Looking for low carb high protein meals? This is a comprehensive list of meals and recipes. Starting with breakfast ideas and moves through lunch to dinner, the purpose of this guide is to provide helpful tips for anyone looking for high protein meals.
Low Carb High Protein Meals
Diets that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates have grown in popularity as a way to promote weight loss while preserving or gaining muscle mass.
They might also provide other advantages.
Although there are various variations of this eating pattern, many people ponder whether it is suitable for their way of life.
This in-depth guide to the high-protein, low-carb diet explains how it operates, goes through its health advantages, and lists any potential disadvantages.
The high protein, low carb diet is what?
On a high-protein, low-carb diet, you eat fewer carbohydrates each day and more protein.
This eating pattern is mostly based on the allotments of the two diets that it was inspired by, even though there is no specific macronutrient ratio.
For instance, low carb diets often cap the amount of carbohydrates consumed at under 26% of daily calories, or less than 130 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet, while extremely low carb diets lower that to around 10%.
On the other hand, high protein diets frequently provide at least 0.6 grams of protein per pound (1.3 grams per kilogram) of body weight, which is much more than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein.
Some claim to contain more than 1.4 grams of protein per pound (3 grams per kilogram) of body weight, which equates to 204 grams of protein daily for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg).
Low-carb, high-protein diets may contain more fat to make up for the lack of carbohydrates.
For instance, a 2,000 calorie version might include 26% carbohydrates, 40% fat, and 34% protein, which works out to 170 grams of protein per day for a 150 pound (68 kg) person.
However, many people just limit carbs and replace them with high protein foods, unlike certain people who follow this diet, such as bodybuilders and athletes, who pay strict attention to macronutrient ranges.
Additionally, some people adhere to less restrictive versions that, despite being moderate in carbs, contain between 30 and 35 percent of them.
Types of high protein, low carb diets
Some of the most well-known commercial diets that are frequently touted as being rich in protein and low in carbohydrates don’t actually fall into either category.
Notably, the Zone Diet and the Sugar Busters Diet are sometimes regarded as high protein, low carb diets. However, because they typically deliver roughly 40% of calories from carbohydrates, these diets are moderate in carbs.
Furthermore, a lot of well-known low-carb diets, such the Atkins and ketogenic diets, are not thought of as high-protein, low-carb. Instead, they are rich in fat, low in carbs, or extremely high in fat, with little to no protein.
In actuality, this pattern is not known to be followed by any marketed diets.
To stay within your macronutrient ranges if you’re interested in a rigorous high protein, low carb diet, you might need to track your calories, protein, carbs, and fat intake.
Since this can be challenging, the majority of people prefer to loosely adhere to a high protein, low carb diet by substituting protein sources for high carb items.
SUMMARY: There’s no set macronutrient range for a high protein, low carb diet, so most people tend to swap much of their typical carb-heavy foods with protein sources.
Sedentary persons need less protein, whereas highly active people, athletes, and expectant women need far more than the RDA of 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kilogram) of body weight.
As a result, high-protein diets may offer a variety of advantages, as may low-carb eating habits, which are frequently linked to weight loss.
Therefore, combining the two diets may have several benefits.
The most satiating macronutrient, protein aids in reducing appetite and food intake, two factors that help with weight loss.
Protein-rich foods in particular increase levels of the hormones that make you feel full while decreasing levels of the hunger hormones like ghrelin.
According to research, meals with 25–81% of calories from protein make people feel more satisfied. As a result, even moderate protein diets may help people feel less hungry.
The thermic impact of food, or the calories expended during digestion, is also improved by high protein diets. This might be caused by the higher oxygen demand needed to break down diets high in protein.
Additionally, it has been demonstrated that eating patterns high in protein and low in carbohydrates increase the production of glucagon, a hormone made by the pancreas that is known to increase feelings of fullness.
Additionally, these diets increase the formation of ketone bodies, particularly beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). In times of decreased glucose availability, your liver manufactures ketone bodies. According to studies, elevated BHB levels aid in appetite suppression.
