Protein is a building block of the body and essential for proper development and function. Our team members at Konscious Keto adore our protein plates, especially rich, buttery steaks and wild-caught salmon fillets. You may be curious though about how protein effects weight loss, especially in the context of a ketogenic diet.
Fortunately, research indicates that consuming protein aids in satiety, tempers appetite, improves metabolic rate, and even... you guessed it, helps with body composition and weight.
Protein's appetite-suppressing effect is compelling on its own, but its effect is more deeply compounded by the same benefit provided by nutritional ketosis.
We'll explore the critical role of protein in every aspect of our health below, but first, let's examine what it is and more about why it matters.
What Is Protein and Why Is It Important?
As one of the two essential daily macronutrients, protein is vital. Protein is comprised of small particles called amino acids, with nine of the 22 present in the body considered essential amino acids—meaning the body needs them but cannot make them itself.
We'll cover the best protein sources to select on a ketogenic diet below, but first a word on some of the many benefits of eating protein for weight loss:
Body systems communicate to coordinate on our behalf every day. Our liver and pancreas work to regulate the release of insulin; estrogen and progesterone work to balance a number functions including sexual desire and vitality; and in-kind, chemical messenger proteins in the body allow our organs and cells to communicate with each other to keep all systems well, and running smoothly.
Quiet as it’s kept, most enzymes are proteins, and those proteins drive the thousands of chemical reactions that take place in the body every day.
Unfortunately, dysfunction and subprime functioning within our physiological systems occur in their absence.
#3. Repair and Maintenance
Protein is the primary component of your muscles, bones, hair, and skin. These tissues are continually replaced and repaired with new protein, thanks to our bodies' continual process of cell turnover and regeneration.
#4. Transportation and Storage
Some proteins help deliver important molecules where they're needed. For example, the protein hemoglobin carries oxygen to your body's cells.
#5. Increased Muscle Mass
In addition to its crucial role in muscle formation and function, protein is essential for the development of increased muscle mass.
Also, many people experience age-related muscle loss as they get older—making the increased consumption of protein even more critical.
So, don't skimp on your protein macros.
Protein's Effects on Weight Loss
Protein offers a multi-faceted benefit concerning weight loss, in addition to being critical for the development and repair of muscle tissue in the body.
Also, protein in addition to healthy fat, especially in the absence of carbs, create an environment in the body that's ripe for rapid weight loss.
Since protein supports fat loss in various ways, we felt it worthy of more examination.
As one looking to lose weight, it's important to note that protein facilitates fat loss as follows:
Appetite and Fullness
Our hunger levels and signals are dictated by our hormones, mainly ghrelin which is known as the hunger hormone. Protein also enhances the production of gut hormones like peptide tyrosine (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), both of which aid in feelings of fullness and satiety.
Thanks to the appetite suppression caused when we consume protein, eating more protein is often related to less caloric intake which naturally leads to creating a deficit and promoting weight loss.
Furthermore, eating protein appears to be linked to the significant increase in our metabolic rate during its digestion, yet another advantage to those looking to shed excess pounds.
So, we mentioned the connection between metabolic rate increase and protein maceration and absorption, but here's more on why amino acids are so impactful.
Protein digestion appears to boost our biological process by increasing our metabolic rate by an impressive 20–35%, compared to a 5–15% increase shown when digesting carbs or fat.
Some studies have shown an increased post-meal, thermogenic effect when higher levels of protein are present in the diet which helps burn more calories—even at rest.
Furthermore, a study of 10 healthy young women, eating a high-protein diet for one day, evidenced an increased metabolic rate after meals by nearly twice as much as shown in those consuming a high-carb diet for one day.
Weight Loss and Body Composition
It's sensical that reduced appetite and increased feelings of satiety caused when consuming protein would lead to decreased caloric intake and weight loss, especially within the framework of a ketogenic diet.
Protein's ability to maintain and support muscle impacts our metabolic rate. You may have heard the saying before, "muscle burns fat," and there's something to this statement.
Increased muscle and protein in the body aid in accelerated muscle development and post-workout muscle-tissue repair.
But in addition to tissue development and repair, protein offers another unique benefit as does ketosis: although both suppress appetite, neither slow metabolism or contribute to muscle loss if consumed in the ideal ratios.
In the presence of a diet primarily fueled by healthy fats, moderate protein, and minimal carbs, our body identifies its energy needs more efficiently and builds our body's metabolic flexibility, which allows the body to use glucose, or fat and ketones, as energy when needed.
A slightly higher-protein diet can increase feelings of fullness, decrease hunger, boost metabolic rate, and protect muscle to facilitate weight-loss and enhance body composition.
But remember, the same can be achieved by following a standard ketogenic protocol and eating moderate protein amounts—just something to ponder.
How Much Protein Should You Eat on a Keto Diet?
There's a lot of conflicting opinion regarding the ideal protein intake for all, and this is understandable because each person's needs are different.
