Curious about protein intake

(LH) #1

Hi! I’ve been dabbling with keto without much success for a few months. Mostly because I’m not going long before a sweet craving takes me out. And perhaps I don’t need to eat quite as much fat as the plan says I should. Anyway, I’m back at it again starting 2 days ago, and hoping to get clear about my macros, and my related goals.

I would love advice about how much protein i need, and if I should really be eating this much fat.

Right now I’m using the app Carb Manager to calculate goals and track. I am 45 years old, lightly active (i do cardio 3 times per week, and power yoga 1 time per week), I’m 5-11", and I weigh 215 lbs / 98kg. According to carb manager I should be eating 96g of protein, 119g of fat, and 19g of carb. According to the internet, I should eat between .7-.9 grams of protein per lb, which would put me at 150-193g ( According to Carb manager my calories should be at 1500 for weight loss.

Reading through the forum, it seems folks agree that one should hit their protein goals, and only eat fat until full. The internet also warns that excessive protein intake will result in not going into ketosis. The range here is pretty different. I’m struggling to eat even 96g of protein, and 119g of fat. And since I haven’t lost any weight (in fact I’ve gained), I hesitate to eat more.

Which would you do? Any other tips are appreciated. Thanks in advance.

(Bob M) #2

I don’t worry about protein intake. Eat as much as you want. For fat, I personally don’t find most fats to be filling. (Other people do.) So, I typically eat leaner meats, though I do add some high saturated fat sources (dairy, cacao) at times.

It’s my belief that the “eat too much protein kicks you out of ketosis” is a myth. Or at least my several thousand tests of glucose and ketones could never find this to be true.

(Bacon by any other name would taste just as great.) #3

The key to a ketogenic diet is to keep carbohydrate intake low enough to avoid chronically elevating insulin. The hormone that stimulates ketogenesis in the liver is called glucagon. It and insulin are made in the pancreas, and they regulate each other, as well as certain other key processes in the body.

In a low-carbohydrate diet, the absence of excessive glucose (which is what all carbohydrates are made of) causes glucagon to be secreted, which stimulates the process of ketogenesis in the liver. The level of insulin secretion is low, as is the ratio of insulin to glucagon. Carbohydrate intake above a ketogenic level causes insulin secretion to rise, increasing the insulin/glucagon ratio and inhibiting ketogenesis.

Protein has an effect on insulin to some extent, but in the context of a high-carb diet, it greatly elevates insulin secretion, increasing the insulin/glucagon ratio, and inhibiting ketogenesis. In the context of a low-carb diet, glucagon secretion increases along with insulin, and the insulin/glucagon ratio remains low. We recommend consuming 1.0-1.5 g of protein/kg of lean body mass/day, which is a bit lower than the recommendation you cite.

Fat has a minimal effect on insulin secretion, so fat intake should be increased to compensate for calories lost from the reduction of carbohydrate. Enough fat should be added to the diet to assuage hunger pangs (i.e., eat to satiety); given that fat contains over twice as many cal/g as carbohydrate, this means you will need less that you think.

Be wary of deliberately restricting caloric intake, because that signals to the body that there is a famine going on. The body responds by restricting its energy expenditure and conserving all resources, including stored fat. Abundant caloric intake, on the other hand, causes the body to increase its energy expenditure and to feel safe expending its reserves of stored fat. The appetite hormones will regulate appetite to permit both dietary and excess stored fat to be metabolised.

(Bob M) #4

This is an interesting article/study in this area:

They say this:

Insulin strongly inhibits ketosis, predominantly by reducing lipolysis in adipocytes and reducing the supply of free fatty acids, the substrate for ketone body production.

To the extent that protein reduces ketosis (which I don’t think it does, but I could be and often am wrong), maybe this is how? Protein’s insulin spike could reduce ketosis?

That is, the common theory appears to be that protein = increase in blood sugar, and that’s what causes the purported decrease in ketosis. But maybe it’s the high insulin from high protein that does this?

And maybe this is why people with more muscle (like me) tend to like higher protein: higher insulin = larger muscles?

Anyway, they also state the following:

Importantly, we demonstrate that glucagon is only capable of increasing ketone production in the context of complete loss of insulin signaling.


If this much food is enough for you, your macros seem okay to me - but I don’t know much about you, your protein need can’t be calculated but we make an educated guess, at least if we find a formula we trust… I consider adequate protein around 1-2g/kg (lean bodyweight. the fat doesn’t need extra protein as far as I know), it’s a common range but of course, there are different ones and our activity matters (and there is a personal variety but we can’t know that without experimenting, some hobby bodybuilders realize they are fine with less or more than average) and I don’t see any problem with high protein if you have a good reason for it and your body is just fine with it. Some people experience problems when they eat too much (actually everyone but most of us just can’t eat too much).

