I'm not getting enough protein most days

(Christopher Avery) #1

I assume my lean body mass is around 160lbs. I’m currently 205lbs. and ketoing for three weeks. Cronometer.com says I require 50g of protein a day. Using @richard 's forumla of 1g protein per kg of lean body mass, I figure 72g of protein per day. So I’m happy if I’m in the range of 50-72g.

Well, most days I’m eating to satiety and not getting there.

My normal breakfast - Keto Coffee (Coconut Oil and Heavy Whipping Cream), 2 large eggs with 2 strips bacon and 1/2 avacado. ~18grams protein

The only time I get to 50g protein is if I have a large serving of steak, burger, or fish for dinner. I guess that answers my question of “How do I get more protein?”

Any other ideas?

(What The Fast?!) #2


(Duncan Kerridge) #3

Drop the coconut oil and have some more bacon for breakfast?


I WISH this was my problem. I have so much trouble backing off protein. Pumpkin seeds are great to snack on- high in fat and protein (also total carbs-but that is almost all fiber), snack on hard boiled eggs, string cheese, nuts.

(Christopher Avery) #5

Thank you all. I picked up more snack cheese. A big hunk of protein at dinner seems to be the difference. And more bacon sounds good!

(Richard Morris) #6

That may be not enough protein.

My range is 1 - 1.5 g/kg which for a 72 kg person would be 72-109g of protein.
I think most people can still have adequate protein lower than that, but when you look at the data some outliers require 1.0g a day to stay in nitrogen balance (which is the technical description of how much protein you need).

Just so you know, there are outliers at the other end who can also stay in nitrogen balance at 0.30 g/kg. So the normal range for humans is quite broad.

The Australian recommended daily minimum (that should be sufficient for 97.5% of all people) is 0.84g/kg for a 52 year old man. So if my lean mass (being that I am a 52 year old man) was 72kg that would be 61g of protein a day.

I actually ate at that level (my lean mass is 80kg so I had 67g/day) for 2 months and did not lose lean body mass so for me at least that is sufficient. But when I got below about 62g I experienced a significant “Protein hunger” … so I suspect we’ll know when we have too little.

50g of protein a day for a 72 kg person is 0.69g/kg. I’m not sure where Cronometer gets that reference from. It may be sufficient. That underlying data I spoke of shows the average protein requirement (sufficient for half the population) is 0.54g/kg.

(Christopher Avery) #8

@richard and @CanKeto, thank you. I truly appreciate your support.

I’m 61 year-old male and I’m estimating my lean body mass based on picture comparisons. I’ll up my protein target to 100g per day and see how it goes.

For breakfast, I took @Duncan_K’s idea to reduce the amount of fat in my keto coffee. I’m digging into a quarter-pound of Trader Joe’s Bacon Ends and Pieces and 3 over-easy eggs.

(Tovan Nhsh) #9

This actually dovetails into a question I was going to ask: would testing nitrogen balance through urine be a useful way to determine daily protein intake? Thomas Delauer: Protein this video seems to say so.

Anyone use this method to determine your protein intake? Any reason why it wouldn’t work that anyone can think of?

(Marty Kendall) #10

@Tovan_Nhsh I’m not aware that nitrogen balance is something that is commonly tested outside a laboratory study.

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect way to track fat mass and lean mass on a regular basis, but I’ve been tracking my lean muscle loss vs fat mass loss using the Navy Method (tape measure) and bio-impedance scales during a weight loss phase.


I’m not afraid of a little protein, but unfortunately, the loss of lean mass is real, at least for me!

(Rob) #11

That is some great data there. Thanks.

Surely though, there is a difference between LBM and Muscle Mass. People are mostly afraid of losing MM but this is harder to measure than LBM so that proxies.

However, LBM is skin, bone, organs and all sorts. As you lose overall body mass, you would hope to lose LBM (non-muscle) and this shouldn’t be an issue. I know I desperately need to lose the loose skin which would count to my LBM.

