Friday, November 9, 2012

Protein Leverage Diet

Using Protein Leverage for Weight Loss


The Protein Leverage Diet is based on the observation (by Simpson and Raubenheimer) that U.S. adults eat many more calories than needed, but relatively few of them are protein. If you compare the food supply over the last 40 years, protein has become harder and harder to find in our every day lives. In order to undo this trend, many researchers and doctors believe that increasing the amount of protein in the diet will lead to weight loss, both for individuals and for the entire population. The idea is to reduce calories, while maintaining the amount of protein needed to maintain ideal function of organs and muscles. The equations below are intended for any adult trying to lose weight.

Calculate your daily calorie amount for weight loss:

Desired Weight ___________1bs x 10 = __________________cals/day

Calculate your daily protein need:

Current Weight ___________ lbs x 0.36 = _________________grams/day



In order to achieve the protein and calorie targets, you will need to Journal All Food until amounts become habits. SparkPeople, LoseIt, MyFitnessPal are recommended. Using the numbers above should result in weight loss. But it is just a starting point, as each person’s body is different. If weight loss does not occur after 1-2 weeks of consistent tracking, adjust calories down by 100 calories per day (on a weekly basis) until a rate of one to two pounds weight loss per week is consistently achieved.


There are three essential components to the diet:

  1. Set Calories
  2. Maintain Protein
  3. Track food (to know that the first two are being achieved)

Starting Tips:

            -Choose a desired weight between 100 and 200 pounds
            -Calorie counts should be between 1000 and 2000 calories
            -If you weigh >300 pounds, choose 200 pounds as your desired weight
            -Protein should make up 15-30% of calories of each meal
            -Start with a 100% whey protein shake for breakfast


Reducing calories without trying to maintain protein results in a genuine starvation that the body will fight by causing you to overeat. Supplying the necessary protein allows you to diet successfully without true hunger. This is not a “high protein” diet such as weightlifters use. Because of the lowered calories, this is simply an “adequate protein” diet, although it may be higher than you are used to. This is not a “low carbohydrate” or “Atkins” diet, which are high fat. The diet is designed to balance the three types of calories, not eliminate any, or deem any one food type as the “cause” of weight gain.

You do not need to track carbohydrates, fat, or other nutrients (although the online tools will give you this information). Within the calorie and protein guidelines, it is unlikely you will be eating too much carbohydrate or too much fat. The diet is designed to be mildly lower carbohydrate and lower fat than a typical American diet (the diet which brought you to your current weight). It is consistent with recommendations for patients with heart disease and diabetes.

The daily calories, averaged over a week, are the best measure of whether you are sticking to your goals. The body may make up for times when you under-eat too aggressively, by causing overeating “binges.” Smooth these out over time by eating three regular meals a day, each containing a balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Day to day weight fluctuations are expected, watch the week to week trend. Weight loss in the first month can seem larger due to water losses and an “empty” digestive tract. It is natural for weight loss to seem to slow in the second month, due to this.

Many people have success using exercise to accelerate weight loss. This is helpful, but not essential. We find many patients do well losing weight without focusing on exercise. Do what you enjoy and do not eat extra calories to make up for those “burned.” The most useful exercise for weight loss and diabetes control/prevention appears to be walking. Using a pedometer to track daily steps and increasing steps over time, is likely more important, for weight, than a particular number of minutes spent in a gym. We recommend recording your average daily steps, then increasing by 1000 steps per day.

You will notice that our method works when you are tracking what you eat and falls apart when you do not. When you hit a difficult week of stress, or travel, or just giving up, the way to restart is to start writing everything down again. This is the true mark of those successful with weight loss, the ability to start tracking, so that the eating problem is recognized.

Using the numbers for calories and protein, the best approach is to adapt your current diet until it meets your goals. Each of us has unique tastes and patterns of eating. Changing your current pattern so that it reflects a three meal per day each with some protein, is key. The exact foods that make that happen are up to you. Many successful patients are able to reach 100 grams of protein per day using protein shakes, bars and Greek yogurt. Most people will need to avoid high carb/high fat snacks to meet the calorie goal. But the exact foods chosen are different for everyone. Eliminating every food considered “bad” or “unhealthy” is not necessary, as long as it all adds up at the end of the day.

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