What do you all think of this article about meat and insulin?


(Laura) #1

Low-Carb Theory Regarding Meat/Insulin is Flawed

I had thought that Keto reduces insulin, compared to a high-carb diet anyway. Not true? Only when high enough in fat and when limited in protein? Or bad article? I saw others like it but have only skimmed.

Possibly the answer is: Moderate protein. I’ve been only counting carbs, not protein/fat. If that’s the case, then what meats are best? Or do you all just put lots of butter and tallow on meats to balance it out?

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #2

Professor Bikman of Brigham Young University and his students have shown that the key lies in the ratio of insulin to glucagon. The latter is secreted by the α-cells of the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, while the former is secreted by the adjoining β-cells.

When we eat a great deal of carbohydrate, the glucose in it floods the bloodstream, triggering an insulin response to drive it from the blood (where it causes damage) and into muscle cells for use as energy and fat cells for storage. The excess of glucose inhibits glucagon production, so the insulin/glucation ratio becomes very high. Eating any type of protein along with the glucose (i.e., carbohydrate) only stimulates further insulin secretion. The insulin released when we eat protein is about half the amount released to deal with the equivalent weight of sugar. To say that meat protein causes “as much insulin release as pure sugar” is at best erroneous, as worst an outright lie.

Eating any type of protein without carbohydrate stimulates insulin, but it also stimulates glucagon, with the result that the insulin/glucagon ratio remains low. This means that the body remains in a predominantly catabolic state, and ketogenesis is not inhibited.

Eating fat has a minimal effect on insulin, just enough to allow us to continue to live and thrive. Eating fat along with carbohydrate can cause the fat to be stored along with the excess glucose, but eating only fat and protein (with no or minimal carbohydrate intake) allows the fat to be used as energy to replace the energy we are not eating in the form of carbohydrate.

The Dudes recommend moderate protein in any case, as do Dr. Phinney, Dr. Westman, and other experts. The official recommendation on this site is 1.0-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass per day. Thus, if I weigh 100 kg (220 lbs.) and my lean tissue is 70% of that, then I will eat 70-105 grams of protein a day, which translates to 280-420 g (10-15 oz.) of meat a day.

Some experts even recommend going as high as 2.0 g/kg/day, while others recommend the bare minimum, 0.6 g/kg/day.

The amino acid profile of beef best fits the nutritional needs of the human body. Other meats come quite close. A vegetarian who is willing to eat eggs and fish has a very easy time getting the right amino acid intake, but it becomes harder and harder to do this, the more restrictive the diet. A vegan can eat keto, but it takes careful planning to balance out the plant proteins while minimising carbohydrate intake, and some micronutrients will probably have to be taken in the form of supplements. On the other hand, the human body has absolutely no need for carbohydrate in the diet, so a zero-carb/carnivore diet is perfectly feasible and easily managed.

Most people on a ketogenic diet don’t need to add a great amount of fat to the diet. Cooking with good fats and eating whatever fat comes with the meat (assuming the butcher doesn’t trim it all off) is usually sufficient. Fat is not magic, after all, merely a non-insulinogenic source of energy.

(Butter Withaspoon) #3

Paul is right, protein gives only half the insulin response as carbs, and protein is absolutely necessary!
In practice, I choose what meat fish or eggs I’m having for my meal, add vegetables or salad that I enjoy, and have enough fat that I’m not hungry until the next meal- could be fat on the meat, or on days I do a lot of physical activity, I add butter, or coconut oil. Keep carbs low enough, under 20g works for nearly everyone. I have a higher carb tolerance because no metabolic issues, but I choose unprocessed carbs always!
I’ve been surprised by how much stronger and leaner this has made me. You can do it!

(Bob M) #4

I think this is unrealistic. I typically eat 2 pounds of meat a day. I’m well over that limit. And easily.

