Protein Intake While Keto: Why It Matters, How Much to Eat, and What My Intake Looks Like Now

If you ask the average person, ketosis is primarily about carb restriction and fat intake. Go on a low-carb diet, eat more fat, allow your body to burn its own reserves. Pretty straightforward. Ketones are supposed to replace glucose.

But what do we make of protein? Some keto dieters avoid it like the plague, worried anything more than a quarter pound of animal flesh will knock them back into sugar-burning purgatory. Some have even likened it to “chocolate cake.” Others eat it freely. Who’s right?


The most restrictive therapeutic ketogenic diets, the ones used to treat childhood intractable epilepsy, are very low protein—around 5-10% of calories. These diets are designed to maximize ketone production. Any more protein than that and those kids might not make enough ketones to treat their condition.

The most ketogenic state of all—fasting—is also very low in protein. Zero, to be exact.

Okay, so protein can inhibit ketosis. Why? What’s going on?

One common assumption is that too much protein converts to glucose via gluconeogenesis. This is the “steak is just chocolate cake” hypothesis. It makes sense and sounds reasonable. It’s also completely wrong.

It turns out that gluconeogenesis follows an “as needed” schedule. Our livers don’t just mindlessly produce glucose anytime protein reaches a certain threshold. Our livers convert protein into glucose when we—for whatever reason—need more glucose.  Demand-driven, not supply-driven. Keto-adapted individuals running over 70% of their brain on ketones and most of their muscle on fatty acids (which spares ketones for the brain) don’t demand a whole lot of glucose. Even under “optimal conditions“—giving a bunch of adults who just fasted overnight a big dose of radio-labeled protein and then tracking its fate through the body—humans convert very little dietary protein into glucose.

This isn’t a real issue.

What Causes Protein To Inhibit Ketosis?

It all starts with the Krebs cycle, that metabolic pathway that converts fatty acids into useable energy. In a “normal” cycle, fatty acids are broken down into acetyl-CoA. The liver pairs acetyl-CoA with oxaloacetate to complete the cycle and produce ATP energy. That’s basic energy generation.

Without oxaloacetate, the Krebs cycle cannot continue. Without oxaloacetate, acetyl-CoA has a different energetic fate: conversion into ketones. Where does oxaloacetate come from?

Carbs, usually. But protein can also be a source. Like carbohydrates, protein has the potential to donate oxaloacetate during the Krebs cycle. The more protein you eat, the more oxaloacetate you’ll have ready and willing to inhibit ketogenesis. This is how protein inhibits ketosis. Not by increasing gluconeogenesis. Not by spiking insulin.

By donating oxaloacetate.

How Much Protein Can You Eat and Still Remain Keto?

It depends on your goals and requirements.

If you’re dealing with serious epilepsy, creeping dementia, general inflammation, or anything else that requires or may improve with deep ketosis, aim for a lower protein content (10-15% of calories). Get those high ketone levels, see how it feels, and see if that’s the protein intake for you. Start low, really revel in those high ketone readings.

If you’re losing weight (or trying to), eat closer to 15-20%. For you, the ketone readings aren’t the biggest focus. How you look, feel, and perform are your main concern. Eating slightly more protein will increase satiety, making “eating less” a spontaneous, inadvertent thing that just happens. It will also stave off at least some portion of the lean mass accretion that occurs during weight loss; you want to lose body fat, not muscle.

If you’re trying to gain large amounts of muscle, eat closer to 20-25%.

Why You Shouldn’t Over-Restrict Protein

Just don’t go below 15% of your calories unless you absolutely need to. There’s a bottom. Protein is an incredible essential macronutrient. Fat is plentiful, even when you’re lean. Carbs we can produce from protein, if we really must, or we can just switch over to ketones and fats for the bulk of the energy that would otherwise come from carbs. Protein cannot be made. We have to eat it.

If we stop eating dietary fat, we’ll burn what we have on our bodies and—to a point—get healthier.

If we stop eating carbs, we’ll burn through our glycogen stores and then get better at burning fat. And we’ll be healthier.

If we stop eating protein, our organs, muscles, and bones will atrophy. Our health will suffer.

