Protein, when. how much and does it matter? N=1 observations


This comment is all about me so I thought I put a warning here. I couldn’t resist, this (protein in general and protein and me) is a very interesting topic for me.

I definitely have an instinct so strong that I can’t even willfully change it (my personality keeps me from it, I don’t suffer when my body screams for more protein).
I looked at my October notes, my protein is 25-36%, it depends a lot on my calorie intake. I keep my protein as low as I comfortably can, it’s usually 120-150g.
1.4-1.6g/ideal kg is about 76-96g, I am completely unable to do it though it may be an interesting experiment for some not hungry low-cal day… :slight_smile: I just need to be VERY determined, I do love my protein. I actually would find lowering protein (if my body would be on board) helpful as I typically overeat fat and I suspect that the main reason for it is to get my 120+ g protein. As soon as I reach that, I typically stop getting hungry and even tempted. Be it with 80g or 280g fat. Moderate protein is hard on people like me who seemingly need high protein for satiation and fat just can’t help under normal circumstances (but I actually never did 280g fat with 70g protein. On my 300g fat days my protein is 250g, I like a specific fattiness and even if I eat a lot of something very fatty or very lean, some automatism triggers the opposite desire and keeps my ratio in its normal range. Not a small range but not huge enough to allow me to eat 50% fat or 80% for more than one very occasional, special day.)

I can’t do fat first either. I always desire fatty protein, I can’t split them apart. I probably could eat 10g butter when hungry and that’s it. If I want to control my fat/protein ratio (good luck with that… but okay, I may be able to do it to a little extent sometimes), I need to choose different cuts of meat, first of all. That is the vast majority of my fat intake, no matter what - and eggs but they tend to have the same fattiness even if I use a bit more yolk or white. Meat is the significant one. I can eat meat with 5% and 25% fat in big amounts and while I eat way less from something with 80% fat (in weight… it’s almost fat tissue but it has a tiny meat and that changes everything for me. I can’t eat pure fat tissue, I always need protein with it), the huge fattiness balances it out. I love fatty dairy… But if I raise my fat, I inevitably start to desire leaner stuff so I need to keep myself back. Once I wanted to try lowish-protein with high fat. I focused on fat and easily ate very much of it, that is never a problem for me. But I didn’t watch my protein so it went over 200g… It’s hard!
I will try it again but I have more important goals now.

How people control their macros, it’s so strange to me… And splitting the food, crazy. Normal people eat “everything” together. I actually can eat almost anything alone and I often prefer that but it’s for my ingredients and my ingredients are almost exclusively fatty protein sources and the mostly fat ones are in tiny amounts… And if I am hungry, I desire the kind of food that gives me satiation, protein… (Very low-protein high-fat like fat fast actually satiates me but that’s not a normal way of eating and I can’t do it for 2 days.)

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #22

So if people’s bodies are producing glucose, then why? What is insulin doing, meanwhile? We are too focused on glucose, because we can test it at home, but insulin is the real driver. Not to mention that fifty years of high-carb, low-fat diets have distorted our understanding of how a healthy metabolism works. If insulin is low, even when glucose is at a level we consider high, what does that mean? Could this be a benign situation? Are Amber O’Hearn and Ben Bikman correct when they speculate that the rise in glucose may be the result of insufficient energy intake (fat, in other words, since we aren’t doing carbohydrate)?

There are mice whose ability to produce glucagon and insulin has been destroyed, but they never develop diabetes. Why is that? This makes it appear that Type I diabetes is actually a disease of excessive glucagon in the absence of insulin, but is that really accurate? What other factors are influencing the level of serum glucose in these mice, in the absence of the primary regulators? How much of this applies to people?

(Bob M) #23

Here’s a study where there were two groups. Both ate a mere 800 calories a day. Both followed a very Low Calorie Ketogenic Diet (VLCKD). One did interval training (IT). For 6 weeks. (6 weeks at 800 calories a day!)


While not directly related to “protein” per se, it goes to show you that any analysis of people on a keto diet will be…complex. I mean if you can eat 800 calories (I eat way more than this…for lunch) a day for weeks (WEEKS!! A month and a half!!) while experiencing “a significant improvement in muscle strength and physical performance” while NOT EXERCISING, that means keto is doing something good. Whether that’s higher protein (relative to what they ate before), protein-sparing effects, some combination of these, ketones, etc., it’s impressive.

Edit: original incorrectly said 8 weeks, but it was a 6 week intervention.

(Ohio ) #24

Megan. Some dairy has carbs ? Or all dairy besides butter? Lactose is in all of it. I thought.

