Protein design algorithms enumerate a combinatorial number of candidate structures to compute the Global Minimum Energy Conformation (GMEC). To efficiently find the GMEC, protein design algorithms must methodically reduce the conformational search space. By applying distance and energy cutoffs, the protein system to be designed can thus be represented using a sparse residue interaction graph, where the number of interacting residue pairs is less than all pairs of mutable residues, and the corresponding GMEC is called the sparse GMEC. However, ignoring some pairwise residue interactions can lead to a change in the energy, conformation, or sequence of the sparse GMEC vs. the original or the full GMEC. Despite the widespread use of sparse residue interaction graphs in protein design, the above mentioned effects of their use have not been previously analyzed. To analyze the costs and benefits of designing with sparse residue interaction graphs, we computed the GMECs for 136 different protein design problems both with and without distance and energy cutoffs, and compared their energies, conformations, and sequences. Our analysis shows that the differences between the GMECs depend critically on whether or not the design includes core, boundary, or surface residues. Moreover, neglecting long-range interactions can alter local interactions and introduce large sequence differences, both of which can result in significant structural and functional changes. Designs on proteins with experimentally measured thermostability show it is beneficial to compute both the full and the sparse GMEC accurately and efficiently. To this end, we show that a provable, ensemble-based algorithm can efficiently compute both GMECs by enumerating a small number of conformations, usually fewer than 1000. This provides a novel way to combine sparse residue interaction graphs with provable, ensemble-based algorithms to reap the benefits of sparse residue interaction graphs while avoiding their potential inaccuracies.