Protein Clarification

(Fran) #1

I need some clarification. I have a local FB keto group and one member keeps insisting that protein is his most important macro and that he eats that more than fat. That is fine for him, but he keeps saying that if people don’t get enough protein then the body will take it from the muscles. I have heard this before, but my understanding is that it only happens if the body is starving. Also, this way of thinking doesn’t make sense to me, because if it were true then people couldn’t do extended fasting without losing lean body mass and as we know people don’t lose lean body mass from extended fasting. Can someone please clarify this protein issue for me so that I can report accurate information back to my group? I don’t want to argue with this guy, but I feel like he’s giving incomplete/inaccurate information.


There are those out there who will preach the high protein diet, and also saying that fat should be kept low, too. Well…I only have two words to respond to that…Rabbit Starvation.

It’s a very unhealthy diet…yeah, you will lose weight, but then set your body on to a trajectory of destruction.

Here’s a link to a simple description of rabbit starvation, also known as protein poisoning:

(8 year Ketogenic Veteran) #3

What @Fiorella said.
Low fat is NOT a ketogenic diet. Fat fearing freaks can argue till they are blue, we simply are at a limit to how much bodyfat we can harvest for fuel.


(8 year Ketogenic Veteran) #4

Here’s some good info:

(8 year Ketogenic Veteran) #5

There’s also this, for those who think they can get all their energy needs from protein and almost exclusively bodyfat:

(John) #6

That ‘science’ doesn’t apply to keto. If you keep your insulin levels high it is hard to access fat so if you are doing a really hard workout the next easily available fuel source once glucose gets low is protein which the starts converting via gluconeogenesis. So, people who carb load and lift heavy, sprint, crossfit that kind of stuff have to eat lots of protein, not for building muscle as they typically think, but as a fuel source.
On keto you keep insulin levels low so fat flows pretty freely and there is no reason why your body would burn any protein while it has a ready supply of fat. On keto, aerobic workouts in studies i’ve seen are 80%+ fat burning, the only time you need a lot of glucose is when you go higher than that, which your body can only sustain for short times. Luckily a byproduct of burning fat is also glucose. Check out the FASTER study for some more info on all this, though it doesn’t touch much on the protein because it’s not really a thing. These guys are likely doing WAY more than this guy ever will, and it isn’t a problem for them.

(Fran) #7

This is exactly what I needed. I knew this. I just needed to be reminded of the science. Thanks. Now the question is, do I share this with the group and make it look like I’m just trying to win a fight? Or do I share the knowledge as the topic comes up? I really don’t want to seem petty and like a know it all, but at the same time he’s giving people bad information and I don’t want that either. Thoughts?

(8 year Ketogenic Veteran) #8


Fuck their delicate brotein feelings.
Get the proper info out there.
If he counters, keep repeating you’re going to follow the science.


I’ve been informed the term wnker is highly offensive in Australia , just as cnt is offensive here in America. I did not realize that.

And geeze, no way I would EVER use the term c*nt!

So, in that light, I am removing the word from this post. I’m all on board for respecting the land of Oz.


This is helpful from Dr. Jason Fung’s blog:

And the guy on FB might end up finding he has kidney issues if he is eating excessively high amounts of protein and not burning it off.

(Fran) #20

Update: I did mention rabbit starvation and he said he read the article, etc, etc. I feel like engaging with this guy is going to be an exercise in frustration. He has had success on his modified keto diet and I’m going to let him enjoy that and continue to provide information and encourage people to do their own research and n=1. Thanks for the resources. I’m glad to know that I do know my stuff and I’m giving people the right information.


Great approach, Fran.

(Brian) #25

I’m a little confused in @ApexOnKeto post the person states he eats more protein than fat, NOT about being fat phobic he’s not arguing for no fat. A fat=45% Prot=50% carb=(5% and less than 35 g) is probably a very healthy weight loss diet for many people (as well as helpfull in improving several health markers) with an emphasis on protein. I don’t see a problem with i or something like it.That diet ratio may or may not be KETO possibly depending upon the calories

(8 year Ketogenic Veteran) closed #28

(Richard Morris) #30

There are a lot of myths about protein.

