Is well formulated a real thing?

(Ethan) #1

I’m not one to count calories or macros, but I got to just looking at a very basic “well-formulated” ketogenic diet and became suddenly confused about whether it makes sense.

Consider a well-formulated ketogenic defined defined as

  1. 1-1.5 G protein per kg lean body mass
  2. 50-70% of calories by fat
  3. Basically 0g carbs

Consider a male at around 6’ tall with about 18% body fat and weight of 176 lbs, or 80 kg.
This male would then have 66 kg lean body mass.
His protein goals would be 66g to 100g per day.
That would leave fat per day between 33g and 100g.

That would be between 560 Calories and 1300 Calories per day. This is way too little, regardless of the fact the Calories are a poor measure. Increasing the Calories would mean increasing the protein, fat, or both. But increasing the protein takes a person above the 1.5g per kg lean body mass. Increasing the fat alone would increase the percent of calories by fat to 80% or more very quickly. So what am I missing?


You are right, this is very very off. 50-70% fat is my thing as my energy intake must be lowish. I eat over 2g/kg protein.
If I needed as many calories as, say, my SO (male, not very tall but taller, more muscular though mostly just his legs, active), I would need way higher fat and if I wanted to do as little protein as the first point says, it would be even higher.
I actually used his numbers (I know his normal calorie need, he quickly loses or gain if he is off), I got over 80% fat for 2g/kg protein and over 85% for 1.5.
And he doesn’t even have some huge energy need. He is just somewhat active with some nice metabolism. I easily eat WAY more than him and if I had one of my good active days from the past, it could have been just right (if I hadn’t this fat on me to lose, at least).

So it’s obviously off. Anyway, it’s perfectly fine to eat a decent amount of meat every day even if one is a petite woman…

IDK what “well formulated” is but if the 3 point describes that for keto, I never ever want to go close to it. It’s a horrible idea for many of us.

I never understand these fixed percentages. It’s extremely INDIVIDUAL. What they want from someone with some high energy need? (I ignore point 1 here, just focus on macro percentages.) Protein toxicity or heavy starvation where muscle loss is immense, keto or not? Or they only think of small but chubby girls wanting to lose fat? Ones who don’t need much protein as I am a short chubby woman myself, the 2nd point is just me but the other two just won’t happen (3 is okay in my rare super meaty carni days but I don’t see why I should avoid dairy and my beloved eggs, honestly).

It’s important to learn to ignore such things (well if it’s about our eating. I so totally can’t resist to comment about them) and do what works for us. We can’t grab numbers and attack it to everyone’s ideal or even remotely healthy keto. Not even with such ranges. If we say, 50-95% fat, that helps but not very informative :wink:
I like 1-2g/kg protein as a guide (prefer 1.5-2 myself, to be safe. anyway, we have little carbs and it may give us way more enjoyable food), I can’t help my own body find 2g/kg way too low so I am higher. It’s still fine but we shouldn’t go too high as that’s wasteful, not healthy, and so on. But if we don’t feel problems, it’s probably okay.

So few people can reach protein toxicity. We really shouldn’t worry about protein when it’s just perfect (or not but still good) if we follow our desires. (I am one who can overeat protein, I should be a tad careful - but it’s wastefulness level, not the unhealthy one. Even I automatically stop when I go very high, I never ever felt bad because of eating too much protein. If someone is more sensitive or don’t have this break, they may be careful but they are rare as far as I know.)

And what if we truly need way more than 1.5g/kg protein? And it definitely very easily can be more than 1… I can’t imagine why I need about 2.4g/kg as a minimum (I almost never go below and my average is way higher but still not super high like 4g/kg or something :)) but I do. If I stay below during the day, I suddenly find myself munching protein at 1am and I don’t like that. But going over that limit works so why would I try to fix it?
I don’t even need to track! Just eat whatever I want, as much as I feel I need and want. And IF it doesn’t work, tweak it. But not following other people’s theories. It’s my own individual case.

(Allie) #3

Which I am, but would starve on those numbers. Once, shortly before I stumbled into keto, tried limiting to 1400 calories as per MFP, but quickly gave up on the idea as I found back then my body needed 1650 at the very least. Now I’m easily consuming 2000 calories a day, 4000 cal days are not uncommon.


