High Protein Diet & Insulin Resistance

The high protein diet is a weight loss program designed to help you lose fat but maintain your muscle mass. For a relatively short period of time the amount of carbohydrates (sugars and starches) and fats consumed are drastically reduced. The amount of protein however is supplemented to meet the body’s daily requirements. Foods like breads, fruits, dairy, nuts and alcohol are restricted while low starch vegetables and leafy greens are increased.  This is for the specific purpose of forcing your body to burn fat as well as correcting hormone imbalances that cause weight gain.

Sugars and starches are avoided for a number of reasons. Sugar is the body’s main source of energy. As long as you feed your body sugar, it is more than happy to leave your fat stores alone making weight loss difficult. Additionally, sugars and starches raise the body’s insulin levels. Over eating these foods triggers a hormone imbalance called insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar. Insulin is required to help get the sugar from your blood into the body’s cells where it is used to make energy. With excess sugar consumption, over time your pancreas becomes dysfunctional as a result of a sugar-rich diet, secreting more insulin than the body needs. This excessive insulin output will cause a number of health problems including weight gain (especially around the belly), high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Eventually cells will start to ignore the excess insulin and become insulin resistant. The pancreas releases more insulin to achieve the same goal of getting sugar into the cells. As the pancreas becomes fatigued, the blood sugar remains permanently high (type II diabetes).

The goal of the high protein diet is to lower insulin levels to such a degree that your pancreas is allowed to heal while your cells become sensitive to insulin again. Your pancreas is reset and the problems caused by excess insulin are reversed.

The plan is designed to achieve this over several stages:

  • In the first stage, a person consumes supplemental protein throughout the day along with low carbohydrate vegetables, small amounts of low glycemic fruit and dairy (or alternatives), and a serving of meat. This phase lasts a minimum of 2 weeks or until the point at which most of the desired weight loss has occurred.
  • The second stage slowly allows for the slow reintroduction of meat into the diet and takes away some supplemental protein.
  • Stage three retrains the pancreas. Every day for the next two weeks, eating a full breakfast each morning will cause insulin to spike early in the day and remain low for the rest of the day.
  • The final stage is a healthy lifestyle plan including all food groups.

The intention is to not to continue with protein supplements when you have reached your intended weight. The final goal is meant to be a reasonable lifestyle food plan to follow for life. The program is not a permanent cure for insulin resistance if you continue to eat high starch/sugar foods in excess after completing the first three stages. The pancreas can become dysfunctional again and the weight can be regained.  If you are having trouble following the lifestyle plan, there may be other factors to take into consideration such as emotional eating, food sensitivities, unsuccessful habits and chronic infections to name a few.

Reference:

  1. Chanh, T.T. The No-hassle Protein Diet Guide: The Unbalanced Diet Approach to a Slimmer You. 2000. Published by Ideal Protein.