There is an obvious one that you need to eat muscles (protein) to build muscles. It’s a bit like the eat fat to get fat, or eat your greens to turn green.

I’ll do my best.

We use dietary protein for 4 purposes, we break it into amino acids and use them to maintain our existing protein structures, we also use them to make additional protein structures (like hypertrophic muscle building), we strip off the nitrogens in amino acids and use the remaining carbohydrate to make glucose if we need to make some, and finally we waste the excess for fuel.

The reality is that proteins are massive complex molecules that become easily miss-folded and damaged over time, so we evolved to replace old protein structures with new ones on an ongoing basis. This continual protein cycling sets the largest minimum requirement for new sources of amino acid building blocks, and that sets the minimum amount you must have every day.

The daily minimum amount of protein that you need was determined by Rand et al 2003 Meta-analysis of nitrogen balance studies for estimating protein requirements in healthy adults to be between 0.30g/kg (LBM) and
1.0g/kg (LBM)

Let’s try a thought experiment - what is the maximum protein that an imaginary man with 80 kgs LBM would need.

At 80 kgs of lean mass (that’s my LBM), 80g is the MOST you need to account for protein turnover. That is those two outliers on the far right of the 0 balance line in the Rand data (remember there is also a mutant down the other end who gets enough at 0.30g/kg LBM too).

If you are building new muscle you will need a little more. If you are working out as a full time job, and building an impressive rig to do the next wolverine movie you will put on let’s say 12 kgs of muscle over a 6 month period … that will take 2 kgs of raw amino acids, in 150 days - that would be a total of 13g extra every day.

So let’s say our imaginary guy is going from 80kg to 92kgs you would need roughly 80g + 13g = 93g per day.

If you don’t eat around 150g of carbs a day (and really who among us is?) then you will also need some dietary protein to be turned into glucose to keep your brain alive.

Let’s say you are eating zero carbs, to take this argument to it’s absolute extreme. There is science showing exactly how much protein you will need. This was done by Geroge Cahill in his 1970 Starvation in Man study.

He studied the fuel flows using direct catheterization in a subject eating nothing, so subsisting only on body fat, and in the first 24 hours he used 75g a day of muscle protein to turn into glucose.

By the time this guy was fat adapted (5-6 weeks) he was using 20g a day. This is important for those of us in ketosis because this is our stating point - we’ve already done the 5-6 week apprenticeship.

But the interesting thing is that protein isn’t the only substrate for making glucose. We also make glucose from the 10% of a triglyceride that isn’t a lipid - glycerol. And how much of that is available depends on how much body fat we have and how many calories we are using.

We know this guy has roughly 19.5 kgs of body fat to be able to generate 150g of triglyceride/day (which we can calculate given the ratio of body fat to maximal energy using A limit on the energy transfer rate from the human fat store in hypophagia

If he has more body fat and burns more calories - he will use fewer than 20g/day. If he has less fat then he is in a world of hurt - the least of his problems will be he has to burn more protein.

So this hypothetical dude; would need roughly 80g (turnover) + 13g (hypertrophy) + 20g (GNG) = 113g per day.

Everything else he would waste for fuel as empty calories, and every one of those displaces a gram of fat and therefore results in fewer ketones for the brain which will need more glucose … which would use MORE protein.

Eventually when you go down that road of eating protein wasted for energy, you need to eat increasingly more protein.

At some point you will run into the human limit for protein which according to Noli et al Protein poisoning and coastal subsistence Which describes the limits of human protein metabolism as the limit of how much oxygen a human liver can take in.

“the most energy human beings can safely derive from protein sources over an extended period lies in the region of 20-50% of their daily energy needs.”

Let’s say you are on 2000 kCal/day. That limit would be around 250g of Protein.