Another reason it’s so important (and so satiating) is that protein contains the most micronutrients. Fat-soluble vitamins are great, but the real good stuff we like—the B vitamins, the minerals—come packaged with protein.

How I’ve Changed My Approach To Protein

I think I need less than I used to think I needed. I eat maybe 80-100 grams a day max now. Some days a fair amount less, some days a fair amount more.

I also don’t think about protein meal-to-meal or even day-to-day. I tend to think of protein averages over three- or four-day chunks. If I get 200-250 grams in three days, I’m good and it doesn’t matter when or how I got it.

I know I’m in protein-sparing mode. We usually think of ketones as glucose-sparing, and they are. Generating (and being able to utilize) enough ketones to replace a large portion of the rare and flighty glucose is an invaluable asset in diseases of dysfunctional brain glucose metabolism like Alzheimer’s. Ketones are also protein-sparing. For one, if we aren’t burning through glucose, we don’t need any extra.

I make sure to eat a significant amount of collagen. Collagen reduces amino acid requirements. It’s not enough by itself to stimulate muscle protein synthesis or provide the essential amino acids. It does help balance out muscle meat intake, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, speed up joint and connective tissue healing, and reduce the amount of protein I need to reach my nutritional goals.

Important to note, though…

I’ve been doing this fat-adapted thing for a long time. My body is finely tuned to this kind of diet. It’s what it expects. People who are on week 2.5 of their keto journey might not have the same dynamic and may need more protein.

Keep in mind, too, that I’m not actively trying to gain muscle mass. The name of the game (for me) is to maintain: my body comp, my physical performance, my organ reserve, my health, my basic functionality. If I got the urge to put on lean muscle, I’d increase my protein intake.

Final Takeaways For Considering Protein Intake

  • If you crave protein, you should eat it. Cravings for a natural, relatively unadorned food can usually be trusted.
  • Know there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about protein and ketosis. Everyone’s different. “Modified ketogenic” diets—higher in carbs and protein—are still effective against epilepsy. In one study, obese men ate an ad libitum (they ate what and how much they wanted) ketogenic diet consisting of 4% carb, 30% protein, 66% fat. They got into and remained in ketosis and ended up losing more weight with less hunger than another group on a high-carb diet with the same amount of protein.
  • If you’re going to severely restrict a vital macronutrient like protein, you’d better have a good reason. You’d better be seeing measurable, obvious benefits that disappear when you eat more protein. Don’t wed yourself to the numbers or to the idea of a thing. Always ground your dietary excursions in tangible, verifiable feedback—both subjective and objective. Do what works. Don’t do what doesn’t work, even if it’s “supposed to” be working.
  • As always (especially if you’re using keto to address a medical condition), make sure to consult your doctor.

Now I’d love to hear from you. How does protein affect your ketogenic diet? Do you even notice—or consider the question—in your process?

Take care, everyone.


Mark Sisson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet and a dozen other healthy living books. He is one of the leading voices in the evolutionary health movement. 

TAGS:  Keto Recipes

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

75 thoughts on “Protein Intake While Keto: Why It Matters, How Much to Eat, and What My Intake Looks Like Now”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. As of late, I’ve been eating once a day (nose-to-tail) and I’ll usually get all 100+ grams protein at this time. This usually knocks me below .5mM BHB but only for a very short duration. I’m usually back into ketosis by nightfall which equates to around 20 hours or so per day of keto. This keeps me lean and mean, but most importantly, it’s how I maintain and/or build incremental improvements too… I love me my performance and barbarian good looks.

    Great article with very practical take-aways!

    1. Out of curiosity, do you eat all your carbs in that same meal? I guess it doesn’t matter that much if keto, but wouldn’t eating all your carbs/proteins/fats at once in the form of 5000 cals cause gut issues like endotoxemia?

