What Is the Protein Power Diet?

Protein power diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

As the name suggests, the Protein Power diet is a low-carb, high-protein eating plan that includes healthy fats. No foods are completely eliminated with the exception of foods containing added sugar, though others, such as grains and legumes, are severely restricted.

The Protein Power diet was developed by medical doctors Michael Eades and Mary Dan Eades. They founded a chain of family-care clinics in Arkansas and then started specializing in bariatric (weight-loss) medicine. In 1996, they published the book, "Protein Power," which details the guidelines for the eating plan. The doctors also developed and hosted a low-carb cooking show for PBS.

"Protein Power" remains a popular resource among the many low-carb diet programs available today. The focus is somewhat similar to Schwarzbein Principle Diet, another low-carb, high-protein, and moderate-fat eating plan. Earlier versions of the Protein Power protocol required counting carbs and protein. But more recent iterations offer portion control as an alternative to counting.

Followers of this diet will likely lose weight in the short term, but its restrictive nature could make it difficult to stick with. Learn about the pros and cons of the Protein Power diet to help you decide if it's the right plan to meet your health and weight loss goals.

What Experts Say

"The Protein Power diet is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate plan. While this diet may help you lose weight, experts warn that the carbohydrate limits can be quite restrictive to follow long-term."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

What Can You Eat?

The Protein Power diet emphasizes protein and low-glycemic fruits and vegetables and limits grains and legumes. The plan relies on knowing how many carbohydrates are in everything you eat.

The intervention phase, or first phase of the diet, limits carbs to 20–40 grams per day or 7–10 grams per meal. That's equivalent to two small servings per meal. Examples of a small serving include 2 cups raw broccoli, 1 cup cooked green beans, 1/2 cup raspberries, or 1 slice of low-carb bread. In the transition phase (which doesn't happen until followers are close to their goal weight), up to 50 carbs a day are allowed. The maintenance phase permits 70–130 carbs per day.

Because carb counting can be tedious, the Eadeses' 2010 book, "The 30 Day Low-Carb Diet Solution," relies on portion sizes instead of counting carbs. It categorizes servings of carb-containing food as "small," "medium," or "large" depending on the phase of the diet you are in. Similarly, the book contains serving sizes for protein with pictures to illustrate the different amounts. While fats are not limited on this plan, the Eadeses warn that consuming a large number of calories (from any source) could make it difficult to lose weight.

What You Need to Know

Getting enough protein is fundamental to the diet's success. The Eadeses have come up with several ways to determine this. In "Protein Power," they use a formula based on lean body mass. Then they simplified the calculation by providing charts based on height and weight in a follow-up book, "Protein Power Lifeplan." These formulas provide about 100–120 grams of protein per day, which is about double the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

There is no specific eating schedule suggested on the plan, which means you can eat whatever meals and snacks you prefer as long as you stay within the allowed carb and protein serving sizes. The co-authors assert that consuming sufficient protein will help you feel full and avoid blood sugar crashes.

Since grains are limited, people who avoid gluten should be able to follow this diet. It can also be made vegetarian, although that would require eating a lot of tofu, eggs, and nuts for protein (since legumes are high in carbs). An important part of any low-carb diet is finding the right carb level for you. This is different for everyone, and too few carbs can negatively impact your health.

In addition to "Protein Power," "Protein Power Lifeplan," and "The 30 Day Low-Carb Diet Solution," the Eadeses have published other reference books that can help followers of the diet, including:

What to Eat
  • Meat and fish

  • Poultry and eggs

  • Tofu

  • Low-fat cheese

  • Most vegetables

  • Alcohol (in moderation)

  • Artificial sweeteners (in moderation)

What Not to Eat
  • Added sugars

  • Fruit (in excess)

  • Grains (in excess)

Protein

Red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, tofu, and low-fat cheeses are encouraged. Try to choose lean protein sources whenever possible.

Vegetables

Most vegetables are permitted on this plan. Note that some vegetables have more carbs than others and these count toward the daily allotment. For instance, spinach is unlimited, but green beans are limited to half a cup. Starchy vegetables like potatoes (a medium potato has about 37 grams of carbs) will exceed that carb count quickly. They are effectively off-limits, at least in the intervention phase.