Paul. There’s something to be said about naturally getting the protein you need, but I don’t think it involves eating just steak. I believe it’s more of a “head-to-tail” type diet.

There’s plenty we don’t know. It’s always what one doesn’t know that is dangerous. Neil DeGrasse Tyson just had a bit to that effect.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #25

I’m convinced that we still have a lot to learn, and also that our obsession with fat as the cause of heart disease blinds us to alternative understandings of the data. There are indications already that our body works differently when the distorting effect of chronically elevated insulin is removed.

(Megan) #26

After a bunch of stuff I read last night I’m with you Paul on how little we understand. So I withdraw everything I’ve ever said about anything lol. Of the people I’ve read and listened to now, I have no clue who is right.

@Hippie The colby cheese I buy (standard brands available in my local supermarkets) has less than 1g carbs per 100 grams. Ditto the cream cheese I buy. The lowest carb unsweetened greek yoghurt is 1.5g carbs per 100 grams, so very low.

@ctviggen and @PaulL Yes, as more and more studies are done, we’ll get a better understanding of what is happening in the bodies of people who eat very, very low carb and how this differs from the general population.

If blood glucose is “high” why isn’t insulin being produced to deal with it? Also, the dude I was reading last night (Marty Kendall, who Michael spoke positively about in his Ruminant Ruminations thread) says protein is metabolized/dealt with before fat is - so how does eating more fat help unless you are limiting protein? Just curious about your take on it, the world will continue to turn if I never know the answer :crazy_face:

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #27

That, I don’t know, except that it may not really be that high, when the body is producing it, as opposed to loading our systems with hundreds of grams of glucose (also known as carbohydrate) each day. When we see values that high, it’s usually because we have flooded our systems with glucose, and that is what was left after insulin cleared the rest. Or that’s my thinking, anyway.

Maybe I’ll be able to afford to attend a keto conference again someday and ask Prof. Bikman about it.


Butter has lactose too just very little. Ghee is the pure (and to me, tasteless) one.
Some harder cheeses have zero I think. I looked up what we have (all half-hard younger cheeses), <0.5g, 0.1g, <0.1g for 100g. Good enough for me and probably for most of us :wink:

(Ohio ) #29

That’s interesting because many lactose intolerant persons can get away with eating hard cheese only.

(Michael) #30

You and @PaulL Might want to check out to understand exactly when insulin is released from the pancreas and why. In terms of oxidative priority, protein is above fat, so yes, you would also need to reduce protein I believe.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #31

Bikman has shown that in the presence of a quantity of dietary carbohydrate, the greater the protein intake the greater the insulin response, which drives the insulin/glucagon ratio up considerably. In the absence of carbohydrate, however, the insulin response to protein is matched by a corresponding glucagon response, so that the insulin/glucagon ratio remains low and unchanged. The insulin response to fat is never more than the minimum required for life.

The primary driver for glucagon is the body’s need for glucose. When exogenous glucose (i.e., carbohydrate intake) is high, insulin inhibits the secretion of glucagon, resulting in a high insulin/glucagon ratio. When there is a need for endogenous glucose (gluconeogenesis), insulin is low, and glucagon secretion rises, resulting in a low insulin/glucagon ratio. We talk mostly about insulin, but Bikman says it’s actually the insulin/glucagon ratio that determines whether the body is primarily anabolic (sugar-burning) or catabolic (ketosis and fat-burning).

Insulin and glucagon each regulate the secretion of the other by the pancreas. After that, they are shunted to the liver through the portal vein, where the concentration is adjusted (much of the insulin being broken down in the liver, and presumably the glucagon, too), which is one of the reasons it is difficult to mimic the natural secretion of insulin by administering injections.

(Michael) #32

And to clear nitrogen from the body after protein/amino acid metabolism, but yes.

Not always, which is why glucagon and insulin go up when eating both protein and fat. When you are low on energy, then yes, what you said is correct, but GNG is not glucose demand driven solely (as noted by Amber) and as such it has more than JUST low blood sugar which controls glucagon output. This leads us back to what you wrote about I/G ratio as being key.

Again, in the context of low energy, sure. Based on your response, it seems you did not watch the video as you repeated much of the information in the video but seemed to have missed the nuances. I apologize if you did, but if not, might want to listen to it a few times to get all these nuances.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #33

I gave up on Chris Masterjohn a few years ago, after watching several videos that sounded way off base. I also get restive when people start trying to sell me their products. I prefer people like Bikman and Phinney who give citations to the literature that I can go check. Perhaps Masterjohn now gives better references, but back in the day that was not the case, so I ditched him.