      1. Stefan, I’m curious about your reasoning here. I’ve also been eating once per day, and I’d expect this to reduce overall exposure to endotoxemia. Typically this is considered chronic elevation of blood LPS, and eating once per day should reduce the chronic component of LPS elevation. Perhaps this comes at the expense of transient elevation after the meal, but I have no reason to think the total, time-averaged amount of LPS crossing the gut mucosa would increase. That would mean a supralinear increase in LPS transport as a function of concentration, and chemical reactions of this sort are typically (but not always) sub-linear. Moreover, the extra time in autophagy, and reduced exposure to immune activators during that time should only improve gut permeability at the time of eating, which should further reduce LPS transport. And then supplementing probiotics (I like sauerkraut) outside of the daily meal should shift the population of gut bacteria and further reduce LPS production.

        1. You are absolutely right. I was air-headed & didn’t account for the stress variable –> if the body can’t take it because of presence of low-grade inflammation, then it increases gut barrier permeability and this may lead to translocation of bacterial toxins in the intestinal lumen.

          But I was regurgitating phenomenology in the wrong place, because the central axioms are that 1) you aren’t eating high-quality, nourishing foods, and 2) your body has diminished capacity to withstand/generate tails (or extremes in probability jargon), presumably because your aren’t metabolically healthy/flexible.

          None of which apply to the Primal readership and, of course, Liver King. My bad.

        2. Two more questions:
          Do you eat your one meal at dinner (since carbs+evening = sleepy sleep)? Or fasted for that human growth hormone boost after a workout?

          These are really slight nuances, and I expect you to leave it up to intuition, but in the off-chance you explicitly thought about it… let me know. I’m curious.

      2. I sure do… all 20 or so of them. On the weekends, I may splurge on 150g of carbs in one go… works for me (not to mention that I sleep like a baby for the following few nights). As it relates to gut issues, it depends… if you put junk into your body, expect a leaky gut. If you put high quality, ancestral foods into your body such as arachidonic acid (AA) and real animal-derived vitamin A, expect those tight junctions to be nourished. Of course, you’ll still need to avoid glyphosate and other dangers (think lions, trans fats, sugars, fluoride, excessive wifi, emfs, vaccines, mercury, toxic people, pollution, non-native water, plastics, non-native clothing (polyester, acrylic, acetate, nylon, etc) if ya want a bulletproof gut!

        How much arachidonic acid is in your diet? Do you consume traditional foods like bone marrow, tallow, brain and other organs? Do you avoid danger? As always, much love Stefan.

        1. Thank you, much love to you too. No, I consume none of the traditional foods you’ve mentioned, which is probably the key to the puzzle.

          Read my post above; I made the elementary mistake of spouting research without accounting for the population (i.e conflated platonic high modernity slaves with fractal-ancestral fellows). Goddammit.

          PS. C’mon, fractal-ancestral is such a good name for it

  2. I’d like to believe gluconeogenesis is on an “as needed” basis but sadly this is not the truth.

    We have to remember here, our bodies are smart and very intricate and built on survival. The human body simply isn’t going to discard an energy source. It will take in whatever energy it can and either use it or store it, simple as that.

    For example, take a pile of chicken breasts, high protein low fat. Eating all this chicken breast isn’t simply going to use whatever it needs for building and repair, some for glucose then discard the rest. That is not how it works.

    Anyone who has ever suffered from gout can tell you gluconeogensis isn’t demand driven, it’s supply driven. Whatever protein the body doesn’t use will get broken down into glucose and stored.

    I’m not sure why people assume it’s demand driven, but to assume it’s demand driven, then you have to assume our body isn’t smart enough to store energy for survival.

    1. From cited study ‘Dietary Proteins Contribute Little to Glucose Production, Even Under Optimal Gluconeogenic Conditions in Healthy Humans’:

      Dietary proteins are believed to participate significantly in maintaining blood glucose levels, but their contribution to endogenous glucose production (EGP) remains unclear. We investigated this question using multiple stable isotopes. After overnight fasting, eight healthy volunteers received an intravenous infusion of [6,6-2H2]-glucose. Two hours later, they ingested four eggs containing 23 g of intrinsically, uniformly, and doubly [15N]-[13C]–labeled proteins. Gas exchanges, expired CO2, blood, and urine were collected over the 8 h following egg ingestion. The cumulative amount of dietary amino acids (AAs) deaminated over this 8-h period was 18.1 ± 3.5%, 17.5% of them being oxidized. The EGP remained stable for 6 h but fell thereafter, concomitantly with blood glucose levels. During the 8 h after egg ingestion, 50.4 ± 7.7 g of glucose was produced, but only 3.9 ± 0.7 g originated from dietary AA. Our results show that the total postprandial contribution of dietary AA to EGP was small in humans habituated to a diet medium-rich in proteins, even after an overnight fast and in the absence of carbohydrates from the meal. These findings question the respective roles of dietary proteins and endogenous sources in generating significant amounts of glucose in order to maintain blood glucose levels in healthy subjects.

