Are you looking to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time while following a healthy diet? Then a high-protein keto diet may be just what you need.
This eating style combines the benefits of a very low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet, while emphasizing quality protein sources. Reducing carbs allows your body to burn fat for fuel, whereas adding more protein promotes the growth of lean muscle mass.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the health benefits and potential risks of the high-protein keto diet and provide you with a list of foods to eat and avoid.
What is a High-Protein Keto Diet?
A high-protein keto diet is an eating plan emphasizing high-quality protein intake and low-carbohydrate, high-fat consumption. It involves reducing carbohydrate intake to a minimum while increasing protein intake significantly.
Instead of the standard keto macros, which are 5% to 10% carbohydrates, 30% to 35% protein, and 55% to 60% fat, you would increase your protein intake to 35% to 40% of your calories.
This means that on a 1,500-calorie per day keto diet, a person would consume around 113 to 131 grams of protein.
As you can tell, this diet is a variation of the ketogenic diet and focuses on burning fat as the body’s primary fuel source. The high-protein keto diet typically includes whole food source like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and non-starchy fruits and vegetables.
The Benefits of a High-Protein Keto Diet
From weight loss to better performance as an athlete or someone who loves working out, here’s how increasing protein works.
Weight loss and body composition changes
One of the primary benefits of the high-protein keto diet is weight loss. When the body is in a state of ketosis, it burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, reducing body fat.
In addition, consuming adequate amounts of protein helps to build and maintain lean muscle mass, which can also contribute to weight loss by increasing your overall metabolic rate.
Research has also shown that the high-protein keto diet can positively change body composition. In a study of overweight and obese individuals, those who followed the high-protein keto diet lost more body fat than those on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet (1).
Increased satiety and appetite control
Another benefit of the high-protein keto diet is increased satiety and appetite control. Protein is one of the most filling macronutrients, so consuming adequate amounts can help you feel full for longer periods. This can lead to decreased calorie intake and improved weight loss results over time.
Improved blood sugar control
When consuming fewer carbohydrates, blood sugar levels tend to remain more stable throughout the day. This is because carbohydrates are the primary macronutrient that raises blood sugar levels, and when they are limited in the diet, blood sugar spikes are reduced.
Additionally, protein has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which is essential for managing and preventing type 2 diabetes.
In a study of individuals with type 2 diabetes, those who followed a high-protein keto diet for 12 weeks experienced significant reductions in fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C (a marker of long-term blood sugar control) compared to those on a standard low-fat diet.
Potential for improved athletic performance
When carbohydrates are limited in the diet, the body switches to using fat as its alternate fuel source. This can lead to increased endurance and a lower risk of fatigue during exercise, as the body has a virtually unlimited supply of fat to burn for energy.
Also, the high-protein keto diet can help with muscle recovery and growth. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, which is necessary for improving strength and athletic performance.
Moreover, the high-fat component of the diet can provide an adequate energy source for high-intensity workouts.
However, it’s important to note that the high-protein keto diet may not be suitable for all athletes, especially those engaging in high-intensity activities that require quick bursts of energy, such as sprinting or weight lifting. These activities rely heavily on glycogen stores, which are limited in the absence of carbohydrates.
Potential Risks & Drawbacks of a High-Protein Keto Diet
Despite the potential benefits of the high-protein keto diet, some risks and drawbacks must be considered.
The high-fat component of the high-protein keto diet can lead to increased production of ketones in the body, which can increase a person’s risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances due to increased urinary excretion. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids and consume adequate amounts of sodium and potassium.
Consuming a lot of protein can also strain the digestive system, leading to bloating, constipation, nausea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. To reduce these side effects, you may want to increase your protein gradually so that your body can slowly adapt.
Here are other key considerations to keep in mind before starting the high-protein keto diet:
Protein Intake: What’s the Right Amount?
The amount of protein consumed on a high-protein keto diet will depend on an individual’s goals and activity level.
