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Your High Protein Diet Might Be Giving You Belly Fat

Those who have ironclad willpower typically use strategies like portion control to lose weight rapidly.

Those with bigger appetites, however, often turn to low-carb, high-protein diets like Paleo, Dukan and Atkins to help the scale tip in their favor. Nothing's more seductive than the idea that you can still eat all the bacon and nuggets you want and see results quickly. It makes sense, in theory: Protein boosts satiety and burns more calories during the digestion process than other nutrients, which helps the pounds fly off. The trouble is, eating a low-carb, high-protein diet can actually cause weight gain in the long-term, as a group of Spanish researchers recently discovered.

To come to these findings, researchers had more than 7,000 study participants fill out questionnaires about their eating habits over the course of six years. After analyzing the data for commonalities, they found that the men and women who ate high-protein diets had a 90 percent greater risk of gaining more than 10 percent of their body weight during the course of the study than those who didn't stick to Paleo-esque regimens. What's worse: High-protein dieters also had up a 66 percent greater risk of death during the study period.

To reap the weight-loss benefits of protein – without paying for it later – men should aim for a total of 56 grams of the nutrient a day. Ladies, on the other hand, should cut themselves off at 46 grams. Take in anymore than the recommended amount and the muscle-builder will likely be stored as flab. For optimal health and weight loss, don't totally shun carbs either. (In fact, these are the best carbs for weight loss.) Whole grains, fruits and legumes can boost energy and are rich in disease-fighting, fat-burning nutrients.

And make sure you're not making any of these 5 Worst Mistakes You're Making with Your Protein Intake.

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh