In Categories: Practical Tips

Dietary protein is necessary to maintain and preserve structures and functions of the body – like muscles, heart, liver, and kidneys. Here are some tips to help you avoid a few common mistakes, which can deter your progress toward achieving weight loss and improved metabolic health.

Check out Dr. Steve Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek’s post on how much protein you need in nutritional ketosis. Once you know how much to consume, follow the tips below to perfect your protein.

#1. Watch out for protein sources that contain carbs, such as nuts

Whole food like meat, fish, poultry, nuts, eggs, and cheese are quality sources of protein. One egg or an ounce of these other sources listed each contain about the same amount of protein—generally about 7 grams.

low carb protein sources

When choosing your protein sources, keep in mind the carbohydrates in some foods. Those carbs can add up quickly, especially with nuts, some processed meats, tofu and certain vegetarian/vegan meat substitutes (see our guide for vegans and vegetarians). Every source counts, so choose with caution and always check the nutrition labels!

The carbohydrate content of protein-containing foods varies. Let’s take nuts as an example. From macadamias with 4 grams of carbs per ounce to cashews (which are not technically a nut) with 9 grams of carbs per ounce, the type you choose matters when it comes to keeping your total carbs low.

#2. Make sure you’re getting enough protein

Too little protein can compromise your lean tissue mass (Hoffer 1984). When daily protein intake is inadequate, the body turns to lean tissue to meet its protein needs. This happens more rapidly when fasting for a prolonged period (greater than 24 hours) (Owen 1969).

It’s easy to get your protein needs met through meat consumption, but it’s not the only way. Because a ketogenic diet is high in fat and moderate in protein, vegetarians, vegans and pescetarians can follow this lifestyle as well.

One ounce of protein-containing food contains about 7 grams of protein.

Here are a few options for what a day’s worth of protein intake could look like for someone needing 14 ounces of protein-containing foods (around 98 grams of protein):

Option 1: Meat-eater Option 2: Pescetarian Option 3: Vegetarian
2 eggs
2 oz cheese
4 oz chicken
2 oz nuts
4 oz steak
3 eggs
4 oz cheese
2 oz nuts
5 oz tuna (1 can)
3 eggs
4.5 oz cheese
2 oz nuts
4.5 oz high protein tofu (1.5 oz high protein tofu = the equivalent protein in 1 oz meat)
½ cup Greek Yogurt, plain, whole milk (equivalent to 1.5 oz meat)

#3. Space out your protein, and eat it with fat

  • Space your protein out throughout the day: Proteins are constantly being remodeled, and the proteins we eat provide the building blocks to support the remodeling, so make sure you’re spreading out your consumption instead of eating it all at once.
  • Eat enough fat: Make sure to add fat to your meals to ensure you’re satiated and don’t overeat other macronutrients.

Consuming adequate protein (and the right amount of fat) takes practice and even the smallest adjustments can make a positive shift in your metabolic response.

21 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Patricia Hartzell October 21, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    I have stage 3 kidney disease. I have been on a low carb diet for 6 months. I have lost 30 lbs, my HDL and LDL is fantastic. My blood pressure is lower than it has been in years. I feel great and all blood look is good except my kidneys. The numbers are way up. How can I combine low carb with low protein?

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Hi Patricia, congratulations on your success thus far! We unfortunately are unable to give any medical advice in this forum. Virta uses a well formulated ketogenic diet, which involves moderate protein. I would suggest discussing some low carb with low protein options with your doctor. Best of luck!

      Reply

    2. Avatar

      Look at this video on YouTube it’s called The liver’s vital bro by Barbara O’Neill.. a lot of information in this video.

      Reply

    3. Avatar

      Hi, Patricia, my mother is on dialysis and I’m looking to bring her onto keto I am currently on keto and have been for about a month, any advice on how i can bring her on.

      Reply

  2. Avatar

    Hi, I am 68kgs currently and following keto diet. I wish to lose 15-18kgs. On diet i have been eating 4 eggs, handful of nuts and a protein bar a day or 200gms of paneer, handful of nuts a day. Is it fine as i am not able to eat beyond that. I am so full after eating these things.

