Medically reviewed on December 19, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Improving your well-being can feel overwhelming, particularly when it comes to deciding what and how to eat. But whether you’re determined to get to a healthier body size or are managing a chronic health condition, nutrition is a keystone in lifelong well-being.
Low-carb, high-protein diets are typically recommended to individuals who need to lose weight or manage diabetes or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). They can be highly restrictive, curbing “carb” consumption to <10% of a person’s daily diet, to relatively flexible (eating just under the recommended 45 percent daily amount).
If you’re considering a low-carb, high-protein diet, it’s important to know why and how it works to advance particular wellness goals. Understanding its benefits and potential disadvantages can help you make more informed choices about your nutrition and overall health.
Decades of diet fads have given many people the impression that carbohydrates are harmful to health. In reality, carbohydrates are one of three essential macronutrients derived from food :
Carbohydrates can be divided into four sub-categories, some considered healthier than others :
Eating large quantities of simple carbohydrates regularly can be damaging to your health. Because they break down into sugar quickly, they can cause surges in blood glucose and insulin, the hormone that tells your cells to use or store sugars. Over time, this pattern can result in:
Humans need all three “macros” to maintain a state of health. Even people prescribed a very low-carb diet need a small amount of carbohydrates for balanced nutrition. But to make a low-carb diet effective for the stages of weight loss or diabetes management, you should eat mostly complex carbohydrates.
Despite the popularity of low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets, there is currently no clinical consensus on how to define them.
Experts usually designate a high-protein, low-carb diet in one of two ways:
For those who aren’t dieting, the standard recommended quota for daily carbohydrates is about 45 to 65 percent of their meals.  On a low-carb diet, you may have :
Reducing your carbohydrate intake means you’ll need to compensate for that loss of energy by eating more fat or more protein. The ketogenic diet is one example of a diet that reduces carbs and increases fats (a standard “keto” diet involves eating 70 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 10 percent carbs).
The alternative is a high-protein diet. On a normal diet, most health experts recommend adults get approximately .8 grams of protein for each kilogram of their body weight (slightly more for people who exercise frequently or lead a highly active lifestyle). On a high-protein diet, you may have more.
The greatest advantage of a low-carb, high-protein diet is its efficacy in encouraging weight loss, especially in people who are overweight or obese.
Research indicates that low-carb diets are remarkably effective at maximizing weight loss within the first 6 to 12 months of starting the regimen. Evidence on the connection between high protein intake and weight loss isn’t as conclusive, though one study showed people who increased their protein intake while dieting lost more weight than those who didn’t.
Apart from losing weight, the low-carb, high-protein diet may offer:
If you’ve been looking into low-carbohydrate diets, you’ve likely come across the term ketosis.
Ketosis is a metabolic state that can ensue if you’ve drastically restricted carbs from your diet. When your body ceases to use carbohydrates (sugars) as a source of fuel, it relies on ketones, which your liver supplies when it taps into stored reserves of fat.
Finally, severely reducing your total carbohydrate intake through low-carb meals can make it difficult to obtain the vitamins and minerals contained in complex natural carbohydrates like whole produce. If you’re considering trying any form of the keto diet, be sure to explore the keto diet’s advantages and disadvantages and consult with a healthcare provider beforehand to ensure you’re able to meet all your nutritional needs.
Some people may benefit more from low-carb, high-protein diets than others. Healthcare providers typically recommend this nutritional approach for :
For people with diabetes, low-carb foods are an essential part of their treatment program. By focusing on high protein instead of high fat intake, people with diabetes may also lower their risk of ingesting trans and saturated fats, which can be harmful to their health.
Currently, there’s no conclusive data to suggest low-carb, high-protein diets may be damaging to your well-being. Limited research posits some low-carb diets could heighten some people’s risk of developing cardiovascular illness, but few studies have demonstrated a definitive link.
That said, if you’re working toward losing weight, there are some points to consider before diving into this diet:
No one diet is right for everyone. The ideal approach to nutrition depends on a variety of factors, from your health history to your fitness ambitions.
If you’re deliberating on what diet can help you advance to your next stage of well-being, the online weight management program via Everlywell can help. We’ll set you up with a 1:1 virtual visit with a licensed clinician to guide you and suggest the right tests, nutrition, and lifestyle changes for your goals.
But we don’t stop supporting you after the first visit. In the Weight Care+ program, we’re a part of your team—for the long haul. Gain regular support, curated lifestyle content, and an on-demand app for a 360-degree view of your wellness journey.
Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP is a board-certified Family Physician. Since completing her residency training in 2010, she’s been practicing full-scope family medicine in a rural setting. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s practice includes caring for patients of all ages for preventative care as well as chronic disease management. She also provides prenatal care and delivers babies. Dr. Foglesong Stabile completed a teaching fellowship in 2020 and teaches the family medicine clerkship for one of her local medical schools. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s favorite thing about family medicine is the variety of patients she sees in her clinical practice.