How Much Protein Should You Eat In A Keto Diet?
You will read everywhere (including our blogs) that the secret behind the keto diet is keeping the carb low.
It indeed is.
Yet, a secret to a successful keto journey is actually enjoying the benefits of a keto diet. The feeling of fullness, great sleep, feeling light and wonderful are certainly the lifestyle goals which the keto diet can help you acheive.
Cutting down on carbs is only 50% of the keto formula.
Eating high fat is probably easy given the high availabilty of high-healthy fat foods.
But, what about proteins?
A vast number of people forget about this this important macros in a keto diet. Worse they may sometimes overdo it and send their system bonkers!
Getting the proteins right is key to maintaining muscle mass, skin and hair health, and essentially keeping your body intact!
Let’s see how to do this right.
Why are proteins controlled on a keto diet?
While proteins are absolutely necessary on any diet, when you consume too much proteins, your body can actually start producing glucose from the proteins you eat and this can kick you out of ketosis.
The process of converting a non-carbohydrate source into glucose is called gluconeogenesis.
Let’s start with the basics.
Genesis means ‘the creation or making of’. Neo means ‘new’ and gluco is ‘glucose’. The name gluconeogenesis means creating a new source of glucose in the body.
If you are on a keto diet and your body is already low on its stored sugar levels (glycogen), the liver may start using the amino acids of the proteins as an energy source.
Why is this problematic?
As this keeps happening, you may struggle to get into ketosis.
This could further lead to loss of muscle mass, weakness and fatigue most of the time.
- Your body is not able to use fat for energy. It keeps choosing protein sources.
- The glucose levels in the body do not decrease to help aid ketosis
- The amino acids needed for other body functioning are being used for making energy
This is a topic that is still being widely researched globally.
How does ketosis kick in?
On a keto diet, your body goes through three stages before it enters ketosis.
The post-absorptive stage
As you suddenly start depriving your body of essential carbohydrates, your body will start taking up the stored glycogen sources for energy. Energy will still be produced through glucose.
Here, the glycogen levels are completely depleted and your body gets into gluconeogenesis phase. Proteins you consume are converted into energy and your body is still struggling to get into ketosis.
The number of days the gluconeogenesis phase lasts depends on how healthy you are and how much proteins you keep consuming during this period.
In this phase, the body slowly stops converting proteins into energy and will start making ketones using the stored and consumed fat. Your body starts getting into ketosis and it will stay there as long as you follow your macros right.
Will a low-protein diet solve the problem?
No. In fact, if you cut down on your protein intake without consulting your dietician or your doctor, your body may experience the following:
- Loss of muscle mass
- Excessive hair loss
- Brittle nails
- Digestive issues
- Increased risk of fractures
- Increased risk of infections
- Dropped energy levels
How much protein should you take?
The Standard Keto Diet (SKD) has the following macros segmentations.
- 70-75% of fats
- 20-25% of proteins
- 5% of carbohydrates
This means that if you are on a 1500 calorie diet plan, about 1050 calories need to come from your fat sources, 375 calories from your protein intake and 75 calories from carbs.
Now, this is just a generalized version. There are different types of keto macros created depending on your age, your lifestyle and your workout regime.
Though the carbohydrate intake remains the same in most focused keto diet plans, few people may be advised to consume more proteins in the below scenarios.
- They work out a lot
- They are physically very active
- They have a physically strenuous job
- They have had a history of muscle/tissue loss
- They play sports/ are an athlete
Calculating your protein intake
There is an easy way of calculating your needed protein intake while on a keto diet. This works universally well and you wouldn’t have to worry about consuming inadequate levels of proteins too.
Here are three categories based on which your protein levels would vary.
- Sedentary individuals – You do not do any kind of physical activity and most of your hours awake are spent sitting either in front of the computer or on a couch.
- Regularly active folks – Your day involves standing, walking around and being on your feet. You like taking a walk around the community or you make it a habit to jog, walk, or exercise a couple of times a week.
- Fitness freaks – You lift weights and you cannot stay away from the gym even for a day.
Now, here is the protein intake for these categories.
- Sedentary individuals – 0.6 – 0.8g of proteins per pound of your lean body mass
- Regularly active folks – 0.8 – 1 g of protein per pound of your lean body mass
- Fitness freaks – 1 – 1.2 g of proteins per pound of your lean body mass
Your lean body mass can be calculated by subtracting your actual body fat from the total body weight. There are a lot of free online tools you can find to calculate your body fat based on physical measurements.
What’s the takeaway?
For the general population not on a keto diet, a little extra protein never hurts. A protein-rich diet is, in fact, considered healthy. However, if you are starting a keto diet, you can encourage your body to get into ketosis faster if you maintain your protein macros level.
Do not cut back on proteins majorly or your body will pay the price for it.
Do not overindulge too as your body could stay in gluconeogenesis for a longer time, preventing the formation of ketones.
Pick healthier sources of proteins, eat them the right amount and you will see amazing changes happening in your body.
Natural protein sources for those on a keto diet
Here are some vegetarian and meat-based protein sources you can choose when on a keto diet.
- Greek yogurt or plain curd
- Cottage cheese/ paneer
- Hemp seeds
- All types of cheese
- All kinds of nuts and seeds
- Green vegetables
- Fatty fishes
- Pork chops
- Chicken breast and thighs