How Much Protein Can You Eat

You likely already know cutting the carbs is important on a keto diet, but protein intake matters, too! One of the biggest mistakes people run into when going and staying keto is eating too much protein. So, you might be left with the question: How much protein can you eat on a ketogenic diet? Let’s cover how you can avoid the mistake of consuming too much protein and exactly how much of it you can eat on a ketogenic diet.

Eating Protein on the Ketogenic Diet

A great appeal of the ketogenic diet is getting to eat plenty of foods that are filling and satisfying. Those foods include rich, fatty animal proteins. But how much of these proteins is the right amount?

To answer that question, you need to understand how proteins work within the ketogenic diet and why it’s important to monitor your amounts for the best results.

The Role of Protein in Ketosis

Protein is an important building block of life; we need them to provide our bodies with all of the essential amino acids. Proteins are important for many different actions in the body, including regulation and function of the organs and tissues. Obviously, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough of these complex molecules.

The problem is that when you’re eating a ketogenic diet, it can be pretty easy to eat a lot of foods high in protein. You’re almost eliminating an entire macronutrient group from your diet (carbohydrates), so those new to keto might simply replace the carbs with more protein-rich foods. This is where you have to be careful, because more protein is not always better—in fact, it can keep you out of ketosis.

A common misconception is that the ketogenic diet is a high protein diet—it’s not. It’s a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb diet.

Why Eating Too Much Protein is Bad

Ketosis starves the body of its carbohydrate stores so it can begin breaking down fat and utilizing ketones for fuel. But in the absence of carbs, there’s another method by which the body can get energy: by breaking down proteins.

If you eat more protein than is needed by the body, it can convert amino acids into glucose to be used for energy. This is known as gluconeogenesis, which spikes your insulin and reduces the levels of ketones in your blood.

This means that even if you’re still eating extremely low carb, your body could be switching out of ketosis back to using glucose—back and forth. And that means a high chance of experiencing the keto flu, or the common side effects of switching between these two energy systems.

Gluconeogenesis also means the body is breaking down lean protein for energy, which isn’t good.

You can even read about Dr. Anthony’s ketosis mistakes that include eating too much protein, and how he remedied this with the information presented here.

In order to make sure this isn’t happening to you, it’s important to pay attention to the amount of protein you’re eating on the ketogenic diet.

Monitoring Your Protein Intake

Now that you understand the reasons too much protein isn’t good on the ketogenic diet, you might be wondering how to tell the amount of protein you CAN eat while still staying in ketosis. Figuring this out all comes down to being diligent about calculating and monitoring.

Calculate Your Protein Needs

You likely need much less protein than you think. The only way to tell exactly how much that is for you is by tracking it! If you’re new to tracking, here’s an easy breakdown of how to do it now:

Use an app or website for calculating macros based on your current weight, height, physical activity, and calorie needs. Input the ketogenic diet percentages:

what is the ketogenic diet

Whatever your grams come out to for protein is the amount you can start with. Note that this might take some tweaking at first to find out the amount that’s right for your body. Some people can get away with eating more protein, but others might need to keep it at 15% or less to prevent gluconeogenesis and stay in ketosis.

In terms of grams, this will usually fall around 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of lean bodyweight (or 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of lean bodyweight).

And again, remember to keep your fat intake high!

Monitor Your Ketone Levels

Besides tracking your protein macros, the other crucial way to ensure you’re not going over is by tracking your ketone levels. This is important anyway when following a ketogenic diet.

Track OFTEN to make sure your body is staying ketosis. (This guide will help you determine the best testing method for you.) It’s not enough to listen to how you feel; you might think you’re in ketosis when you aren’t.

Don’t keep yourself in the dark trying to hit the same target. Pay attention to your ketone levels by testing yourself.

Best Sources of Keto Protein

As we’ve established, protein is important, but too much is not good either—so make sure the proteins you ARE eating are high quality. Examples could include:

  • Fatty cuts of meat (ideally grass-fed and organic) such as beef, bison, and lamb: these have a more favorable fat profile and higher amounts of micronutrients for your health.
  • Fatty wild fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines
  • Organ meats: this includes heart and liver meats are some of the most nutrient-dense options you could choose.

Make sure your protein sources and natural and whole foods, not processed meats that might contain added sugars and other carbs.

When it comes to protein, most people are eating too much of it on their keto diet. So, remember: keep fat intake HIGH, stay within a MODERATE range for protein (and use the methods mentioned above to find out exactly how much you need), and track both your protein levels and your ketone levels consistently to see real results!

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Responses (30)

  1. On calculating your protein needs, shouldn’t that read 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of LEAN body weight? LEAN being the missing word….

    If not, then what is the point of knowing your BMI?

  2. Hi Asha, I would avoid legumes but you could try tofu, tempeh, seitan, nuts & seeds, low-carb hemp or pee protein powder.

  3. Sorry…how do you figure out what your “lean body weight” is? I only know my weight as it reads on the scale….if there a formula? calculation?

  4. I would love to know, regarding measuring how much protein is ok, the 0.7-0.9 grams per pound of lean body mass is PER DAY or PER MEAL? I read this same recommendation, as above, over and over without anyone ever being clear, per day or per meal?? HELP. NOT a MINOR DETAIL. ?