Same. When I went low-carb and ate as little as I could, I finally arrived at 2000 kcal, even lost fat slowly there :slight_smile: Well I had higher-cal days too, every week but on a normal strict day? 2000 was EASY!

Until carnivore I was unable to go lower - except a short honeymoon phase after fat adaptation and an even way shorter time on OMAD.
Now I am able to eat 1600-1800 kcal, not every day but often, I am impressed.
I know for a fact that I stop functioning below 1600 so that’s my lower limit. It doesn’t mean I don’t have lower-cal days but they are rare, occasional happenings.
My protein is high-ish even there, I just get a lower fat percentage.

4000 kcal is my upper limit, always was.


Individuality is a real thing, only constant rule is low carbs.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #6

You are right, but it depends on where someone is in their weight loss. The figures you cite work better for someone who has a lot of fat to shed and who is eating at a 1000-calorie deficit. But later on in the process, say once one is in maintenance mode, then all of one’s daily energy need has to come from diet, and the percentage of fat in the diet will necessarily rise to meet that need.

Another relevant matter is how much of his or her energy needs the person was getting from carbohydrate, before keto. Imagine someone getting 80% of calories from carbohydrate intake. When carb intake is cut close to zero, why shouldn’t fat intake replace all that? The amount of fat, by weight, would be less than half the weight of the carbohydrate, because of their different caloric values. Nevertheless, we baulk at the fat intake, when we don’t even think of the carb intake as a problem. This is one reason I don’t worry about caloric targets and simply eat to satisfy my hunger.

For myself, I’m not entirely sure Dr. Phinney is right to say that “too much” protein inhibits ketogenesis. I haven’t seen it in myself, so far as I can tell, though I’d have to be a lot more obsessive about weighing my food and measuring ketones in order to verify my impression. Or perhaps we have to redefine “too much protein,” I don’t know. If you look into the literature, one thing becomes clear: the study used to determine the recommended daily minimum protein intake showed that people’s daily nitrogen needs were quite varied, meaning that eating protein to match a recommended average intake is going to be too much protein for some people, and too little for others. So I’m more in favour of just doing what feels right for oneself, rather than worrying too much about calculating macros.

Also, and for what it’s worth, my impression is that when Dr. Phinney uses the term “well-formulated” he is not talking about macros, but is rather talking about the quality of the food: minimising polyunsaturated fat intake, eliminating sugar, eating mostly whole, real foods, avoiding processed foods, and so forth.

(Bob M) #7

You’re not missing anything, which is why macros should be banned.

(Ethan) #8

Right… so I am looking at this from a maintenance perspective, not weight loss, since that should eventually be the “ideal” or “goal.” When I do that, the whole thing falls apart. So which of those 3 points is wrong? Should protein actually be higher than 1.5g per kg of lean body mass? I think that is the one that makes the most sense to modify, since upping it would allow somebody to up the fat without affecting the ratios.


It may work better but still not at all. The numbers are in the first post. 560-1300 kcal? And that’s for a bigger person.
If I used the most indulgent amounts, 1.5g/kg protein and 70% fat, I get a number below 1200 kcal. And it gets drastically lower if I use other numbers from the range… It can’t work for basically anyone. Okay, maybe someone very tall and super muscular with a lot of extra fat - even so, it probably would be tough and a huge deficit. But I heard about someone pulling off a 2000 kcal deficit for very long…

So these numbers are seriously wrong. Why is 50% fat used when even 70% causes too low-cal practically always?

Because I overeat like crazy and get nauseous too like that?
I never raised my fat when I lowered my carbs, rather the opposite. Okay, it’s just me but it’s a valid answer :wink:
Oh and if one overate and gained fat and goes keto, it’s very logical to drastically lower their energy intake too. Maybe not right away. Maybe they are magical or only slightly overate and super slow fat-loss is fine for them. But we don’t want to continue our overeating, wasteful, burdening eating where the extra energy gets converted into fat (or in my cause, usually just raising my metabolism so I stay just as fat as I was). No, we want to lose fat. We don’t even want to spend a ton of money on unnecessary food. And the time and effort and energy and garbage, the planet has enough problems without such extra burden.
It’s wonderful not to eat as much as many of us had to on high-carb to get satiated and satisfied. Dropping calories were wonderful to me. Lowering my fat intake was sad but what can I do? I need to be satisfied with less as my body never needed that much to begin with. This is better.