    2. I don’t think Mark is saying that the excess protein is just lost. He’s saying it’s not turned into glucose. I suppose the excess protein is stored as fat. Maybe?

      1. Protein doesn’t go straight to fat. It has to be turned to glucose before it can be stored either as glucose in your limited stores or further converted to fat.

        1. No. Various amino acids have predispositions to ketogenesis or lipogenisis while others more likely to undergo gluconeogenesis. Depends on the current energy state of the body, but yes, amino acids can be converted to fat directly.

    3. Or pee it out a bright yellow like when I used to take vitamin s…I don’t think any of this is that simple. Are bodies have processes, they’re not necessarily smart or dumb. That said, before I discovered Primal I was failing on Adkins due to what I’ll call the Adkins trap. I still was operating under the ‘fat is bad’ brainwashed mentality while chugging tons of low fat protein. And let me tell you, after a short weight loss period my body did learn to glucose that protein and I had all the symptoms of being glucose burning and would gain plus some. But after becoming fat adapted I’d say I notice no effects of the occasional summer BBQ gorge!

  3. So is “primal” dead and you’re now into “keto”?

    1. You can be primal and keto at the same time. Primal is the elimination of certain foods and keto is an alteration of macros. You can be vegan keto or vegan paleo. I’m keto primal. IMO is the best form of both.

    2. Yep. Keto is the latest “in” thing. Personally, having tried both, I much prefer Primal. Keto is too restrictive. I do just fine on a looser approach that doesn’t involve counting grams of anything.

      To each his own, but life is short. I’m way too busy to obsess over what and how much I can or can’t eat. As long as I know what foods I need to avoid–which I do–Primal is an almost effortless way for me to maintain my weight and remain healthy.

      1. I could not agree more. The best part of Primal is not counting and not “dieting’ in the manner we normally think about it. Regardless of the wonderful anecdotes provided by dozens or even hundreds of folks on this site for whom keto has worked (good for them and I mean that), a regimen where you severely restrict carbohydrates and the. also significantly restrict protein is simply untenable for the vast majority of the over 300M people in this country (plus plenty outside). The number of people who stay on keto is therfore miniscule in a manner that is not the case with Primal or Paleo.

        1. Keto is Moderate protein. Where does it say anyone needs to “significantly” reduce Protein? Never heard that in the numerous books, articles, and blogs I have read.

  4. Really enjoyed your article on protein, How much to eat.
    Been doing Keto and IF since June 1, 2018 and have lost 38 lbs.
    I’m 67 and feel better than I have in years. I bike 12 to 18 miles per day and usually swim at least one mile. Looking forward to continuing this lifestyle for the rest of my life.
    Thanks for your support.

  5. If your a heavy lifter/frequent high intensity workout type person (actually doing TKD with around 30g dextrose preworkout on those type days), do you see any issue with doing closer to 1g/lb lean mass? For me that is around 35% calories. Goal is to lose fat, but keep if not build strength/fitness.

  6. Fantastic post. Being 5’9″ and about 157lbs., fat adapted for 7 years and in a “maintain phase”, I stay exactly the same body composition on 70-90 grams a day of protein avg. I definitely am utilizing my protein efficiently. I used to do about 90-120 grams a day in the beginning.

  7. I followed a pretty strict keto WOE for about 5 months. Experienced gradual weight loss but was also hungry a lot. When I hit my target weight I was surprised to learn my BF% was higher than calculated… meaning I had loss some lean mass.

    Shortly thereafter I heard an interview with Ben Bikman on the importance of protein. I brought it up significantly and found I was much more satiated. In addition was able to quickly dial in the BF%. Simple tweak that made a huge difference.

