The keto diet is a popular way to lose weight, but there are some things you need to know about it before you start. One question that many people have is whether they can drink protein shakes on the keto diet or if higher protein diets need supplementation.
The answer is yes, you can drink protein shakes on the keto diet, but you need to make sure that they are low in carbs. You just need to pay attention to ingredient lists and choose the best quality protein
In this blog post, we will discuss how to make protein shakes while living a keto lifestyle and what ingredients to use. We will also discuss the benefits of drinking protein shakes on the keto diet.
The Low Down on Protein Shakes On Keto
Choosing to diet on keto means focusing on quality protein sources that are also low in carbs. This means that many choose to turn towards a protein shake as a way to supplement their daily need for protein.
Why Having Protein is Vital to a Ketogenic Diet
While most focus on the “high fat” side of a ketogenic diet the actual focus really should be on managing your protein intake as you do need to provide your body fuel to continue to build muscle.
Protein is the one nutrient your body has to get externally as it can’t be created from carbohydrates or from fats, you must consume enough to build and repair your body and keep up your metabolism.
A solid reason to eat protein is that it doesn’t stimulate a large production of insulin since gluconeogenesis, or conversion of protein to energy is demand-driven so only at the very end of energy use will the body resort to using the muscle of the body for energy.
An additional reason to consume good quality protein is that it is a huge satiety macronutrient and it helps you to feel satisfied for much longer while eating less food helping you lessen calories and as a side effect, body fat.
One thing many probably haven’t done prior to a ketogenic diet is to focus on hitting their protein intake which for many can be quite challenging while maintaining fat for energy at the same time.
This is why many people turn to protein powder supplements as a meal replacement, primarily using whey protein isolate, to help hit these targets when real food is hard to eat through protein shakes.
How Much Protein Should I Take on Keto?
To understand your intake you need to make sure you understand your goals and where you currently sit as to muscle mass versus body fat.
You are going to want to get your body fat percentage, while many will want you to get some perfect measurement you can substitute an electronics impedance rating to start but note it has a large variance based on body water and hydration.
You will want to divide your current body weight but the percentage of body fat your scale or other technology like DexaPod provides you as this will be your “lean mass”.
You then can find your minimal and maximal protein grams by doing some super easy math:
Minimum Protein (grams) = Lean Body Mass x 0.6
Maximum Protein (grams) = Lean Body Mass x 1.0
Basically, you want to get around 60% to 100% of your lean mass in pounds in grams a day, this is where activity matters as muscles need protein to grow so you don’t want to underfeed protein to get those gains!
For many, a ketogenic diet is not only about losing weight but it’s also a way of life. This means that they are looking for ways to improve their health in general.
For many, this change in diet and lifestyle helps them learn more about body mechanics and why feeding your body is vital to its ability to thrive, choosing healthy whole foods instead of the highly processed versions in most cases.
Supplementing with protein shakes is going to happen, many times more often with those who exercise regularly as protein, in general, can be hard to eat enough of for most, especially when aiming for higher grams of protein intake based on lean mass we covered above.
Protein helps with weight loss in a few different ways. The most obvious is that it takes up space in the stomach so you feel full longer, helping to reduce overall calorie intake.
Additionally, protein helps maintain muscle mass while dieting and can help increase metabolism slightly – all of which leads to an easier time losing weight and keeping it off long-term.
Keys to Quality Protein
There are some keys to choosing quality protein when looking for a protein shake to supplement your ketogenic diet with.
What is the source of the protein? Is it from grass-fed cows or is it from soybeans?
The source of the protein is going to make a difference in not only quality but also in how your body reacts to it.
For example, whey protein isolate is one of the fastest digesting proteins which makes it great for post-workout recovery but it’s not as good for those looking to lose weight since it can spike blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, casein protein is a slow-digesting protein which makes it great for bedtime snacks and maintaining muscle mass while dieting.
It’s also important to many people in addition that they choose a protein shake that is non-GMO and has no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.
Many of the protein shakes on the market today are loaded with sugar and other ingredients that you don’t want to be putting into your body.
By choosing a quality protein shake, you can be sure that you’re getting the nutrients you need without all of the junk.
Sugar and Carbohydrate Content
Always focus on sugar and hidden sugars content per serving. Ideally many will want their ketogenic protein shake to have 0 grams of sugar and under 5 grams of carbohydrates.
It is really easy to grab a protein shake that says “no added sugar” but find out that it is absolutely loaded with naturally occurring sugars so always look for the nutrition label and learn to read them, regardless of if it deems itself a “Keto Meal Replacement Shake”.
Look for healthier fats such as coconut oil, avocado oil, or MCT oil. Many proteins shake options also contain unhealthy fats such as palm kernel oil and soybean oil. These types of oils are high in omega-six fatty acids which can throw off the balance of your ketogenic diet if consumed too often.
This doesn’t mean going full OCD on removing them but you need a balance to your intake and limiting when viable and the choice can be made intelligently.
These are ingredients that can cause inflammation in the body. Some examples are gluten, dairy, and soy. If you have any sensitivities to these ingredients, it’s important to look for a protein shake that doesn’t contain them.
By following these guidelines, you can be sure that you’re choosing a quality protein shake that will supplement your ketogenic diet and help you reach your fitness goals.
Can Protein Powder Kick You Out of Ketosis?
