What Is the Protein Power Diet?

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The Protein Power diet is a low-carb plan developed by doctors Michael and Mary Dan Eades. As outlined in their book, "Protein Power," the Eades' diet focuses on high protein, moderate fat, and low carbs (similar to the Schwarzbein Principle Diet). While this version of the diet required counting carbs and protein, the authors later provided an alternative that uses portion counting instead.

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

Background

The Eadeses founded a chain of family-care clinics in Arkansas and then started specializing in bariatric (weight-loss) medicine. First published as a book in 1997, Protein Power remains a popular option among the many low-carb diet programs available today. The doctors also developed and hosted a low-carb cooking show for PBS. They have since written a number of other books related to their low-carb eating recommendations, including carb counting resources, cookbooks, and a fitness book.

How It Works

The Protein Power Diet plan relies on knowing how much carbohydrate is in everything you eat. However, the Eades' book "The 30 Day Low-Carb Diet Solution" offers an alternative. Rather than carb counts, this approach specifies servings of carb-containing food: "small," "medium," and "large" servings depending on the phase of the diet you are in.

The "intervention," or first phase of the diet, limits carbs to 20 to 40 grams per day or 7 to 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 users are close to their goal weight), up to 50 carbs a day are allowed. The maintenance phase permits 70 to 130 carbs per day.

As the title of the diet suggests, getting enough protein is crucial to the success of the diet. The authors have come up with several ways to determine this. In "Protein Power," they use a formula based on lean body mass. They then simplified this calculation by providing charts based on height and weight in a follow-up book, "Protein Power Lifeplan." These formulas give most people 100 to 120 grams of protein per day. This is about double the amount recommended by the USDA (46 grams per day for adult women, and 56 for men), but well within the guidelines of the National Academy of Sciences.

In "The 30 Day Low-Carb Diet Solution," the authors provided an option for those who don't want to count protein grams. Similar to the way they present carbs, they have several serving sizes of protein, with pictures to illustrate how large some of the servings are. 

Fats are not limited, but the authors do warn that consuming a large number of calories (from any source) would make it impossible to lose weight.

What to Eat

Compliant Foods

  • Meat and fish

  • Poultry and eggs

  • Tofu

  • Low-fat cheese

  • Most vegetables

  • Alcohol (in moderation)

  • Artificial sweeteners (in moderation)

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Added sugars

  • Fruit (in excess)

  • Grains (in excess)

Proteins

Just about everything goes here: meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, tofu, and low-fat cheeses (such as cottage cheese, feta, and Muenster).

Vegetables

Again, most vegetables are permitted and encouraged. The authors advise getting at least 25 grams of fiber per day, and vegetables are a good source. Note that some vegetables have more carbs than others, and these count toward the daily allotment. In the serving size example above, 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.

Alcohol

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

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, such as those in diet soda, are permitted, in moderation.

Added Sugars

You'll need to skip foods with added sugars, such as baked goods, sauces, ice cream, and so on.

Fruit

Fruit isn't completely banned on this diet. It's also a source of fiber. But as with starchy vegetables, the carbs add up quickly with fruit, so you'll have to limit it. 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 go for whole grains (such as brown rice or quinoa). As with fruits, grains and legumes aren't banned, but you'll need to sharply limit intake or risk exceeding daily carb goals.

Recommended Timing

There is no specific eating schedule suggested. Eat whatever meals and snacks you feel you need, as long as you are keeping within the allowed carb and protein servings. The authors assert that eating sufficient protein will help you feel full and avoid blood sugar crashes.

Resources and Tips

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

  • "The Protein Power Lifeplan Gram Counter"
  • "The Low-Carb Comfort Food Cookbook"
  • "Staying Power: Maintaining Your Low-Carb Weight Loss for Good"
  • "The Six-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle"

Modifications

Since grains are already limited, people who can't eat 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). Anyone who has kidney disease should use caution, because too much protein can put stress on the kidneys. Similarly, those with heart disease should be aware of fat intake.

An important part of low-carb diets is finding the right carb level for you. This is different for everyone, and too few carbs can negatively impact your health. If you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, it's very important to monitor your glucose carefully.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Potential weight loss

  • Satisfies hunger

Cons

  • Low in some nutrients

  • Higher in saturated fats

  • Requires counting and measuring

Pros

Weight Loss

Because it limits a lot of foods, this diet should promote weight loss for most users, if they can follow it carefully and significantly cut back on carbs.

