aThere are many diets that exist in promoting different strategies for individuals to lose weight. The keto diet which has recently become very popular, was first developed in the 1920’s and originally used to help treat and control medical conditions triggered by high blood sugar. More recently it has gained attention for its weight loss abilities due to its low-carb approach and has been a favourable diet approach since the 70’s. The keto diet has been recently popularised and promoted in the media for its differing approach to weight loss which favours fats over carbohydrates. The keto diet is a way of eating that focuses on HIGH FAT and LOW CARB. This aims to put the body into a state of nutritional ketosis - allows it to use fat as its main source of energy instead of glucose (sugar).
What is keto?
The keto diet involves suppressing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fats creating a daily macronutrient intake of 55-60% fats, 30-35% protein, and only 5-10% carbohydrates. This differs from the recommended intake for each macronutrient which is fats 20-35%, protein at 10-35%, and carbohydrates at 45-65% of total daily intake.
For an average 2000 calorie per day diet a keto macronutrient split would look like 165g fat, 40g carbohydrate, and 75g protein. Converting to a keto diet means eliminating most grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, legumes and sweets in order to put the body into a state of ketosis – quite a challenge depending on what you are typically used to eating!
What is ketosis?
Due to the reduction in carbohydrate consumption the human body goes into a metabolic state called ketogenesis. Ketogenesis reverts your body to use fat as its primary source of energy instead of glucose from carbs, in order to keep up with the needs of the body. During this process blood sugar levels become low, resulting in a lack of stimulation for insulin (our blood sugar controlling hormone) secretion which largely reduces fat storage. The body enters a metabolic state called ‘nutritional ketosis’. This state remains as long as the carbohydrate intake is suppressed and is considered safe for the body.
As keto is seen as an effective path to weight loss, it is also considered to be an effective way to reduce the risk of diseases related to being overweight or obese such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol and can improve insulin resistance related to type 2 diabetes.
However, it is essential to stress the importance of a healthy weight loss approach that doesn’t add stress to the body or result in weight cycling. Being able to complete the desired diet in a healthy way will make the process easier and results more sustainable. This means choosing wholefoods as much as possible and maintaining a healthy macro balance within the keto guidelines.
Why is protein important with a ketogenic diet?
There are many misconceptions that protein powder can kick your body out of ketosis, however studies show that increasing the protein to fat ratio does not reduce ketosis.
Protein is kept at a moderate level to ensure the body doesn’t break ketosis. The body naturally converts the excess amino acids found in protein into glucose which can prevent ketosis from taking place. Therefore, a keto diet specifies a moderate intake of protein is optimal to preserve lean body mass and muscle.
Many believe protein should be kept to a minimum in fears of breaking ketosis, however protein plays an important role in many essential bodily functions such as muscle repair and growth, creating key hormones, supporting immune function and promoting healthy skin, hair and nails. Not consuming enough protein can lead to various issues involving thyroid function, hormone imbalances, decrease in muscle mass, weight loss plateaus, and increased cortisol (stress hormone).
The truth is your body needs some glucose to survive, however this doesn’t have to come from high carbohydrate sources. Maintaining an adequate protein intake while on the keto diet will provide the body with enough glucose while still maintaining a state of ketosis and using fat as the body’s main energy source.
A study conducted on the effects of a high-protein keto diet on hunger, appetite and weight loss in obese men found that the keto diet reduced hunger and in turn lowered food consumption. This stresses the importance of protein consumption for sustainability and results on a keto diet.
So how much protein should you be eating each day on keto?
The minimum amount of protein which should be consumed each day is 0.8g per kg of body weight, however we recommend aiming more towards the upper limit of 1.5 - 2g per kg of body weight for those who are more active, as this will be beneficial for weight loss and muscle maintenance. As per the usual requirements whether you are following a keto diet or not, more protein is recommended for those who partake in regular physical activity, are recovering from injury, or are elderly.
Studies found that the keto diet had positive effects on the body composition of trained individuals, showing a decrease in fat mass without a loss of lean body mass. These participants consumed protein at the upper limit of 2g per kg of body weight per day. This shows the importance of protein intake while following a keto diet and reinforces that it will not interfere with weight loss.
Not all protein sources are going to be keto friendly, for example whole grains, legumes, and some nuts, therefore it is really important to read and track your foods to ensure ketosis is maintained.
Some keto friendly protein sources include:
Full fat dairy products
With a diet favouring fat it is important to avoid ‘low-fat’, ‘reduced fat’ and ‘fat free’ products and go straight for the full fat options. Many dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, butter and cream tend to have generous amounts of protein as well as fat. Consuming these foods has also been shown to reduce appetite and promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction.
Grass-fed meats and poultry
Meat and poultry are key foods to consume on a keto diet as they contain little to no carbs while being high in essential vitamins and minerals. They’re also a great source of high-quality protein which has been shown to aid in preserving muscle mass in low-carb diets.
Eggs contain a high amount of protein in the egg white and have a fat dense yolk making them a staple while following a keto diet.
