I was eating breakfast at Frank the other day after a hard morning practice, so I thought to myself, “Hmm … a Ted omelet would be so bomb right now.” That was the day when he ran out of fresh eggs, and thus the only day his omelet wasn’t on point. But while lining up in the usual 10-minute queue, imagining my friends finishing up their food and all that, experimentalist-me thought to myself again, “Maybe I should try a high-protein, low-carb diet to get swole.”
It wasn’t totally illogical. From high school biology classes, I learned that protein intake helps build muscles. Unlike carbs, protein intake cannot be stored so it would leave my system if it is not used, so I wouldn't get fat. Great idea! So I had an omelet with meat and two leaves of spinach, just to maintain that red-to-green balance.
I was back at Frank for lunch because Frank is my favorite dining place, partly for its hominess and coziness. They had Shanghainese Lettuce Wraps. If you happen to be at Frank when they serve this dish, you should totally go try it. Probably the best food Frank has ever served. Besides, the lettuce wrap was just meat wrapped in lettuce, so it totally served my intentions of a high-protein diet. Once again, to maintain that red-to-green balance, I ended up having two dishes of chicken and four pieces of lettuce.
Practice that afternoon sucked. Having not eaten carbs at all that day, the exhaustion was overwhelming, which actually led me to think: is a high-protein diet actually good or bad for you? I’ve heard coaches asking athletes to do a week of all-protein diet, and it was supposed to be good for them. So I went online and did some research.
It turns out that an all-protein diet runs on the extremities. Normally in a human body, carbohydrates are burnt for fuel. However, when carbs are cut drastically, the body compensates the missing fuel through a metabolic state called ketosis: burning its own fat instead. So, essentially, this diet is good for athletes because it burns off the fat in the human body while maintaining the muscles.
This is not a good long-term diet, though. Increased protein intake puts a lot of strain on kidneys that can potentially worsen function. Calcium excretion is also increased, which may increase the likelihood of kidney stones.
Truth is, if you’re an athlete and you’re looking to burn off excess fat to increase your speed in races, a short-term high-protein diet may be beneficial for you. If you are just looking for a shortcut to lose weight rapidly, you should stick to a healthier, long-term diet instead, since this short-term diet carries significant health risks if enforced for a long period of time. If you do decide to try this diet out, remember to eat more vegetables and fruits to ensure you have sufficient nutrients—and to avoid spending hours on a toilet seat.
A high-protein diet is the fastest way to lose weight without starving, but it isn’t the healthiest way. If I had the motivation to do it again, I would not do it for over a week. So to the already motivated people out there, for your health’s sake, please don’t do it for over a week.