Went on vacation. Cooked our own meal for one meal. We bought 5 ounce burger patties, premade, and hot dogs. For dinner, I had three of them and two hot dogs. And that was 1 of 2 meals that day.

And this isn’t really that many calories. 15 ounces of beef is only 1,065 calories and 85 g protein:

When you’re eating mainly meat, it’s easy to eat 30 ounces of this per day, and that’s only 2,000 calories and 170 g protein.

What else do you eat to make up the 500-1000 calories you need as a 220 pound male? This estimates 3,300 calories a day for a 220 pound male:

Take those calculations with a grain of salt, of course.

But when I see numbers that are as low as what you said for protein, I realize these are unrealistic. I can’t eat 3,000 calories in one day and only 100 grams of protein Unless I’m eating a ton of fat. But what fat would I eat? That’s 2,600 calories of … something.

You could switch to ribeye steak (though we saw this for $20/pound while on vacation), but 15 ounces is only about 1,000 calories:


And 120 grams of protein. There’s your daily allotment of protein. And you still need to eat 2.000 calories.

I think that the people who advocate these low protein values (and I’m not saying YOU do that, just whoever does this) and keto should really make a guideline what you’re supposed to eat. Because I can’t figure out how to eat that low in protein at the same time eating mainly meat.

(Joey) #5

At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, is there actually an official recommendation emanating from this site?

I was under the impression that, while we’re sharing our own experiences and identifying external research we’ve found of interest, the site wasn’t actually giving out official recommendations for health, correct?

Liability issues? :shushing_face:

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #6

It’s what @richard and @carl recommend, yes. Richard has explained the reasoning in a number of posts. And Dr. Phinney is on record as also recommending 1.0-1.5 g/kg/day, as well.

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #7

I should add that Prof. Bikman’s recommendation is more in the neighbourhood of 2.0 g/kg/day, because he is concerned with protein loss as we age, particularly in men.

(Joey) #8

Well then, thanks for clarifying. I certainly understood that individual posters shared their thoughts and personal views, but if the forum itself has adopted an official set of recommendations, let the lawyers’ briefs fly. :roll_eyes:

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #9

Since no one has gone after Dr. Phinney yet, I suspect the Dudes are safe, too.

It’s also the Dudes’ official recommendation to eat less than 20 g/day of carbohydrate, and I don’t see any challenges to that recommendation.

I suspect that a key point to these recommendations is that there are data to back them up.

(A fool and his bacon are soon parted) #10

Bob, I see where you are coming from, and I’ve been trying to do some calculations. I’m afraid my spreadsheet is going to need a bit more refinement before I can respond to your post with actual numbers.

But in any case, while experts can recommend all they want, we are all in a sense experiments with N = 1, and in the end, each of us has to do what works for ourself. According to the study on which the government recommendation for protein intake is based, our daily nitrogen loss is highly individual, and the mean average (equivalent to 0.6 g of protein / kg of lean body mass / day) is hardly representative of the broad range of the the individual loss rates shown on that data plot.

Therefore, if Raubenheimer and Simpson are correct, and we share with all other mammals the instinct to eat the right amount of protein (part of their Protein Leverage Hypothesis), then some people are going to be easily satisfied with a smaller amount of protein, while others will still be hungry unless they eat more. The calories supplied by that protein are irrelevant, in my view, because it is the raw material for replacing lost nitrogen and for building tissue, not for providing energy to the body. Moreover, the insulinogenic effect of this protein will be matched by an equal glucagonogenic effect, as long as we stay in a low-carb milieu.

The energy we need to meet our expenditure therefore must come from our fat intake, since we are supplying our body with a minimal amount of exogenous glucose. That fat intake is “safe” (because fat has no effect on insulin secretion, beyond the minimum required for sustaining life), and I would argue that within a pretty large range the calories supplied by our fat intake are therefore also irrelevant. Not to mention the fact that, given the relative caloric values of a gram of carbohydrate and a gram of fat, it takes a lot less fat to provide the same amount of energy.

