Proteins are essential nutrients for the human body, and they are made of amino acids. Some would say carbs are not essential for our body, but scientists are positive about proteins. Without proteins and fat, the two most important macronutrients we would not survive.
There is a myth the keto diet is high in protein. That is not true, since the keto diet is high in fat, moderate in proteins, and low in carbs. Too much protein can kick you out of ketosis, while too little protein may cause muscle loss and increased appetite.
Many questions are being asked about the keto diet: what is the ideal protein intake? Does quality matter? Is too much protein dangerous? Why is protein so important for weight loss?
Studies have proven that protein is the most sating while carbs are the least sating macronutrients. Or, let’s put it in this way: if you eat enough protein, you will feel less hungry and eat less calories. This is why it is important to eat enough protein to lose weight.
Additionally, if you eat foods rich in protein, you will burn more calories. Also, there is another way of burning more calories, and you can achieve that by building muscle mass.
Protein is the most important macronutrient for preserving and building muscle tissue, especially for physically active individuals. So, the more muscles you have the more calories you will burn, and increase your base metabolic rate. Although protein slightly increases insulin, there is no need to worry about negative effects on weight loss.
According to Dr. Briffa in his book Escape the Diet Trap: “… while protein increases insulin secretion, the rise in glucagon that comes at the same time mitigates the fat-forming effect of insulin.”
What is the adequate protein intake?
This can be easily determinated by your body weight and activity level. The more physically active a person, the more protein intake is needed. 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.
Know your body fat percentage
There are two main types of body fat: essential and non-essential. Essential body fat is vital fat mass you cannot lose and it is 11-13% for women and 2-5% for men. If you are trying to lose fat, it’s very likely your body fat will be higher than average. There are many ways of varying accuracy to estimate your body fat percentage. You can use skinfold caliper, visit a specialized center with body fat testers, or use scales that show percentage of fat.
1) Calipers and Tape measure method
Depending on your approximate fitness level, you will need to use a formula best suited for your needs.
- Athletes (very low body fat): Jackson / Pollock (4 sites)
- Fitness level, up to 15 % Body fat: Parillo (9 sites)
- Over 15% body fat: Durnin / Womersley (4 sites)
2) Body measurement method
Not the most accurate but can give you a rough idea – it uses your body measurements (waist, hips and neck). Here is a good on-line calculator you can use.
3) Using DEXA (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) which is the most accurate way of measuring body fat.
4) Visual estimates using comparison illustrations, like the one below.
How much protein should I eat per day?
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. (Volek, Jeff S., Phinney, Stephen D., The Art And Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, chapter 7, 2012).
Do I opt for grass-fed meat?
This is a good option since grass-fed meat is more favorable fat. If you cannot afford it, try some grain-fed meat, too. These two options are a fantastic source of healthy protein.
There are some options we suggest you avoid: farmed fish, farmed pork and animals fed with hormones and antibiotics because they can really damage your health in the long-term.
Is too much protein dangerous?
Once more, keto diet is not high in protein, but if it were, would that be a problem? The biggest concern is the increased occurrence of kidney stones and kidney damage. Recent studies have shown that protein does not cause kidney damage.
Also, the same concern is raised on the liver and osteoporosis. Again, the studies proved there is no damage to liver and no osteoporosis occurrence.
To sum up, there is no evidence that increased intake of protein causes kidney damage, liver failure or osteoporosis.
Should I supplement proteins on keto diet?
For the majority of people who follow keto diet, there is no need for supplementing. What you can do is eat more protein foods, such as whey, casein, milk, egg white, hemp, or similar.
Proteins can be found in other types of food, like plants, and green leafy vegetables.
Here are some foods and their protein values, so you can follow the diet more easily:
For vegetarian options, these are the main sources of protein:
You can always boost your protein intake with high-quality whey protein powders.
Apart from legumes (peanuts, chickpeas, lentils, etc.) and quinoa, which are not a part of the paleo diet, these are the main sources of protein for vegan-friendly diets:
Vegetables, fruits and other
*This article is for informational purposes only. We suggest you visit a doctor or a dietitian for further information about the diet you need.