One of the biggest mistakes people make when first adopting a ketogenic diet for weight loss is eating too much protein.
A successful ketogenic diet requires strictly limiting carbohydrate consumption and upping the intake of healthy fats. This allows the metabolism to switch from primarily using glucose (sugar) for fuel to primarily using ketones (fat) for fuel.
This is referred to as ketosis. When the cells begin to burn fat for fuel this includes body fat such as the fat around the belly, thighs, and hips.
So to get into ketosis and shed pounds of body fat, you must eat a ketogenic diet which is a low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet.
But what about protein? Does it matter how much you eat? And what kind of protein is best for maximum weight loss?
Protein and Weight Loss
A common misconception is that a ketogenic diet is high in protein. The reality, however, is that a ketogenic diet is a moderate protein diet, or maybe even more accurately, an adequate protein diet. In fact, too much protein can actually inhibit your body from entering ketosis thus preventing you from experiencing the myriad of benefits of the diet.
There are many reasons why adequate protein consumption is required for success on a ketogenic diet.
Studies have shown that protein is the most satiating macronutrient while carbohydrate is the least satiating. Therefore, if you eat an adequate amount of protein you will feel more satisfied and be more likely to eat less calories.
Protein is also the most important macronutrient for building and maintaining muscle mass. Muscles burn calories 24/7 even when you are not exercising.
Protein and Ketosis
Proteins are the building blocks of life, they provide the body with all of the essential amino acids. But more is not always better.
When first adopting a ketogenic diet, it is easy to replace carbohydrate rich foods such as grains, starches, and sugar with protein rich foods such as meat, nuts, and cheese. To an extent these can be very helpful substitutions, but it is important not to eat excess protein.
A ketogenic diet deprives the body of its glucose stores and begins metabolizing fat and utilizing ketones for fuel. However, in the absence of dietary carbohydrates, there is a process through which the body can actually generate glucose. This is called gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis occurs when protein is consumed in excess of what is required for proper function and maintenance of the body. The liver converts the excess amino acids into glucose to be used for energy. Gluconeogenesis can spike your insulin and reduce the levels of ketones in your blood.
So even when strictly adhering to a low carbohydrate diet, blood sugar levels can remain high due to gluconeogenesis. This can lead to symptoms of the keto flu, which happens both during keto adaptation and when ketosis is abruptly interrupted with excessive blood glucose levels.
Gluconeogenesis is not inherently bad, however. Gluconeogenesis is actually an essential process for healthy ketogenic dieting. The body does require very small amounts of glucose for functioning as some cells are unable to use ketones for fuel. If glucose is not obtained through the diet then the body must convert protein to glucose to meet the needs of the cells.
Gluconeogenesis only becomes a problem when large amounts of protein are broken down into sugar. The metabolic process is quite complicated and produces inflammatory byproducts such as free-radicals
How Much Protein is Right for You?
The amount of dietary protein necessary for you can be determined by body weight and activity level. Those who are physically active naturally have higher protein requirements than those with a more sedentary lifestyle.
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. Athletes and those who are physically active should trend towards the higher end of this range while sedentary individuals should stick to the low end.
Other relevant factors include gender (men need more than women) and age. FInding the sweet spot can be challenging as protein is important for maintaining lean muscle mass but too much will likely take you out of ketosis.
Get in The Keto Zone
A successful ketogenic diet will lead to weight loss, increased energy, and enhanced cognitive function. In order to receive these benefits it is imperative to eat an adequate amount of protein. Not too much, not too little.
This can be achieved by eating a diet that consists mostly of non-starchy vegetables by weight but with most of the calories coming from healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, MCT powder, lard, and tallow. Add in small portions of high quality protein and stop eating when you are full. Healthy sources of protein include grass-fed beef and bison, pasture-raised chicken and turkey, wild game such as venison and elk, wild-caught fish such as sardines and salmon, pasture raised eggs, grass-fed cheese, grass-fed whey protein powder (infrequently in small amounts), and hydrolyzed collagen powder.
If you follow these simple rules you will shed the pounds and feel better than you can have ever imagined!
To learn more about Dr. Colbert’s ketogenic blueprint called The Keto Zone Diet visit www.KetoZone.com where you can find recipes, tips, and products that will enhance your keto experience.
Sign up for Dr. Colbert's Newsletter
Receive the latest news on preventative medicine, supplements, promotions, and much more.