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Can Eating Too Much Protein Decrease Weight Loss?

By Mike West

If you recently began a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, weight-loss diet, you may want to know if eating too much protein can decrease weight loss. These diets may speed up weight loss for some people, but the calorie restrictions remain the same for anyone dieting to lose weight. Protein provides your body with four calories per gram, while carbs and fat provide four and nine calories per gram, respectively. Eating too much protein, which includes fatty meats, on a weight-loss diet can cause you to consume too many calories and possibly gain weight.

The Basics

High-protein diets that provide your body with additional dietary fat and deprive you of carbohydrates may cause you to lose weight quickly as your body starts using fat as its primary source of fuel. Over the long term, however, the results you see with this diet may be equal to the results you'd see with any other reduced-calorie diet, according to a two-year study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. Participants in the study lost the same amount of weight regardless of the number of grams of carbs, protein and fat they consumed.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Reference Intakes recommends that adults make up 10 percent to 35 percent of their diet with protein. To determine your percentage of dietary protein, add up the grams of protein you eat in a day and multiply by four. Then divide the result by the total number of calories you consume in a day. For example, 175 grams of protein equals 700 calories, which is 35 percent of a 2,000 calorie diet. Consuming somewhat more protein would not be unhealthy, but isn't necessary and can increase body fat.

Weight Loss

A caloric deficit of 500 calories a day, or 3,500 a week, will result in a loss of one pound per week. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recommends eliminating the top portion of the food pyramid rather than reducing the entire pyramid. Cutting out calorie-dense foods such as desserts and starches will leave you with more room in your diet plan for the protein you need for muscle-tissue repair and immune function. If you already have cut out desserts from your diet, try substituting spaghetti squash for high-calorie pasta and eating more vegetables at dinner instead of bread.


Although meat is an excellent source of protein, it also contains saturated fat, which can lead to heart disease and possibly a stroke. Eating lean meat or a variety of plant-based proteins can provide you with the necessary amino acids without the additional saturated fat. Your body needs these amino acids to produce hormones and enzymes among other functions, but you can't get them without protein in your diet. Substituting saturated fat with unsaturated fat from nuts, seeds and fish reduces your risk of many chronic diseases.

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