Fruit

Fruit isn't completely banned on this diet, as it's also a great source of fiber. But as with starchy vegetables, the carbs add up quickly with fruit, so you'll have to limit it. For instance, an apple has about 25 grams of carbs and a banana about the same. Melons and berries tend to be lower in carbs.

Grains and Legumes

You'll get more food on your plate with fewer carbs if you opt for whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa. As with fruits, grains and legumes aren't entirely banned, but you'll need to sharply limit your intake or risk exceeding daily carb goals.

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, such as those in diet soda, are permitted, in moderation. You'll need to skip foods with added sugars, such as baked goods, sauces, ice cream, and so on.

Unlike some other low-carb plans, the Protein Power diet doesn't restrict alcohol altogether. But if you drink it you'll still have to count the carbs, which means you'll have fewer available to eat.

Sample Shopping List

The Protein Power diet emphasizes plenty of plant- and animal-based protein, low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, and moderate fats. While carbohydrates are limited, you can still have the occasional serving of grains and legumes.

The following shopping list offers suggestions for getting started on the plan. Note that this is not a definitive shopping list and there may be other foods that you prefer.

  • Lean animal protein (chicken and turkey breast, sirloin steak, ground beef, pork tenderloin)
  • Fresh or frozen fish (halibut, cod, salmon, snapper, sea bass, shrimp)
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy)
  • Low-carb vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green beans, beets, cucumbers)
  • Low-carb fruits (avocado, tomatoes, grapefruit, berries, apples, grapes)
  • Legumes (tofu, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa)
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews)
  • Oils (olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil)
  • Low-fat cheeses (cottage cheese, feta, Muenster)
  • Low-fat milk
  • Eggs

Sample Meal Plan

The Eadeses have written a number of follow-up books that offer additional carb-counting resources, fitness recommendations, and compliant recipes. You'll find many ideas for meal plans in "The Low-Carb Comfort Food Cookbook" and on the proteinpower.com blog.

The following three-day meal plan offers additional suggestions for those following the diet. Note that this plan is not all-inclusive, and if you do choose to try this plan there may be other meals that are more suitable for your tastes, preferences, and budget.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Potential weight loss

  • Satisfies hunger

  • Maintenance phase

Cons
  • Low in some nutrients

  • Higher in saturated fats

  • Requires counting and measuring

The high-protein approach found in the Protein Power Diet may be more appealing than some other weight loss programs. But as with all diets, this one also has its drawbacks.

Pros

  • Weight loss: Because it limits a lot of foods, this diet should promote weight loss as long as the plan is carefully followed and carbs are significantly reduced.
  • Satisfies hunger: Protein, fat, and fiber are all filling. So eating a diet that emphasizes them should help followers feel full and satisfied (although carb cravings are still common).
  • Includes a maintenance phase: This is a three-phase plan with an intervention (active weight loss) phase, a transition phase, and a maintenance phase. The goal is for followers to learn how many carbs their body can tolerate without gaining weight, and then stick with that quota.

Cons

  • Low nutrients: With fewer grains and fruits come fewer nutrients, like folate (important for pregnant women) and other vitamins and minerals. The Eadeses do suggest taking a multivitamin to fill in gaps.
  • Higher fat: Fats are important and healthy, but too much saturated fat (like the fats in red meat and full-fat dairy products) could raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Requires counting: To follow this diet properly, you'll need to know the carb and protein count of everything you're eating (or at least the serving size).

Planning meals, cooking, and eating this way could take some getting used to. Some people might find it too difficult to eliminate or cut back on some of their favorite foods.

Is the Protein Power Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The Protein Power diet resembles other well-known low-carb eating plans, from its philosophy to the types of recommended foods. The Atkins diet emphasizes replacing carbs with lean protein and unsaturated fats. It is also a phased program that requires carb counting. The Banting diet favors protein over carbs but places greater emphasis on fats. No sugar or gluten is allowed; other grains are quite limited.

Then there's the paleo diet, a recent low-carb iteration that allows more carbs than Banting but also more protein, making it more similar to Protein Power. It still cuts out sugar and grains entirely, focusing mostly on meats and certain vegetables

Similar to these low-carb plans, Protein Power deviates from federal recommendations for macronutrients. The USDA's MyPlate dietary guidelines suggest a balanced mix of protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, with about five or six servings of grains a day. Protein Power's low-carb limit means consuming much fewer than that, about one serving a day depending on what it is and how many daily carbs are coming from fruits and vegetables.