Most people need about 0.8–1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, athletes or those engaging in strength training may require up to 2.2–3.3 grams per kilogram of body weight each day.
However, another recommendation, especially for those on a keto diet, is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight or 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (2).
Foods to Eat & Avoid on a High-Protein Keto Diet
The high-protein keto diet encourages consuming foods rich in protein and healthy fats while limiting carbohydrates. Here are some foods to consider adding to your diet:
- Protein sources: Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, beef, fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, eggs, dairy products such as greek yogurt, cottage cheese, plant-based protein such as nuts, seeds, and tofu.
- Healthy fats: avocados, nuts, seeds, butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, and fatty fish
- Non-starchy vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and bell peppers
While on a high-protein keto diet, it’s important to avoid or limit the intake of foods high in carbohydrates. This includes:
- Sugary foods: candy, pastries, and other desserts
- Starchy vegetables: potatoes, corn, winter squash, and peas
- Grains: bread, rice, and pasta
- Processed foods: chips, crackers, and other packaged snacks
Watching the quantity of protein you eat is vital since too much might burden your digestive system. Opting for lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, and beans can help mitigate this risk.
Additionally, adequate amounts of sodium and potassium can help prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances caused by increased ketone production.
Consulting with a healthcare provider before making dietary changes is important to ensure proper nutrition and appropriate protein intake.
Sample High-Protein Keto Meal Plan
Below are some ideas to help you start eating more protein!
- Breakfast: 3 egg omelets with spinach and feta cheese cooked in coconut oil and a side of half an avocado
- Snack: Handful of almonds
- Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken, mixed greens, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes with an olive oil and vinegar dressing
- Snack: Greek yogurt with berries
- Dinner: Grilled salmon with broccoli and cauliflower rice cooked in olive oil
How to Follow a High-Protein Keto Diet
A high-protein keto diet can provide various health benefits, such as weight loss and improved blood sugar control. However, discussing dietary changes with your healthcare provider before making them is important. Additionally, here are some tips to help you safely follow the high-protein keto diet:
- Eat adequate amounts of all macronutrients – Aim for a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat based on your recommended keto macros. You will need to figure them out using a keto calculator.
- Limit processed foods – Choose whole foods that are minimally processed over packaged options. Follow a clean keto approach.
- Monitor protein intake – Eating too much protein may cause strain on the digestive system. Opt for lean sources of protein to minimize this risk and increase your protein intake gradually.
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water throughout the day and ensure adequate sodium and potassium intake to prevent dehydration.
- Get enough sleep – Getting adequate sleep helps support immunity and makes weight loss easier by controlling your appetite.
- Exercise regularly – Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can help you reach your goals faster.
If you lead a busy lifestyle, here are some tips to help you stay on track with your high-protein keto diet:
- Prepare meals in advance – Cooking meals ahead of time can save you time and energy when meal prepping.
- Keep healthy snacks around – Stock up on snacks like nuts and seeds that are easy to grab and go.
- Meal delivery options – Consider ordering pre-made, healthy meals from a meal delivery service if cooking is not an option.
- Use rest days – Rest days between workouts can help prevent muscle injury and fatigue while still making progress toward your goals.
The Bottom Line
The high-protein keto diet is a nutritional approach that combines the benefits of the ketogenic diet with an increased focus on protein consumption. This dietary pattern may benefit weight loss and improve blood sugar control.
Remember to discuss any dietary changes with your healthcare provider before starting the high-protein keto diet.
Furthermore, prioritize a clean keto approach, monitor your protein intake, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and stay physically active. For those leading busy lifestyles, preparing meals in advance or opting for meal delivery services may also prove helpful in sticking to their dietary regimen.
- Kephart W, Pledge C, Roberson P et al. The Three-Month Effects of a Ketogenic Diet on Body Composition, Blood Parameters, and Performance Metrics in CrossFit Trainees: A Pilot Study. 2018 January 09
- Dieter B. Protein and Weight Loss: How Much Protein Do You Need to Eat Per Day?