  8. Mark how about calorie intake? I’ve been on Keto for about 8 weeks and two weeks ago I started doing 16/8 fast every other day. I’m thinking about moving to 16/8 every day (except I do bone broth and coffee/mct in the morning) My biggest thing that I get confused about is Carlories? I’m 244 (trying to get to 180) 5’7″ but it seems like I’m only hitting 1200-1400 calories each day if I’m doing 16/8… Is it OK to keep calories this low while I’m trying to lose the 60+ lbs? Or am I taking a risk of going into starvation mode?

    1. Watch Dr. Jason Fung also. His work will clear this up for you. Best of Luck! Jodi

    2. There’s no such thing as starvation mode with regards to metabolism. Or, not really, anyway. Google can clear that up.

      That’s a totally fine amount of calories for your size as long as you generally feel energized and healthy! If you feel tired, cranky, hungry, and foggy, you need more food. Preferably fat and green veggies 🙂 You aren’t starving yourself at that caloric intake, and sedentary people shouldn’t have more than that, anyway. Some people recommend eating that low most of the time but incorporating feed days. Check with a doctor, and check in with yourself often.

    3. Seconding that Jason Fung is the bomb and debunks a lot of myths.

  9. I have been in continual ketosis since January of this year, 2018. I eat more protein than many people living the ketogenic lifestyle, and it works for me. My macros are in the range of 5% to 10% of calories from carbs, 25% to 30% of calories from protein, and 65% of calories from fats. I test my ketone levels with a blood meter, and have never been below .5 mmol/L. Most of the time I’m 1.0 mmol/L or higher.

    Since January I have dropped weight from 201.6 pounds to 178.6 pounds, so 23 pounds. More significantly, though, my body fat percentage has dropped from 20.7% to 9.5%, along with an increase in skeletal muscle mass from 88.8 pounds up to 91.9 pounds. This is using a InBody 570 for scientifically accurate measurements. I have lost in the range of 22.5 pounds of fat while gaining 3 pounds of muscle mass. Or better said, my skeletal muscle mass is now 51.4% of my total body weight, and when I started last January it was 44% of body weight.

    I believe I need at least 110 grams of protein a day to sustain my active lifestyle, which includes gym workouts with a trainer and a fairly avid (80% of time in zone 2) cycling schedule. The fat just melts off my body. For me maintaining ketosis is just not an issue. The formula of .7 grams of protein per pound of lean muscle mass is a good guideline for most active people. That puts me at 113 grams of protein per day, which is about right for my body.

    Keto is an individual thing to an extent. No specific formula works for everyone. We all have to tweak things a bit as we gain experience and comfort with what is happening inside our bodies.

    1. Hmmm, 0.7 gm/lb of lean muscle mass? Did you mean perhaps lean body mass, i.e. everything except body fat?

      Using your numbers: 178.6 lb weight, 9.5% fat, gives 162 lb lean body mass; 0.7 gm/lb gives 113 gm protein, close to what you said (110 gm).

  10. I train with heavy weights 5 times a week and my goal is to increase and maintain muscle and strength as I age. My age is 55, and I weigh about 57 kilos at 163 cm height. I would only like to lose one or two kilos so that I cam get more definition on abs. Would I be able to eat extra protein while keeping high fat and low carb?

  11. Thank you, Mark, for the very informative and finely researched article! Much appreciated! I’ve known that one of the pioneering keto diet figures, Dominic D’Agostino, has shifted towards including more protein in the keto diet as well. Thanks again. Will be downloading to my hard drive.

  12. I’ve been high protein low carb for about 4 years and I’ve gone from 260 lb 140 and look great. I lost the majority of my weight in the first 6 months I went on the diet and have maintained my weight for several years and continue to eat high protein low carb meals. Never felt better! I love your website and recommended to people all the time.

  13. My question is, when you eat lots of protein, where does it all go?

  14. So I was restricting protein to about 20% a day ( 80-100gm) and was feeling great, losing weight initially… then after about 4-6 weeks my weight loss plateaued and I noticed my muscles were getting smaller and i was getting slightly weaker… i did some digging and and decided to up my protein now so that it’s almost 50% ( 150gm/day)… after which i started to lose weight again, my muscle definition and strength also started to come back and i was losing a lot of my cravings… for me personally, i’m def a fan of more protein… but i’m also an athlete and workout/mountain bike junkie and love to lift heavy weights a lot..


