How much protein should I eat on a ketogenic diet?

By Dr. Stephen Phinney and the Virta Team

We have performed a number of studies indicating that most healthy humans maintain lean body mass and function during a ketogenic diet providing between 1.5 and 1.75 grams of protein per kg of ‘reference body weight’* (Phinney 1983, Davis 1990).

*Reference body weight is an arbitrary value for men and women based upon the medium frame values from the 1959 Metropolitan Life Insurance ‘Ideal Body Weight’ tables. (Met Life, 1959) Using these values allows for protein intakes to be based roughly on normal lean body mass rather than total body weight. Note: ‘reference weight’ is an arbitrary value used to estimate daily protein needs – it is not a weight

But in no case should dietary protein intake be reduced below 1.2 g/kg in the context of a well-formulated ketogenic diet. This range; 1.2 g/kg at the low end and 2.0 g/kg at the upper end, with a 1.5 g/kg mid-range moderate intake target, can be translated into daily consumption of protein-rich foods in ounces in the table below. Each ounce of protein-containing food contains about 7 grams of protein.

Read more on protein requirements here:

Dr. Phinney on protein:


Davis PG, Phinney SD. Differential effects of two very low calorie diets on aerobic and anaerobic performance. Int J Obes. 1990 Sep;14(9):779-87.

Phinney SD, et al. The human metabolic response to chronic ketosis without caloric restriction: physical and biochemical adaptation. Metabolism. 1983; 32:757-768.

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  1. I read through the post about how a ketogenic diet does not make a normal person hypothyroid. However, I was wondering about the effects of a ketogenic diet on a person who already has an underactive thyroid and has been on medication for the same for as very long time. Would you know of any ill effects of a ketogenic diet on such a person?


    1. Virta Health

      Hi Anu, thank you for your question! Here is an interested article from Dr. Phinney I think you’ll find interesting.


  2. Hi, I’m confused about the protein table, just wondering if you can put me right please.
    I am 5’7″ female and weigh 140lbs (64kg).
    Based on the 1.2g, 1.5g and 2g I worked out that my protein intake should be 77g/96g/129g (2.7oz/3.4oz/4.6oz) e.g. 64kg x .1.2g = 77g (2.7oz)
    Your table gives much higher amounts for my height/weight. Could you tell me where I have gone wrong with my calculations please?
    Thank you.


    1. Virta Health

      Each ounce of protein-containing food contains about 7 grams of protein. So you can multiple the ounces of protein recommended by 7 to get it in grams!


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