Factors like age, activity level, lifestyle choices, and gender, can all impact our protein needs each day. Per the USDA, our DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound—that's 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man; 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
So, while each person's protein needs will vary you could use the following process to calculate your target protein macros as a starting point and adjust as you go based on results and how you feel:
Identify your daily caloric needs based on your goal (e.g., weight loss or muscle gain), age, sex, and activity level. Use free apps like MyFitnessPal to calculate your ideal protein needs per the mentioned factors and even manage your macro intake at the tip of your fingers via smartphone.
We suggest a macronutrient breakdown of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs.
Once you determine your total caloric intake, you can specify the amount of each macro to consume each day in grams.
Again, apps like MyFitnessPal will do the math for you so that you can organize your daily meal plan accordingly and get to the business of indulging in delicious and fatty foods while shedding those extra, unwanted, 'lbs' with ease.
Multiply your daily caloric intake by the total suggested amount of protein you need each day. Since your diet should consist of approximately 15 percent protein on a standard ketogenic diet, based on a caloric limit of 1,400 per day, your equation will look something like this: 1,400 x .15 = 210. So, out of your 1,400 calories each day, 210 of them should be made up of proteins.
Multiply your daily caloric needs by the total recommended amount of fat you need each day. Since your diet should consist of approximately 75 percent fat, your equation will look like this: 1,400 x .75 = 1,050. So, out of your 1,400 calories allotted each day, 1,050 of them should be made up of fats.
Review your dietary intake and make sure you are getting enough of the macronutrients recommended for you with a keen eye on placing a ceiling on your carb intake—keeping daily intake around 140 calories or 5% of total caloric intake.
The Best Protein Sources
While there are excellent plant-based sources of complete protein available (e.g., spirulina and chlorella, etc.), animal products are an excellent source of complete protein and provide a plethora of vitamins and minerals.
The following are ideal sources of protein on a ketogenic diet, perfect to add to your meal plan:
- Seafood (lobster, salmon, crab, shrimp)
- Fatty meats (80/20 ground beef, lamb, chicken thighs)
- Full-fat dairy (heavy cream, cheese, grass-fed butter)
- Nuts, nutmilks and seeds
In addition to animal and plant-based forms of protein, our fan favorite, Keto Shake, is a nutrient-dense protein source ideal for anyone seeking to lose weight and remain in a deep state of ketosis.
Consider blending up a strawberry cheesecake smoothie, using Keto Shake, for a tasty and healthy way to break the fast or for a yummy and nutritious treat on-the-go.
Beneficial Effects of Protein
There are many benefits of protein, and we have shared many above. Whether your goal is muscle gain or weight loss, protein is a crucial and fundamental element to success.
In addition to muscle development, function, and repair, protein also helps with weight loss because it helps to suppress our desire to overeat.
Furthermore, as we noted, higher protein intake is also linked to beneficial effects on weight, body composition, and overall health.
Although there are many benefits to eating protein, it’s important to note that increased levels of protein while beneficial to some can be detrimental to those with pre-existing conditions with their liver or kidneys.
Those with pre-existing conditions may need to adjust their protein intake to preserve remaining organ function.
Consult your physician for a customized macronutrient profile and guidance regarding your protein intake if you're embarking on a high-protein diet with a pre-existing medical condition.
Summary of a Protein Diet Plan for Weight Loss
Granted, protein is an essential component of weight loss as is healthy fat. And the targeted balance between the two required macros, protein and fat, is necessary to release weight and optimize overall health.
However, even if slightly elevated as compared to a standard keto diet with protein capped around 15-20% for most, fat is undoubtedly still the star macronutrient of the ketogenic diet.
Yes, ketosis is a metabolic state achieved by removing carbs and depleting glucose stores, and not necessarily consuming fats, but remember that fats are fuel on keto, and even if you choose to adopt a version of keto with a higher protein macro (e.g., athletes, bodybuilders, etc.), fat is still boss and should comprise the majority of all calories consumed every day.
Higher protein diets are ideal for those who are very active as we want to always provide our body with enough fat-based and ketone-based energy that our body never has to draw from our muscle tissue, resulting in muscle loss.
A ketogenic diet changes our relationship with food. Those once slaves to hunger and a ravenous appetite often find incredible freedom in a state of ketosis and metabolic flexibility where cravings are banished, and our bodies are primed to burn fat, 24/7.
Use the formula noted above to determine your baseline macronutrients as a starting point and adjust them as your weight or activity levels change.
The pair of protein and fat are a powerful team to tackle obesity. Add some tissue-building items to your grocery list to set yourself up for success in the coming week.
Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy, quality, sources of fat and protein, and commit to a new lifestyle on keto that helps you make amends with the plate and the scale.
Picture it; you're 21 days in, have formed new eating habits, and are finally in control of your life! Rejoice and enjoy this unbelievably delicious dietary style and relish in your new-found freedom from the rigors of calorie-counting for good—you deserve it!
Sources (APA Style)
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Weigle, D. S., Breen, P. A., Matthys, C. C., Callahan, H. S., Meeuws, K. E., Burden, V. R., & Purnell, J. Q. (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1), 41-48. doi:10.1093/ajcn/82.1.41