    1. Agreed. I’ve been Primal since February 2012. Keto primal you might even say, having always worked to keep my net carbs under 50 grams. I’ve never done much macro counting or paid any attention to calories. Lost 60 lbs in the first 6 months and about 6 inches from the waist. After doing this for 6 years my weight and body fat have actually started going the wrong way. I eat tons of fat (always trying to get more fat) and moderate protein. After learning more about Dr Naiman as well as the carnivore diet I am now doing about half and half protein to fat (ribeye steaks). I am seeing improvement but the biggest change for me are the big gains in my progressive resistance training. 4 weeks on teh carnivore diet and I’ve added more weight the nI did in a year in keto. It’s a tough thing to do, trying to add muscle and not add fat and I think the key, as Ted Naiman points out, is restrict the fat a little and let your body use it’s own, and keep the protein up. This makes sense to me a priori, why, once I am very fat adapted, do I need any exogenous fat whatsoever if I am trying to lose endogenous fat. I would really like Mark to address this question. Put simply, why eat any fat whatsoever if you are trying to burn your own, once you are fat adapted?



      1. As an aside, I am eating about 200 grams or so of protein now, per day., and exactly zero carbs.

  15. “I think I need less than I used to think I needed. I eat maybe 80-100 grams a day max now. Some days a fair amount less, some days a fair amount more.”

    If that’s all the protein you’re eating on a daily basis, then where is the rest of your caloric intake coming from?

    1. Seriously, you’re asking this?
      You realize there are 3 macronutrients, right?
      My guess is fat.

  16. I wonder how many people know, for example, that beef steak is only 30% protein, so when you say 100gm of protein per day, that equates to eating a 330gm piece of steak. While this might be common knowledge to your more dedicated dieters, I think this should be pointed out more often than not for us less knowledgeable people.

    1. If you use a meal tracker like MyFitnessPal, it already calculates this for you.

  17. Hello Mark and thank you sooo much for clearing the smoke on the subject of protein! There are so many differing opinions out there but this is the first time it’s been explained so thoroughly, in layman’s terms. Thanks!!

  18. My daughter came into my study while I was reading this and yelled “MOM … dad is worried about how much protein he’s eating!!!” I told her I’m just reading an article on my go to health site LOL. I’ve definitely increased my fat intake based on all the keto propaganda, but my diet is more like the primal blueprint. Lots of protein, lots of veggies, a good portion of fat, bone broth, berries. My family thinks I obsess enough about my diet, worrying about being in ketosis is not in the cards for me … but maybe I’m missing out on the keys to the kingdom. 🙂

  19. Great content as usual, Mark. Just wondering why you focus on protein targets as a percentage of caloric intake, vs., say, grams per kg of lean body mass. Folks trying to lose weight may be restricting calories, yet will need some minimum amount of protein to maintain muscle mass. Do you have a POV on min/max grams per lean kg for “typical” folks, i.e., not going crazy on exercise/body-building programs?

  20. My question is if I eat 80% of my calories from fat, minimize the carbs, (under 50 grams/day) , and the rest protein, won’t my body not burn its own fat for fuel because it’ll be using the fat from the food I eat?

    1. How much fat you burn depends on how much you eat. If you take in more fat calories then you burn, you will add fat. If you take in fewer, you will burn stored fat.

  21. I’m struggling with the whole lifestyle diet choice. I’ve followed your blog for a while and the caveman diet and big ass salads sounded easy and normal. Now Keto brings great possibilities but what a chore to be worried about grams of this and that. How do you find balance and still eat lots of big ass salads?!?