    Reply

    1. Avatar

      We recommend that you listen to your body and keep your carbs under 30 grams a day, eat protein according to your requirements (https://blog.virtahealth.com/how-much-protein-on-keto/) and eat fat to satiety. No need to eat more if you’re already full!

      Reply

  3. Avatar

    I add ingredients like avocado, full-fat sour cream, pats of butter, and/or full-fat ricotta cheese to my proteins … rounding out the plate with some above ground vegetables. Makes for a satisfying meal.

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Sounds delicious!

      Reply

  4. Avatar

    Protein can be more expensive that vegetables and dairy, a money saving tip is to buy it in bulk and to buy fatty cuts of meat. Proteins can be prepared in so many ways and it can add fun and flavor to your life.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    Thank you for this post, very accessible and informative, and thank you also for all you contribute to the low-crab cause.Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      We are so glad to hear that this information is helpful. Thank you so much for your feedback!

      Reply

    2. Avatar

      I’m having diffulculty eating enough protien ….what do you suggest…protien powder

      Reply

      1. Virta Health

        Protein powders can be helpful for some people, particularly vegans or vegetarians. It is important to find one that is low-carb, though. It can also be helpful to try to spread your protein intake out throughout the day so that you aren’t trying to eat it all at 1 or 2 meals.

        Reply

  6. Avatar

    I am 150 KG at the moment, just started a couple of weeks ago and already feeling great. I have been working out since 6 months now, 4-5 times a week and all in all very active. My main challenge right now is eating 150g or protein while doing keto, it just so much !
    How can I eat more protein without getting too much fat? I am just not so hungry with this diet and feeling great…. I am also doing 16-8 2-3 times a week, so maybe it is ok if I eat a little less on these days? And make up for it in days when I eat 3 meals?
    Thank you so much in advance for your reply and for your important work here…
    I am 33yo, 181 cm.

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Thanks for following along! If you take a look at this post on protein requirements (https://blog.virtahealth.com/how-much-protein-on-keto/), you’ll find that the protein range for your height is between 12 and 21 ounces per day (84-147 grams per day). If you don’t feel like you can eat 150 grams of protein every day, lower your goal to something more manageable. It’s important to listen to your body and your observation is a great place to start!

      Reply

  7. Avatar

    What protein is there that does not have carbs or fat? What I had planned takes me over my calories should I be concerned? Asking before dinner time – thank you😊

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Hopefully you found something to eat for dinner last night! Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are also protein sources that do not contribute carbohydrates. We also encourage our patients to eat until satiety versus counting calories.

      Reply

  8. Avatar
    Paula Hendley July 27, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I have been on the Keto diet for 2weeks now and have cut out all sugars and starches. I dont have my full protein and fat count every day even though I eat all of them at all meal times. Will this throw me off the diet?

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Hi Paula! I’m not sure I understand your question. Are you asking if you have to meet all of your protein and fat goals each day to be successful?

      Reply

  9. Avatar

    I just celebrated 1 year on keto. I am 6’1″, 48 years old and down 44 pounds. I have been at 200 lbs for about 3 months. I have not been tracking any of my intake for about 9 months. I am doing light to moderate weight training since January and my muscle gains have been impressive relative to my effort. I am just reading through all of your articles, and based on those numbers, I am probably eating more protein than recommended. I am definitely staying under 50g of carbs and getting plenty of fat. This morning my finger stick showed 0.5 mM. If I am not seeing any changes in my weight, does it matter if I am going over my protein? BTW, this is no longer a diet…this is a lifestyle. Donuts no longer interest me. ITS CRAZY.

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Congratulations on all your success following a low-carbohydrate lifestyle, Evan! Here is a deep dive into protein from Drs. Phinney and Volek that you might find helpful: https://blog.virtahealth.com/how-much-protein-on-keto/.

      Reply

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