It’s interesting to note that a short 4-week trial of obese males found that a reduced-calorie, high-protein diet with only 4% carbs and 30% protein resulted in greater weight loss than a high-protein diet with 35% carbs and 50% protein.
Men in the moderate carb group dropped 10 pounds on average, whereas those in the high protein, low carb group lost an average of 15 pounds (6.75 kg) (4.32 kg).
Numerous other research have shown that low-carb, high-protein diets are more effective at promoting weight loss than their higher-carb, higher-protein counterparts.
Still, the most crucial elements in weight loss are total calorie intake and calorie expenditure.
It’s typical to see a noticeable loss in muscle mass as you lose weight. However, this loss can progressively slow down your metabolism because having more muscle boosts your resting caloric expenditure.
High-protein diets can assist maintain and possibly even enhance muscle mass when a person is losing weight.
It has been demonstrated that increasing protein intake while reducing daily caloric intake by 500–750 calories helps to preserve muscle mass while encouraging fat reduction. However, when calorie restriction is more extreme, as is the case with poorly thought out, very low calorie diets, this benefit is gone.
Furthermore, research indicates that a high-protein diet and exercise can increase fat reduction while increasing lean body mass.
In a 4-week trial, 20 men who engaged in rigorous exercise six days a week were randomly assigned to consume a diet high in protein at 1.1 grams per pound (2.4 grams per kilogram) of body weight, or a control diet. Both diets provided around 50% of their calories from carbohydrates and 40% fewer calories than they need for energy.
The high protein group increased roughly 3 pounds (1.2 kg) of muscle mass while losing more body fat than the control group, whose muscle mass remained constant.
In contrast to lower protein diets, several studies show that high protein diets encourage increasing or stable muscle mass during weight loss for both men and women.
A low-calorie, high-protein diet has also been demonstrated to aid athletes in gaining muscle growth while training.
In a study of 48 athletes, it was discovered that those who consumed at least 1.4 grams of protein per pound (or 3 grams per kilogram) of body weight and engaged in vigorous resistance training significantly increased their muscle mass and decreased their body fat than those who stuck to their regular diets.
Although the high protein group consumed 490 more calories per day than the control group, these results nevertheless held true.
Low-carb diets have also been demonstrated to support fat loss while preserving muscular mass.
Other potential health benefits
High protein, low carb diets may also aid the following:
- Blood sugar regulation. Both high protein and low carb eating patterns have been shown to improve short- and long-term markers of blood sugar control.
- Heart disease risk. This diet may reduce heart disease risk factors like high triglyceride and high blood pressure levels, though some research links high protein diets to increased heart disease risk.
- Bone health. Research indicates that high protein diets may help prevent bone loss and reduce fracture risk in older adults.
SUMMARYHigh protein, low carb diets may promote weight loss, preserve muscle mass, improve blood sugar control, lower your risk of heart disease, and enhance bone health.
High protein, low carb diets may have several drawbacks.
Negative Health Effects
High protein diets may increase your risk of heart disease and heart failure, according to several research.
In a research involving 2,441 males between the ages of 42 and 60, those who consumed the most total protein had a marginally significant 33% increased risk of heart failure compared to those who consumed the least.
However, the men who consumed the most protein also had higher rates of diabetes and obesity, both of which are risk factors for heart failure.
High protein diets, especially those high in animal protein, have also been associated in research to a higher chance of developing certain cancers, such as colon cancer, as well as adverse effects on bone, liver, and kidney health.
High protein diets are generally regarded as safe for people with normal renal function, but kidney disease patients should stay away from this dietary pattern.
Very low carbohydrate diets are also associated with adverse outcomes, including a possible rise in the chance of death from all causes. Nevertheless, more thorough, extensive research on the drawbacks of low-carbohydrate and high-protein diets is required.
Is all that protein necessary?
Many persons with modest levels of physical activity just don’t require the amount of protein found in very high protein, low carb diets, such as those that call for more than 0.9 grams of protein per pound (2 grams per kilogram) of body weight each day.
A daily protein intake of 0.54–0.9 grams per pound (1.2-2 grams per kilogram) of body weight is probably ideal for the majority of physically active adults.
