Can Too Much Protein Kick Me Out of Ketosis?
Most people will tell you that protein is key to a healthy diet. It fills you up, is converted and used to build and maintain muscle, and it’s a good source of vitamins and minerals. All this is true. But when eating a well-formulated ketogenic diet, you not only deprive yourself (intentionally) of glucose (carbs) to force your body to rely on fat for energy. 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.
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. (Read about gluconeogenesis here or check out a brief video about it here.)
This means that depending on how your unique body reacts to protein above and beyond your daily recommended macros, it may turn that protein into sugar and store or use it, and thus reduce your ability to burn fat as fuel.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
To best understand how much protein you should eat, you need to know your optimal daily macronutrients, or macros (the recommended daily amount of calories for you to consume based on your age, weight, 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 more protein if you regularly elevate your heart rate (via exercise) for at least 30 consecutive minutes.
It’s also important that you are getting your daily fats. If you fall short on your fat calories, your body may convert protein to glucose which will slow or stop the process of burning fat and may kick you out of ketosis.
Some people are able to tolerate more protein than others: in the same way that some people can eat more carbs 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 is to test your blood.
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.
Either way, protein remains a good and important part of the keto diet. With a little time and investigation, you’ll figure out how much is right for you.