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 46 grams of protein per day for adult women and 56 for adult men, while the Protein Power diet suggests a range of 100–120 grams per day. The USDA also recommends that 45–65% of daily calories come from carbohydrates. Similar to other low-carb plans, you'll consume less than 20% of daily calories from carbs on the Protein Power diet.

While the Protein Power diet doesn't require counting calories, it does indicate that consuming too many calories will make the diet less effective. For a healthy, sustainable rate of weight loss, nutrition experts recommend keeping track of your daily calorie intake.

The USDA suggests a reduction of 500 calories a day to lose 1–2 pounds per week. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that equates to roughly 1,500 calories a day—but this number can vary based on age, sex, weight, height, and level of physical activity. Use this calculator to determine your own personal daily calorie target for weight loss.

The Protein Power diet mostly aligns with USDA dietary guidelines in terms of fruit and vegetable consumption and healthy fats. But it drastically restricts carbohydrates and requires more protein than what most nutrition experts would recommend for the long term.

Health Benefits

Weight Loss

Because the eating plan monitors portion size and restricts carbohydrates, short-term weight loss is likely on the Protein Power diet. Though there is a maintenance phase, the diet may still be difficult to adhere to for the long term, however.

High in Fiber

Any diet that emphasizes nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables will naturally be high in fiber. The Protein Power diet advises getting at least 25 grams of fiber per day, which aligns with federal dietary recommendations. However, 25 grams is still considered the minimum. Adult women should try to get 25–28 grams of fiber per day and adult men should aim for 31–34 grams per day. Adults over 50 need slightly less.

Health Risks

Too Much Protein

While lean protein can help build and retain muscle, there are some risks associated with consuming too much protein over time.

Studies have shown that protein consumption exceeding the RDA can lead to kidney problems and increase the risk of chronic illness and even certain types of cancer. People with kidney disease should use extra caution because too much protein can place additional stress on the kidneys.

Not Appropriate for Some Health Conditions

If you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, it's very important to monitor your glucose carefully on any low-carb diet, including this one. Similarly, those with heart disease should be aware of their fat intake. People with these health conditions and others should always consult their physician before making any substantial changes to their diet.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Restricting carbohydrates for the long term could result in nutrient deficiencies. Studies have shown that low-carb diets, particularly those that restrict whole grains, are typically lacking in essential nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B7, chromium, and iodine. These deficiencies can increase a person's risk for developing certain chronic diseases.

A Word From Verywell

If you decide to try the Protein Power diet, it's likely going to be a big change from how you currently eat. But if followed correctly, the eating plan could promote weight loss, at least in the short term, especially when combined with regular exercise. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have and ask them whether this diet is safe and appropriate for you.

To help you stay motivated, you might ask a friend or family member to help hold you accountable. You might even talk to someone who wants to begin a weight loss journey of their own. It's helpful to develop a support network and connect with people who share similar goals.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition. December 2020.

  2. Heileson JL. Dietary saturated fat and heart disease: a narrative reviewNutr Rev. 2020;78(6):474-485. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuz091

  3. Plum LM, Rink L, Haase H. The essential toxin: impact of zinc on human healthInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2010;7(4):1342-1365. doi:10.3390/ijerph7041342

  4. Delimaris I. Adverse effects associated with protein intake above the recommended dietary allowance for adultsISRN Nutr. 2013;2013:126929. doi:10.5402/2013/126929

  5. Ko G-J, Rhee CM, Kalantar-Zadeh K, Joshi S. The effects of high-protein diets on kidney health and longevityJ Am Soc Nephrol. 2020;31(8):1667-1679. doi:10.1681/ASN.2020010028

  6. Bolla AM, Caretto A, Laurenzi A, Scavini M, Piemonti L. Low-carb and ketogenic diets in type 1 and type 2 diabetesNutrients. 2019;11(5). doi:10.3390/nu11050962

  7. Calton JB. Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plansJ Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7:24. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-24

Additional Reading
  • Eades MR, Eades MD. Protein Power: The High-Protein/Low Carbohydrate Way to Lose Weight, Feel Fit, and Boost Your Health–in Just Weeks! New York, NY: Bantam Books; 1997.

  • Eades MR, Eades MD. The Low-Carb Diet Solution. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2003.

  • Eades MR, Eades MD. The Protein Power Lifeplan. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.; 2000.