It sounds WAY more smart to me :slight_smile: I don’t care about PUFAs at all (both my staple item contains a significant amount of it and they are my best choices so be it), I just eat proper food and that seems to be okay for me. Even if I don’t track and who knows what my protein intake is let alone my fat (not like tracking necessarily helps with the latter).

Macros are fine, I even have ideal ranges (a bit vague ones, I am not a robot or anyone who needs very specific grams or percentages). These overly popular and in this case, inconsistent fixed numbers and especially percentages are the problem. They can’t fit everyone but this 3 rules can’t fit the vast majority of people. It’s clearly wrong.
Just like the 70/20/10 “keto” percentage (though 75/20/5 is more popular I think. I still saw 10% carbs too many times). Well no, that works for more people. Just not for most of us. I couldn’t pull it off. 1600 kcal may be theoretically possible for me but not with 40g carbs. But for the mostly safe <20g keto it’s around 800 kcal at most… Don’t people think when they come up with such things? And why others share and accept it?

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #10

Protein is needed to replace the daily nitrogen loss (since we are unable to absorb nitrogen from any source except amino acids) and for tissue and bone growth and repair. It is not normally used to meet our daily energy expenditure, unless circumstances are dire. Fat is the main source of energy on a ketogenic diet, since we want to minimise carb intake in order to reduce our chronically elevated insulin levels. (Fat has no appreciable effect on insulin.)

A low-carb, high-fat diet is mostly the way Americans ate, before processed food started to invade the market and Ancel Keys got us all scared of saturated fat. The claim that Americans mostly ate plant-based foods a century ago has been shown to be inaccurate. The big push towards eating less meat, in the U.S., at least, came from the Seventh-Day Adventists, who believed that eating meat stimulated the sexual appetite.

I am old enough to remember the days when everyone knew that we needed a goodly amount of protein, that carbohydrates made us fat, and that a healthful meal consisted of a large portion of meat and small portions of vegetables. And we all cooked with butter, lard, and tallow. Once we got scared of fat, however, it became necessary to replace the fat calories with carbohydrate calories, with results that we are all familiar with.


1.5g/kg is a nice number. I think if one is around this, it’s fine, at least as a starting point. I wouldn’t expect significant muscle loss there, some even gain with way less. I like safety though and agree with the amateur bodybuilders I talked with online so my preferable range is 1.5-2g/kg. But some of us just needs more, it’s fine until it doesn’t get out of hand but it rarely does. It’s not so easy to consume insane amounts of protein without chugging protein drinks like being on a mission where as much protein as possible is the key. I saw such people, ouch.
But if going over 1.5 is a struggle, I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s probably enough. If life proves otherwise, one may think about how to raise it comfortably. (It’s so very easy to eat a lot of protein from my viewpoint, it’s surreal to me seeing people who has a problem with it. But we are different.)

Fat percentage is something one shouldn’t care about unless there is some problem where it should be changed. Some people use 80% fat for therapeutic reasons. Others just realize a fixed percentage has some slight benefits. And some of us are fine with whatever in a big range as long as the calories and protein stays okay too. I am actually fine with 50% and 80% alike if I enjoy my food, at least short term. But I typically eat way too much at 80% and most of my favs are way above 50% so 60-65% works best.
But I doubt that beyond therapeutic reasons it actually matters. Even in the rule has a huge range. Ketosis doesn’t depend on some specific fat percentage.

(Edith) #12

I’m asking this out of ignorance, but isn’t that why people who need keto for therapeutic reasons, especially for epilepsy, need to have much higher fat levels and keep their protein and carbs to very small numbers?

(Ethan) #13

My point though isn’t about that. I am asking about the formula. It doesn’t stand if you increase protein beyond 1.5g per kg. It also doesn’t stand if you increase fat instead, since that will get fat percent of calories at the 80%+ mark. Supposedly, they want us to be 70-75% max. So something is wrong with the formula. I am inclined to believe it is the protein amounts, since increasing the g per kg lean body mass also allows us to eat more fat and keep the ratios.

I have zero issue getting more protein, but I am just questioning the formula. I think it’s wrong. I think you are right that 2g or even higher may be better for somebody at a maintenance weight.


I never really bothered adhering to the formula.

