Is the “too much protein turns to sugar” a myth?

(Brian) #41

Omar, are you saying that your blood glucose levels will be significantly higher if you eat 8 oz of steak for dinner as opposed to eating 4 oz of steak for dinner?

Having a good daydream of a cream filled donut will cause a rise in glucose for many.

This stuff doesn’t happen in a test tube. Context is important.

(Omar) #42

no I am not in a position to quantify.

not only me but if you search the forum you will find lots of members observing that their BG will go up relativly when they go to higher level of proteins

(Terence Dean) #43

Not sure whether this answers your question about it being a myth but Phinney and Volek’s article titled

How Much Protein Do You Need In Nutritional Ketosis?: tends to support the idea that excess protein is not beneficial on Keto.

'Furthermore, there are no convincing human studies showing any benefit from dietary protein above 2.0 g/kg reference weight for adults following a ketogenic diet; and any potential benefit from a higher protein intake must be weighed against the reduction in blood ketone levels caused by excess dietary protein

Further down the page this may give support to 2KD’s comments.

‘On the other hand, too much dietary protein can drive down ketones for several reasons. Protein has a moderate insulin stimulating effect; and though less than the impact of a similar amount of carbohydrate consumption, high protein intakes can drive down ketone production in the liver (Marliss 1978). In fact, specific amino acids like alanine are potently anti-ketogenic. Additionally, when consumed to excess, protein can upset gastro-intestinal function and place a stress on the kidneys to remove the additional nitrogen.’


I am half way through it, it’s great thanks again. Interesting, and backed with studies, especially the lack of effect on insulin to glucagon if eating protein when on a ketogenic diet.


After watching this I have come away with the understanding that what you eat or don’t eat can affect how “things” will be processed in your body. The reason why there is so much he said, she said about these topics is that there really is a difference and what may be true for me on a ketogenic diet might not be true for those on a standard American diet, hence we both required different standards.

(Doug) #46

Right, and I find it absolutely mind-blowing how much of a difference there is. One thing I would like to see are the actual insulin levels rather than the changes in the insulin/glucagon ratios. And while we’re at it, blood sugar levels under all the studied conditions would be nice too.

(TJ Borden) #47

I get the lack of benefit. The question is, what happens to it, and more specifically, does it somehow end up as stored energy (fat)?


And we still didn’t get the answer to what happens to excess protein, unless I missed it because I’m a dumb.

or do we?

If you are ketogenic and work up from low protein to moderate proteins you it will be stored as fat, if you are SAD it gets turned into sugar and then stored as fat. IDK

(Terence Dean) #49

I don’t have good references that address your question but excessive protein is not good if you already have dodgy kidneys. Its the nitrogen that seems to do the damage. I’m happy to listen to Phinney and Co and accept their recommendation levels for moderate protein intake as :

1.5 and 1.75 grams of protein per kg of ‘reference body weight’*

Protein levels never bothered me pre-Keto I saw a steak, I ate it. Who gives a fuck right?

Its only since going Keto that we panic about these things. Lets keep our heads buried in the sand like an ostrich its far less stressful!!!



As a T2, I never see a huge spike in my blood sugars when I eat a protein-heavy meal. For example, we had a brunch on Sunday where I had sausages, bacon, shrimp and cocktail sauce, lox and capers and cream cheese, chicken breast, and several steak medallions. And at the labor day BBQ, I took several hot dogs and hamburger patties, with some bacon and chili.

Blood sugar barely nudged.

(TJ Borden) #51

That’s kinda of what I’ve heard too. I know Richard mentioned somewhere around 3 causes ammonia issues?

I’m mostly carinovire (although being hatch chile season, I’ve been having my fair share of them), and I don’t track it at all because I know I’m not actually eating that much. I think the question really is, and there may not be a good answer, say your target is 100 grams of protein, and you have 150. What happens to that extra 50 grams?

It seems generally accepted that the excess can cause an insulin response (although protein on its own still creates an insulin response, just much less of a response than carbohydrates), and some believe it goes towards gluconeogenesis, which might be true, but we also know that gluconeogenesis is demand driven, not supply driven, so simply having excess shouldn’t trigger gluconeogenesis on its own.

To be fair, it may be answered in some of the videos and/or links above… but I’ve been lazy today and haven’t looked :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


If I were doing a therapeutic ketogenic diet to treat a neurological disease/disorder or cancer then I may be concerned with too much protein having a negative impact - the therapeutic diet needs to be very finely tuned. Currently I’m content to stick with Bikman & Naiman :smile:

(Bunny) #53

Good point! :+1:

How I understand this:

Too much protein triggers insulin; when insulin is high IGF-1 goes down![2] Too much IGF-1 is not good either[1] nor is too much insulin! BALANCE?[5]

Human Growth Hormone (the fat burning hormone) is what breaks down fat into ketones by the liver. It is blocked by sugar/glucose, cortisol and less by estrogen[2]?

IGF-1 is very similar to insulin and gets signals from the human growth hormone that tells the liver to start producing it or what is called insulin like growth factor rather than insulin from the pancreas when a certain threshold of carb, protein, fat and sugar intake is adhered too?[5]

Glucagon (it is like insulin) like that explained in the video below[4] can be activated if needed (e.g. a person who is hypoglycemic) and is secreted by the pancreas when a little bit of protein is eaten rather than sugar/glucose.