Sorry for the lecture, but what I am trying to say is that if you need more meat than the recommendations specify, go for it. You know your body best. There is enough individual variability here that the recommendations can only be our starting point.


This is a divisive subject. I spend (waste?) a lot of money on test strips and track my blood ketones. If the goal is only weight loss maybe ketone levels don’t matter that much… i’m not sure. But i have realized mental health benefits from keto that seem correlated to ketone levels. I definitely cannot eat lots of protein and still have decent ketone levels (which for me i define at 0.7 mmol or more). My assumption has been this is because of protein causing insulin increases but I don’t have a way to test that.

As I have gotten leaner, this all seems to have become more important as the remaining subcutaneous fat on my abdomen seemingly doesn’t get mobilized as well as the visceral fat I lost pretty easily in the beginning.

I actually tend to eat lean meats and get my fats through thing like olives, olive oil, avocados - so a basic salad of romaine plus lots of olive oil is a staple. I also eat a good amount of salmon and sardines. I don’t really want to spend the extra for grass fed meat but I’m worried about getting too much “dirty” omega-6 rich fats in grain-fed meat.

(Jane) #12

Interesting. I’ve never tracked my protein macro - just carbs. And ate protein until full. And with me it varies from meal to meal. Sometimes I get full on protein real quick - especially chicken. Other times I feel like a bottomless pit and eat much more (pulled pork). I figure my body knows what it needs and I feed it accordingly. :woman_shrugging:

(Ben ) #13

Hot dogs REALLY!!!

(Laura) #14

I’m really appreciating this comprehensive reply and the follow-up.

How do you know whether you’re getting enough protein? An issue I have is that I get full quickly, then get very hungry in a couple hours and sometimes less. This happens whether I stop when I first feel full, or finish the meal. If I increase my meal sizes then I go on eating to discomfort, only to become hungry too soon all the same. But it was definitely worse before keto. Is that a sign I’m eating too little protein? Or just an old habit from the carb days and will keep going away?

I think I’ve been getting about 60-70 grams/day when I emphasize fats a lot (I weigh about 56 kg). But sometimes it’s more like 75 and one day I know it was well over 100 at least once, and then lots of days I don’t even have a great estimate.

I am hoping for a guide where I can know generally what it feels like to have too little protein; and what typically happens if you have “too much” protein for keto. Then I can adjust my food items.

It seems to keep protein below 80 g, I end up having to do things like melt duck fat into meats and drink the broth, or put avocado oil on avocados. I don’t know how many calories I’m eating because the way I cook, calorie counting seems hopeless unless I have a food scale and calculator with me during both cooking and eating, and I don’t have the time to turn my life into a science lab. I’ll eat at work and have leftovers, or I’ll eat with my young child at home and be too occupied to measure and write stuff down. So I do best if I go by types of food and how my body feels. Is that too imprecise for keto?

My parents are becoming very thin and frail as they age, losing their muscle mass. I want to get the protein I need if that’s a factor. I’m 44 and want to make sure I build good muscle I can keep. But I noticed that the high-energy calm feeling I got from keto seemed reduced when I spent a few days purposely eating lots of lean meats for more protein. I’m only 6 weeks in though, and may not have enough experience to know.

(BuckRimfire) #15

Sometimes ya gotta cut corners and live your life! A couple of hot dogs a month aren’t gonna kill you.

(BuckRimfire) #16

When eating keto, seems like we should be thinking “net protein.” By which I mean: after subtracting what you’ll need for gluconeogenesis (gng).

I have no idea how to calculate that. Ignoring lactate, we can do gng from glycerol or amino acids. If you’re burning a lot of TAGs, that should produce a good bit of glycerol. Does that mean we wouldn’t burn much protein in gng when eating (or drawing from adipose tissue) lots of fat? But the glycerol component of each TAG is only a small percent of its weight (around 5% if I did the calculation in my head correctly), so burning 1800 Kcal TAG should liberate 10 grams of glycerol, which could be reformed into an equal mass of glucose. Check my math!