    1. Here’s my big ass dinner salad from 2 nights ago. We eat similar 2-3 days a week for dinner.

      Tyson – Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, 6.5 oz
      butter lettuce – lettuce, 1.5 cup
      Marie’s – Blue Cheese Dressing, 2 Tbsp
      Organic Valley – Organic Blue Cheese Crumbles, 1 oz
      Cucumber – With peel, raw, 0.33 cup slices
      Walmart – Tomato, 0.5 tomato
      Avocado – Avocado, 0.5 medium

      612 kCal
      7g net carbs (5%)
      47g fat (70%)
      38g protein (25%)

      Perfect macros, and so nutrient dense I can barely finish it.

      1. Skinless chicken you have to be kidding. Full of collagen, tastes great and is definitely part of a primal diet. I actually think Mark is losing it if people are starting this nonsense.

        1. Some people, myself included, won’t eat chicken skin because of the texture. Some choose not to eat it because of the taste.

        2. Hmm… I’d advise reading Mark’s post on farmed salmon from last week where he touches on this issue. Chicken skin contains a very high proportion of inflammatory Omega 6 fats, although you are right in that it contains the mighty collagen too. As usual with nutrition it’s a game of 2 halves.. I’ve more recently come down on the side of avoiding chicken skin but making sure I get plenty of collagen from edible fish bones (eg in canned ‘bone-in’ wild salmon and canned sardines) and supplement with hydrolysed collagen. And of course getting those daily Omega 3s from the aforementioned canned fish as well as daily cod liver oil. As ever – don’t assume all fat is good – it does depend on what type of fat you are talking about…

  22. I stay keto until dinner 6ish days a week. Morning coffee with taurine, 1Tbsp coconut oil and a 30g scoop of grassfed whey protein. I typically don’t eat again until 4-6pm even when doing long easy cardio., I’m rarely hungry. Dinner is usually my only meal and is usually meat, veggies ( and simple carbs if I’m feeling beat up. ) A protein shake before bed and that’s it. Feel and perform great. Bodycomp and energy are stable.

  23. Great post Mark – particularly in terms of clarifying the debate on whether gluconeogenesis is demand or supply-driven. I do feel something is missing though – aside from impacting ketosis, do you see any explicit downsides to ingesting large amounts of protein? For example, Dr Jose Antonio’s group took subjects up to 4g/kg of lean body mass for several months and saw no downsides whatsoever? I know the guys over at ‘Ketogains’, not to mention Martin ‘Leangains’ Berkhan (whose long-awaited book is out today), all favour a high protein approach of around 3g/ kg of mean body mass. What are your thoughts on their high protein recommendations?

    1. Wow, I never thought that book would actually come out! Do you know if there’s a print copy available now or coming later? I only see the kindle edition…

      1. I can only presume he is waiting to see how the Kindle edition performs before launching other formats. I’m half-way through the book and as a long-time reader of this site I I can attest that it is an incredible read. Very much in line with Ted Naiman and Ben Bikman’s approach. Martin’s method is grounded in research and over 20 years of experience training clients. He is recommending (get this) 50-60% protein, around 300g (!!) per day following a daily 16 hour IF, to rapidly improve body comp and muscle in combo with his thrice a week ‘Reverse Pyramid Training’ resistance exercise protocol which takes about 30 minutes/ workout. This is more than double the protein that Mark recommends for building muscle. Can anyone out there who is versed in the protein research argue against Martin’s approach? I honestly do not see any downsides to taking protein this high after a hard workout and a 16 hour fast… Ps the book explains it all but a lot of it comes down to the thermogenic effect of protein (TEF or DIT) which reduces the net metabolisable calories of protein downwards by over 30% – again all backed up by research. I strongly recommend readers of this site to read Martin’s book (and to persist through the first 25% of the book which is a bit slow before he gets into the meat of the thing!)

  24. Mark, I am trying to build muscle as I have low muscle mass. Do you recommend ketosis for someone like me? Or is more protein required to gain muscle mass?

  25. Collagen – I thought collagen was hydrolyzed protein, which might make it a brain excitotoxin?

    Thanks for your thoughts

  26. Thanks for the great explanation, it makes sense that our body would and does convert what it needs. Once again our body knows best if we give it the right building blocks.

  27. Shouldn’t protein targets be in grams per day rather than a percentage? You can have a great percentage, but if you aren’t eating enough you are under-eating protein.