  1. Glucagon is secreted by the pancreas

  2. IGF-1 is secreted by the liver

  3. Human Growth Hormone HGH is secreted by the pituitary

  4. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas

  5. Omega 3’s DHA (from marine life) regulates somatostatin[1] (e.g. cold thermogenesis activation of brown fat and browning of WAT). Somatostatin regulates or inhibits the production of HGH[1], Ghrelin (e.g. fasting) increases the production of HGH[1]…


[1] Control of Growth Hormone Secretion: Production of growth hormone is modulated by many factors, including stress, exercise, nutrition, sleep and growth hormone itself. However, its primary controllers are two hypothalamic hormones and one hormone from the stomach: image
•Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) is a hypothalamic peptide that stimulates both the synthesis and secretion of growth hormone. •Somatostatin (SS) is a peptide produced by several tissues in the body, including the hypothalamus. Somatostatin inhibits growth hormone release in response to GHRH and to other stimulatory factors such as low blood glucose concentration. •Ghrelin is a peptide hormone secreted from the stomach. Ghrelin binds to receptors on somatotrophs and potently stimulates secretion of growth hormone. Growth hormone secretion is also part of a negative feedback loop involving IGF-I. High blood levels of IGF-I lead to decreased secretion of growth hormone not only by directly suppressing the somatotroph, but by stimulating release of somatostatin from the hypothalamus. Growth hormone also feeds back to inhibit GHRH secretion and probably has a direct (autocrine) inhibitory effect on secretion from the somatotroph. Integration of all the factors that affect growth hormone synthesis and secretion lead to a pulsatile pattern of release. Basal concentrations of growth hormone in blood are very low. In children and young adults, the most intense period of growth hormone release is shortly after the onset of deep sleep. …” …More

[2] Understanding IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor) in Simple Terms; Dr. Berg talks about IGF-1 Insulin-Like Growth Factor. This is an extension of Growth Hormone. IGF-1 is made by the liver and triggered by GH (Growth Hormone). It does help in the release of fat. It is a fat burning hormone, it helps in releasing fuel when you are not eating. It works when insulin is low and will be decreased when there is high cortisol (stress), high insulin (sugar) and high estrogen.

[3] #1 Diet Tip for Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)

[4] The #1 Food that Fixes Hypoglycemia

[5] The IGF-1 Trade-Off: Performance vs. Longevity: “…There is a tradeoff when it comes to growth hormone and IGF-1. Growth hormone and IGF-1 enhance muscle and cognitive performance but this comes at a cost: longevity. Reduced growth hormone and IGF-1 increase lifespan by increasing the expression of genes involved in stress resistance but at an expensive cost when it comes to muscles and brain. Learn all about the trade-off and ways to circumvent it. …” …More


There seems to be a fight between the two hormones, one being catabolic; the other being anabolic, what you eat determines how that battle is won. Interestingly, the study mentioned in the video showed no response in those who were low carb but very high in those on the SAD. It was also affirmed that eating fat doesn’t induce an insulin response, hence if when in ketosis excess protein is converted to fat then stored in fat cells suggests that eating excess protein shouldn’t have a a deleterious effect on BS. But it seems that there was one caveat that suggested if just starting out on a low carb diet it will take time for this process to be functioning, which makes sense too. I haven’t done enough reading to understand all of this but it’s very disheartening that those who are the most revered in the study of the human body can’t answer some basic questions in laymen terms. Perhaps I am being too harsh, they can’t help it if what they have learned is based on the bodies reaction on a SAD diet, it will be a long time before any of this changes and perhaps not in our lifetime, I probably shouldn’t even be commenting on this stuff myself, I feel quite the fool doing so. Thank you for your very detailed response I have added much to me list of reading.

(Allie) #55

I’m told it’s demand driven and nothing to worry about, but when I eat lots of protein my ketone levels plummet. Although I don’t stress about it as I’ve got enough metabolic flexibility to dip in out of ketosis without difficulty.

(Doug) #56

Crickette, you’re not dumb and it’s an interesting question. I think the bottom line is that “too much protein turns to sugar” is a myth. That does not mean that the body won’t burn protein for energy under some conditions.

Many people handle a relatively high amount of protein in their diet well. Here’s a study where 3 groups were fed almost 1000 calories (~40% of their normal caloric intake to maintain a set weight) above their normal caloric intake. The groups had protein intakes of 5%, 15%, and 25%. The amount of fat gained in 8 weeks was very similar among all groups. The two higher % protein groups had higher weight gain overall, the difference being a gain in lean mass, while the lowest protein group lost a little bit of lean mass.

Higher protein intake did not make for any more fat gain; it just made for increased resting energy expenditure and a lean mass gain versus a small loss. These were not people eating ketogenically.

“Excess” protein really does not describe the conditions where the body will use it as fuel, even though that may sound counter-intuitive. The body can store a little bit of carbohydrates as glycogen, and it can of course store huge amounts of fat, but it doesn’t really store protein at all. Excess protein gets broken down and excreted as urea (placing increased load on the kidneys).

Where protein gets used for energy is when the body is in an energy crisis (real starvation) and it doesn’t have carbohydrates to burn, and it can’t burn enough fat - doesn’t have enough, isn’t adapted to it, or due to other causes like high insulin levels.


Thank you for the article and the encouragement, I definitely have a better understanding of what isn’t known. lol.


Too much protein is better than too little. Dr Ted Naiman MD


Amy Berger is also worth reading


Do you know if it also unhealthy when the body use protein as fuel (when in calorie deficit/starvation)? I have read that too much protein can make people feel less energetic. What is the caus eof this? The work of the kidneys, the conversion of protein to fuel or the starvation itself? Or all three?