Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

Test Drive Diet No. 3: The High Protein Total Diet Replacement Diet

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
High protein dieting may increase metabolism says study.

Will adopting a high protein total diet replacement diet with a higher proportion of protein offer a metabolic advantage compared to a diet consisting of the same number of calories, but with less protein? Here’s the latest on what science has to say about High Protein Total Diet Replacement Diet dieting.


Why “Test Drive Dieting”

With the holiday season here, now might seem like the worst time to start a diet. However, rather than approach dieting and a healthier lifestyle with a rigid “just-do-it” approach on the first day of the New Year, now is the perfect time to get a taste of a variety of diets as a test run to understand how it works (or doesn’t) for you before you commit to a New Year weight loss resolution or goal.

This month, we will focus on a wide range of dieting plans, techniques, and recommendations for weight loss that you can research and test drive at home to help you decide on which dieting plan is the right choice for you.

Today, we will take a look at the High Protein Total Diet Replacement Diet.

High Protein Total Diet Replacement Diet Dieting

Past studies have supported the notion of dieters eating more protein than normal as a potential way to lose weight quickly and without loss of lean muscle mass. The reason for this is that adopting a very low calorie diet can lead to loss of not just fat, but also the loss of lean muscle mass that you will want to hold on to…as well as your hair!

The goal of these diets using a high protein approach is to ensure that your body’s metabolism not only stays active, but increases as well so that the body can continue to lose unwanted pounds.

There are a number of diets (such as the Almased diet plan) that subscribe to a variety of styles of a high protein replacement diet that typically introduces the additional protein through special shakes. These shakes either totally replace two of your 3 meals daily, or are used to supplement fasting with a low carb diet plan. The popularity of the shakes lies in their taste and convenience. However, reviews show mixed results with most shakes’ efficacies toward actual or sustainable weight loss. More often than not, these shake-based diets lead to rebound weight gain.

In spite of hit and miss results from shake diets, earlier studies have shown that high protein dieting may actually have merit.

Early Study Looking At High Protein Total Diet Replacement

In at least one study published in the scientific publication Nutrition Journal, researchers designed a study to determine the effects of a high protein-enriched meal replacement with respect to weight loss and lean body mass retention in comparison to an equivalent calorie, carbohydrate-enriched standard protein meal replacement diet plan.

In a single blind, placebo-controlled study consisting of two groups for comparison, randomly selected participants from 100 obese men and women were placed on either a standard protein meal replacement diet or on an extra protein supplement diet. The participants’ body weight, body composition, and lipid profiles were measured at baseline and after 12 weeks.

What the researchers found was that the standard protein diet and the high protein diet were both well tolerated by the study participants, and that both groups experienced similar weight loss. However, the high protein group lost significantly more body fat than the standard protein group did (as determined by BMI measurements) and without any significant difference in lean body mass.

The study appeared to indicate that a higher protein diet may have led to increased metabolism and thereby increased the amount of fat the body burned in the high protein diet group.

A New Study Looking At High Protein Total Diet Replacement

More recently, in fact, a new study reports that additional evidence does suggest that diets with a higher proportion of protein in them might offer a metabolic advantage compared to a diet consisting of the same number of calories, but a lower proportion of protein.

According to a news release from The American Society For Nutrition, high-protein diets in combination with nutritionally complete formula foods are becoming increasingly popular. They are believed to promote weight loss and weight maintenance by increasing our sense of fullness, energy expenditure, and ability to maintain or increase fat-free mass.

But, do they really work?

That question was asked in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a study where the authors compared the impact of a high-protein total diet replacement to that of a control diet.

“Considering the prevalence of obesity worldwide and its impact on health, it’s not surprising nutritional strategies such as total diet replacements and high-protein diets are becoming increasingly popular as weight management strategies; however, research around these topics has not kept pace with their growth in popularity,” said lead author, Camila Oliveira, a doctoral student at the University of Alberta.

News from The American Society For Nutrition reports that the following study design was used to determine whether diets with a higher proportion of protein might offer a metabolic advantage:

“…in order to conduct their experiment, the authors recruited a group of healthy, normal-weight adults between the ages of 18 and 35 via advertisements placed on notice boards at the University of Alberta, Canada. Subjects were then randomly assigned into one of two groups: one group was fed the high-protein total diet replacement, which consisted of 35% carbohydrate, 40% protein, and 25% fat. The second group, the control group, was fed a diet with the same number of calories, but consisting of 55% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 30% fat, a typical North American dietary pattern. Participants received the prescribed diets for a 32-hour period while inside a metabolic chamber.”

A High Protein Diet Appears to Increase Fat-Burning Metabolism

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

What the researchers found was that:

• The high-protein total diet replacement compared to the North American diet resulted in higher energy expenditure, increased fat oxidation and negative fat balance, likely implying body fat loss.

And came to the conclusion that:

• Diets with a higher proportion of protein might offer a metabolic advantage compared to a diet consisting of the same number of calories, but with a lower proportion of protein.

• The data suggests that high-protein total diet replacements are a promising nutritional strategy to combat rising rates of obesity. In particular, with a higher proportion of protein offering a metabolic advantage compared to a diet consisting of the same number of calories, but with a lower proportion of protein.

But Is It Safe?

The safety of adopting such a diet in the long term not only for losing weight, but to keep it off also remains to be seen.

“Although these results are restricted to a specific population of healthy, normal-weight adults, they can help nutrition scientists and healthcare providers better understand the real physiological effects of a high-protein total diet replacement in humans. In our opinion, it is imperative to first understand the physiological impact of a high-protein total diet replacement in a healthy population group so that the effects are better translated in individuals with obesity and its related comorbidities,” said Dr. Carla Prado, Professor, University of Alberta and the study’s principal investigator.

“Future studies are needed to better understand the long-term effects of this dietary intervention on the physiology of both healthy and diseased population groups,” added co-author Camila Oliveira.

In Comparison to a Keto Diet

Concerns about the safety of a high protein total diet replacement diet may prove to share a similar warning that comes from heath experts who make a good point that what proteins you are eating more of, is the problem with the ketogenic diet. In other words, if you are eating too much fatty red meat and eggs, you could be increasing your risk of cancer and developing cardiac problems.

However, the association of the keto diet with cardiovascular disease (or even a possible improvement in total cholesterol levels) remains unknown and is the subject of debate among studies showing inconsistent findings.

Keto Dieting Mistake Many Dieters Make

A High Fat Keto Diet Could Prevent And Completely Reverse Heart Failure, Says Study

Very Low Carb Diet With Eggs Results In Significant Belly Fat Loss Says Study

Common dieting sense tells us that the better alternative if you decide to try a high protein total diet replacement diet for now is to focus on other protein sources that are viewed as healthier.

Why You Should Choose Vegan Protein Powders Over Other Protein Powder Supplements

A Pesco-Mediterranean Diet With Intermittent Fasting Might Be The Ideal Heart Healthy Weight Loss Diet

For more about diets and which ones may work for you, be sure to take a look at these two Dr. Oz recommended diet plans: 21 Day Weight Loss Plan and The Blood Type Diet.

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Bill Oxford on Unsplash


Are high-protein total diet replacements the key to maintaining healthy weight?” News from The American Society For Nutrition 18 Nov. 2020.

A high-protein total diet replacement increases energy expenditure and leads to negative fat balance in healthy, normal-weight adults” Oliveira CLP et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2020 Nov 18.

A controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body mass” Leo Treyzon et al, Nutrition Journal 27 August 2008.