Among the numerous special diets that have found their way into popularity, keto-friendly diet plans have emerged as one of the most effective. The keto diet is centered around the idea of carb elimination combined with high fat and protein. It improves fat loss, as well as provide several other health benefits; That’s why dieters are flocking to give keto a shot.
But what are the right ratios of macronutrients for the best results? And more specifically, is too much protein counterproductive on a keto-friendly diet? We’ll breakdown all of the key aspects and provide you with accurate information because that’s what ourfitness.life stands for.
What Makes a Diet “Keto”?
As mentioned above, the main foundation of the ketogenic diet is focused on the elimination of carbs from your daily food intake. By keeping your daily carb intake below 20 grams, after one or two days, your body will enter a stage of “ketosis” which is the starting point towards the benefits of this diet.
What is Ketosis?
When carbs are eliminated as a source of energy from your daily diet, your body’s glucose levels will subsequently drop. Because glucose is used for short term energy storage, your body subsequently will turn to fat storages as it’s a new primary source of energy. Because carbohydrates are a key factor in promoting brain function, the “ketones” created as a by-product of your liver converting body fat into fatty acids are now the fuel for your brain and body.
After entering the ketogenic state, which takes typically 24-48 hours of minimal-carb supplementation, the ketones will measurably rise and continue this state until carbs are again introduced into your diet.
Signs of Ketosis
Unless you have a ketone reader, which samples your blood and measures the levels in your body, it can be unclear when you have wholly entered a ketogenic state. Luckily there are some trademark signs that your body has fully cleared its glucose stores:
- Weight loss: Because your glycogen levels are decreased, this will result in a sudden drop in weight. Unlike fat, these are “temporary” energy stores that your body is able to expend shortly over the course of days. It isn’t rare to lose 3-5 pounds over the course of a week as your body burns through these energy stores, especially when they aren’t being replenished by steady carb intake.
- Bad Breath: When you enter ketosis, the conversion of fatty acids into ketones is significantly increased. Because of this, acetone is then released as you breathe and in your urine. This has a notoriously distinct smell but is a clear sign your body has increased ketones through ketosis.
- Temporary Fatigue: A switch in diet can oftentimes result in decreased energy, but ketogenic diets can feel especially tiresome in the beginning. Naturally, your body wants to use the glucose stores as its first option for energy, but when these are depleted, your energy levels drastically decrease. Fortunately, this is temporary, and long-term, you may feel increased energy while on a ketogenic diet.
- Loss of Sleep: Insomnia is one of the more annoying short term side effects, although this too will eventually subside. Carbohydrates aid in the production of L-tryptophan in the brain, which eventually converts to melatonin, which is your body’s natural sleep hormone. When carbs are decreased, this means decreased levels of melatonin. Again this is short term, and anecdotally keto may increase your quality of sleep long-term.
What Should Your Macronutrients Be?
As a rule of thumb, your body will easily enter a state of ketosis with less than 20 grams of carb intake per day. As it pertains to fat and protein, the two other main macronutrients, you should adhere to either a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of fat to protein in your daily diet. While you may feel like carbohydrates are a crutch throughout your day in terms of feeling “good” overall, fat and too much protein serve just as important roles in healthy body function.
Importance of Fat
Keeping high-fat levels is crucial in preventing the feeling of fatigue with low carb diets. Because fats help to regulate hormone levels in your body, the miserable feeling of carb depletion can be mitigated with the proper fat supplementation. This results in the recommended 3:1 ratio of fat to protein, although the protein levels will also be crucial throughout this diet.
Protein is the foundation of a number of body functions, including muscle growth and preservation, bone mass, and lowered blood pressure. In addition, high protein foods oftentimes increase satiety and minimize calorie consumption, with the added benefit of increased metabolic rates through digestion. Clearly increased levels of protein can prove beneficial, but is too much protein counterproductive?
Is Too Much Protein Bad for Keto?
In short and simple terms, no, increased levels don’t have a negative effect during keto. The main concern around higher levels of protein stem from the idea that it can increase gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is the conversion of non-carbohydrate sources into glucose, which you would assume would be counterproductive while trying to enter a ketogenic state.
Fortunately, gluconeogenesis has zero effect on ketosis and is actually a pivotal process while in a carb-depleted state. Many of your body’s functions can’t be supplemented by ketones as an energy source, including organ function, red blood cells, and portions of your brain. Gluconeogenesis is actually what makes keto diets possible, otherwise many of your body’s necessary functions would cease to continue.
Although there are conflicting theories around what the ideal protein levels should be, adhering to a 0.5-1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass is preferable. High-fat meats such as beef can be great sources of both fat and protein, while also being extremely filling. Some dieters may feel the digestive strain if you eat too much red meat, so leaner protein sources such as turkey and chicken can also supplement your protein requirements. Other protein sources include:
Adhering to a keto diet will ultimately come down to personal willpower, while the science behind your body’s macronutrient needs should be secondary. Simply stick to the recommended 3:1 fat to protein ratios, keep carbohydrates below 20 grams, and your body will do the rest. As long as you follow that gameplan, ketosis will be an easy and straightforward process.