I just quit carbs (potatoes, bread, sugar, starches, wine, beer, chips/crisps, processed crap) and opted for plenty of meat based meals (and ate the fat off them e.g. I’ll be eating 350 grams pork chops and the fat they have on them tonight) and only eat cruciferous veg. Apart from the 2 chops tonight, i’ve already had two eggs, 4 sausages and 3 meatballs today- but this is an unusually big eating day for me today- I normally only have OMAD or 2MAD with IF and just eat whatever protein/fat I want.


I’m 1.7 mtrs high and vary between 68kgs and 71 kgs these days…I used to be 100kgs.

I wouldn’t sweat it too much about protein limits…just cut the processed food and carbs tbh.

(Joey) #16

@EZB And the answers you received are consistently telling you that this “formula” is not what they regard as a well-formulated way of benefiting from low-carb eating.

I’ve seen these criteria you’ve cited bantered about too, but they have never been anything I’ve equated with a set of guidelines for a beneficial WOE.

At this point, I suggest you get this “formula” out of your head and move on. :vulcan_salute:


Or any time… Why does it matter if we maintain or not? If we lose fat, it’s especially a good idea to eat higher protein, for multiple reasons, of course not for everyone…

(I just tracked. 60% fat, great, 230g protein, not so great :smiley: But I was hungry. Sue me.)

The formula/rule set is very wrong, it was pretty clear from the beginning…

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #18

I’m not sure. That’s something I should probably look into.

I’m not sure what your source is for that. I wonder how well-informed that Web site is. All I’ve ever heard Dr. Phinney say is “total carbs under 50 g or less, a reasonable amount of protein,” which he defines as 1.0-1.5 g/kg lean mass, “and fat to satiety.” Prof. Bikman says essentially the same thing with his mantra, “control carbs, prioritise protein, and fill in with fat.” (Though I believe he’d countenance a higher protein amount, since he is concerned with muscle wasting in old age.)

I’ve never heard anyone say there is a limit on fat intake, beyond enough to satisfy one’s hunger. I find that I can overeat fat and not gain weight (I cycle within the same 10-lb./4.5 kg range); all that happens is that I perspire a lot more, especially at night. So obviously my body responds to my energy intake by revving up my metabolism enough to waste some heat. (I’ve never tried to find out whether my urinary and respiratory ketone excretion goes up, as well.)


No such thing, well forumulated is different for each person. So if YOU come up with a well formulated diet (for you) the term is valid, anybody else, it’s cookie cutter BS.

Great example of why I don’t like the cookie cutter mindset, first, I’d argue that somebody that’s 6’ tall and 176lbs would blow away in the wind, who’s to assume the muscle mass? (I get this is a hypothetical) Muscle mass has a very serious effect on your metabolic rate, and that changes EVERYTHING! Also not a fan of using (usually assumed) LBM as a protein source, we need protein for a lot more than that, go by body weight. That covers things from both angles.

Agreed that’s way too little, but calories are a good measure, just not when the macro breakdown is being done by percentage, because as you mentioned, then everything needs to scale with everything else, and that’s just stupid. If you decide to have an extra piece or more of that delicious beef, now you need to eat more fat and carbs? That’s doesn’t work in real life.

Your goals should be based on grams, protein must be hit, carbs must stop at whatever limit you set (within reason) and fat can fill in the blanks. Stick with that, and unless your way off what what your RMR is (I know I was until I had it tested) it’ll all work. People like to nitpick CICO because it’s not “perfect”, and no, it’s not. But neither is our day to dat metabolic rates, our metabolism is adaptive, not just over time, not just when we’re obese or starving ourselves, always!

Calories in the food we eat are more predictable than our metabolisms are, we used to use bomb calorimeters to measure that stuff, now there’s some better thing, honestly forget what it’s called, but either way it’s us who are more imperfect, that’s why consistency is key. But you have to have the right starting point. Anybody that can’t get the fat off after a long plateau needs to have their RMR measured, because when your guess at that is wrong, everything you do is wrong. I was eating almost 1000 cals a day more than I should have been for almost a year and didn’t know it! I only fixed it because of a RMR/DEXA special that was being run, and I wanted to know my body fat. Surprised wasn’t even the word!

(Ethan) #20

I need to find a place to get a DEXA scan done