Can I Eat Too Much Protein on a Ketogenic Diet?

Short Answer: Yes

Protein is a very important part of any well formulated ketogenic diet as the amino acids that protein is broken down to are used in the body as the basic building blocks of cells, hormones and enzymes used to maintain the body.  Also protein helps keep us feeling full and provides many nutrients our bodies need for optimum health.

But the important thing to remember about the ketogenic diet is it’s not just Low Carb and High Fat but also Moderate Protein.  In other words, you are really trying to hit a “sweet spot” in your protein consumption in order to make sure your body has exactly what it needs but not too much.

What Does Consuming Too Much Protein Do?

You have to remember here that the body doesn’t store protein like it does fat and carbohydrate.  In other words, your fat cells don’t contain excess amino acids like it does glucose and fatty acids, which it transforms into triglycerides.  So in order to make sure that excess protein doesn’t go to waste, if you eat more than the body can use those excess amino acids are sent back to the liver where they undergo a transformation through gluconeogenesis (“gluco”-sugar, “neo”-new, “genesis”-creation, literally the creation of new sugar) into blood glucose where it can then be used as fuel for the body or stored as fat just like any other sugar molecule.

How Do You Avoid Gluconeogenesis?

There are a several different ways to avoid this.

1. Increased Exercise

This is the most basic and important thing to do on the ketogenic diet.  Increased exercise will create bigger muscles and in order for your body to make those muscles, it will use protein.  The more exercise you do, the more protein you can get away with consuming.  Also, bigger muscles act as a “sugar sink”, using any excess sugar in the blood stream so less is stored as fat.

2.  Track Your Macros

Keeping track of the amount of protein consumed is another way to avoid gluconeogenesis.  You are shooting for between .6 and 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. (You can use your goal weight as a cheap and easy way to figure lean body mass)  If you are measuring ketones and are finding it difficult to get into ketosis, protein is control knob you want to fiddle with in order to fine tune your diet.  Finding out what protein level you can tolerate is one of those fun little journeys of self-discovery that make the ketogenic diet so interesting!  If you are looking for an app to track your macros, I have been using Lose It! and have been pretty happy with it.

3.  Just eat fatty meats

If you don’t like to track or measure anything, just try to focus on eating the fattiest cuts of meal possible to keep your fat to protein ratio high.  This would be chicken thighs on the bone with skin over boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  (Dark meat over light meat for any poultry and always leave the skin on)  Rib-Eyes and T-Bones and any cuts of beef with heavy marbling over leaner cuts and 80%-20% hamburger meat over 93%-7%.  Try to eat more sardines packed in olive oil (Wild Planet FTW!) and fattier cuts of pork.  Just be sure that every time you are eating protein, you are eating a fair amount of fat as well.

But Don’t Be Scared of Protein!

Having said all this, you might think that protein is something to be scared of.  It’s just not true.  No matter how much protein you eat, it’s not going to turn to chocolate cake in your blood stream.  Just watch what you are doing and if you have trouble producing ketones after a few weeks, this is probably where you would want to look first when making adjustments.

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Can I Eat Too Much Protein on a Ketogenic Diet?

Common Mistakes When Eating Out on the Ketogenic Diet

Restaurants are a bit of a minefield when it comes to eating keto.  Because someone else is making your food out of your sight, it can be difficult to really know what is going into your dish.  Having eaten this way for a few years now, I can tell you that there are definitely dome things you need to be aware of before you take your seat at a restaurant but before I go into the things you need to know, I just want to repeat something I say every time I talk about this subject.

Restaurants should be forced to provide an ingredient list for their food.  It doesn’t need to be on the menu but if there is a website, I should be able to see exactly what is going into a sauce or any dish that is more complicated than 3 ingredients.  I’m not sure why Nabisco has to put a detailed list of everything in a cookie but Olive Garden isn’t required to tell me how much added sugar is in their Marinara sauce.

However, having had that little rant, here are the most common mistakes made when eating out on a Ketogenic diet.

The Omelettes are Made with Pancake Batter

Learning this tip was what made me realize that even when I thought I knew what was going into a dish, I really didn’t know what was going into a dish.  Many restaurants will put a dash of pancake batter into their eggs when whisking them in order to make them fluffier.  Ever wonder why a Waffle House omelette is 3 times as thick as one you can make at home?  Well, their’s their secret.

Fortunately, this one has an easy fix.  Just ask the waitress if they do that and request that they give you just eggs, no batter.  They will usually do it with no problem.

