Proteins consist of amino acids and provide a lot of nutrients. Protein is a primary fuel source, but unlike carbs, which are not essential to eat, protein and fat are an integral part of a diet. Without fat and protein, we could not survive. On a low carb diet, or more specifically on the keto diet (which is a high fat, low carb diet), there is a misconception that it is a high protein diet. That is not true because on the keto diet, which we discuss more in depth in the Body Reboot book, focusing on a diet that’s high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. Based on everything we just covered, how do we know what the ideal protein intake is? Let’s take a look at what some of the experts recommend and how to figure out what your typical protein intake is.
On Diet Doctor, the author experimented to find out how much protein he could eat on a low carb diet, and this is what he discovered. It’s different for everyone, so keep in mind you may be able to eat more than 20 grams of carbs and still lose weight.
A while back I found out I’d been lying to myself for years – I wasn’t really in ketosis. To understand why, I did an experiment and learned that I’d been eating too many carbs and possibly too much protein.
I immediately reduced my carb and protein intake to maximum 20 and 60 grams per day respectively, and boom – straight back into optimal ketosis.
But I didn’t love eating just 60 grams of protein. To find out how much more I could eat AND remain in optimal ketosis, I did the above protein experiment.
From this latest experiment, I’ve learned that I can likely eat 80-130 grams of protein a day for weeks, and possibly for way longer, without dropping out of optimal ketosis.
So, for me, the key to optimal ketosis is to restrict the intake of carbs to less than 20 grams of carbs a day.
Now, let’s talk about you.
First note that far from everyone has to stay in optimal ketosis (1.5 – 3 mmol/L). Lots of people do fine on low carb without it. But staying close to that ketosis range may improve mental and physical performance, it often results in more weight loss and it can have certain other potential health benefits, like controlling epilepsy or migraine.
Here’s what Diet Doctor has to say about reaching optimal ketosis:
Restrict protein to moderate levels. If possible stay at or below 1 gram of protein per day, per kg of body weight (0.45 grams per pound). So about 70 grams of protein per day if you weigh 70 kilos (154 pounds).
It might be beneficial to lower protein intake even more, especially when overweight, and then aim for 1 gram of protein per kg of desired weight.
The most common mistake that stops people from reaching optimal ketosis is too much protein.
Web MD provides an excellent overview and discusses what type of protein is appropriate to eat. Keep in mind, however, that not all people on a low carb diet respond well to diet sodas. It may or may not kick you out of ketosis (meaning your body will have a harder time burning fat).
For protein, you can eat fish, poultry, red meat, low-fat cheese (cottage cheese, feta, mozzarella, Muenster), eggs, and tofu.
Also allowed: leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, celery, cucumber, and mushrooms.
You can also have some fats: olive and nut oils, avocado, and butter.
You can have diet sodas and artificial sweeteners in moderation.
To round out nutritional needs, the authors recommend taking a high-quality vitamin-and-mineral supplement, along with at least 90 milligrams of potassium.
Perfect Keto reminds us that a ketogenic diet is not a high-protein diet, despite what some people believe. However, the amount of protein you can consume depends on your body weight and how active you are. They discuss more of the details below and how to figure out how much protein is appropriate to eat depending on your body.
There is a misconception that the ketogenic diet is a high-protein diet. This is a myth; the ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbs. Why moderate in protein? Too much protein can kick you out of ketosis, while too little protein may cause muscle loss and increased appetite.
What is the ideal protein intake? Does quality matter? Is too much protein dangerous? Let's have a look at these frequently asked questions in more detail.
The amount of dietary protein you need can be determined by your body weight and activity level. This means that people who are more physically active have higher protein requirements than those whose lifestyles are sedentary. A more accurate estimate, especially for people with high body fat, can be reached by calculating protein intake from lean mass, which is calculated as total body weight minus body fat.
There are other factors such as gender or age that may affect protein intake, but they are less relevant. Eating enough protein is important for preserving and building muscle mass while eating excessive amounts of protein will likely decrease your ketone levels. Although it's true that significant excess of protein may disrupt ketosis, you don't need to worry about a few extra grams of protein.
Keto Diet App also mentions how much protein you should eat daily:
If your weight is in pounds, multiply it by 0.6 and 1.0 to get the minimum and maximum amount of protein in grams you should eat each day. If your weight is in kilograms, simply multiply it by 1.3 and 2.2 to get the same range. Although this rule applies to the vast majority of people, the protein requirements for athletes are higher.
Make sure you eat at least the minimum amount of protein to prevent losing muscle tissue during the diet. If you significantly exceed the maximum amount, as mentioned above, you may put your body out of ketosis (Volek, Jeff S., Phinney, Stephen D., The Art And Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, chapter 7, 2012).
Similarly, Keto Vale also adds to the discussion by revealing why protein is essential to eat and how it can aid you on your weight loss journey. If you’re worried that protein will turn into glucose and halt your hard work, don’t be. Everyone is different, which is why you should follow the guidelines that we covered above and do what’s best for your body.
Protein is the most important structural component of your muscles and other bodily tissues such as organs, skin, hair and practically all body parts, and without it, your body cannot repair and maintain itself.
Protein is made of amino acids. While our bodies can make some amino acids from scratch, we need to get others from our diet, and these are the so-called “essential amino acids”.
The primary function of protein metabolism is to maintain the body and its tissues and functions. Protein can be used as an energy source, although it is clearly not the body’s first choice – carbs and fat come before that.
First of all, when people say “excessive protein” will turn into sugar or kick you out of ketosis, they need to define how much ‘excessive’ is. How much is too much?
“Too much” or “too little” are relative terms. Before you tell someone on the internet that they eat too much or too little protein, make sure you know their body composition, their goals, age, gender and activity level.
For example, 100g of protein per day might be too much for some people but it could be just the right amount for other people. Remember everyone is different!
While some protein does turn into glucose (remember, your brain needs some of its energy to come from glucose). This process called gluconeogenesis (GNG) is demand-driven and not supply-driven. In normal people, GNG remains stable regardless of the metabolic profile of your diet.
Good news – right now we are giving away copies of the Body Reboot book! Help us cover the cost of shipping, and we’ll send you a free book. Yes, FREE! In addition to learning more about your protein intake, you can check out some incredible Body Reboot recipes and how to make the diet work for you. Check out this page to find out if there are any copies of the book left before it’s too late.
Sources: Diet Doctor, WebMD, Keto Diet App, Keto Vale
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