Can I have whey protein on a ketogenic diet?

By Dr. Stephen Phinney and the Virta Team

Whey protein is a double-edged sword: it has a very high biological value score, meaning that this source of protein contains the essential amino acids in the right proportion required by humans, but it also causes higher insulin secretion than other quality protein sources like meat and eggs. My other concern with isolated whey protein is that it does not come along with intracellular minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. In that sense, it is not a complete food like eggs, fish, poultry, or meat. Whey protein can have a place in a well-formulated ketogenic diet as long as that diet contains adequate vegetables.

Read more in our deep dive on protein.

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10 Comments

  1. Does this advice apply equally to isolated milk protein (20% whey, 80% casein)?

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Thanks for reading! Yes, it does apply to milk protein blends as well.

      Reply

  2. What about High Degree of Hydrolyzed Whey protein…highly absorbable

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Hydrolyzed whey protein is a highly absorbable form of protein however it will still have an insulinogenic effect.

      Reply

  3. Im doing ketogenic diet with IF (16 to 20hours fasting and sometime OMAD) for 5months now. I was able to hit my idela weight now. Im planning to take whey protein after workout. Will it not break my ketosis? Thanks

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      As it mentions in this post, whey protein can increase insulin secretion but there is no way to predict if it will break your ketosis or not.

      Reply

  4. Can the insulin effect of whey isolate be mitigated by consuming with high fat such as avocado or full fat heavy cream?

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Fat can certainly help with reducing the insulin response but to what extent will vary by person.

      Reply

  5. Dairy, especially milk, has as high an insulin spike. I feel I need 3 servings of bioavailable calcium. Is that throwing me out of ketosis?
    Mary

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Cow’s milk has 12 g of carbohydrate in an 8 oz serving and is likely too high for a ketogenic diet. Cheese is another good dairy source of calcium and only has 1 g of carbohydrate per 1 oz serving. Other, non-dairy and low carb sources of calcium with decent bioavailability include cooked collard greens, canned salmon or sardines (with the bones) and cooked turnip greens.

      Reply

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