Your body needs different amounts of protein depending on factors like your sex, body weight, age, health, degree of activity, and desired body composition. If you’re unsure how much protein you need, talk to your doctor.
Furthermore, promoting overall health does not need a high protein, low carb diet.
Your wellbeing is considerably more dependent on eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet, controlling your calorie intake, exercising, and consuming fewer processed foods and added sugars.
SUMMARY: High protein, low carb diets are linked to a few downsides, including an increased risk of some cancers. Plus, most people have no need for all the protein that this eating pattern encourages.
Foods to limit
When following a high protein, low carb diet, it’s important to reduce your intake of carb-rich foods. You should limit the following:
- Grains and starches: breads, rice, pasta, baked goods, cereals, etc.
- Sweeteners: sugar, agave, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, etc.
- Sugary drinks: juice, sweetened coffee and tea, soda, sports drinks, sweetened alcoholic beverages, beer, etc.
- Processed, high carb foods: french fries, fried chicken, pizza, chips, etc.
You can include healthy, high carb foods like starchy vegetables and fruits in moderation. Remember that your total carb intake depends on your desired macronutrient ranges.
Depending on your macronutrient goals, you may also need to reduce your intake of high fat foods like fatty meats and oils.
SUMMARYHighly refined carb foods like pasta, bread, sugar, and sweetened beverages should be restricted during a high protein, low carb diet.
Foods to eat
Eating mostly whole, nutrient-rich foods is best on a high protein, low carb diet — as with any healthy diet. You’ll generally want to up your intake of protein.
Foods to eat on this diet include:
- Eggs: whole eggs and egg whites
- Fish and shellfish: cod, flounder, clams, shrimp, etc.
- Meats and poultry: bison, chicken, turkey, etc.
- High protein vegetarian foods: tofu, edamame, and other soy foods
- Dairy: high protein dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, greens, peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, chia seeds, and hemp seeds
- Condiments: fresh herbs, pepper, spices, etc.
- Beverages: water, sparkling water, unsweetened herbal tea, unsweetened coffee, etc.
Fruits, starchy vegetables, and high protein grains like quinoa can be enjoyed in moderation depending on your level of carb restriction.
Fat intake also depends on your individual dietary regimen. Egg yolks, avocado, nut butters, fatty fish, and olive oil are good choices for healthy fat sources.
SUMMARYHigh protein, low carb diets emphasize high protein foods like eggs, fish, tofu, and chicken, as well as low carb foods like non-starchy vegetables.
A sample 3-day meal plan
The following 3-day meal plan contains meals and snacks high in protein and low in carbs.
- Breakfast: an omelet (two whole eggs and one egg white) filled with avocado, diced red pepper, spinach, and mushrooms
- Lunch: a green salad topped with fresh, non-starchy veggies, lentils, and a turkey burger
- Dinner: baked cod served with carrot and zucchini fries plus a salad
- Snacks: mixed nuts, cucumber and broccoli with garlic hummus
- Breakfast: cottage cheese topped with almond butter, crushed almonds, chia seeds, and blackberries
- Lunch: a grilled shrimp and a non-starchy veggie bake
- Dinner: chicken chili topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt plus a green salad
- Snacks: cherry tomato and mozzarella skewers, a protein shake made with berries and cocoa powder
- Breakfast: sun-dried tomato and Parmesan frittata
- Lunch: broth-based vegetable soup served with a bunless black bean and tofu burger atop a mixed green salad
- Dinner: peppers stuffed with minced turkey
- Snacks: peanut butter and celery sticks, chia pudding with berries
Remember, meal choices vary depending on what type of high protein, low carb diet you’re following.
SUMMARY: Meals and snacks on a high protein, low carb diet should focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods.
The bottom line
There is no one definitive definition of the high protein, low carb diet, however it may be ideal for persons like athletes who wish to stimulate weight loss while maintaining or building muscle mass.
Although there may be further advantages to this eating pattern, some research points to drawbacks. In addition, the amount of protein it promotes is probably unnecessary for the majority of people.
Focus on eating full, nutrient-dense meals, limiting your intake of processed foods and added sugar, engaging in a lot of physical activity, and reducing your stress levels if you want to improve your general health.