Even the muscle mass score is massively hackable in even the best tests. See this post about using glycogen recomp to hack a dexa (several posts are useful)

I’m sure you have lost some muscle (you are moving less weight around and the body might not think you need quite as much) but it is quite complex as to what that LBM decline really is based on the definition of LBM and the various mechanisms working on those various components.

(Brian) #12

Christopher, thanks for posting! Glad to know I’m not the only one.

I am thinking that this may be one reason I nearly always show a lower number on the scale after going to Cracker Barrel. I get my protein there. Usually, it’s fish, and a pretty decent serving of it.

#1 seems to be keeping the carbs low. #2 seems to be actually getting adequate protein. The rest seems to take care of itself pretty well, at least for now as I still have an ample supply of body fat. I do like browned butter on my veggies, though… :slight_smile:

(Marty Kendall) #13

Agree with everything you are saying. It’s hard to measure these things accurately, but I figure it’s worth doing what you can. My preference would be be losing more fat mass than lean mass and a decrease on the %BF (this chart shows the data from my bio-impedance scales). My data suggests I was losing more fat than lean mass when I was more disciplined with more resistance training and higher protein. This is still a priority for me, but harder to nail as well while I’m working and living life rather than on holidays and spend more time on this stuff.

(Rob) #14

Indubitably so :grinning:. This data is the best we can do so as long as it’s interpreted with relevant caveats, it offers strong insights (as you know better than I) e.g. the value of exercise for your LBM/MM.

When I started from seemingly irreversible obesity, the scale number always seemed overwhelmingly important but as the possibility of ‘normal’ weight seems plausible, your example and that of other data-nerds makes me want to gather much more. Thanks.

(Todd Allen) #15

Bioimpedance can give very inaccurate body composition results. I wouldn’t rely on the scale unless you have made comparisons against more reliable methods such as dexa, hydrostatic weighing or bodpod. Tracking your performance in resistance training is probably more meaningful than a bioimpedance estimation of body composition.

(Richard Morris) #16

It’s imprecise. I think these are designed for diagnosing kidney disease. If you have protein in your urine and you are eating a low protein diet then your kidneys are having trouble. It’s a little like using pee strips to detect ketones - they are designed to detect acidosis in insulin dependent diabetics, not ketosis in dieters.

The best way in my opinion is measure your lean mass, try an intervention, and re-measure - the difference will tell you something about your response to the intervention.

DEXA is probably the best cheapest option for measuring lean mass, immersion weighing is slightly better but harder to find a facility that offers it. Impedance scales are not very useful as they are confounded by hydration levels.

Yes Caloric reduction is, a priori, a lean tissue and fat tissue reducing strategy. If you give your body less energy than it is telling you that it needs through satiation fuel signals, it will draw down stored energy in fat, and lean tissue. Lean tissue loss will be increased as a ratio of total weight lost if you are in negative nitrogen balance - self evidently. But it will also be increased as a ratio of weight lost if for any reason you can’t sufficienlyt oxidize fatty acids to meet your energy needs.

One example is if insulin is on average above the level of inhibition of lipolysis allowing fatty acids out of adipose, or as it potentiates malonyl-coa inhibition of the carnitine shuttle enabling fatty acids fast ingress into the mitochondria. Another example is if you just don’t have enough body fat, you can only drag 31.5 kCal/lb from that per day, if you need more you will use more lean tissue to make up the arrears.

As for what is a reasonable minimum level of protein intake for nitrogen balance, the evidence shows that some humans can maintain nitrogen equilibrium at 0.3g/kg and some need as much as 1g/kg. Such a broad range of human variability means if you really want to know your own point, you’ll need to test it.

I did just that. I did a bookend DEXA either side of 60 days of eating 0.6 g/kg/day and lost 38g of lean mass which is well within the error of the measurement (38g in a total lean mass of 80,380g is close enough to nitrogen balance for me). I’m not planning to ever go below that point.

For most of my 4 years of keto I have been between 1-1.5 g/kg. Thomas DeLauer appears to be advising a similar range. But you will find keto gurus all over the map with regard to protein intake.