You may just eat as you like (listening to your body signs and your knowledge about things) and you will see if it will be fine. I don’t even track anymore most of the time but I have experience and know I always eat a good amount of protein, not too little, not too much. My good range is huge, it seems and I need it as I can’t eat only adequate amount of protein as I am sensitive to my fat percentage but need lots of calories. If it doesn’t cause problem, why don’t we follow what we comfortably can instead of forcing ourselves into some unneeded range of percentages or grams? There is wriggle room, let’s use it.

I wouldn’t force eating more but don’t eat too little either. Maybe try fasting if you don’t want food on some days if that happens? Or don’t stick to the same macros every day? It’s not for all of us.
Maybe you eat something that interferes, one way or another. It may cause cravings, pretty easily. If I eat right, I don’t even think about sweets but if I don’t, they are inevitable, the difference is huge. I imagine some people go off without their sweets but if they have extremely low-carb nutritious and satiating sweets, they are fine (but many people is better off without sweets in general).

There isn’t really a thing like “you need to eat X g of fat per day” on keto. ideally, your body tells you how much and what kind of food you need. Of course it’s not that simple for everyone… Mine tends to want A TON but only if I don’t eat right. Just because I am in ketosis, it’s not right, I need additional rules as many of us do.
I find experimenting and listening to my body inavoidable. I usually go against most advice as they just aren’t for me. I laughed at the (for me) impossible numbers calculators gave me. They are great for many but some of us needs more work.

I hope my comment isn’t an overwhelming mess for you, it’s truly a very complicated thing as we are all very different and need very different things due to physical, mental, emotional differences.


My go to, and most is 1g/lb bodyweight. That gives you enough to not worry about muscle loss, enough to gain muscle with a little workout and leaves a little extra in there because people forget our muscles aren’t the only thing that needs protein.

File that one along with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy! ZERO truth to it. Gluconeogenesis (what people use as a fear tactic) is demand driven, not supply driven.

It’s probably wrong, Carb Manager’s macro recommendations are notoriously off. Remember, all macro calculators are just making educated guesses. No calculator knows YOUR metabolism. Grab a tape, take the measurements and try the Ketogains one, as far as calcs go, I’ve found it to be the most accurate. But ultimately it takes some trial and error.

Remember, Your calories are a limit, Protein is a GOAL, Fat fills the gaps. It’s not always going to be perfect so don’t make yourself insane with it, just try to get as close as you can as often as you can.


Such a value is only valid within a given range of body weight (and body composition), presumably near one’s ideal weight.

For example, when I started keto at 650 pounds, 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight would have been beyond absurd. Most of the calculators that compute lean body mass, for the purpose of calculating protein needs, will also give absurd values for such outlier body weights.

For weight loss purposes, I usually recommended that people determine their protein needs based on their suspected ideal weight. Morbidly obese people will likely have most of the additional weight in water and fat and not muscle tissue, neither of which really affect protein needs. If there is additional muscle tissue needed to carry the additional weight, it will likely atrophy as weight is lost, unless the individual purposefully sets out to maintain it by working out.

(Bacon by any other name would taste just as great.) #8

Well, all I know is that Bikman purports to have data showing that the effect of protein on insulin is dependent on the amount of carbohydrate in the diet. In a low carbohydrate diet, the insulin/glucagon ratio remains low, even as protein intake increases, because the insulin response is matched by an offsetting glucagon response. Whereas in a high-carbohydrate setting, there is no increase in glucagon secretion, so the insulin/glucagon ratio increases dramatically. This is after the large amount of dietary carbohydrate has reduced the amount of glucagon secreted, and stimulated the amount of insulin secreted.

Glucagon and insulin each regulate the other. Glucagon is secreted by the α cells in the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, and insulin is secreted by the β cells. The two cell types are intermingled in the islets. I don’t believe that line about “complete loss of insulin signaling,” because it implies no insulin secretion whatsoever, and that doesn’t sound possible. If they mean “insulin below a certain threshold,” then I’d agree with them.

My understanding is that, while insulin certainly inhibits lipolysis (the breakdown of triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol) in adipose tissue (this is how it’s fattening effect works, after all), it also operates directly on liver cells to inhibit the ketone metabolic pathway.

Interestingly, experiments with mice show that Type I diabetes is possible only if the animal is able to produce glucagon. Animals whose ability to produce both hormones has been destroyed have perfectly normal blood glucose, no matter how much sugar they are fed, apparently.

It is also worth noting that the amount of insulin circulating in blood serum is a small percentage of the amount actually secreted. First, it is antagonised within the pancreas by glucagon, and second, the remaining secretion goes directly into the liver, where much of it is metabolised, before the remainder is released into the blood. This is why insulin treatment for Type I diabetics fails to mimic the natural effects of insulin secreted by the pancreas.