So, even if burning all fat for metabolism, we’ll need way more glucose than that. If we need another 40+ grams of glucose per day, and that comes from amino acids, how much protein is that?

If it was all glycine, we’d toss the amino group and have the two carbons left, so three glycines could yield one glucose. About 2/3 glucose per weight of protein (or something like that). For the amino acids with a bigger side chain, what happens to the side chain? Do we need three amino acids per glucose regardless of which amino acid it is? Does an asparagine side-chain give us two more carbons to put into glucose, or do those get taken to a different pathway? (I’ll bet yes, but I don’t know that much biochemistry and I’m too lazy to dig for it!) If the side-chains are “lost” to the gng process, then the mass ratio of glucose per protein goes down, so protein consumption would go up.

So, on keto we presumably need to add at least 50, maybe 75, grams of protein on top of the usual requirement to allow for what’s going to be sucked up for gng, amirite?


Yeah, I have these thoughts myself when I read about recommended protein intake… I don’t even need a big energy intake, in the contrary but I still can’t eat only 2g/kg protein for lean bodyweight… I do that occasionally but it’s very rare. No matter how much fat I eat (forced horrible styles and short fat fasts don’t count).

I don’t worry about my protein intake, it’s high but not crazy high (I wouldn’t like to be around 4g/kg all the time, it just seems wrong… I am between 2-3.5g/kg on most days as far as I can tell, my average being closer to 2) and my body is perfectly fine with it.

But it’s not impossible to eat many calories and just adequate protein. Maybe borderline impossible or not ideal for some of us but people manage to eat very fatty items… I only can use protein sources but I can go super high fat with my meats. Pork has a wide range and I live on pork and eggs, mostly. My fattiest pork is processed meat but a little contains much fat.

As one’s energy needs go up, it gets trickier. I probably would start to add more cream or even added fat if I needed more than 3000 kcal (but only if my other ideas wouldn’t work)… But I never wanted to eat that much (it just happened accidentally. in those cases my protein goes up a little and my fat goes up way more).

On my rare 1000-1300 kcal days my protein intake still tend to be high. It seems I am almost unable to get satiated with only adequate protein (unless my other macros are crazy high especially the fat). I noticed it so many times and I use pretty good items on my good days, I know what works best.
I need high fat too, my satiation requires both.

So… I just can’t eat in a way as some people think it’s right. But as long as my body is with me, I am good.

I don’t eat so much meat, 1 pound is a bit excessive for me and my average is WAY lower but the only diet (it was only 5 days out of curiosity, I don’t call that a woe) I could have only adequate protein without a problem was plant-based (if I tried it again, it would be way higher protein. 160g gluten in one sitting? I don’t even need to put in any effort and I can’t imagine a better option for me, everything else is too carby for its satiation effect). I always ate quite high protein as an ovo-lacto vegetarian as most plants just made me hungry so I ate very much animal protein (I don’t know it it was more than on carnivore now, actually. I ate a ton to ensure my whole day satiation and peace of mind).

I doubt only adequate protein is for all of us. Many of us feels fine with high while simply can’t go lower. I tried. I actually did vegetarian keto while I wasn’t vegetarian anymore (though I barely ever ate meat and never cooked any) to keep my protein intake “low”. Just beyond 2g/kg. I wanted it to be lower but well, I failed nearly every time.
But it turned out more meat means less food so my protein intake barely goes up if I eat more meat. But it does a little.

So, it’s actually potentially doable to eat little protein on keto. But when people use some super insane idiotic low protein ideals… Like, 40g protein for me. Do you know what it would mean? Not eating animal protein would be ridiculously nothing to bring my protein intake down, I would need to avoid vegetables due to their protein content! How crazy is that? (I do my best to avoid vegetables but that’s not the point.) Maybe the author was a fruitarian and the nutrient problems affected their brain…
(Some carnivores must eat quite low protein due to their condition but I can’t touch animal protein and not eating at least 80-100g protein a day. Or not being nauseous due to the huge amount of extra fat. So I couldn’t do that but very low carb still would be a must.)