Some websites suggest up to 7g/kg would be perfectly fine, and I heard someone in a FB group the other day suggesting 8.8g/kg is a functional upper limit. All of these are well above the experimentally derived upper limit of 3.3g/kg, beyond which humans can’t get rid of the waste products fast enough and can die.

You can find a video on all this here

(Marty Kendall) #17

@richard can you share the study that talks about 3.3g/kg protein causing death?

For me 3.3 g/kg BW protein would be 75% of my current energy intake which would be hard to do even with dry protein powders.

From what I’ve seen, most people are eating a lot less than that. However, some people seem to crave more protein if they’re growing or doing resistance training. The people I’ve run the Nutrient Optimiser analysis for that are consuming over 3.3 are Alex Leaf who is young and very fit,

Briana Theroux who is also very active,

Shawn Baker who is on about 6g/kg LBM, and

Bailan Jones who is on about 5g/kg LBM who is an active and growing kid with Type 1.

(Richard Morris) #18

You could watch the presentation again - as I cite all the studies I refer to.

Our ability to synthesize urea from ammonia saturates at 0.53g protein Nitrogen/kg BW [¾] per day, which is roughly 3.3g protein/kg BW[¾] per day.

Ammonia is not the only waste product of protein metabolism. Methylamine, and Hydrogen Sulphide will be produced but these are volatiles and likely to just be outgassed from the surface of the lungs which you would probably notice as respectively a fishy odour, and an odour of rotten eggs on the breath. Ammonia will also evaporate from the skin which may be an alternate disposal pathway. I have a theory that may have been an adaptation that provided better cooling during daytime persistence hunting for our meat eating ancestors.

3.3g/kg is apparently the upper limit for normal people. 1 in 8000 people have a deficiency in one of the 6 enzymes needed for ureagenesis, and their rate will be lower. Most will be identified in childhood as an inborn error of metabolism. However at least 2 people last year had a deficiency mild enough to have escaped detection during childhood, but severe enough to be uncovered in their autopsy.

(Adam Kirby) #19

3.3g/kg of bodyweight comes out to around 924 calories for me, which if I was eating a 1:1 protein:fat ratio which I think I usually do, would be something like 3000 cals a day which would be a completely lunatic intake for me (on low carb). So I have no idea how such a high amount of protein is doable without protein powders or extremely lean meats. Granted I’m fairly sedentary so I can’t slam down 6 lbs of meat like Shawn Baker.

(Richard Morris) #20

Actually my BMR as tested by John Wrights indirect calorimeter is a (to me) impressive 2900 kCal/day. That’s what happens when a hyperinsulinogenic individual eats a low insulinogenic diet to satiety for 4 years. He also measured my RQ at 0.69, so I am locked into using fat for energy.

If I calorie restrict (and the last time I did this was the year BEFORE I went keto - the year I was 150kgs) my BMR drops to almost 800 kCal/day. That’s the range of this particular human’s variability of Calories out (800 - 2900).

Let’s say I’m on a plateau (neither gaining nor losing), and eating 2900 kCal a day, and burning 2900 kCal a day.

Let’s now say that I do a boot camp where I reduce my calories to only enough to get all my essential nutrition (forgetting for the moment that energy is also an essential nutrient) … let’s say I’m only eating protein, some low calorie vegetables, maybe 1200 kCal/day of mostly lean protein (around 300g) and then I’m using the “fat bombs” already on my body for energy. Alright so what actually happens?

Well firstly let’s see how much energy I can draw from body fat every day. I’m at a deficit of 1700 kCal/day, I have 40lbs of body fat, so that’s roughly 140,000 kCal of energy (assuming 1lb of body fat = 3500 kCal). Should be enough right?

Humans have an apparent maximum rate that they can draw energy from adipose tissue (http://blog.2keto.com/alpert-2005/).

To produce all that energy from body fat (assuming no mechanistic inhibitions to using fat for energy) I need to divide that 1700 kCal I need by 31.5 kCal/day/lb adipose tissue to work out how many lbs of body fat I am going to need. So the minimum amount of body fat I will need is around 54 lbs … which is my first problem. I have only 40lbs total of body fat which gives me just 1260 kCal/day.