(Bacon by any other name would taste just as great.) #9


Agreed, it skews when you’re obese but there’s enough wiggle room in both directions that it’s typically a good starting point for most even when overweight.

(LH) #11

Thanks for this @PaulL. I’m going to stick with low carb (under 20g per day) and otherwise eat fat to satiety, and try the range of protein for my LBM then notice where that lands calories (your formula is less than what i’ve been going by, but feels better for what my body currently seems to want). So far this week, I feel satisfied eating a bit less than 1500 per day. I’m also thinking that i may not be calculating the amounts I’m eating properly, so starting to weigh my food to help with that.

(LH) #12

Thank @OgreZed I calculated my LBM (135lb / 59kg) which puts me in a range of 59-88.5g of protein per day at the 1-1.5g per kg of body weight. 135 lbs is about 30 lbs below my ideal weight, but I’m going to try this range of protein for now anyway. Appreciate the nuance discussed here.

(LH) #13

I appreciate this formula a lot, and have used the calculator you shared to find my LBM. Now I’ll follow that for a bit and see how that feels (hunger wise) then adjust from there. Thanks!

(LH) #14

Thanks @Shinita I’m learning to use these as guides and not the end all truth for me. Definitely don’t find your reply overwhelming. Also your comment about how cravings could be triggered by eating certain things, I am noticing this to be true for me too. If I drink alcohol, I’m instantly hungry, and have way less control over what i eat then too. I’m also thinking that coffee may be a problem for me as well -super sad about this, as it really motivates me out of bed in the morning. Thinking that i may need to reduce coffee tho, i’m not ready to cut it fully yet.

Anyway, I’ll be starting with some of the recommendations here, and noticing how my body feels, then adjusting. Much appreciation.

(Bob M) #15

I don’t think that’s true. I think the effect of protein on blood sugar is a combination of insulin and glucagon. But the effect on insulin is to raise insulin.

Ugh…I’m having trouble finding anything relevant. Here’s one figure:


That is, you eat protein, you can an insulin response. (I know I can find a vegan saying there’s as much insulin response from protein as from carbs, which is true for certain ones.)

But here’s the whole picture:


Insulin goes up due to protein. But as insulin starts coming down, glucagon goes up. This is why in “normal” people (like me), we have a perfectly flat blood sugar from eating protein. (Not everyone will.)

These are from:

Anyway, I have a theory. I think some people who experience a drop in ketones (due to eating higher protein) is because of the increase in insulin. If you have a lot of muscle mass, however, and you’re exercising that muscle mass “enough” (not sure what that is), the muscle acts like an insulin sink. So, someone like me, with a relatively large amount of muscle mass and who is exercising that mass, can eat protein but not get a large (or any) ketone drop – the muscles “suck up” the insulin. Meanwhile, someone with a lot less muscle mass (and no concomitant need for insulin to be put into muscle) can experience lower ketones due to a ketone hit because of the spike in insulin.

This makes logical sense to me and I’m sticking to this as a theory…for at least the next few minutes until someone finds a study that obliviates it. In the meantime, I will revel in its glory! :wink:


That feels like so little protein to me… I am 5 2 and weigh 110 lb and I eat a lot more protein than that. I did when I was losing as well most days. Protein does not add fat easily so I have a hard time believing that gains come from that… unless you are adding lean mass. I would keep protein up and do more weight bearing exercise. Some lifting in addition to yoga or more yoga. But bottomline… find something that works for you … there is probably not any formula that is true for each of us… all depends on what we use our bodies for… So experiment away… and find a way to stay away from that sugar LOL.

(LH) #17

That’s really it, stay away from the sugar! Thank you, and I def want to add more weight bearing workouts.

(Bacon by any other name would taste just as great.) #18

Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my earlier post, but as Prof. Bikman says in the video I linked to, it’s actually the insulin/glucagon ratio that matters, not the absolute level. In a low-carb environment, while more protein results in more insulin, it also results in more glucagon, thus keeping the insulin/glucagon ratio low. In a high-carb environment, more protein leads to more insulin, but the excess carbohydrate keeps glucagon low so the insulin/glucagon ratio rises steeply. In a low-ratio situation, ketogenesis and gluconeogenesis are encouraged, whereas they are inhibited in a high-ratio situation. This makes sense, because in a high-carb situation, (a) there is no need for gluconeogenesis, and (b) the main need is to avoid hyperglycaemia by driving glucose into muscle and adipose.


And starches. High starch foods like bread, rice, potatoes, and pastas have a higher glycemic index than table sugar.

(LH) #20

Yup, same same. Stay away form most carbs.