The Olive Oil isn’t Olive Oil

So once upon a time I go to a very fancy steak restaurant here in the DFW Metroplex.  I decide on the salad before the meal because every single soup option had carbs.  I knew that the chances of them having a salad dressing without PUFAs or sugar were pretty slim so I just asked for olive oil and vinegar which is usually a pretty safe and widely available option.

When they brought my salad out with the bottles of oil and vinegar, I noticed the oil looked very weird.  Just not the right color for olive oil so I asked the waitress if this was olive oil or if she had brought me maybe 2 different kinds of vinegar.  She told me that they didn’t have olive oil, but they used cottonseed oil.  Gross!

I ended up just asking her to bring me a lemon wedge I squeezed over the salad and ate it with salt and pepper.  Be careful with your oils!  Speaking of which…

Everything is Cooked in PUFAs

This is probably the biggest issue I’ve run into while eating out.  If there is a dish that needs oil when cooking, that oil will be a cheap PUFA like cottonseed or corn oil.  I realize that restaurants need to be concerned with their bottom line and seed oils are cheap but the real problem with PUFAs are how unstable they become when heated and how badly they oxidize in your body when you consume them.

The fix for this is a bit more complicated because you typically can’t just ask that they leave it out because there aren’t other options available so you will have to think through the dish.  Stay away from dishes that need to be fried and try to get a roasted option.  If something is pan or griddle fried, ask that they use butter instead of oil, just be sure they know the difference between butter and margarine.

Sugar Shows Up in Weird Places

Sugar is tough to stay away from when eating out as it is added to almost every sauce or cream or dressing.  You can try asking the waitress but your best bet is to order dishes that are very simple.  This is why when I eat out, it is typically just meat with roasted veggies if I can get it.  I tend to stay away from sauces unless I feel comfortable that there are no added sugars.  For instance, if I am eating at a small restaurant that prepares their food from scratch, I feel much better about their Alfredo Sauce as it is probably just cheese and cream but still won’t eat the red sauce because it probably has added sugar.

Those Portion Sizes are Out of Control

Just because they bring you enough steak for 3 people, doesn’t mean you have to eat it.  Remember that just stretching your stomach can trigger the release of Insulin even if it’s the most ketogenic meal imaginable.  Eat slowly and stop when you are full.  Sometimes I decide how much I’m going to eat before I start and cut that much of my meal out and separate it or just split one meal with my wife.

If you are interested, I cover tips for eating Sugar Free at Restaurants here.

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Common Mistakes When Eating Out on the Ketogenic Diet

Book Review: The Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns

After I had Brad Kearns on the podcast a few weeks ago, he was nice enough to send me a copy of his new book he co-authored with Mark Sisson, The Keto Reset Diet to review.  This is a great book to give to someone who is new to the Ketogenic Diet and would just like to learn the basics and get started in this new way of eating.

Probably the easiest comparison to make is to Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore.  Both are entry level books that do a good job of explaining everything you need to know about the diet to get started but The Keto Rest Diet goes a little farther in a few places that need to be highlighted.

Where both books do a great job of explaining the benefits of ketosis, The Keto Reset Diet gives more of the science that has been brought to bear on the topic.  This is probably because in the 3 years since Jimmy’s book was released, there has been a LOT more research done on the topic so there is just a lot more to share with the reader.

Another area this book shines is there is a step-by-step plan for getting into ketosis.  Instead of just listing the acceptable foods and telling us to limit carbs and increase saturated fat, this book has a 21 day process designed to make the transition easier.  Each step explains what you need to do and the obstacles or pitfalls you need to look out for with strategies for overcoming them.  This is another reason why I think this would be a great book for newbies to this new diet.

Also included is several pages of high quality and full color photos of the recipes listed in the book which is something I wish more books like this did.  Recipes are nice but I always prefer to have a pic of what the finished product should look like.  All in all, a great book to pick up if you are new to keto or if you have a friend or family member that is curious about this way of eating.

To get one from Amazon today, just click here!

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The My Sugar Free Journey Podcast – Episode 62: Chris Masterjohn!

The My Sugar Free Journey Podcast – Episode 62: Chris Masterjohn

In this week’s My Sugar Free Journey Podcast, I talk to Chris Masterjohn PhD!

Remember that you can follow us on iTunes and I would really appreciate a review there on iTunes.  Thanks!

Podcast Shownotes

You can find more from Chris at his website here, (And check out his Masterclass!) check out his podcast here, and follow him on Twitter here.

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