other hand, if you are someone who likes to work out and is working towards a lean, sculpted physique, the Ketogenic diet may be an optimal choice. It will allow you enough flexibility to stick with over the long term, and putting your body in ketosis is known for its extreme fat burning effects. This approach is used by many athletes to “lean out.”Each individual will have different goals and a unique starting weight, so to make sure you pick the best diet plan for you, be sure to consider the following things:

  • How much weight do you want to lose?
  • Do you want to build muscle mass?
  • What does your daily routine look like?
  • How much time do you have to devote to meal prepping?a

What Foods Are High In Protein?

You need to make sure that you are eating plenty of foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates to lose weight effectively on a high-protein diet. It doesn’t matter so much whether you get your protein from meat and dairy products or plant-based products provided you hit your daily macros. Consuming plenty of high-protein foods will keep your body in the most optimum fat-burning mode and help you stay on track with your overall fitness goals.

Meat and Dairy Products

Animal products are great on an ideal protein diet that requires you to watch your carb intake. They are higher in fat and are great staple items on low-carb diets that require a higher fat intake. Here are some recommended items and approximate serving sizes:

  • Greek yogurt: 15 grams (15g) of protein per cup
  • Chicken: 30g of protein per 1/2 cup
  • Beef: 22g of protein per 1/2 cup
  • Fish, such as salmon or tuna: 20 to 25g of protein per 1/2-cup serving
  • Whole eggs: 6g of protein per egg
  • Cheese, such as cheddar: 7g of protein per slice

Plant-Based Protein

If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or just prefer to eat less meat, there are numerous plant-based protein options you can incorporate into your ideal protein diet. Below is a short list of common plant-based staples with their protein content per serving:

  • Tofu: 10g of protein per 1/2 cup
  • Lentils: 9g of protein per 1/2 cup
  • Chia seeds: 2g of protein per tablespoon
  • Protein-infused nut milk: 10g of protein per cup

​What About Formulated Protein Shakes?

​Protein shakes are an excellent, but certainly not mandatory, addition to your ideal protein diet. The majority of protein shakes will give you anywhere from 20 to 30 grams of protein per serving with little to no carbs or added sugars. They make it incredibly easy and convenient to hit your daily macros and keep you full all day long when used as a meal replacement, and they will help you build and maintain muscle when consumed before or after workouts.Depending on your dietary preferences, you can choose a whey protein-based formula or a vegan, plant-based formula. Both options will provide you with much-needed, branched-chain amino acids to help you retain and build muscle and keep you feeling full and satiated all day long.

​​Conclusion

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​Protein is absolutely essential to muscle growth and development, and a diet high in protein can help you lose weight faster than a lower protein diet. Exactly how much protein to include in the ideal protein diet for you will depend on your overall fitness goals and how much weight you are planning to lose. Generally speaking, though, a diet low in carbohydrates and processed foods but very high in protein can help you lose weight and build muscle effectively regardless of which specific, established diet plan you choose to follow.

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