High Protein Foods for Your Keto

Introduction

The Keto diet is an ultra-low carb diet with a focus on healthy fats, but what about protein?  Protein is an important component of the Keto diet as well; although, it’s often overlooked.  Protein helps to promote weight loss and keep your lean muscle mass as well as providing fuel for some important cells in your body.  The following article will outline the role that protein plays in your Keto as well as some of the best protein rich foods you can eat.

Protein and Keto

The majority of people who do Keto are so focused on getting enough healthy fats and limiting their carbs that they don’t pay much attention to protein.  It’s the macronutrient that’s left out of a lot of people’s calculations.  You know that you need to eat 70-75% of your calories from healthy fats and you should only eat 20-25g of net carbs a day if you want to stay in ketosis.  Where does that leave protein?  Is it just the calories that make up the difference?

The short answer is, no, protein is as vital to the success of your Keto diet as carbohydrates and fats.  Knowing the proper amount of protein to eat for your weight is important in keeping your lean muscle mass and fueling parts of your body that cannot be fueled entirely by ketones.

Ketones are a fantastic fuel for your body; however, not all of the cells in your body can actually use this fuel.  There are some cells in your body that rely on glucose. That doesn’t mean that you should begin to panic and scarf down the nearest loaf of bread.  Your body is a survival machine.  It’s come up with a way of creating glucose from non-carbohydrate sources in times when carbs aren’t available.

Gluconeogenesis and Keto

This process is known as gluconeogenesis (GNG) and it’s your body’s way of fueling important cells such as your red blood cells, the cells inside your kidneys and about 30% of the cells found in your brain.  Without some form of glucose, these cells would stop functioning and you would be unable to live.  GNG uses amino acids (like those found in protein) and glycerol to create the glucose essential to your survival.  

The process of GNG is a very stable one that’s going on all the time.  Eating a high carb meal can cause your blood sugar levels to spike with a rapid burst of glucose; however, the same is not true of eating a high protein meal.  A large amount of protein won’t increase the amount of glucose that’s provided by GNG.  This process hums on in the background and it’s only effected by a lack of amino acids and glycerol which means that it’s important to get enough protein.

GNG is also important in maintaining stable blood sugar levels.  If there were absolutely no glucose being made in your body your blood sugar levels would fall to zero and you’d find yourself hypoglycemic.  With GNG you know that your blood sugar levels will stay at a level, low number without the spikes commonly associated with a high carb diet.  This makes protein and GNG a friend of ketosis, not an enemy.  Without the glucose that’s provided by GNG your body wouldn’t make the switch to ketosis and Keto wouldn’t be possible. 

How much protein do you need?

Knowing how protein plays an essential role in ketosis it begs the questions, how much protein should you be eating?  You know the number for your carbohydrates (20-25g of net carbs) and you know that the majority of your calories should come from healthy fats.  Where does that leave protein?

A good way to calculate your ideal protein range is to use your weight.  In order to find out the low range of protein you should be eating (the minimum amount) you should take your weight and multiply it by 0.6. For example, if you weighed 180lbs then this would look like 180×0.6=108.  You’d then know that you need to eat at least 108g of protein a day.

You can do this to find the high range of your protein consumption as well; except you’d be multiplying your weight by 1 instead of by 0.6.  This is an easy calculation to make as a person who weighed 180lbs could eat 180g of protein a day.  So in the case of our example, this 180lb person should be aiming at between 108-180g of protein daily.

This will allow them you to increase your lean muscle mass while loosing weight.  Some other benefits to eating enough protein on Keto include lowering your blood pressure, regulating your cholesterol levels, and keeping your skin, tissues, bones, blood and cartilage healthy.

Best high protein foods for Keto

Now that you know how vital protein is to your success on Keto it’s time to calculate your macros and find foods that offer high-quality sources of protein.  The following are some of the best protein sources you can find on Keto. 

  • Eggs: This simple, inexpensive food is a fantastic source of protein.  In fact, eggs are one of the only foods that’s thought to be a “complete protein”.  This means that they contain all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body needs.  A single egg contains 7g of protein and only 0.4g of carbohydrates so they’re a perfect fit for your Keto.  Both the egg white and the yolk are important sources of nutrition so try to use the whole egg whenever you can.
  • Salmon:  This protein rich fish is ideal for your Keto because it’s chock full of healthy fats including Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s. A 3oz fillet has a whopping 17g of protein while containing zero carbohydrates!  There are 11g of healthy fats in Salmon which will help you reach your fat macros and keep your body in ketosis.
  • Peanuts: Peanuts are a little higher on the carb scale with 9g in a 1.5oz serving.  However, they also have 4g of fibre which brings your net carbs down to 5g per 1.5oz serving.  It’s up to you and your individual carb limits if you have room for peanuts but if you do you’ll be getting a great source of both protein and fat.  Peanuts contain 10g of protein and 10g of fat per serving as well as that good for your gut fibre. 
  • Almonds: Another nut that’s full of both protein and healthy fats, almonds contain only 2g of net carbs per serving.  They offer a whopping 18g of healthy fats per serving and with that you also get 9g of protein. 
  • Shrimp: This tasty little seafood packs a remarkable amount of protein in a single serving.  When you eat 3oz of shrimp you’ll be giving your body 20g of protein!  Shrimp is also low carb coming in at only 0.2g of net carbs in a single serving. They’re also low in calories at only 84cal per 3oz so if you’re watching your calories as well as your macros shrimp might be a great way of getting the protein your body needs without eating an excessive number of calories. 
  • Tuna: This fish, like salmon, has zero carbs which makes it perfect for any Keto plan.  In a 3oz serving of tuna you’ll get 17g of protein to fuel your body.  However, tuna is a lot lower in fats than salmon with only 0.7g in a serving.  If you’ve already eaten your healthy fats for the day and you want to give your body a boost of B-vitamins and protein, then tuna is a great option
  • Whey protein powder:  Protein powder is a versatile way to add a boost of protein to your meals.  You can add a scoop to a shake or smoothie or toss some into your favorite desert.  Different brands have different carb counts because of the sugar that may or may not be added so read your nutrition label carefully.  On average, a single scoop serving should give you roughly 5g of protein, 2g of fat and 2g of carbohydrates. 
  • Chicken or Turkey: Poultry is a good source of lean protein.  They aren’t the highest sources of fat, but a single 4oz serving of either of these two birds will provide you with roughly 35g of protein
  • Beef:  Be sure to choose grass-fed organic beef whenever possible.  Different cuts of beef contain differing amounts of protein, but all are a good choice on Keto.  A 3oz serving of lean ground beef contains 22g of protein while a 6oz steak contains 42g of protein.

Conclusion:

Contrary to popular belief, protein is not the enemy on Keto, nor should it be just an afterthought.  A careful calculation of protein as part of your Keto macros can help your body produce the fuel it needs to stay in Ketosis.  There are plenty of Keto-friendly protein options available to you so try to aim for a serving of protein with every meal.  This will allow you to continue to lose weight, build lean muscle mass and fuel important parts of your body such as your red blood cells and sections of your brain.

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