One complaint from many bodybuilders is that when they approach a show and are dieting down to an absolute minimum level of body fat is fatigue and a lack of energy. As a diet for a person serious about building and maintaining muscle is already high protein, when you cut back on carbs and fats there is a concern about having proper fuel for your daily activities.
So it is safe? Can you keep your energy levels up on a high protein diet? Let’s weigh in on the issue!
High Protein Diet Basics
Generally a high protein diet will involve getting anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of calories from protein alone. That is a lot when you consider that most people even on a healthy, balanced diet are only taking in around 25 to 30 percent of their calories from protein. The Atkins style diet is one version of a high protein diet.
The concept is by limiting carbohydrates you will shift the body into a state of metabolism called ketosis where the body switches to burning fats for energy. Obviously this is a big plus for people looking to burn off excess fat because that means not all the fat burning has to take place on a treadmill or doing some sort of cardio.
Normally the body burns carbohydrates when they are available. But after you shift your diet and less are there it is a whole new ballgame. Supposedly you will tend to feel less hungry as well because the body has a good supply of energy available from fat stores.
This is a tricky consideration because a lot of it has to do with how you are currently eating. Many people who jump on a high protein diet are very overweight. More than likely their eating habits are poor and because of excess sugar and processed carbohydrates they have wildly fluctuating glucose levels which results in their energy going up and down all day.
By limiting carbohydrates to smaller amounts you are in essences regulating your glucose levels. After your body adjusts to this regulation you should be fine from an energy standpoint and in some cases even better than before. If you are eating smaller meals 4 to 6 times a day with a snack and including plenty of water then it stands to reason that your body will have a constant source of energy available for activities.
Now on the flip side, a person who is in better shape and does a lot of cardio vascular activities already might see a drop in energy. If you do not have large stores of fat to draw from already and your body is burning a high number of calories then reducing your intake could create a pretty big swing. As your body is trying to switch gears to burn energy in a different manner there will more than likely be quite a few days of lowered energy while the adjustment period sets in.
This condition could be even worse for a bodybuilder who is cutting back on carbohydrates while also increasing cardiovascular activity to burn fat. By doing both at the same time the body is put in a very difficult position and suddenly having no energy would be expected as the body might be concerned and trying to save energy for what it might consider an emergency situation.
Many doctors are against some versions of high protein diets because people do not utilize the concepts carefully enough. The kidneys are forced to work harder from the high level of protein consumption which can lead to issues like kidney failure or kidney stones. Additionally people are trying to consume so much protein that they can increase their cholesterol from too many high-fat options. There is also a concern of losing nutrients and vitamins from carbohydrate sources as well as fiber and antioxidants which can reduce your natural resistance to cancer. Last but not least during ketosis, ketones can be produced which can negatively affect your organs.
The Bottom Line
A high protein diet is not a bad choice, but must be done properly. That means not going overboard on high protein, high fat meats. Carbohydrates should be included in moderate to small portions with your meals and should total at least 100 grams per day. These carbohydrates should be high energy, high nutrient sources such as fresh fruit and vegetables. You should also be eating small, regular meals. Crazy diets that just say eat tons of protein, even high fat but remove carbohydrates altogether are going to lead your body to spot you don’t want to go. If you lose weight at the expense of your overall health then it is not a fair trade.
Really, a high protein diet is only a slight shift from a healthy, well balanced diet when done properly. You exchange some carbs for protein but still do you best to ensure your body has an abundance of great nutrients to work with.