    The percentages assumes the person is eating enough food and not starving to cut weight

  28. Mark, Thanks for another valuable blog/article.

    I don’t go out of my way to restrict protein, but three days a week I try to maximize autophagy, so on those days I save all of my protein for the evening. and not too much of it.

    I start those days with a short but intense workout, lifting heavy or HIIT sprints. Then I continue my over-night fast until at least noon.

    If I finish my workout at 7:00 am, then for autophagy purposes I consider that to be the (effective) 18 hour mark of my fast; i.e. the workout jumps me to the 18 hour autophagy level, even if I only started my fast right before bedtime the night before.

    If I fast until one pm, that’s six hours beyond the 18 hr autophagy level, so it’s like a 24 hour fast, as far as autophagy is concerned.

    If I continue eating very low protein keto style for the rest of the day, the autophagy keeps going until I break my fast the following day with six raw eggs.

    I try to do this three times per week, because I need the autophagy to (at least partially) compensate for my Agent Orange exposure in the sixties, my dental mercury exposure, the consequences of growing up down wind from Hanford, farm chemical exposure in the fifties before Silent Spring was written, etc.

    I’ll turn 71 in two months, and I’m in better shape now than I was before I left for Vietnam 51 years ago this month.

    Keep up the good work,


  29. I`ve been on keto diet for ~2 years and i relate to some things you covered in the article, but my take on it was to also use intermittent fasting since most of my meals are pretty high on protein(i eat mostly meat lol).

  30. What’s up with all the keto posts of late?
    When I started reading Mark’s Daily Apple, one of the first Primal concepts I got acquainted with was the Primal Blueprint carbohydrate curve located at

    Of ketosis, it says, “Not necessarily recommended as a long-term practice for otherwise healthy people due to resultant deprivation of high nutrient value vegetables and fruits.”

    The ideal Primal Blueprint maintenance range, as per that page, is 100-150 grams of carbs per day. Definitely not ketogenic.

  31. Great post – I needed to read this!

    And ……help!

    I’m rather confused about the weights/% of calories from protein, carbs and fats because meat is only around 20% protein so I wanted to confirm that when we say protein do we mean anything that is seen as protein like meat or fish etc? But then some meat and fish contain lots of fat too… I just ignore that fact?

    And what about veg – do I count carrots, beets as carbs and for broccoli?:

    Calories?: ?34, Carbs?: ?6.6 g,Protein?: ?2.8 g
    Do I just count all the calories as carbs since they predominate?

    I know I’m getting too detailed and it’s probably more simple but just need a guide so I can get it right, try ketosis and get my inflammation under control……

    Thanks for any advice you can give me,


  32. Excellent post. I’ve been Primal for about 7 or 8 now and have been what I call “borderline” Keto for probably 3. I do it for the increased energy and focus, not for weight loss or any health condition. My protein intake varies from day to day…I base it pretty much on my appetite. Yesterday I had fatty coffee with collagen in the am (two mugs) and both lunch and dinner were raw fish and avocado with some raw veggies. Also had some super dark (90%)
    chocolate. This felt perfect to me. Protein portions were pretty small but I felt great all day.

  33. Many a time, it has been seen that people are confused about the intake of protein while following Keto. So thankful to you that you have shared such an informational post that covered all of the answers of these questions. Thanks again for sharing this article.

  34. What exactly do you mean by “….really revel in those high ketone readings”? Are you referring to the weight scale or are you talking specific blood tests or other method of ‘measuring’ ketosis?

  35. Splendid article to get our doubts cleared about intake of protein. This article has made everything as clear as mirror about protein and nutritional goals. No chaos has been noticed while reading this blog. Health seekers would definitely find their answers on how proteins do play a vital role in shaping our health. Thanks a million for such needed awareness. We appreciate this blog.

  36. This is quite a read. Ketogenic is a way of living and therefore must be understood well. It takes a lot of mental preparedness and thorough study on the matter before getting into it. This article sure shed light on a lot of branches in the ketogenic diet.

  37. I’m loving my gains in strength and energy at 25% protein

  38. Mark,

    You measure protein by the weight of the steak or by the amount of protein it has?

    390 gram of ribeye contains 75 grams of protein. Or do you count the entire 390 grams of ribeye?