How Much Protein is Too Much on Keto?
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The keto diet is fairly straightforward. It is very popular due to a quick, initial weight loss in the first month, and after that, an ongoing, gradual loss.
Another reason for its popularity is the unusual components of the diet. It is very different from the typical experience of other traditional diets that are about the denial of pleasures, hunger, and are difficult to sustain.
In fact, the main component of the keto diet is actually fat. It seems counter-intuitive, but due to the physiological processes of the body, high fat intake can drive the body into ketosis.
Ketosis means that the body is convinced that it is starving due to low carbohydrate intake. When carbs are very limited, the body begins to burn fat stores for fuel, resulting in weight loss.
Under normal dietary conditions, the body relies upon glucose in the bloodstream for fuel. Dietary carbohydrates provide most of this glucose, which is stored in liver and muscle cells in the body.
When the glucose stores are utilized due to limiting carbohydrate intake, the body loses an initial load of water weight, which explains the big weight loss that people generally experience when started the diet. That water stays off, as long as you do not replace the glucose stores in your body with more carbohydrates.
Carb sources include all kinds of foods such as breads, crackers, rice, pasta, potatoes, and more. Sugar from fruits also turn into glucose in the body.
Once your body has dropped the initial water weight, you will begin burning fat for fuel, resulting in ongoing weight loss. It won’t be as drastic as it was at the beginning, but if you follow the diet, you will continue to lose weight over time.
One misconception about the keto diet is that is unhealthy and unsustainable. Visions of over-processed cheeses and luncheon meat, soaked in butter and other fatty foods, is what often comes to mind when thinking of a keto diet.
Actually, people who follow the diet over time report mental clarity and great physical energy. As long as you keep your macros, or dietary components in balance, you can choose healthy, fresh foods, and experience weight loss at the same time.
The thing about the keto diet is that cheating can really lead to a disruption of the ketosis processes in the body, and if that happens, the high-fat diet can become a disaster for your waistline. So, for the diet to work, you must keep it in balance.
Related Article: How Much Protein Will Kick Me Out of Ketosis?
So what is the right balance of food groups on a keto diet?
First of all, the lion’s share, 70% of your caloric intake, must be from fats. Of course, you have the choice to eat healthy fats, that will not overload your system with high sodium levels, additives, and saturated fats that can eventually lead to health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Examples of healthy fats include ghee, nuts and nut butters, avocados, olive and coconut oil, sour cream (any fermented dairy product will be more digestible), and organic cheeses and dairy products, preferably goat milk-based. Supplement these with some butter or heavy cream for the occasional treat, and the high-fat level should not negatively affect your health.
The next component of your diet should be proteins, which will make up about 25% of your calories. The same principles of health apply to proteins as fat.
There are quality proteins and lower quality ones. When possible, choose organic meats and dairy.
Lean protein sources are fine, as long as your fat levels are high. Avoid processed foods like luncheon meats as much as possible.
If you choose high-fat meats like bacon, sausage, and fatty steaks, then your fat intake goes up as well.
“Macros” is a term that refers to the total intake of calories from different food groups, based on your age, sex, weight, and exercise level. So fattier meats mean more fat and less protein.
There are many, many recipes available to help you achieve the right balance between fat and protein. This website has lots of options of keto-friendly recipes that can help you design meal plans that keep you in your macros, and in ketosis, to ensure continual fat burn.
But what happens to your body if you eat too much protein on the keto diet?
If you overdo the proteins on a keto diet (you can increase them slightly if you are bodybuilding, or otherwise looking to gain lean muscle weight), then too many proteins can interfere with ketosis, and your diet will suffer. Your body will begin using protein over fat as an energy source.
Protein is an essential element of any diet, for growth and healthy cells. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a keto diet is unlimited proteins. Stay within about 25% of your diet consisting of proteins to ensure that keto will work.
Although keto is obviously a low carb diet, it must be a high fat, moderate protein diet to maintain ketosis. If you do not eat enough protein, a process called gluconeogenesis will cause your body to start burning protein and lean muscle mass for fuel. You do not want this.
If you eat too many proteins, the process of gluconeogenesis creates so much glucose in the bloodstream that blood sugar levels can spike and release large amounts of insulin into the bloodstream. This, of course, will negate the effect of limited carbs and sugar in your diet and prevent the burning of fat for fuel that happens in ketosis.
Overconsumption of protein can even cause insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. This is very bad.
It is therefore important to find the right balance of macros for your body. One solid way to ensure the right macros is ongoing monitoring of ketone levels with a ketone monitor.
By knowing your level of ketones, you can experiment with shifting protein levels, fat levels, and even potentially increase carbs without disruption the ketosis process. By gradually changing these macros, you can find the precise mix that works for your body.
This can be done with a home blood test or a ketone breath analyzer, found in the diabetes supplies area at your local pharmacy. By using a monitor after every meal, you will take out the guesswork and know if you’re eating too much protein.
There are some lifestyle choices that you can make that will help you maintain the proper balance, which includes eating fattier cuts of meat to increase fat levels in the diet. Exercise to keep your metabolism up to speed.
Using fats as fuel, it’s ok to add butter to your diet. Make bulletproof coffee with healthy oils to keep fat levels up; make fat bombs. Include eggs in your diet and integrate MCT powder (powdered oil) as a healthy fat.
Carbohydrates make up the smallest part of the keto diet. Only about 5% of your calories, or between 15-30 grams of carbs per day, depending on your macros, will come from carbs.
This is really a small amount, and it is essential to keep your carbs down in order to ensure ongoing ketosis. One of the healthier aspects of the keto diet is that it contains almost no sugar, which of course helps keep blood sugar levels under control, helps you avoid pre-diabetic states and stall the development of full-blown diabetes.
Cutting out sugar can also help the body reduce inflammation and make you feel much better. Although there are a number of “natural” alternatives to traditional sweeteners like sugar, honey, molasses, and maple syrup, sucrose is sucrose and there is no difference between these products and table sugar.