The concept of eating fewer carbs and more protein seems to be a popular one. And like much in the world of nutrition, it’s complicated.
Simply in terms of weight loss, in most cases, I agree: Eating fewer carbs is likely helpful. Carbohydrates themselves aren’t to blame, but the issue is that most people eat too many and/or the wrong kind. Take sugar, for example, a carbohydrate we eat too much of.
Weight loss requires that more calories be burned than are eaten. Does that mean that you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise enough? Not exactly, and especially not if you want to stay lean.
Retaining muscle (aka staying lean) is important, even for those looking to lose weight. Because unfortunately, not all the weight a person loses is fat – some is water, some is muscle.
To minimize muscle loss, you need to eat enough of the right calories and drink plenty of water. Calories come from carbohydrates, protein and fat. If a person eats more lean protein, he or she has to eat less of something else, ideally less sugary carbs and unhealthy fats. Lean protein helps keep us feeling full and gives us energy. Keep in mind that whole grain carbohydrates and healthy fats can aid in fat loss and help maintain a healthy metabolism in the long term.
Below is a plan almost anyone can follow. It tracks a day in which 30 percent of my calories come from protein, 41 percent from carbs (mostly whole grain) and 29 percent from healthy fats. I used Livestrong.com to track my food and found that I ate 1,919 calories and 142 grams of protein. I also did a thirty-minute workout and drank about 96 ounces of water.
To determine how many calories, carbs, protein and fat to eat, consider your gender, size, age and activity level. Following the 30 percent guideline, here are a few caloric examples:
- If you eat 1,400 calories a day, get 105 grams of protein
- 1600 calories: 120 grams of protein
- 1800 calories: 135 grams of protein
- 2000 calories: 150 grams of protein
- Oroweat whole wheat English muffin
- 2 teaspoons JIF natural peanut butter
- 1/2 cup egg beaters, scrambled
- ¾ cup Special K with strawberries and 1/4 cup light soy milk
- 2 oz Dannon Light and Fit yogurt
- Coffee with 2 tablespoons fat-free half and half
A.M. snack, post workout
- Dark chocolate peanut butter Greek yogurt bar
- ½ oz of almonds
- Flatout wrap with one pouch Sweet and Spicy Tuna by Starkist
- Babybel light cheese wheel
- ½ oz pretzel crisps (about 5)
- 16 oz latte with skim milk
- ½ cup 2% cottage cheese
- Quaker Caramel Corn Rice Cake
- 6 oz baked salmon
- ½ cup quinoa and brown rice blend
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons fat-free feta cheese
- ¼ avocado, sliced
- 1 tablespoon low-fat vinaigrette dressing
- Small slice of banana bread, homemade with whole wheat flour
*Note that people with certain diseases, such as kidney dysfunction, should not increase their protein intake. And anyone who increases their protein consumption should also increase their fluid intake. Drink at least 64 to 80 ounces each day.