Worrying that a protein shake will kick you out of ketosis is the equivalent of using a rotary phone or typing a letter instead of sending an email. Sure, they work, but they’re not up to date. This article will make you as current when it comes to keto diets and protein as owning the latest iphone.
How am I going to do that in about 1000 words? By first telling you why a shake won’t kick you out of ketosis. Then we’ll look at the research on high protein, low carbohydrate diets. Then, I’ll give you 6 tips that’ll help you make sure your protein shakes make your keto/low carb diet easier to follow. With better results.
Before we get into the article I want to remind you that it’s for informative and educational purposes only. If your doctor wants you to eat low protein and low carb, stick with it until you get the okay to eat more.
Okay. Let’s get into the article.
Why Protein Shakes Won’t Kick You Out Of Ketosis
The most common way to get kicked out of ketosis is to eat too many carbohydrates. Eating carbohydrates – bread, pasta, even some fruits – cause your blood sugar to go way up. Once it gets too high your body will switch from being in ketosis and burning fat to using the carbs you’re eating for energy.
How many grams of carbs does this take? Probably no more than 50 grams a day. Maybe even 15-30 grams for some of us.
As long as your protein shake doesn’t have more than 15 grams of carbohydrates/sugar it isn’t going to increase your blood sugar enough to kick you out of ketosis. In fact, the protein you’re drinking can lower your blood glucose and make it easier for your body to stay in ketosis.
I discuss the research on this topic in the next section.
Research On Protein And Keto/Low Carb Diets
When allowed to eat as much protein as they like, a group of overweight men on a low carb diet in one study had no trouble staying in ketosis. They also lost more weight, body fat, and felt full longer than guys following a high protein diet higher in carbs.
What about if you work out intensely? Then getting extra protein from shakes will not only help you lose body fat but your endurance or strength won’t suffer, according to this study.
The athletes following a keto diet in this study were eating about .8 grams of protein per pound of their body weight (1.8 grams/kg) without any problems. This is the recommended amount to eat for building muscle, and losing fat. Doing it while eating keto seems to help amplify the diet’s benefits. In another study, college aged athletes got stronger, built muscle, and increased their testosterone levels while eating low carb/high protein.
Also worth mentioning is research that shows whey protein, a popular type of protein powder, increases insulin levels but doesn’t do the same to your blood sugar. One reason why it’s not very likely to kick you out of ketosis.
In fact, whey protein shakes can decrease your blood sugar levels. Keeping your them going to high helps prevent cravings and low energy levels which in turn make it easier to feel good and stick to a diet that helps your body stay in fat burning mode.
“The problem is not about protein shakes in particular, rather the total protein amount consumed throughout the day. Keto is a game of numbers. If you commit to the right numbers, you should be on the right track.”Nabeel Kalas, MD – MasterMindingPerfection.com
How To Make Sure Your Protein Shakes Don’t Kick You Out Of Ketosis
1. Read the label. Look for added carbohydrates and total carbohydrates.
Not all protein powders are the same. You may think that they contain nothing more than protein and whatever scant carbs and fats couldn’t be filtered out. That’s not so.
Here’s the deal. Many companies add sugar, usually one called maltodextrin. It’s very sweet and makes the shake taste good. But, all that extra sugar, sometimes 25 grams per serving will kick you out of ketosis.
Adding sugar or other filler ingredients also decreases the amount of protein in every serving. While increasing the supplement company’s profits. So, instead of about 24 grams per scoop you may only get 15. Dios mio. That stinks.
What should you look for? In the Supplement Facts section of the label check out the carbohydrates section. There shouldn’t be more than 5 grams of total carbohydrates per serving.
AAny more and you’re not getting a quality supplement. You’re getting a product that has added carbs that can kick you out of ketosis.
2. Be careful what you add to your shake.
I’ve added all sorts of stuff to my protein shakes over the years. From berries to fruit juice, milk. I’ve even tried honey. All but the berries I would add are definitely not keto or low carb. Some of the shakes I used to
make probably had an added 150-200 grams of carbs, more than you eat in a day on a low carb diet.
Avoid my mistake by only adding ingredients that are low in carbs. This includes: berries, heavy cream, coconut milk, cinnamon, sea salt, and almond butter (?check).
