In the world of diets, they can be overwhelmed by the options out there—keto, paleo, flexi, to name a few.
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But for those trying to lose a lot of weight, the fast-paced modified protein diet, or PSMF diet, may be a good short-term option.
Doctors usually recommend this diet to anyone who has obesity. You must be under the supervision of a doctor or registered dietitian while on the PSMF diet.
So how does the PSMF diet work? By consuming low amounts of calories and carbohydrates and high amounts of protein, the idea is that weight loss happens quickly.
“It’s keto modified,” says registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD. The majority of the calories will come from protein. There is very little fat and your options include lean protein and limited vegetables. You won’t eat fruit, starchy vegetables, bread, or pasta. This will help your body get into ketosis, a fat-burning state.”
Czerwony explains how the PSMF diet works and its pros and cons.
How it works
The PSMF diet is divided into two phases: the intensive phase and the refeeding phase.
During the intense phase, which usually lasts about six months, you’ll eat about 800 calories per day. The goal is to consume about 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
When it comes to carbs, you want to eat about 20 grams or less per day – with those carbs coming from vegetables. You’ll also want to avoid any added fats that come from foods like oils and salad dressings.
“Most of the time, people stay on average around six months because they’re bored, tired or want some variety,” Czerwony says.
Your doctor or dietitian will watch for any nutritional deficiencies and may recommend that you take magnesium, potassium, and/or sodium supplements.
“We asked people to salt their food to make sure their blood pressure didn’t drop too low,” Czerwony says.
Once you reach your weight loss goal, you will begin the maintenance portion of the diet known as the refeeding phase.
“This is more than several weeks of slowly adding carbohydrates to your diet,” Czerwony explains. The idea is to have a more balanced intake, stop ketosis and help you maintain the weight you lost. Ideally, it will remain in the maintenance phase indefinitely.”
Foods you can eat in the PSMF diet
While on the PSMF diet, you will mostly eat protein-rich foods such as:
- Chicken and other types of poultry such as turkey, geese and duck.
- Lean meats such as beef, pork and lamb.
- Seafood such as halibut, cod, and catfish.
- Eggs and egg whites.
- Low-fat dairy products such as cheese, skimmed milk and cheese.
You can also eat non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, and celery.
There are foods that you should avoid such as:
- Fruits such as grapes, oranges, apples and berries.
- Starchy vegetables such as corn, peas and potatoes.
- Grains like wheat, oats and quinoa.
- Legumes such as peanuts, chickpeas, lentils and black beans.
- Processed foods such as candy bars, chips, and fast food.
- Sweetened beverages such as soda, sports drinks and juices.
- Fats and oils such as butter, ghee, salad dressing, and olive oil.
- Full-fat dairy products such as yogurt, milk and cheese.
- Sweeteners such as honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup.
Pros and Cons
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the PSMF diet:
Pro: It can help you lose weight
For people who are obese, the PSMF diet may be a good option for losing a certain amount of weight.
But a reminder that it is best to undergo this diet under the supervision of your doctor or nutritionist.
Pro: It can improve blood sugar levels
“We noticed an improvement in glycemic control due to the lack of carbohydrates,” Czerwony says. “So, if you have high glucose levels, you may see an improvement.”
Pro: It can improve high blood pressure
studies It has also shown that by consuming fewer calories, your blood pressure may decrease.
“We see improvement in high blood pressure quite often because it is directly related to weight,” Czerwony notes.
Con: hard to do in the long run
The PSMF diet is very restrictive when it comes to what you can and can’t eat and how many calories you can eat. It can be difficult for people to maintain in the long term.
“What we found is that most people get bored with it. Or they go on vacation or to a party and eat something that has carbs and gets them out of ketosis, so they get more hungry,” says Czerwony. “After that, it’s hard for them to get back into ketosis, so they fall off the wagon.”
Con: It’s not for everyone
People with medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, and kidney problems should avoid the PSMF diet, unless it is medically supervised.
“If you already have a history of gout, since it’s a high-protein diet, you may be more likely to develop gout. And because it’s a high-protein diet, we don’t want to overwork the kidneys,” says Czerwony.
Con: You will lose some muscle mass
Part of the process when it comes to losing weight means that you are likely to lose a portion of your muscle mass.
“This is because you lose weight less, so you don’t burn as many calories even while walking because you don’t have that resistance,” Czerwony explains. “Hopefully, by consuming enough protein, you will protect your muscles. Physical activity is part of this program to maintain your muscle and healthy fat metabolism.”
Cons: Can get dehydrated
It’s easy to get dehydrated while on the PSMF diet. That’s why Czerwony says it’s essential to drink at least 64 ounces of fluid a day and to include salt in your food.
“We call it the keto flu — it’s really just a shift in fluid status,” Czerwony says. “You might get nauseous or have headaches and dizziness.”
This dehydration can also lead to constipation – and high-protein diets are known to cause this as well.
“This is because you are eating limited vegetables and that can lead to muscle cramps, which is what happens if your electrolytes stop,” Zeroni explains. “We want to make sure you’re taking all of your supplements, too.”
Cons: Can be expensive
You may have to adjust your budget while on the PSMF diet. Since most of the diet is high protein foods like lean meats, your grocery bill can add up quickly.
“Traditional protein alternatives like beans and lentils aren’t allowed, and these options tend to be more budget friendly,” says Czerwony.
Should you try the PSMF diet?
So, is the PSMF diet worth trying? It’s up to everyone, says Czerwony.
You may want to talk to your doctor about other options such as anti-obesity medication or even Bariatric surgery.
“Your doctor should consider your long-term goals,” Czerwony says. “The problem often is that people are going to follow this diet and they are very successful the first time. Then it advances fast for a couple of months or years and they want to do it again. They weren’t successful the second time.”
This is not the right diet if you just want to lose a few pounds.
“You don’t have to try something extreme,” Czerwony says. You should stop eating extra calories, whether it’s from sugary drinks or fried foods. Also, look at your physical activity and increase that too.”
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