(BuckRimfire) #18

tl;dr On a “normal” diet, you don’t shunt protein into gluconeogenesis, so on keto you presumably need more protein.

(BuckRimfire) #19

Note that choosing aspartic acid as my example may have failed to make my point. The sidechain there is the same acetyl group as you get from deamidating glycine, so maybe that DOES go into gng (or maybe not, since I don’t know that actual enzymology).

But the side chain from almost any other amino acid isn’t going to work out so neatly. Unless someone knows the specific biochemistry for those, I’m assuming all of them will be lost, hence my estimate that you’re going to need more protein (by weight) to get the right number of carbons going into gng.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #20

@Lc14503 I weigh/measure everything and use an OpenOffice spreadsheet to track. Here’s how I calculate protein and macros.

Note: spreadsheet formulae, of course, calculate to however many decimals you set them to, but I only weigh food portions to 0.1 gram accuracy. Yes, I have a very nice scale and I’m very happy with it and don’t find it particularly burdensome to weigh food.



  • Started keto Jan 02/2017 and have been in continuous ketosis 4 1/2 years.
  • I’m a 76 years old male and, as I’ve mentioned to you elsewhere, an ectomorph like you. My total body weight has been stable at 145 lbs (65.9 kg) - within +/- a pound - since about 6 months into keto.
  • My total lean mass is approx 123 lbs (56 kg). Or, 14-15% fat mass.
  • My current total body weight and fat mass are pretty close to what they were when I was aged 18 and I have no problem maintaining both.
  • I share your concern about loss of muscle with aging, which is why I use a multiplier at the upper end of Bikman’s range - based on total body weight rather than lean mass.
  • From ongoing investigation I decided to eat protein at the upper end of Bikman’s range and decided that 120 grams of protein was a convenient/easy number to work with. So I arbitrarily picked a multiplier that gave me 120 as a result. It’s seems reasonable to me and has worked well so far.



  • The macro calculator automatically inserts the calculated total of protein grams from the protein calculator.
  • I can enter whatever Fat:Protein gram ratio I want to change the macro ratios. 2:1 seems to work well for me. But it’s quite easy to modify both the protein:body weight and fat:protein ratios, and I’ve done that a couple of times over the past years. Yet I always gravitate back to my current ratios.
  • The calculated numbers in the macro spreadsheet are quite easy to work with preparing my meals. I have no problem eating both my fat and protein totals. Carbs are always inconsequential. I have eaten sub-20 grams of carbs per day since starting keto and have no problem doing so. I frequently eat less than 10 grams and occasionally 5 grams or less. Almost all my carbs come from dairy - mainly cheese.
  • I use the spreadsheet to plan and track what I eat. Consequently, I have a 4-year record of every meal I’ve eaten - day by day.
  • I discovered early on that if I eat within a total caloric window of about 300 cals - 2400-2700 cals per day - my total body weight, body fat and lean mass ratios do not change. If I eat below that window for several days I will start to lose weight, or above that window for several days I will start to gain. Interestingly, I always lose lean mass and gain fat mass.
  • Days when I consume anything that I can’t/don’t weigh or track on my spreadsheet, for example an adult beverage or an ‘energy’ drink, I always eat below my caloric window that particular day to allow for the additional calories.

PS: The last time I felt ‘hunger’ was the second day (Jan03) of my 4-day fast when I started keto. By the morning of Jan04 the hunger was gone and has never returned. Yes, if I haven’t eaten for 6-7 hours, which happens frequently due to my work schedule, I get a gentle reminder that it’s probably a good idea to think about eating. But even that is subtle and quickly passes.