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).

The high-protein approach found in the Protein Power Diet may be more appealing than some other weight loss programs. You also have to appreciate those alternatives to counting carbs and protein. However, be aware of the concerns that some experts have with this diet.

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 the risk of heart disease.

Requires Carb 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).

How It Compares

The Protein Power diet is similar to other low-carb eating plans, from its philosophy to the types of food recommended. Also, like these other low-carb plans, Protein Power differs from standard advice on macronutrient balance, such as that provided by the USDA.

USDA Recommendations

Food Groups

The USDA's MyPlate dietary guidelines suggest a balanced mix of protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, with about five or six servings of grains a day. Protein Power's low carb limit means consuming much fewer than that, probably one serving a day depending on what it is and how many daily carbs come from fruits and vegetables.

Calories

The Protein Power Diet doesn't require counting calories. The book offers a general message that overdoing calories will make the diet less effective, while the USDA recommends cutting roughly 500 daily calories to promote weight loss. If you would like to determine your own daily calorie target for weight loss, this calculator can help.

Similar Diets

See how the Protein Power Diet compares to other low-carb plans, including one that dates back many years and another of more recent popularity.

Protein Power Diet

  • Food groups: As the name indicates, on this diet carbs are mostly replaced with protein, although fats are also a significant part of the diet. No food groups (like grains or sugar) are completely eliminated, but they are restricted.
  • Practicality: Followers of this diet don't have to count calories, but they do have to count carbs and protein, either by grams or by serving sizes. Planning meals, cooking, and eating this way take some getting used to.
  • Sustainability: This is a three-phase plan with an intervention (active weight loss) phase, a transition phase, and a maintenance phase. The goal is for users to learn how many carbs their body can tolerate without gaining weight, and then stick with that quota. With practice, some people can stay on this type of diet for a long time. Others may find it just too difficult to give up or cut way back on favorite foods. And remember that some key nutrients are lacking.

Banting Diet

  • Food groups: The Banting diet (named after the man who developed it over 100 years ago) also favors protein over carbs, but it favors fats even more. No sugar or gluten is allowed; other grains are quite limited.
  • Practicality: As described by Tim Noakes in his book "Real Meal Revolution," this diet is complex. There are five food lists to work from, including "eat as much as you want," "never eat," and "we're not sure." Plus, the diet has a series of phases as well. So even though there is no carb counting (as in Protein Power), there is a lot to know and do in order to follow the diet.
  • Sustainability: As with the other plans, this diet is meant to be followed forever, in its maintenance phase. But users may find it hard (and unhealthy) to give up sugar and all grains, even whole ones, for life.

Atkins Diet

  • Food groups: Originally published in the 1970s and revived in the early 2000s, the Atkins diet was a low-carb pioneer. Like Protein Power, it cuts carbs significantly, and in its current form (it has been revised over the years), it emphasizes replacing carbs with lean protein and unsaturated fats.
  • Practicality: Like Protein Power, this one requires carb counting. It is also a phased program designed to help users lose weight and then transition into a long-term low-carb lifestyle. It is highly structured, especially at first, so it takes time to learn.
  • Sustainability: Similar to the other plans, this diet is meant to be used long-term, but not everyone will be able to adhere to its rules consistently over a period of many years.

Paleo Diet

  • Food groups: A more recent entry into the low-carb club, the paleo diet 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.
  • Practicality: The "yes" and "no" food lists here are simpler than Banting and there's no counting of anything—calories, carbs, proteins, or serving sizes. So it's pretty simple and straightforward.
  • Sustainability: This diet cuts out a lot of healthy foods, such as whole grains and legumes. Thus, it's probably not a great idea (nor easy and achievable) to follow it for an extended period of time.

A Word From Verywell

If you decide to try this diet (or any other weight-loss plan), prepare yourself before diving in. It's likely a big change from how you currently eat. Talk to your doctor about any concerns and to make sure the diet is safe for you.

It's also important to line up support for your weight loss efforts. If possible, find someone else to do the diet with you. It's helpful to ask questions, find help through the rough patches, and chat with people who have similar goals. 

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Article Sources

  • 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.