Nuts and seeds
It's important to consume these in moderation or choose sources that are on the lower end in carb density such as walnuts, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pecans and pumpkin seeds.
Fish such as salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are shown to help increase insulin sensitivity in those who are overweight, which in turn aids in the weight loss process.
Supplements such as protein powders can incorporate a quality source of protein in the diet to help boost intake throughout the day. Be sure to choose your protein wisely to ensure it is keto friendly and additive free.
Protein powder and a keto diet
While a sufficient amount of protein can be achieved through the diet, protein powders offer a convenient and efficient way to ensure protein needs are met. Many people following a low-carb or keto diet invest in protein powders to incorporate into their diet. The market is dense with different protein powders, many of which are low in carbs but packed with fillers, preservatives, unnecessary ingredients and sweeteners which can push your body out of ketosis. Finding a high-quality keto-friendly protein powder is key to reaching your goals on a keto diet.
So what are the key things to look for when choosing your protein powder?
- Firstly the ingredients play an important role in the quality of the supplement. The shorter the ingredients list the better. Any unnatural additives or ingredients you can’t pronounce are usually a sign of a less pure form of protein powder and these ingredients may interfere with ketosis.
- Secondly, the carbohydrate content is key in maintaining a state of ketosis in the body. It is best to aim for anything lower than 5grams of carbs per serve, but obviously the lower the better.
Whey Protein Isolate vs Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein is derived from milk making it one of the most readily available proteins. This is a great protein for performance as it absorbs quickly and contains all the essential amino acids our body can’t make. Whey protein comes in the form of whey isolate and whey concentrate which are differentiated by a single step in the processing operation. This impacts the proportions of fats and carbohydrates present in the final protein powder.
Here are the differences between the two:
Whey Protein Isolate:
Whey protein isolate has the highest content of protein and the lowest carbohydrate content per serving making it a great keto friendly option. Whey Isolate usually consists of 90% protein with fat and carbs making up the remaining 10%.
For example, Go Good whey protein isolate contains up to 26g of protein per serving with only 0.3g of carbs. This makes it the perfect clean and lean protein supplement to give that all important protein boost while allowing the body to remain in a state of ketosis.
Whey Protein Concentrate:
Whey protein concentrate on the other hand contains up to 80% protein with the remainder consisting of fats and carbs. This means there is a naturally higher carbohydrate content in this protein powder. Whey concentrate contains a slightly higher number of calories and tends to be sweeter due to the natural occurring lactose which naturally increases the carb content.
While still being a great protein powder for performance and providing the body with the essential amino acids needed to build and repair, it does contain a higher level of carbs than the isolate. This makes it a less favourable option for those on a keto diet.
Plant based protein on the other hand is becoming an increasingly popular choice of protein supplement.
Many people overlook pea protein when searching for a low-carb protein powder option, because many plant proteins contain high amounts of carbs, such as rice protein and hemp protein which contain up to 25% carbs! However, pea protein has fewer carbohydrates than other plant sources making it a valid choice for those following a keto diet.
Below is a table that compares the protein and carbohydrate content of Go Good protein:
Go Good protein powders are all keto friendly as they have very low amounts of carbohydrates and don’t include unnecessary additives which consequently increase the carbohydrate content. Additionally, many alternative whey protein concentrate powders have a higher carb level due to either having extra ingredients like sweeteners and preservatives or having a lower amount of protein resulting in a greater percentage of fats and carbs.
Any of the Go Good protein powders make a great keto-friendly choice.
Ways to use your protein powder on keto
The simplest way to use your protein powder is in a shake. This is ideal after your workout, when you’re on the go, or as a snack to boost your protein intake for the day.
Additionally, protein powders can be used in:
- protein oats
- keto baking
- home-made protein balls
- keto protein pancakes
Keto chocolate shake:
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice
- 1 tbsp of nut butter
- ½ cup of ice
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- ¼ avocado
- 1 serve of Go Good chocolate whey protein isolate
Serves 1 / 290cal / 33g protein / 15g fat / 8g carbs
Keto protein pancakes:
- 1 egg
- 1 serving Go Good whey protein isolate unflavoured
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp water or unsweetened almond milk
- Cooking spray or butter to grease pan
- Grease a pan over medium heat
- Mix egg, protein powder and baking powder in a large bowl. Add water or almond milk a little at a time until a pancake batter consistency is formed.
- Pour small portions into the pan and flip when they start to bubble on top.
Serves 1 / 240cal / 33g protein / 9g fat / 1g carbs
1. A keto diet focuses on a low-carb high-fat approach to eating. Although the emphasis of this diet is on fat, it is important to continue to consume a decent amount of quality protein to maintain muscle mass.
2. The keto diet recommends a daily macronutrient intake of 55-60% fats, 30-35% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates. Ensure not to neglect protein consumption in the bid to prioritise fats in the diet.
3. Protein can come from many keto-friendly sources including protein powder. Whey isolate is the best choice as it contains the lowest carbs in comparison to whey concentrate and plant protein. It is also important to ensure your protein is from a quality source and free of any additives and sweeteners which are unnecessary and increase the carb content of the supplement.