MCT oil is another good choice, especially if you want to get into ketosis faster. Just be careful, too much can cause an upset stomach and keep you in the bathroom for hours. Start with a teaspoon and don’t add more than 1 tablespoon at a time.
3. Protein Is Not The Biggest Factor For Getting Into Ketosis
It’s the amount of protein you eat in a day that can affect whether or not you’re in ketosis. So you need to consider how the protein shake you want to drink will factor into that amount.
Keep in mind what I write in the beginning of this article. Even when 30% of your daily calories comes from protein it’s possible to be in ketosis, burn off excess body fat, lose weight and improve your health.
What you should worry about more when it comes to being in ketosis are the amount of carbohydrates/sugar you eat every day. That’s the #1 thing to really track when it comes to ketosis. You probably need to eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day. At least initially, to get into and stay in ketosis. Intermittent fasting, especially eating one meal a day (link) is another great way.
Other factors include: your overall health, how often and intensely you exercise and how well you’re sleeping.
4. Be Extra Careful With Pre-Made Protein Shakes
Drinking pre-mixed shakes are a great way to quickly and easily meet your protein needs and stay full between meals. Way better than a muffin and bottle of orange juice.
Unfortunately, many shakes you buy at 7-11, Whole Foods, and other stores contain as much sugar as a bottle of soda. That’s why they taste as sweet as one too!
Here’s one example. This Bolthouse Farms Strawberry Protein shake has 26 grams of sugar. Drinking one of these is enough to make staying in ketosis pretty tough. Unless it’s the only carbs you have for the day.
Just like protein powder, these shakes shouldn’t have more than 5-10 grams per serving. The less protein it has on the label, the fewer carbohydrates it should have. That means 5 grams for every 20-25 grams of protein.
Good pre-made protein shakes that are also keto and low carb friendly are:
- Koia protein shakes with 12 grams of vegan protein and only 2 grams of net carbs.
- Labrada Lean Body Protein Shakes – has 4 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein.
- Jocko Molk – every serving has 3 grams of carbs and 30 grams of protein.
- Premier Protein – contains 2 grams of net carbs and 30 grams of protein per shake.
5. Track Your Ketone Levels To See How Drinking A Shake Affects You
If you want to really make sure you’re staying on track you should invest in a device that tracks your ketone levels. This can be anything from the strips (link) you buy at a drugstore to the Precision Xtra which measures ketones from a tiny pin prick of blood to one that measures ketones from your breath.
6. Learn How Much Protein Your Body Needs
Last but not least. Make sure you aren’t eating more protein than you need. You can do this without weighing and measuring your food too. What I have done with success is to track the protein count of whatever I eat for 5-7 days. This is enough time to get a handle on what I’m eating most days. Then, make sure it’s enough, but too much protein, to meet your daily needs.
How much do you need to eat every day? That depends on things like how active you are and whether you’re dieting to lose weight and body fat.
Generally X grams a day per pound of your body weight is good if you aren’t too active, say you walk for exercise but don’t lift weights or run and don’t want to get any leaner.
If you’re more active, lifting weights 3 or more times a week, doing HIIT workouts, playing sports, etc. you’re likely to need to eat more protein. Anywhere from .8-1 gram per pound is usually enough. The same amount also works well for fat loss.
Just Remember To Count Carbs Not Protein
Now you know that it’s okay not to worry about your protein shake throwing you off your keto diet and ruining your progress. Remember, it’s likely to make your diet more effective. Making sure you don’t eat more than 30-50 grams of carbohydrates a day on your diet is far more important.
Liu K, Wang B, Zhou R, Lang HD, Ran L, Wang J, Li L, Kang C, Zhu XH, Zhang QY, Zhu JD, Doucette S, Kang JX, Mi MT. Effect of combined use of a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on glycemic control in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, parallel-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Aug 1;108(2):256-265. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy120. PMID: 30101332.
Salehi, A., Gunnerud, U., Muhammed, S.J. et al. The insulinogenic effect of whey protein is partially mediated by a direct effect of amino acids and GIP on β-cells. Nutr Metab (Lond) 9, 48 (2012).
Wilson JM, Lowery RP, Roberts MD, Sharp MH, Joy JM, Shields KA, Partl JM, Volek JS, D’Agostino DP. Effects of Ketogenic Dieting on Body Composition, Strength, Power, and Hormonal Profiles in Resistance Training Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Dec;34(12):3463-3474.
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