7 common mistakes you might be making on a high-protein diet

ShutterstockBacon and eggs make for a protein-packed breakfast.
  • Eliminating carbohydrates is not the best way to succeed on a high-protein diet.
  • Stay hydrated; it helps keep your digestive system healthy.
  • Eating protein with too much saturated fat can have consequences.

Bodybuilders and fitness fanatics fill their plates with it. Fans of keto and Atkins swear by the power of it. Dietitians urge people to include lean sources of it throughout their day.

Protein is an essential macronutrient that functions as a building block for your blood, muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, and more. While getting too little protein in your diet can be detrimental to your health, there are also consequences to eating too much of it.

Here are seven mistakes you might make on a high-protein diet, according to experts.


The protein you’re eating has too much saturated fat.

Bacon, bacon, and more bacon. As much as we love it, it’s not something we should be eating all the time – and that goes for other protein sources with high levels of saturated fat as well.

“People think that high protein means a liberal amount of any protein you can eat and consequently end up eating foods like bacon and steak,” Shana Spence, a registered dietitian nutritionist, told INSIDER. It’s fine to eat saturated fats once in a while, Spence said, but you should limit your intake because they can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rather than filling your plate with protein that has a lot of saturated fat, she said, focus on lean proteins such as chicken, eggs, Greek yogurt, and legumes. “These foods will fill you up without jeopardizing your health,” she said.


You’re not spreading your protein intake out over the day.

Dana Ryan, who has a doctorate in physical activity, nutrition, and wellness and develops nutrition programs for athletes with Herbalife Nutrition, told INSIDER that it’s important to space out your protein intake throughout the day, regardless of the plan you’re following.

“This concept, referred to as protein pacing, ensures that you’re constantly supplying your body with high-quality amino acids (since your body doesn’t store them), which helps repair the damage to your muscles throughout the day,” she said.


You’re cutting back too much on carbs.

Photo by Kelda BaljonQuinoa and legumes are great sources of protein. They’re higher in carbs than meat.

While protein is essential to build and maintain muscle mass, Ryan said carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel, providing phytonutrients, antioxidants, fibre, and satisfying hunger. “By cutting out this major nutrient group, one then ends up limiting their body’s energy to function properly,” she said. “Especially for those doing higher levels of exercise, having adequate carbs is essential.”

She recommended being more selective about the types of carbs you consume. “The common misconception that carbs are linked with weight gain really only pertains to things like processed food and sugary beverages,” she said. As long as you’re getting your carbs from healthy sources, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy, Ryan said, they will help your body function at an optimal level.

Read more: Jillian Michaels warns people to avoid the keto diet: ‘Why would anyone think this is a good idea?’


You’re eating too many calories.

Brent Hofacker/ShutterstockStop eating when you feel full.

Allison Childress, a registered dietitian nutritionist and an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University, told INSIDER that one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to follow a high-protein diet is eating too many calories. “People assume that as long as they are not eating carbs or are only eating protein, that they cannot gain weight,” she said.

“High-protein diets work because they provide satiety – fullness – which can lead to eating less and consuming fewer calories throughout the day,” she said. It can take a while to get used to eating fewer calories, but if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit.


You’re focusing too much on protein and not enough on other nutrients.

Ztranger/Getty ImagesYou need grains, fruits, and vegetables too.

Nutrition is a delicate balance of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, and protein can’t do it all. “When we overfocus on one overall or at any given time, we are often shortchanging our body of the nutrition it needs to thrive for health and performance,” Alexa McDonald Moriarty, a registered dietitian nutritionist, told INSIDER.

She said that even if it’s not your intention, you may be filling up on too much of one nutrient before getting an adequate portion of another.


You’re not staying hydrated.

sonsam/ iStockStaying hydrated can curb your appetite and relieve constipation.

Dr. Konstantinos Spaniolas, an associate director of the Stony Brook Medicine Bariatric and Metabolic Weight Loss Center, told INSIDER that one of the biggest mistakes people make while following a high-protein diet is not hydrating. “A high daily water intake can help both with curbing one’s appetite but also with avoiding the common high-protein issue of constipation,” he said. To keep your hydration at healthy levels, Spaniolas said to aim for at least 64 ounces of water a day.


You’re skipping out on snacks.

Caroline Praderio/INSIDERYogurt is an easy snack that’s high in protein.

“A high-protein diet that is not well structured during the day may not allow for the satiety benefits of a high protein intake,” Spaniolas said. He recommended eating a snack between breakfast and lunch and one between lunch and dinner. “These snacks need to be low in carbohydrate and high in protein as well,” he added. Boiled eggs, cheese, nuts, and yogurt are good options.

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