Can Too Much Protein Kick Me Out of Ketosis?
Most people will tell you that protein consumption is key to a healthy diet. Protein fills you up, is converted and used to maintain and build muscle mass, and it’s a good source of vitamins and minerals. All this is true. But when eating a well-formulated high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting, you not only deprive yourself (intentionally) of glucose (carbohydrates) to force your body to rely on fat for energy. On a low-carb diet, you must also restrict your protein intake to only the proper amount to meet your body’s nutritional needs or you may experience a weight-loss stall or kick yourself out of ketosis.
Want to understand why? Read on.
Protein as Carbs
When your body is deprived of glucose, it looks to utilize other macronutrients in its place. If it finds excess protein, it will use the protein instead of fat because, unlike lipids (fats), protein converts more easily into glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis. (Check out a brief video about it here.)
This means that depending on how your unique body reacts to eating an excessive amount of protein (beyond your daily macros), your body may turn that protein into sugar and store or use it, and thus reduce your ability to burn body fat and fat from your diet as fuel. (This can also spike your blood glucose / blood sugar levels and consequently lower your ketone levels.)
How Much Protein Do You Need?
To best understand the right amount of protein you should eat, you need to know your optimal daily macronutrients, or macros (your recommended daily calories broken into grams of protein, grams of fat, and grams of carbs (net carbs or total carbs) based on your age, body weight, body composition, height, goals, and other factors).
Once you know your recommended macros, you’ll want to stick close to the daily maximums to ensure you stay in ketosis. However, you may need to go a little more high-protein if you regularly elevate your heart rate (via high activity levels from exercise) for at least 30 consecutive minutes.
It’s also important that you are getting your daily healthy fats. If you fall short on your fat intake, your body may convert protein to glucose which will slow or stop the process of burning fat and may kick you out of ketosis.
That said, in the same way that some people can up their carbohydrate intake and stay in ketosis, some people can tolerate more protein than others. The only way to find out if you’re one of those people who needs more or less protein is to test your blood with a ketone and blood-glucose meter.
Testing to Get Clarity
Conducting ketone and glucose blood tests allows you a clear picture on how your body is responding to what you’re eating. If you’re eating excess protein every day and you remain in ketosis, then your body can handle it. If you’re edging over the recommended allowance and are falling out of ketosis, it’s time to rein in your diet.
When testing for food sensitivities, be sure not to introduce too many additional variables into your diet; they can skew your results. Instead, focus on a diet of clean foods you know you don’t have sensitivities to and see if excess protein is influencing your success.
The Final Word
Whether you’re trying keto for weight loss, to reverse type 2 diabetes, to mitigate epilepsy, or other health benefits, protein remains a good and important part of the keto diet; your body needs enough protein (based on your macros calculated by a keto calculator) at least, and even more if you’re exercising regularly. With a little time and investigation, you’ll figure out how much is right for you . Once you know, you won’t experience unwanted side effects of too much, like getting kicked out of ketosis.
Not sure of good protein sources? Try a chicken breast! Or grass-fed steak or good-quality, low-carb protein powder mixed into a low-carb drink. As you continue refining your meal plans to limit your carb intake, ensure a high-fat and moderate protein diet, and focus on the health benefits of whole foods (including low-carb veggies), you will find more keto-friendly food options that inspire your fat-burning lifestyle and satisfy cravings. If you want some wonderful foods to add to your diet plan, you’ll find it in our recipe section.
Disclaimer: You should always consult with a dietitian or your primary care doctor before making any major changes to your diet.