  5. Hi Dawn, no worries! Your lean body mass (LBM) is just the amount of mass (weight) on your body that isn’t fat – muscles, bones, organs, tissues, water. So your lean body mass would be your body weight – body fat. The most accurate way to get this number is to do a body composition assessment such as a DEXA scan, InBody assessment, or another body composition measurement tool. You can also estimate your LBM using this calculation:

    For men: LBM = (0.32810 × W) + (0.33929 × H) − 29.5336

    For women: LBM = (0.29569 × W) + (0.41813 × H) − 43.2933

    where W is body weight in kilograms and H is body height in centimeters.

    Hope this helps!

  6. Dipstick show moderate, how do I raise that? I have cut carbs to under 20 lost 40 lbs in six weeks. Does cutting protein get me a higher ketone level? Presently eating 82 protein,10 carbs, 10 fat 600 cal I drink 8-10 glasses of water

  7. Hi Patty, great to hear of your success so far. Once you have been in ketosis for a while and your body becomes efficient at using ketones for fuel, you begin to “dump” less ketones in your urine and therefore the strips become less accurate. I would suggest using a blood ketone meter to test. Also, did you mean 10 fat or 100 fat?

  8. Just wanting to start. 5 ft at 148 and would like to loose 38 pounds. I eat a hamburger patty with 3 tbsp mayo for breakfadt. Something green with breast of chicken or sliced turkey for lunch with mayo and same for dinner. I do snack on paramean crisps and pork rhines. Not sure how much of each to each. Cumumber, celery, broccolli, zucchini, lettuce are my greens. Help i need numbers in grams of each?

  9. I used your standard ketogenic calculator and now have a number for grams of protein per day. However this is probably not accurate because it isn’t based on my lean muscle. I have access to an InBody machine and once I know my lean muscle, how will I change the goals given by your calculator?

  10. Hi, I don’t understand protein in grams. They use grams for fat and carbs labels so that’s Ok. Not sure how much protein I am supposed to have in ounces.

  11. Hi Susan, are you using an app to track your macros like myfitness pal or my macros plus? The grams of protein is the number you want to track for your total grams per day and usually if you use an app and input your protein intake in ounces (such as 4 oz. of chicken thighs) it will automatically convert it and track it into your total grams allotted for the day.

  12. Hi Keri, in terms of grams of protein, it will usually fall around 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of lean bodyweight (or 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of lean bodyweight). So you’ll just have to adjust using that new number.

  13. I’ve been searching for answers to this: Is it safe to increase my protein intake on days I’m weightlifting? Or do I strictly remain at 0.7–0.9 grams of lean bodyweight?

  14. Addy, I would recommend increasing protein slowly and monitoring how you feel and your ketone levels to prevent getting kicked out of ketosis if that is your goal.

  15. I’ve just started the keto diet and am already going WAY over on protein. I don’t eat beef, bison, lamb or any red meat but am trying to eat more pork. This is all VERY foreign to me as I have been low fat/high protein for a long time. I just cannot eat a spoonful of mayo (ICK!!), so every meal I’m eating has lots of protein (chicken breast, eggs). I don’t know what to eat for something that’s high fat but low protein? Even full fat cheeses and dairy have lots of protein and it’s all adding up. Example: yesterday I had 1.5oz muenster cheese for breakfast, 2 Tbsp sharp cheddar and 9oz sauteed chicken breast for lunch, 7oz shrimp, 2.5C. cauliflower, 1oz macadamia nuts, 1.5C broccoli for dinner. No snacks. All that according to my carb counter was 155g protein and I should be having 76g. What would you change? Plus I felt hungry all day. The muenster cheese alone had 12g protein!

  16. Hi, first day of Keto diet and after breakfast and lunch I have reached my protein amount I’m aloud. I’m not sure what to eat for dinner now.

    Breakfast- 2 scrambled eggs cooked with butter, milk and topped with a little grated cheese.
    Half piece of bacon mixed with cabbage and onion cooked in butter

    Snack 3 table spoons Greek yoghurt

    Lunch- 200 grams scotch fillet steak with melted cheese
    2 mushrooms
    Half piece of bacon mixed with cabbage and onion (all cooked in butter)

  17. can you tell me what your eating to loose that weight, i am so confused! so how many eggs, ounces of meat ect, daily menu example? thank you.

  18. Well, I’m off the keto diet before I even start because I’m not prepared to limit my protein to 103g per day.

  19. legumes are roughly 50% carb 50% protein. probably too high in carbs. Not a complete protein profile.
    The problem is the lectins it contains. Lectins are not good news.

    When I was vegetarian, i got a lot of protein from nuts, seeds (germinate the seeds for even better amino acid access), mycoprotein (from mushrooms) and cheeses (not sure if cottage cheese has too much sugar – maybe full fat milk cottage cheese could work? there’s a lot of fabulous fake meats now that dont contain soya. yummm.

  20. Very impressive article I must say. I was looking for such brief info on keto diet and this article helped me a lot. thanks for sharing.

  21. I have a high body mass index for my weight. how do I figure how much protein I’m 127 lbs. and BMI 38 I’m a 70 year old woman.

  22. What are your suggestions for someone who does not eat pork or beef? I mainly eat poultry and some fish. I feel I may never fully get to ketosis because of this. Does this mean I have to double up on my fatty foods?

  23. I’m with some of these other folks, I do not know how to eat less protein and still get the fat I need could you give me some ideas please. Plus I’m not sure how much protein to eat at each meal

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