(Diana) #34

Question. It’s long been stated that ketosis is reached in absence of carbs. But what I don’t understand then is why aren’t all carnivores by virtue in ketosis. It appears many aren’t. But how is this possible if they consume almost 0 carb except the minimal amounts that come in the meat etc.


Great question, I am curious too, I never understood that (but never was super curious to put effort into figuring it out, I feel fine and that’s what matters)…
I eat 3-20, sometimes 40g carbs when I only eat animal stuff, does it matter here? My ketosis carb limit is definitely above 40g carbs according to my experiences.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #36

The body has two sources of energy: glucose and fats. Which one it is metabolising at any given time depends on the level of insulin in the blood. Above a certain level, fat metabolism is inhibited, and the body metabolises glucose. (This is primarily a defence mechanism, to get rid of excess glucose.) Below the threshold, glucose metabolism is minimal and fat metabolism is the primary source of energy (certain cells, such as red blood corpuscles, still require glucose because they lack mitochondria, and the liver makes the small amount they require).

We all know that part of adapting to a ketogenic diet is that the skeletal muscles have to readapt to metabolising fatty acids. During the adaptation phase, they limp along on ketones, but once they are fat-adapted again, they actively pass up ketones and glucose in favour of fatty acids. This means that the liver can cut back on ketogenesis and match production better to need. Hence there is usually a drop in serum ketone levels.

Ketones are valuable for many reasons, but the value of measuring their level in the blood is primarily to indicate that insulin is low enough to allow fat metabolism, since there is no way to measure serum insulin at home. So carnivores and people who’ve been on a ketogenic diet for any length of time are getting their energy primarily from fatty acids and don’t need as much in the way of ketones as they did initially. The body isn’t going to waste energy producing ketones unnecessarily. But we know their insulin is low enough to promote fat metabolism, simply because they aren’t eating enough glucose (carbohydrate) to interfere with that.

The organ with the biggest need for ketones is the brain, because fatty acids are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier. Heart muscle also thrives on ketones, especially when arteries are blocked, because ketones, being partially-metabolised fats, require less oxygen to metabolise. But as arteries heal and the blockage is reduced, the heart’s need for ketones also drops. So again, there is less need for ketones to be circulating in the blood.

So the low level of circulating ketones does not indicate that the body has returned to metabolising glucose instead of fat, unless the drop in ketones is the result of eating a large quantity of glucose, also known as carbohydrate.

(Michael) #37

As a carnivore I am generally in ketosis. Not necessarily “nutritional ketosis” as arbitrarily defined as 0.5 or higher ketone blood reading, but still creating ketones. But I run at least at 0.3 on high protein diet. If I eat a very high protein meal, I may temporarily fall out of ketosis (since the insulin response to protein is about 1/3 that of carbs, it is quite possible to spike insulin sufficiently to fall out while digesting), I will be right back in after an hour or two. I do not think any carnivore are out of ketosis for very long, and many eat smaller meals throughout the day, do not spike their insulin, and stay in higher ketosis. If it takes you 50g of carbs to fall out of ketosis, it may take 150g of protein in one meal to fall out. Most do not eat that much…I certainly have. For me, it seems a meal with more like 200g-250g+ of protein knocks me out for an hour or two. Hope this helps.

(Bob M) #38

How does insulin stop ketones from being produced?

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #39

Ketogenesis and gluconeogenesis are stimulated by glucagon and inhibited by insulin. The key, according to Bikman, is the insulin/glucagon ratio. When it is low, such as in cases of low glucose (carbohydrate) intake, then gluconeogenesis supplies the small amount of glucose that the body needs, and the rest of the energy is supplied from dietary and stored fat, some of which is turned into ketones in the liver (ketogenesis).

When glucose intake is too high, the insulin/glucagon ratio rises, and insulin signals to the liver to stop making glucose and ketones, and inhibits adipocytes from releasing fatty acids. This is all in aid of getting excess glucose out of the blood stream (there should only be 5 mL at any given time), and having the muscles switch from fatty-acid metabolism to glucose metabolism. The liver stores some of the excess glucose as glycogen, but most of it gets converted into fat and sent in chylomicrons to the adipocytes to be stored.

Apparently Ralph DeFronzo and his team have determined that the threshold between fat metabolism and glucose metabolism is a serum insulin level just under 25 μU/mL.

(Megan) #40

Hi Paul, how much protein were his test subjects eating? Also, when you say “in the absence of carbs” are you meaning his test subjects ate zero carbs? or low carb amounts? if low, how low?