How much protein should you eat on a keto diet?
A. Not too much, between 20 and 25% of your macros should be protein (depending on your goals, higher end for lean muscle gain). Too much protein is bad for ketosis and will put your keto diet out.
The most common description of the ketogenic diet is that it’s a very low-carb, high fat (LCHF) diet. But the amount of protein you consume is every bit as important as carbohydrates and fat.
Protein is an essential part of nutrition for maintaining lean mass and healthy cells, but the right amount is significant on a ketogenic diet.
When beginning and maintaining an LCHF keto diet, you should calculate and track your protein consumption.
Treat protein just like other macros (carbs and fat), if you want to get into ketosis and stay there.
Too much protein on a Keto Diet is a common mistake
Many of the people we talk to that are complaining about not being able to achieve ketosis make the mistake of not factoring in the amount of protein they’re consuming.
Their protein intake is far too high, and that’s bad for several reasons that we’ll touch on further.
Protein intake on a ketogenic diet ought to be moderate and not excessive.
We know that 75 percent of your keto diet should come from healthy, non-processed, fats but so many people miss factoring protein into that equation.
“Low-Carb, High-Fat. NOT Low-Carb, High-Protein”.
We’ve all seen people trying to lose fat and gain muscle, chowing down on lean chicken breast and broccoli. Don’t do that!
The important thing is that unlike many modern low carb diets in which protein dominates, on a ketogenic diet fat should be the dominating macronutrient.
Specifically, protein should be around 20% of your macros. Just enough to maintain lean mass and prevent cell degeneration.
Not so much that it turns into your bodies primary fuel source via a process called gluconeogenesis.
What is Gluconeogenesis?
Gluconeogenesis is the process in your bodies metabolism that produces glucose by catabolic responses from non-carbohydrate sources in the absence of carbs.
In layman’s terms, when your body converts protein/amino acids into sugar (glucose).
Gluconeogenesis can happen from either the food that you eat or by breaking down muscle tissue in your body, turning it into sugar for fuel in the absence of carbohydrates.
- Too little protein without carbs will have gluconeogenesis eating away at your lean mass (muscles).
- Too much protein will have gluconeogenesis creating so much sugar that you’ll end up with high blood sugar levels and large amounts of insulin being released. Counteracting the purpose of omitting carbs and sugar from your diet in the first place.
This is how, back in the day, that I appeared very fit yet was diagnosed pre-diabetic with high (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
You can, in fact, become insulin resistant or diabetic by overeating protein.
If sufficient carbohydrates are not present, your body needs to find something else for energy: That should be fat not protein.
How To avoid Gluconeogenesis?
As we know the purpose of a keto diet is to get, the body to break down fats and generate ketone bodies for energy, in a process called ketosis. To ensure that we arrive at that happy place we should take particular measures.
Instead of using whey protein in your pre or post workout shakes (or as a recipe ingredient) use a collagen protein / MCT Powder blend.
These collagen protein blends have a more keto-friendly protein to fat ratio. Your body will use the protein as it is intended (as a building block for lean muscle) and use the fat from MCT Powder as its energy source.
Or blend your favorite protein at half the dose with straight MCT Powder to keep your fats up.
Calculate & track your protein, fats, and carbs
Calculate Your Ideal Macros. Find out your ideal macronutrients for your size and activity level. You can use our simple keto calculator here.
For regular people who expend an average amount of energy wanting to be healthier or lose weight the macro ratios are as follows:
– 75 percent fat
– 20 percent protein
– 5 percent carbs
Use our keto calculator above, to calculate your daily calories and macros in actual grams. Depending on your, size, goals and activity levels they should be different for individuals.
For people who have very active lifestyles (workout) or are looking to gain muscle, the macros may be altered, and your protein slightly increased, but not by much:
– 70 percent fat
– 25 percent protein
– 5 percent carbs
Plus additional calories to keep you from going to a deficit.
In a perfect world, those keto ratios would be concrete. But there is no one size fits all approach to any diet so use those percentages as a starting point and keep an eye on your ketone levels with the following piece of advice and you’ll nail it.
Monitor Your Ketone Levels If You Eat Too Much Protein You won’t Be In Ketosis
Use a Ketone Meter to monitor your ketone levels. People on a ketogenic diet understand that monitoring ketone levels regularly is the best way to know whether you are in ketosis or not.
Keto monitors are also perfect at letting you know if there are any concerns about what you have just eaten. That is, whether you should rule whatever food that you had previously consumed into your diet or to rule it out.
Bear in mind that it does take time to become keto-adapted and get into ketosis so don’t panic if you don’t see results for some time while your body adjusts.
There are several methods for monitoring ketones.
- With a Ketonix breath acetone analyzer
- With a Blood Glucose/Ketone meter test like the ones diabetics use (prick your finger)
- With Ketostix (not the best as the indications can vary if you stay well hydrated).
We give a thorough rundown of them all in this article on the Best Ketone Meters to Monitor Ketosis.
These monitors are great tools because even when you’re eating lots of fat if you consume too much protein, your body can be thrown out of ketosis.
Don’t make all of that effort to inadvertently let yourself down by a simple mistake or miscalculation.
We are fans of one of the monitors mentioned above the Ketonix. As it lets you monitor ketone levels at any time by simply breathing into it to measure the acetone your breath. You can use the Ketonix all day every day without any extra outlay, it’s perfect for keeping your keto diet in check.
Use a monitor after every meal throughout the day, and you will know if you’re eating too much protein.
So, simply put, test your ketone levels frequently with a ketone monitor. Calculate your macro nutrients. Pay close attention to those macros (including protein) and watch how your ketone levels react after you’ve consumed some food, then adjust accordingly.
How to raise ketones and avoid too much protein:
- Exercise – you don’t need to go over the top, just a little, to warm up your metabolism and have your body reaching for fat as fuel.
- Eat fattier cuts of meat with the skin or fat on!
- Add a big knob of butter and halve your lean meat (we make some delicious flavored compound butters and keep them on hand)
- Enjoy a Bulletproof Coffee with some MCT oil,Coconut Oil or Ghee (clarified butter) added as a pick me up.
- Make fat bombs and keep them on hand (Gerri’s Vanilla Cheesecake Fat Bombs are famous)
- Eggs eat them every which way
- Ketone Salts or BHB Salts
- Cook in Coconut Oil
- Use MCT Powder (powdered MCT oil) – add a little to your food or drinks to keep you full and fueled.
Paying as much attention to protein as the other macronutrients in your ketogenic diet will ensure that you don’t overdo it.
It isn’t as hard as it all sounds if you just stick the basic principles of getting into ketosis.
With all of your macros in mind and some planning, it will become second nature to you, and you’ll be in a steady state of ketosis, enjoying all the wonderful benefits that come with it.
Just always bear in mind that too much protein is guaranteed to keep you out of ketosis and spoil all the health benefits of those ketones running around in your body.