One of the more prevalent “facts” which gets quoted online is that somehow protein powder will automatically kick you out of ketosis but this is largely false, in addition, you don’t always “have” to be in ketosis based on goals.
As I spoke to above on gluconeogenesis, this is not something your body does to all protein you consume so no “protein doesn’t become cake”. Your body has repair needs and uses for nearly all protein it is supplied and wasting it on a wasteful process like gluconeogenesis is sub-optimal.
Your body avoids sub-optimal processes at all times as it isn’t good for long-term viability, though if you were to pair that protein with fats and sugars together you see incredible levels of body fat storage to optimally use provided nutrition.
We are still hampered by the limited foods our ancestors had access to and the evolution which occurred due to this, so you must work with it and not against it.
Standard Protein Options
There are many options available today to supplement your dietary intake of protein and they can be broken down into a few categories.
Animal-Based Protein Powders
This form of protein powder is generally the most expensive but also the highest quality. Examples include whey, casein, and egg whites.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein powder comes from dairy processing where they filter out the milk sugars which leaves you just the whey protein concentrate, then the process filters out the lactose itself which then leaves you with the whey protein isolate.
This is about 95% protein by weight and very low to no carbohydrate content which is why it can be one of the most solid choices to supplement a keto diet and ketogenic lifestyle.
Whey is also strong in amino acids as it contains all nine essential amino acids which human bodies need to make full use of the protein, this makes it one of the best and easiest “complete” proteins.
Casein protein is slower to digest than whey protein, which can make it a better option before bed. It’s also high in calcium and can be a good choice for people who are lactose intolerant.
Casein is also made from milk and contains all nine essential amino acids.
Egg protein is another animal-based protein that’s low in fat and calories but high in protein. It’s also cholesterol-free and can be a good choice for people with allergies or sensitivities to dairy and soy.
One of the more commonly pushed proteins in recent times has been the push to have collagen protein powder added to your food, if you don’t know collagen is one of the most abundant proteins(1) in the human body itself.
Collagen comes from animal by-products like bones, skin, eggshells, and more. These are fully natural and since they are carbohydrate-free they are very popular on a low carbohydrate diet overall.
Unlike some of the previous examples though collagen isn’t a “complete” protein as it contains only eight of the nine essential amino acids so it functions only to benefit joints, skin, and gut health.
This should make it a purely supplemental addition and not the driving protein option for your diet as all nine amino acids are required for lean muscle growth and development.
Plant-Based Protein Powders
These are usually less expensive but not as high in quality, essential amino acids, or overall protein content. Examples include hemp, rice, and pea protein.
Pea Protein is one of the most popular plant-based protein powders as it is very inexpensive, has a decent amino acid profile, and is easy to find.
It is made from yellow split peas which are dried and then had the starch removed which leaves you with just the pea protein isolate powder.
Pea protein is low in carbohydrates and can be a good choice for people who are vegan or have allergies to dairy and eggs. Though it does lack a complete amino acid profile, specifically methionine, it can still be a decent choice for people who are just starting out.
Hemp protein is made from hemp seeds which are cold-pressed to extract the oil. The remaining seed cake is then ground into a powder. Hemp protein is high in fiber, omega-acids, and essential amino acids. It is a good choice for people who are vegan or have allergies to dairy, eggs, and soy.
Soybean protein is made from soybeans that have been processed to remove the oil. The remaining bean is then ground into a powder that is high in protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
It is a good choice for people who are vegan or have allergies to dairy, eggs, and wheat.
Rice protein is made from brown rice which has been ground into a powder. Rice protein is low in fat and calories but high in carbohydrates. It is a good choice for people who are vegetarian or have allergies to dairy, eggs, and gluten.
Benefits to Protein Shakes and Powder Use on Keto
Overall the benefits of protein shakes are the same whether you are on a ketogenic diet or not with the main benefits being better workouts, weight control, and with digestion.
You will have to consider your own dietary needs and restrictions when it comes to what type of protein powder you can have while on a ketogenic diet, including your own personal carbohydrate intake allowance.
As a general rule of thumb, if you can have dairy then whey protein is going to be the best option followed by casein protein. If you can’t have dairy then egg protein is the next best choice followed by plant-based proteins.
When performing hard workouts and breaking down muscle tissue you need to have the free amino acids available to help with the repair and rebuilding process.
Protein powders can help with this as they are a quick and easy way to get amino acids into your system both before and after workouts.
Another common use for protein powder is for weight control as it can help you feel fuller after meals and snacks which can lead to eating less overall.
This is due to the fact that protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates or fat which can help control blood sugar levels and hunger cues.
Finally, protein powder can also be helpful if you have trouble digesting whole-food proteins as the powder form is easier to digest. This can be helpful if you have issues like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.
Final Thoughts on Protein Shakes on a Ketogenic Diet
When looking to supplement your diet you need to consider a wide array of needs from the types of protein, the amounts of protein, the grams of sugar, the grams of carbs, and then how much fat content is included to manage energy levels.
For some, the need for only natural ingredients may drive their choice versus someone who is more open to just the amino acids and finding protein sources that taste good enough to consume when needed without the gross taste.
If you don’t have any food allergies and are just needing the health benefits of adding a protein shake then just focus on the nutrition label and grab the flavor and type of protein that matches your interest!