Assuming I can get so much energy from body fat. There are 2 OTHER rate limits on how fast we can mechanistically turn stored fuel into energy - both are ultimately controlled by insulin. Insulin inhibits how fast we can get fatty acids into our cellular furnaces. But it also determines how fast we can get free fatty acids from body fat in the first place.

My fasted insulin is currently around 17 mIU/L. That’s a snapshot of where my insulin is when I eat nothing. When I eat 300g of protein across 3 sittings you can bet it will peak higher 3 times, and as a hypoerinsulinaemic it stays up for up to 6 hours after any peak - so I’d be at a higher level chronically. This chart which I got from a presentation by Ted Naiman shows the problem with how insulin affects access to body fat.

And you might say well if that chart was correct then no-one with high insulin could fast. You have to look at the actual data for that study where they did a second chart for diabetics (in black dots) vs non-diabetics (white dots)


And you can see that the inhibition is not as tight for diabetics, but the chart is still pretty much all asymptote - the less insulin you make the more fat you can get access to. Even assuming I get the chronic high insulin “free pass”, at roughly 100 pMol/l I am sitting on just 25% of maximal energy release from adipose. 25% of 1260 kCal = roughly 400 kCal a day from my fat bombs (assuming the maximal release of FFE given my fasting insulin).

So what happens if I do one of these PSMF boot camps? My body is used to getting 2900 kCal/day from diet, it’s getting 1200/day from diet and 400 kcal/day from storage. The math isn’t working out well is it?

So 2 things the body will do when faced with a budgetary crisis like this. We know one.
We’ve seen it already. It will reduce MBR, cancel all energy processes not essential for immediate survival. Your body will attempt to survive the apparent famine. I’d need to go from 2900 kCal/day to 1600 kCal/day overnight. It takes weeks normally for metabolic rate to drop that much, so in the meantime the body HAS to find a source of energy.

And that brings us to the bodies backup strategy for when it’s primary energy sources are constrained. Burning the furniture. We can use some amino acids for energy directly and indirectly, and most healthy humans have an excess capacity of that stored in muscles. So to make up a deficit of 1300 kCal, I will need roughly 325g of protein, roughly a kilo of muscle a day.

What? You can eat 300g of mostly protein a day and still lose 1kg of muscle weight a day. Yes, if you are doing something reckless like burning protein for energy.

And then of course I’d have the ammonia accumulation issue as now I would be deaminating 625g of protein a day (more than half from my own body).

So what if I wasn’t hyperinsulinamic, let’s say I could drop insulin when I fast to 2 mIU/l. I’m eating 1200 kCal, I’m now able to use 1260 kCal/day from my 40lbs of body fat, I’m still at a deficit of 440 kCal, that’s just 110g of protein, around 1/3rd of a kilo of muscle weight. It’s still bad but not quite AS bad. Either way your metabolic rate needs to drop to try to protect your lean tissue.

Over time you adjust to using less energy, and then your body will eventually out compete your ability to calorie restrict and the weight will go back on … but unless you are working out 1.5 hours a day doing weight bearing exercises to desperately hold onto your gains you will likely end up on the upswing of the yo-yo with a higher body fat %.

Or you can keep calm and keto on, and trust your body to determine the optimum ratio of fat to lean for your specific context - which could be sedentary, or lifting heavy 4x a week, or it could be 100s of kms a week on the bike, it could be high insulin, or low insulin, or elevated but slowly reducing insulin.

(Marty Kendall) #21

Interesting stuff @richard. We’ve incorporated the Alpert max rate of fat loss calcs into the Nutrient Optimiser to set to set the maximum deficit. Most people have a plenty of fat to donate for energy so we also set another minimum based on minimum fat and protein amounts to ensure adequate nutrients.

I found it intriguing how Jimmy was able to reduce his fasting insulin from 14.2 to 8.8 mIU/mL after five days of reduced energy intake at around 1900 cals per day. It seems insulin drops with fasting or energy restriction. I’m not sure I follow all the detail, but how would this reduction in insulin factor into your calculations?