Complete Guide to the Protein for the Ketogenic Diet
Learn to Consume Healthy Sources of Moderate Protein on the Keto Diet
By: Robert Eilers | NightOwl.FIT Community | October 16th 2017
Protein: How Much Do I need?
[/fusion_title]While the Keto Diet relies heavily on fats and oils, as covered in our previous article, another necessary macronutrient is protein. Protein can come from a few different source so it is important to understand which you should be consuming, and which are best to avoid. Just like fats proteins contain essential nutrients. Proteins consist of amino acids and are one of the building blocks of body tissue and can be used as a fuel source.
Your ideal consumption of protein will depend largely upon your goals and the type of keto diet you are following.
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs (1).
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
To avoid confusion you can use a keto macro calculator, especially when you are first starting out. Or you can follow along with the recommended .7 grams per lb of body weight as stated in the book by Mark Sisson the Keto Reset Diet. I tend to follow this approach as Mark pushes a more primal/paleo version of keto. In reality, this number can be as low as .36 grams per lb of body weight as this is all you need to maintain muscle. But like I said this is based on your current dietary goal.
Protein: What are Amino Acids?
There are two main types of amino acid: Essential and Non-Essential. This can further be broken down into a third group: Conditionally Essential.
‘Essential’ amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body. These need to be consumed via our diet – from foods we eat or supplements we take. ‘Non-Essential’ amino acids are the reverse. ‘Conditionally-Essential’ amino acids are a classification of ‘Non-Essential’ amino acids that can be depleted during intensive exercise, illness or stress.
Eight of these amino acids are essential (or indispensable) and cannot be produced by the body. They are:
- Leucine: Responsible for the regulation of blood-sugar levels, the growth, and repair of tissues in skin, bones and of course skeletal muscle.
- Isoleucine: Promotes muscle recovery, regulates the blood-sugar levels and stimulates HGH release
- Lysine: Growth and development. It is used by the body for calcium absorption, which results in bone and muscle growth as well as fat mobilization for energy uses
- Threonine: Used to form the body’s two most important binding substances, collage, and elastin. It is also essential to maintain proper protein balance
- Methionine: Assists in the breakdown and use of fats, which in turn yields a higher testosterone rate.
- Phenylalanine: It elevates the mood by stimulating the nerve system, and may be important to stay motivated.
- Valine: Repair and growth of muscle tissue, also it maintains the nitrogen balance and preserves the use of glucose.
- Histidine is an amino acid that is categorized as semi-essential since the human body doesn’t always need it to properly function; therefore, dietary sources of it are not always essential. Meanwhile, conditionally essential amino acids aren’t usually required in the human diet but do become essential under certain circumstances.
Finally, nonessential amino acids are produced by the human body either from essential amino acids or from normal protein breakdowns. Nonessential amino acids include:
- Aspartic acid
- Glutamic acid
Protein Sources: Meat
While consuming protein on a ketogenic diet it is important to understand it is always going to be quality over quantity. As stated before you only need .36g per lb of body weight to maintain muscle. So eating a large piece of meat with a side salad isn’t keto. That said meat still contains essential amino acids that are very important to human function. But the quality of the meat source is very important. It is why it has been easier for me to go keto after following a primal/paleo lifestyle for so long.
Your best bet when it comes to protein is choosing pasture-raised and grass-fed. As I always push on this website find your local farmers market or use one of the many online meat providers that have been popping up. This will minimize your bacteria and steroid hormone intake. Try to choose the darker meat where possible with poultry, as it is much fattier than white meat.
Definitely, avoid overly processed meat whenever possible.
Keto Diet Meat Choices
- Beef. Ground beef, steak, roasts, and stew meat.
- Pork. Ground pork, pork loin, pork chops, tenderloin, and ham.
- Poultry. Chicken, duck, quail, pheasant and other wild game.
- Organ. Heart, liver, kidney, and tongue.
- Other Meat. Veal, Goat, Lamb, Turkey and other wild game.
- Bacon and Sausage. Check labels for anything cured in sugar.
Protein Source: Fish
Just like meat in the previous section, it is important that you are getting your fish from quality sources. You will ideally want to search out wild-caught fish over farm raised. In 2004, a widely-cited study found the levels of PCBs, a potentially carcinogenic chemical, to be ten times higher in farmed fish than in wild-caught fish. That sounds pretty scary, but the amount of PCBs in the farmed fish was still less than 2% of the amount that would be considered dangerous.So if you have to opt for
So if you have to opt for farm-raised because of budgetary reasons then it is still possible to.
Although meat, poultry, and fish are all good sources of protein, seafood boasts the healthiest fatty acid profile: it’s low in saturated fat and high in those omega-3 fats we hear so much about.
- Fish. Preferably eating anything that is caught wild like catfish, cod, flounder, halibut, mackerel, mahi-mahi, salmon, snapper, trout, and tuna. Fattier fish is better.
- Shellfish. Clams, oysters, lobster, crab, scallops, mussels, and squid.
Protein: Other Sources
Protein doesn’t have to come from just meat and seafood. It is possible, as many vegetarians can tell you, that you can consume plenty of protein from other sources. Unfortunately, on the keto diet, many of the protein sources that vegetarians have come to rely on are not allowed on keto. You can however still enjoy plenty of protein from other sources.
- Whole Eggs. Try to get them free-range from the local market if possible. You can prepare them in many different ways like fried, deviled, boiled, poached, and scrambled.
- Nut Butter. Go for natural, unsweetened nuts and try to stick with fattier versions like almond butter and macadamia nut butter. Legumes (peanuts) are high in omega 6’s so be careful about over-consumption.
While technically considered a fat source cheese and dairy items also contain amounts of protein. Though I typically tend to limit these as lactose doesn’t agree with everyone. Usually, if you have any issues with dairy it is best to avoid them all together. I have found though that I can have greek yogurt with no issues, and sprinkles of cheese.
- Greek yogurt
- Heavy whipping cream
- Mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
- Spreadables including cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, mascarpone, creme fraiche, etc.
- Soft Cheese including mozzarella, brie, blue, Colby, Monterey jack, etc.
- Hard Cheese including aged cheddar, parmesan, feta, swiss, etc.