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Short Term Effects of a High Protein Diet

By Karen Frazier ; Updated July 18, 2017

Changing from a standard Western diet to a high-protein diet is a drastic change in your body’s fuel source. Your body may have difficulty processing the changes that come from increasing proteins and fats while decreasing carbohydrates and sugars. This can lead to short-term physiological effects that will most likely decrease as you continue with the diet. High-protein diets are considered alternative diets that differ from what is recommended by the USDA. Check with your doctor before starting on a high-protein diet.

Poor Blood Lipid Profiles

In their book, “Protein Power Lifeplan,” Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades state that many of their patients report a rise in their low density lipoprotein and total cholesterol numbers during the first six months of the diet as their bodies adapt to eating more protein and fat; however, the rise is only temporary. After six months, they report, most of their patients on high-protein diets have significant decreases in triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins and total cholesterol. The most likely cause of the temporary rise is twofold, according to the doctors. The first is a glitch in the way that LDL cholesterol is calculated. LDL is not an actual measurement, but a calculation based on other blood lipid levels. If there is a significant drop in triglycerides with a corresponding rise in high-density lipoproteins and total cholesterol, then it may yield a low-density lipoprotein calculation that doesn’t accurately reflect the true number. Secondly, the type of LDL that occurs in the body with high-protein diets is different than the LDL that occurs in a high-carbohydrate diet. High-carb diet LDL consists of small, hard, sticky spheres of lipoproteins that cling easily to arterial walls while low-carbohydrate diet cholesterol consists of large, fluffy lipoproteins that don’t stick to the arteries.

Frequent Urination and Excessive Thirst

In the initial stages of a high-protein diet, you will very likely experienced increased urinary frequency. According to a “Self Magazine” article, large amounts of protein in the diet have a diuretic effect on the body. Nitrogen is a byproduct of protein metabolism and is toxic to the body. The body responds to the presence of nitrogen by pulling water water from its tissues to flush out the nitrogen, which results in frequent urination and excessive thirst. As your body adapts to the high-protein diet, your thirst and urination levels normalize.

Fast Initial Weight Loss

High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets result in quicker initial weight loss than low-calorie diets, but only during the early stages of the diet, as noted in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." The study measured the rate of weight loss in two separate groups – a low-carbohydrate, high protein diet group and a low-fat, low-calorie diet group. During the first 12 weeks, the high-protein group lost significantly more weight than the low-calorie group. By week 36 the weight loss had evened out between the two groups. This may be due in part to the diuretic effect of high-protein diets.

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