Just for the sake of completeness I just did Ted Naiman’s calculator and it told me I needed to eat 264g a day of protein. I’m not sure if that is a joke or what … but “Yeah, nah

Just in case anyone was concerned that all the above is theoretical and I have no ACTUAL case evidence of minimal protein needs. For 2 months before the low Carb Breckenridge conference I ate the Aussie minimum daily intake of protein which for a 52 year old man is 0.84 g/kg LBM … so fo me that was 67g of protein a day.

I’ll bet if you went to that group and asked what would happen to a guy with 80.380 kgs of lean mass who ate 67g of protein a day there would be many dire predictions of lean muscle loss, and skinny fat predictions.

I had a DEXA scan before and after the trial and I went from 80.380kgs lean mass to 80.342kgs, well within the margin of error of the measurement. I also had a knee injury during the event which reduced my cycling from over 150 kms to under 20 kms/week. Which would have had more influence.

So for me, the evidence shows that 67g is adequate. I have no problem with anyone who says that they personally need more, or even people who say they want more. But I would advise anyone getting close to 50% of calories from protein to reach that level gradually to build up their liver enzymes, and be very careful of ammonia intoxication and other symptoms of Rabbit starvation.

Three days do you
3 weeks of Keto, 2 weeks of IF and 0 weight loss.... :(
"Carb Ups" -- What's the thinking behind them and what's your experience?
(Richard Morris) #31

BTW: Some people following this thread may have noticed some of the posts have disappeared.

This whole subject of protein on a ketogenic diet can become an argument of dogma. And all of us have a particular horse in this race based on our understanding of what has produce a successful personal transformation. I removed posts that were engaging in that dialog.

I’ll speak for the forum that our official position is that protein levels from 20% to 50% of total calories appear on the balance of evidence to be safe for humans.

source: Protein poisoning and coastal subsistence

I would add my own opinion that the higher the ratio the harder it would be to generate adequate ketones to offset the brain’s glucose requirements. And that would be especially hard for people who are over producers of insulin (which is not everyone, but does represent a LOT of people on this forum).

If you have success on 50% of your calories from protein then you are welcome here, and we applaud your success. If you tell other people what level of protein that they should eat, then you can probably expect them to tell you to fuck off.

Also a similar argument exists about fat consumption. No-one knows how much fat another keto person should consume, even Dr Phinney doesn’t know. But if you come to this forum wanting to troll people over how much butter they eat - you should know that the only time I have EVER seen a person eat more than 100g of butter, it was when I had Dinner with this guy and he ladled half a cup of melted butter on his lean fish.

(Richard Morris) opened #32

(Karen Parrott) #33

My body readily lets me know via joint pain, bloating, a stuffed feeling if I over eat protein. I can still binge eat protein, so, I need to go carefully into consideration if it’s increased activity, a binge urge, or if I need something else.

Lots of reasons why protein amounts can vary. My best measurements are how I feel, my glucose meter, and my food tracking.

I have an upper threshold and a lower one, with some variance.

(Fran) #34

He doesn’t specify his macros, but he has made mention that his primary macro is protein and not fat. He may be following those percentages you mentioned. He is not anti fat at all, just super pro-protein. My main concern with his advice is that he is coming from the perspective of a large male (tall and has lost 145lbs) with no metabolic issues who is now trying to lift weights and build muscle. The majority of the people in the group are women like me (~5’5" and around the 210lb mark) with some insulin resistance who engage is some activity, but not heavy lifting. There is no way any of these women need to be eating as much protein as he is saying that he eats, especially if they have hormone problems- I know some of these women personally and I know that they do. I’m happy for his success, but I worry that some of these women are freaking out about not having enough protein when the reality is they are probably fine and really just need more fat.

(Fran) #35

This is the point I’m trying to get across to this guy, but he won’t listen. I guess this is one of those things he’ll have to figure out on his own.

Thank you for the clarification. It is very helpful.

(KCKO, KCFO) #36

Thanks for the great post Richard. Nice to have it all together like that :slight_smile: