Dietary protein, ketosis, and appetite control.

Dietary protein has a purpose, and that purpose is not carbs.”  Nor is it to break ketosis or stall weight loss.  

Drastically increasing protein intake may reduce the degree of ketosis in the context of a large energy surplus, but this is likely due more specifically to the large energy surplus than the protein.  This would explain why Warrior dieters (1 meal meal per day) often report reduced ketones if they eat too much protein.  It’s more likely that the 2000 kcal bolus is exerting it’s anti-ketotic effect by being a large energy surplus, such that anything other than 90% fat would blunt ketosis.  It’s not the proteins… Want proof?  Here’s an n=1 to try: give up Warrior dieting for a few days and try 3 squares.  My bet is that you’ll be able to increase protein intake and still register ketones as high or higher than before.  There are data to support this and reasons why it may not matter (below).

disclaimer: I don’t think “deep ketosis” is necessary to reap the benefits of carbohydrate-restriction.  But if you love high ketone meter readings, then this might be a better strategy to maintain deep ketosis while getting adequate protein. win-win.

if I hear: “oh no, I was kicked out of ketosis!” one more time… 

All of the studies below are confounded one way or another, but so are we humans.

Negative energy balance promotes ketosis even with relatively high protein intake.  Phinney showed this in obese patients in 1980.  He fed them a very low calorie diet for 6 weeks; 50% of the calories came from protein, the rest fat.  This amounted to ~76 g/d or ~1.2 g/kg of their “ideal body weight.”  It was, however, a rather severe caloric restriction.weight loss

They lost ~22 pounds; two-thirds of it was fat mass.  Muscle glycogen plummeted from 1.53 to 1.04 mg/100 g… and further testing confirmed they were ketoadapted: glycogen wasn’t used during an endurance exercise test and performance was unhindered <– that is the essence of ketoadaptation.

RQ after exercise was 0.76 on the high carb diet and 0.66 after keto <– that is the proof of ketoadaptation.  They were oxidizing 110% fat (& fat-derived fuels) and it was working just as good as glycogen… or better: time to exhaustion increased from 168 minutes to 249 minutes.  VO2max also increased, albeit slightly (and only relative to LBM), from 43.6 to 48.8 mg/kg LBM*min.

All of this despite getting ~50% of their calories from protein… one could speculate that these beneficial effects might have been at least partially attributed to getting adequate protein (although I’d say 76 grams is still too low for such a large caloric restriction).

Prior to ketogenic dieting, beta-hydroxybutyrate (bHB) levels were negligible ~0.06 mM.  Exercise promotes ketosis even in weight-stable carboholics.  In this case, exercise increased bHB to 0.71 mM.

Ketogenic dieters getting 50% of their calories from protein? bHB = 2.73 mM <– that’s robust.  Negative. Energy. Balance.

After exercise, bHB increased to 4.17 mM.  

The point is that high protein won’t “knock you out of ketosis” if you’re losing weight.  2.73 mM is a fairly deep level of ketosis, and this was while they were getting half of their calories from protein… 76 g/d in this case.  For those concerned about glucose control: fasting glucose declined from 89.2 to 70 mg/dL and insulin from 7.5 to 3.2 uU/mL.  For what it’s worth, I don’t think their progress would’ve been better if protein was lower.  In fact, I think it would’ve been worse (ie, more of their weight loss would’ve been lean body mass).

This study was followed-up by one where patients were not losing weight (Phinney 1983).  Weight loss was not a confounding factor in this study, and they even ate MORE protein.  To be clear, this is theoretically two cards stacked against ketosis.  They were eating ~3140 kcals, 129 grams of protein (1.75 g/kg!!) and about 293 grams of fat.

I think this is closer to where a lot of low carb dieters are IRL… way above the starvation calories in Phinney 1980, but slightly lower then the weight-maintenance calories in Phinney 1983.

*another disclaimer: I prefer to think about protein in terms of grams rather than percent of calories.  It just makes more sense that way [to me].  So 129 grams is more than 76 grams despite it being only 16% of the calories, compared to 50%.  Also of note, higher calorie intake reduces protein requirements, so 129 grams is much higher than 76 (in this context).

New confounder in Phinney 1983?  They were athletes :/  Regardless, after 4 weeks of isocaloric ketogenic dieting with high[er] protein:
1) glucose levels declined from 4.77 to 4.06 mM
2) insulin levels decreased from 10.7 to 9.0 uU/mL
3) bHB increased from 0.07 to ~2.0 mM

On 129 grams of protein per day… and not losing weight (by design).  The key = less than 20 grams of carbs per day.  The lesson = high protein intake doesn’t erode glucose control or kill ketones in the context of carbohydrate-restriction.  Furthermore, ketogenic diets induce satiety and rapid weight loss, but that was controlled in this study.  The subjects were fed enough calories to maintain a stable body weight… so yeah, they probably had to eat more than they wanted.

Importantly, both of the aforementioned studies were in ketoadapted subjects.  They had been on the diet for longer than 3 weeks.  BUT ketoadaptation isn’t necessary to achieve deep ketosis on a high protein diet as subjects in the latter study had ketones greater than 2 mM after the first week, despite protein at 1.75 g/kg, 129 grams/d.

The point of is that dietary protein isn’t the enemy.  It’s not an enemy of ketosis and it’s not an enemy of weight loss.

The above studies show that protein doesn’t kill ketones.  But even if you think you’re an n=1 in whom it does… does it matter?  Ie, is “deep ketosis” necessary?  Coleman and colleagues (2005) didn’t attempt to test this directly, but they kind-of-did.  Overweight women were recruited and instructed in the classical Atkins method.  That is, less than 20 grams of carbs with “liberal intake of dietary protein and fat” for the first 2 weeks, then increasing carbs by 5 g/wk until weight goals were achieved.  As per usual, energy intake spontaneously declined by almost 700 kcal/d the first week.  Their protein intake increased from 76 to 103 grams/d.  Appetite spontaneously declined while protein intake increased <– let that sink in (even though it’s confounded).

This increase in protein intake obviously didn’t impact satiety OR KETONES:ketones

Negative energy balance and very low carbohydrate intake prompted the rise in ketones, which likely contributed to appetite suppression.  Ketosis still worked despite protein intake increasing by ~30%. 

Protein intake declined from 103 grams to 92 grams from weeks 2 through 12 and so did ketones!  Lower protein –> lower ketones.

Of course, this, too, is confounded… carbs creeped up (as planned) from 32 grams/d at week 1 to 58 grams by week 12.

Ketones were getting lower and lower but weight loss was proceeding uninterrupted.  They weighed 187 pounds at baseline, 176 at week 6, and 170 at week 12.

My point?  Carbohydrate restriction is a more important variable.  Higher protein intake doesn’t kill ketones, as evidenced by Phinney 1983 and Coleman 2005, nor does it hinder weight loss on low carbohydrate diets, as evidenced by Phinney 1980 and Coleman 2005.  The women in Coleman’s study were eating ad libitum and there was no correlation between weight loss and ketones.  Protein intake went up and body weight went down.


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  • Ahh – some of this reminded me of a tweet thing from my butcher a few years back:

    “Ash is the expert we try to please … eats about a cow a week …”


    Edit: well fancy that – it auto-embeds the tweet.

  • I was nodding IRL BIll.

    Nothing to add, thank you for your blog and being voice of sanity and reason. So much quackery amongst paleo/ LC proponents, magic dietary macros that *PREVENT ANY FAT GAIN~~* , and absurdity that protein is the same as carbs/cake . Most serious keto dieters know they can eat plenty of protein and still be in ketosis; most serious weight loss dieters know their body fat goes down the more of a % protein they eat.

    There is absolutely no basis behind protein phobia, other than perhaps fringe nutter group hopign to extend lifespan with insulin/IGF1 suppression… in which case, go sit in the cold emaciated anoretic nutter corner with michael rae , super high rT3 level and delusional feelings of power. The sane/ normal people prefer to feel like a living person today vs invest in some quack hope of longevity tomorrow. SURE I’LL SPEND ERRY MOMENT OF LIFE FOREVER WITH POROTIC BONES AND WASTED ESSENTIAL TISSUE FOR PERHAPS A MAYBE NOT GUARANTEED LONGER LIFE SPAN, WHERE DOES WOO SIGN??

    Big problem in paleo/LCsphere is people who aren’t educated, reasonable or observant but rather good emotive writers/preachers/speakers/salesman seem to be dictating information flow for some reason. Then you get people thinking protein is making them fat, and they should restrict protein to 50 gram to lose wt LOLWUT. I mean, if you even measure ketones its pretty obvious that eating mixed fat/protein meal will darken ketosis generally speaking. Of course this would require being observed and intelligent which few of these reactionary fad hopping bloggers seem to be.


    • Hahahaaa!

      I know of no large populations of centenarians who survived on ~~25 g protein/d. I suspect this may be due to a lack of said populations.

      • Hey folks you heard it here first – the reason people die young because lack of protein is because we don’t have old people who ate low protein to study!

    • Jack Kruse

      ^^^I’m with woo…..and you too Bill on this issue. But beliefs in paleo and low carb are ingrained. These people buy beliefs not benefits. Hopefully with time observations can trump the crap we call literature. It really should be called PEER REVIEWED OPINIONS. I think some bright people, like Rosedale need to come around to this eventually.

      • I hope this doesn’t become ingrained and I’m doing my best to prevent that from happening.

        it took DECADES to put a dent in the low fat dogma.

        • See it in action right now:

          Typical response:

          “Protein. If you eat too much, it turns to glucose. It can easily knock you out of ketosis.”


          • Wenchypoo

            It doesn’t help when you’ve got Jimmy Moore saying that meat is just another form of carb–if it’s GRAIN-FED, then I’d agree with him.

          • To be fair, Jimmy has taken that back and has taken A LOT of flak over it – he’s all mea culpa about it all. It just shits me that even a year later I’m still weathering the storm after-effects…

            As for GRAIN-FED beef – we definitely need to mooove our habits toward eating animals that have eaten their own natural/evolutionary foods, but nutritionally the stuff we get from beef is just fine either way.

            Look, I wish it were a big enough difference that I could tell everyone to never eat anything but grass-fed beef or you’ll die etc, but it just isn’t. Grain-fed (finished, anyhoo) is actually a better source of food than pretty much 99% of anything else out there, only trumped by grass fed beef and various wild ruminants and fish things.

            Some pre-lim data here:


          • That’s similar to my take… stock up on grass-fed when it’s on sale but otherwise buy conventional (guilt-free).

    • In essence Peter from hyperlipid could be considered one of these fringe nutcases who avoids excess protein.

      He’s definitely one of my favourite nutcases though.

      • Peter is O.G. no doubt.

        Perhaps it comes down to how we’re defining “excess.” I tried to include as many actual numbers expressed in as many possible ways to start breaking this down in this post (grams, kcals, kcal%, g/kg, etc.)… because we’re also going to need to incorporate other things that affect the equation like total kcal intake, activity levels, LBM, etc.

        …it’s a process.

        • I’ve done way too much research and N=1 testing over the years.

          My findings: alternate high fat and high protein days, but don’t obsess – just eat the fat then the lean until sated, and chuck in a fasting day now and then. Only eat veggies if your girlfriend is good at hiding them in food.


          • Eric – Golden, CO

            +1 to cycling protein and fat and calories.

          • Eh, it (re)becomes natural eventually. One day I find myself cutting all the lean off my bacon and leaving behind the egg whites (opposite to what everyone else does), the next day I’m ordering a 1kg ribeye steak.

          • johnnyv

            Egg whites are relatively gross compared to the delicious yolk not to mention rather nutritionally void in comparison. I generally discard the whites and eat the yolks but I greatly prefer to eat them with steak and butter rather than bacon.
            Bacon is delicious but steak is steak delicious!

          • Gašper Grom

            I find the same. When going to max fat loss alternate high fat and high protein work best for me.

          • Seems like it could also favorably impact body composition if you exercised on the high protein days…

          • Gašper Grom

            But if I go much higer with proteins on that day (lower fat day) I also feel pump in tha muscle much better next day like it is more glycogen inside?? but I did not measure ketones and glucose on that day.

          • I’m no fitness expert, but I know what works for the kind of lifestyle I like to lead.

            Essentially you could say that all of my research and findings are in aid of being the healthiest and fittest possible whilst being as lazy and indulgent as possible.

        • Kindke

          In my opinion, your body will happily tell you what “excess” protein is, simply the more you eat of it, the less appetizing it becomes. Theres only so much whey protein and steak I want within a certain day.

          • I’ve done the N=1 tests many times – on close to 100% fat 4000 calorie meal hit (think 1kg pork belly where you only eat the fat) I’ll be back n forth to the loo discarding bile or whatever (yellow stuff) for a couple hours – but won’t even think about food again for 2-3 days.

            On a decent protein smash (1kg steak – say 25% protein 25% fat + fatty sauce) I just feel like a complete hero, but for some reason when it’s “only” 50-60% fat I can eat almost my entire bodyweight in meat.

            The whole “your body will tell you protein needs” thing has been studied to death, protein is the ONLY macronutrient which most camps agree how much we should consume.

            It’s the fuel sources people seem perplexed about enough to start religious wars about.

          • Kindke

            MY N=1 is slightly different, I need a certain amount of protein everyday otherwise I get persistent hunger. Ive done experiments drinking pints of cream and agree that overall appetite is killed, but I end up craving glutamate foods like parmesan cheese, regardless of how much fat I eat.

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            Hi Ash,

            I don’t really understand what you mean. Are you able to eat less when its 25% protein and 75% fat compared to a lower fat percentage?

          • there was an experiment done by my department a few years back on dietary protein vs bone. They tried to get the participants to eat 50% protein on weight-stable calories. NONE of them could do it (and most complained of gas).

      • Peter doesn’t count, he isn’t promoting lies that protein is obesigenic, and actively agrees fat can be stored on keto. Peter chooses to restrict protein for personal belief it is more ideal but is otherwise truthful and not a fad diet scammer.

        • Peter relentlessly promotes saturated fat. And protons. They should give him kickbacks.

          • Jack Kruse

            Its about protons, electrons, and photons. I told Peter long ago me and him are on parallel tracks headed the same way: New blog on the Quantum Puzzle! Enjoy.

        • Kindke

          Ofcourse fat can be stored in keto, PPARg controls fat storage. Not ketosis.

          • …are you planning a PPARg biohack?

          • Kindke

            A worldwide virus to delete everyones PPARg, and everyone will become emaciated. lol

          • …and diabetic :/

          • Distant Warrior

            The hack is on, Bill. PPARg comes after PPARa and both result in SREBP-1c, malonyl acyl CoA etc. But before all this, at the very source of the pathway is glucose-induced (and insulin mediated) INS/IGF-1. Cut the fuel and the hack is on. Same with C.E. in the link I send you.

  • Wenchypoo

    I read somewhere that excess water intake can “knock you out of ketosis.” When I’m thirsty, I drink–that’s all I know.

    • If that’s true, it’s misleading. The concentration of acetoacetate in urine is relatively low (~mM), and urine is relatively easy to dilute by drinking a lot of water… so a spot check urinary ketostick could be fooled since it doesn’t correct for dilution, eg, by normalizing for creatinine.

  • Wenchypoo
  • Gary

    I like the way you declare your biases at the beginning, very honest. Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney in their book “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” open chapter 7 on Protein like this

    – Too little or too much protein can be problematic in the keto-adapted state.

    – Aim for a protein intake between 0.6 to 1.0 grams per pound of lean body mass.

    – Rather than consume large portions of meats or other protein foods, focus on small to moderate protein portions and combine them with generous portions of good source of fat (e.g, sauces, butter, olive oil).

    proof of nothing, as is your article, all just useful info in our own personal n=1 experiments until we have more ‘hard’ science to go on.

  • Pingback: Ketosis: Cracking My Keto Code To Optimal Health | Day 162 | Dec 3, 2013()

  • L. Amber Wilcox-O’Hearn

    So many experiments I would do, if ketone testing strips weren’t $5 a piece…

    • I did a bunch last year and just got tired of pricking! :p

      Anyhoo, some guy on Reddit last month posted this link to a Canadian mob that sell them for $2 bucks a pop – no clue on the veracity etc so caveat ketoer…

      • L. Amber Wilcox-O’Hearn

        We bought them from universal drug store until they processed an order we didn’t authorise and then didn’t take responsibility after two chances.

      • Where’s the link, man!? (to your ketone experiments) That’s something I’d be interested to see.

        • I’m a pretty crappy scientist, only sporadically wrote stuff down.

          After a few weeks of checking first thing in morning and after meals of various types and whatnot it all was pretty predictable. My BG sits around 65-70, highest reading I ever got (I think) was 99 after a couple bottles of wine with cheese and crackers and quince paste etc. Ketones moved more or less inversely in line – most mornings I was 0.5-0.8, a couple hours after meat/eggs/butter (probably >80% fat) I’d be 1.0-1.5. Alcohol didn’t move it around much, but wine definitely blunts it a bit – I never did try beer at the time.

          In the end I can just *feel* how ketogenic I am.

    • Agree. The kind of experiments for which ketostix wouldn’t work. Need quick feedback and less susceptibility to dilution.

    • Gary

      I wonder if there is a way of estimating ketosis strength via glucose measurement, the strips for which are considerably cheaper.

      • L. Amber Wilcox-O’Hearn

        Yeah. To some degree they are inversely related, but probably it would be less accurate at very high ketosis, since your blood sugar will not keep getting lower as linearly.

        Also, the blood glucose I get at a given ketosis measurement appears to be different from what I have seen reported in others, so it may be a bit individual. I think if you took both measurements for a while, you could then use the glucose more reliably, though.

        I’ve thought about doing this, too, and I definitely intend to measure both concurrently next time I get ketone strips.

  • reuelkb

    Very interesting article.

    I’ve done a ton of N=1 experiments with myself and I’ve definitely noticed that too many calories can knock me out of ketosis, even if 90% of those calories are fat. I am truly confounded as to why, and what mechanism is at play here.

    Surprisingly enough, the carbs I consumed, in the range of 5g/day (low) to around 40g/day (high) had no statistical impact on my ketone readings. The amount of protein I consumed did have a significant effect on my ketone levels past around 60g/day, but weight lifting actually increased my tolerance significantly (to where I could consume 120g without any negative effect on bHB levels).

    • The effect of high calories on your ketones is consistent with the studies cited in this post (low calories = high ketones, and vice versa… almost regardless of macros).

      But I’m glad to hear about the exercise & 120g protein thing. I haven’t seen that in any studies, but I suspect it’s a true phenomenom.

    • Thomas Hemming Larsen

      I wonder if the increased activity allowed you to eat more carbs and/or protein while still staying in ketosis.

      • Yes. Yes, it does.

        • Thomas Hemming Larsen

          I guess I misphrased that. My point was also that exercise allows you to eat more and stay in ketosis.

          • Jack Kruse

            Excercise has many quantum superpositions for biology. Increasing appetite for more electrons and protons is one. How we dissipate the excess is tied to how we handle protons at UCP1 and 3. If you are LR you can not uncouple at either place. The UCP handle the different force carriers as they interact with protons electrons and photons. This is why the production of hormones requires T3 and Vitamin to transform LDL to pregnenolone. It takes a high free T3, which means your redox potential is robust, and it takes a proper Vitamin A level in the brain, which tells you about an appropriate yoked circadian cycle for photons. Photons are the force carrier for the electromagnetic force. People think the brain needs way more glucose than it really does because they do not realize via the weak force and the electromagnetic force we can alter the information in food to suit our needs physiologically. The field of action of your mitochondria determines how it operates to handle electrons and protons from food and water and their interaction with photons which are the force carrier for electrons……and interact with all forms of matter via the electromagnetic force.

          • Jack Kruse

            Ironically, aspirin allows us to uncouple a little bit at UCP3. When I was a fat ass I realized I could force uncoupling by using NSAID’s because it lowered inflammation at the leptin receptor.

          • Jack Kruse

            The leptin receptor is the accountant for electrons and protons from food and water. This is why it is tied up to every homeostatic pathway in the hypothalamus. It is monitoring the over status of the subatomic particles and force carriers we are facing in our environment.

          • Dunno man, NSAIDs turn me into a sponge.

      • L. Amber Wilcox-O’Hearn

        Absolutely. See e.g. my post here: Deeper ketosis without protein restriction</a.

        • Amber, great article. Thanks. The tone implied you weren’t measuring… but did you try estimating grams, calories, %’s, etc. at any point? just curious.

          • L. Amber Wilcox-O’Hearn

            No. It would be interesting to do that, or actually measure.

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  • Thomas Hemming Larsen

    Hi Bill,

    Something I’m still kind of wondering. Lets say you keep carbs below 20g/day, eat protein till satiety and then eat something like 500g of fat per day. How does the body all that excess energy? Will you simply have to number 2 all the time, would you gain weight? Does it depend on the type of fat consumed, meal timing etc. ? Any thoughts?

    • Ha! see Ash’s experiment above… went something like this:
      Day 1: eat 500 grams fat & some protein.
      Day 2: disgusted by the thought of food.
      Day 3: little-to-no inclination to eat.
      Day 4: back to normal?

      • Thomas Hemming Larsen

        Haha. I was more thinking of doing for a month or so as an experiment.

        • if you really go through with it, you will gain weight. Fat mass, and lots of it.

          You would gain more fat mass if the diet had more carbs, but even without them, that’s a pretty big energy surplus = ? fat storage.

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            I was just thinking about it, somewhat inspired by Sam Feltham’s experiment where he ate close to that and didn’t gain much weight. I’m just wondering how he got away with that.

          • I attribute his success to: very clean diet; high physical activity; and Sam possesses the elusive “lean metabolism” (he does not put on fat easily).

          • Mackarness (sp?) talks about the different body types in his book from the 50’s – “Eat Fat Get Thin” or some such. Some amusing ways of defining “Mr Gets Fat Easily” and stuff.

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            I’m kind of tempted to try it as I still have around 8kg to gain. If anyone would be interested in the results I guess I could be persuaded 🙂

          • DO IT!!!!!

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            Haha. I would need to think of the exact diet composition, exercise etc. so that it wouldn’t just be omg eat tons of food but rather something that could interesting for others to follow. It annoys me that I continue have this lazy/tired feeling all the time which I think might be due to not eating enough (my TSH is a little high too). So part of it would also be to see if eating more fat (not necessarily insane amounts) would make me feel better overall. My main focus is to gain muscle mass as this should be a golden opportunity and I really miss my old body when I look in the mirror 🙂
            I’m also thinking it would be more fun if I had a blog to post observations, results etc. during the experiment.

          • Way overthinking it bro.

            Eat steak. Eat eggs. Eat seafood. Have some liver now and then.

            That’s ALL you need to know/do.

            If you’re a veggie fancier then eat cruciferous “green” stuff. (even though we know it’s ridiculously modified to suit human taste etc).

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            Overthinking everything about food is what I do most of the day. That’s why its an eating disorder 🙂

          • Stop talking and looking for justification, NOBODY cares about you, just do it!

            Here’s a really unscientific thing:


            Basically, I challenged myself to eat steak at EVERY meal I had for a month, no matter which meal nor how many per day.

            Failed only once in the month because of external factorrs, but otherwise I think the main point to takeaway is that I managed to eat 13kg of steak in a month. 🙂

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            Yes, I agree that no one cares about me and that I should stop looking for justification. Again, I’m not saying I see things objectively – that’s exactly why I’m trying to get the justification from everyone else and looking for these calorie experiments.
            Very nice blog/site you’re running. I have to try some of the recipes 🙂

          • “anecdata”
            You win the internet today.
            P.S. I’m definitely stealing that word.

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            Thanks a lot for the link!

  • Pingback: n=1 Ketosis Protein Experiement: Cracking My Keto Code To Optimal Health! (Day 171 – 12/11/13)()

  • Dave L

    Hi Bill, Any tips for losing last bits of subq fat? I’m 40yo male, 6′ 185, keto for 18 months, lift 3x/week, liss or hiit the other days. Overall healthy and strong, but I’ve got a very annoying spare tire around my waist. When I try reducing calories, I get really hungry. I know this is not unusual, but I’d like to experience more of the lack of hunger/weight loss benefits of keto.

    • Listen to DarthLuigi of r/ketogains – a community about body composition instead of the usual fatty boombah weight loss stuff, he’s a 13+ years ketard with the best natural body you’ll see, the FAQ is here:

      • Dave L

        Thanks, Ash!

      • That’s one helluva “keto manifesto.”

        • I’ve got some sciency objections to several points, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the best out there right now.

          As to DarthLuigi, he sprang on the scene in 2011 as a non-English speaking guy who basically just figured out everything from Lyle McDonald’s book back in 2001.

          Turns out he’s super nice and always helpful, without making fun of people, bastard!

          I recently referred him to Body By Science, which to me as a sedentary puffball advising a Greek god felt, well, weird – as it turns out he loved it because it pretty much have him the science backing behind the lifestyle he’s been living, but didn’t realise it. :p

          More DarthLuigi:

    • Hi Dave,
      Regarding diet & exercise, it sounds like you’re doing everything right… which leads me to think there are other factors at play, eg, sleep quality, stress levels, etc.

      I know “it’s all relative” when it comes to sleep needs, but maybe you could try for an extra 30 minutes or so for a week and see if there’s any progress.

      …unless your spare tire is excess skin and not body fat; in which case it’s probably not going away any time soon! (sorry)

      • TBH when I re-read his basic precis (and assuming it’s honest/accurate) I think he’s *probably* OVERdoing stuff.

        The single biggest time portion of gains is rest.

        Oddly enough, the single biggest time portion of loss is… rest.


        Stop feeding/using/excreting constantly for a while. You might be amazed by what your body can do.

        • +1

        • Dave L

          Thanks for the advice, Ash. I have done many variations of IF, but it results in extreme hunger and binging (on keto foods, but still). You know that almond shortage a few weeks ago? That was me 🙂 At any rate, I feel best on 3 med/smallish meals per day. I might go back to IF after I get my sleep and stress under control.

          • Depends what you call “keto”.

            Almost anything animal food = keto from the starting block.

            Anything else you put in your body is your damn issue.

            Almonds are pretty interesting, in fact you’ll find one the best ever write ups of them right here (im on my phone so I’m sure bill et al will indulge me).

            But in the end, nothing beats surf n turf.

          • Too reliable!

            As an aside, perhaps not relevant here, but did you continue your almond experiment? How do you feel about them now? Would you recommend them, and if so/not in what capacity?


            Personally as a mostly carnivore alcoholic, almonds don’t do me particularly well in the digestion side…

          • I pretty frequently eat a few almonds & other nuts, mainly because I like them… nothing like the almond experiment Colin Champ podcasted about. He was eating about a pound per day and it didn’t end well!

            Therapeutically, I guess almonds might be helpful for some with GI issues, but I’ve never really recommended them in that capacity.

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            Do you have a link to the podcast? I can’t seem to find it and an almond experiments sounds interesting 🙂


            Spoiler alert: it may have given him a kidney stone :/

      • Dave L

        Thanks for the feedback, Bill. I will work on lowering stress and sleeping more- especially while it’s dark :). Spare tire is also a bit of skin :).

  • Chris

    This is the type of information i was looking for some time, we really should focus on restricting carbs, instead of protein…

    By the way, what can you tell me about muscle growth under ketosis? What can we do to grow muscle…is it a very long term process? How long until one can see some decent results?

    Thanks, Chris.

    • Hi Chris,
      Never restrict protein if goal is muscle growth! In my experience, muscle growth is almost always a long-term process and this really isn’t impacted by low carbohydrate dieting.

      As to “how long” it takes, ymmv… lifting heavy weights seems to help regardless of diet.

      • Chris

        I know 🙂 heavy weights are the key. one set to failure is enough to stress the nervous system into commanding the release of testosterone, igf-1 and growth hormone…

        however, you know that ketosis can be impacted by protein intake…I mean you can be kicked out of ketosis if consuming too much protein

        by too much protein I refer to the level of protein your body cannot synhesize…

        one way that I can think of would be to have high protein meals every few hours…something like 50g of protein every four awake hours…

        however, this needs further research! if you are aware of what I’m saying can you give me a paper or a starting point to do further research!?

        Thanks Will, really appreciate your work!

        • Hi Chris, thanks!
          check out this article; there are a few links in it that might interest you:

          • Chris

            Will, isnt this the same article like the one we are in right now?

          • Hi Chris, my bad!

            “Too much protein” may not be the culprit… but if someone is fasting for 20 hours and only eating 1 huge meal per day, then that meal had better be ~90% fat in order to maintain ketosis (… that is, I think it’s the calorie overload, not necessarily the protein).

            So I think it’s exactly like you said: you can easily maintain ketosis with 30% protein if it’s divided into a few meals, and especially if there is a mild energy deficit. That’s how most of the studies in this post were designed (except Phinney 1983 which had no energy deficit). The participants in Phinney 1980 were able to get 50% protein and still maintain ketosis because of a larger energy deficit.

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  • Christian


    I got some questions regarding LCHF or more specifically nutritional Ketosis and or proteins.

    I lost 16kg with Atkins and researched the LCHF eating style.

    But I cant seem to lose any more weight at all= complete stall for 3 months, I already lowered protein, calories… nothing seems to work. Tried to go nutritional ketosis, but the protein question is always my problem as well as the calorie thing..

    Used to eat 2500kcal on atkins, then 3000kcal to try any calorie combination, now 2000kcal.
    How many protein and calories should I consume now!?
    I am just confused :/

    Also not really satiated with that low protein, but also read in a book for NK more fat is needed :/

    My Data:
    30 years
    186cm = 6“ 2‘
    (started with ~ 161,3kg at 01.07.13) = 330lbs
    Insulin resistant

    Would be great if someone could help me…

    Thanks a lot!


    • Congrats on the progress you’ve made so far! Since you’re insulin resistant, I agree some form of carbohydrate restriction is warranted.

      However, I honestly can’t give you a specific protein & calorie intake; too many unknown variables. Eg, how are you measuring ketones and quantifying food intake? how much time do you spend sedentary or exercising? meal timing? etc., etc.

      …and even if I knew all of these things about you, it’s still a very complicated question!

  • Dustin Sikstrom

    I really like this and agree entirely about protein and ketosis. The limitations on protein shouldn’t be as much about weight loss or even ketone readings. Readings are just ketone envy. Seeing a higher number means nothing in the context of your body.

    But, I really want to address this warrior diet thing and lowered ketone readings. I’m having a difficult time swallowing this as a viable explanation, specifically in terms of doing 3 squares solely for the purpose of higher readings.

    I imagine ketone readings *should* be lower when adapted to fasting, as your body is using more ketones for energy instead of other sources (amino acids, fatty acids). So even though the number on the reading isn’t higher, shouldn’t this indicate that one meal per day provides a deeper *keto adaptation* compared to 3+/day? Basically because blood ketones are not indicative of adaptation but rather indicative of the amount of ketones present that have not yet been used. If there are more being used then it should cause them to drop. Which this in turn is indicative of better keto adaptation.

    I look at this reading thing a lot and see a lot of backwards information (specifically how it’s stressed, MOAR KETUNEZ!), even when people are bright enough to say “ketone readings != fat loss”, they still seem to label things as pro-ketogenic or anti-ketogenic, based upon how it affects readings. Anti-ketogenic foods are obviously carbs and at the extreme upper ends, protein (remember: specifically in terms of reading number, not in terms of in/out of ketosis; more protein, *slightly* lower readings) and of course our “pro-ketogenic” foods of fat and (Ash’s favorite) alcohol. So If we want deeper ketosis, enjoy alcohol! haha. Obviously not a good conclusion, which is why this “deeper” ketosis thing is a hassle. This isn’t even including exercise which does it’s own work pretty strongly on ketone numbers.

    My point is for warrior dieters, the lower ketone readings may not necessarily be a negative. In fact, it almost seems like the theory points towards it being a positive. After all, fasting is the most pro-ketogenic activity one can do.

    • I’m pretty sure I agree with much of what you said. From what I’ve seen (included in this post), higher ketones don’t mean more fat loss.

      As to the dynamics of blood ketones (producing vs. burning vs. excreting), there are some great theories bouncing around the blogosphere, but the kinetic studies simply haven’t been done (to my knowledge).

      • Dustin Sikstrom

        I’m not sure if you’ve seen this but here’s where it gets really fun.

        > we established a correlation between breath acetone concentration and rate of fat loss

        This is something I can’t wrap my mind around. Apparently breath acetone correlates very closely to ketone levels as well.

        Though that one is referring to acetoacetate. Doesn’t adaptation cause a switch from mostly acetoacetate to mostly BHB?

        I’m just so confused. For example, why in the world to ketone readings go down when eating? Am I wrong here? Is it only *any* amount of protein that halts ketone production while being metabolized? So If you have 1.0 m/mol and eat 20g of protein it’ll only drop slightly to .8 or so?

        Also, doesn’t the breakdown go: Adipose tissue -> lipolysis -> ketosis ? And if acetone on breath = weight loss, perhaps urine and blood ketones are irrelevant but breath analysis is relevant? I check myself with a breathalyzer I own and am trying to correlate breath-blood ketone readings. Yesterday I ate massive calories of mostly fat and blew .00. I didn’t even count, I just tried to keep protein at about 100-140g and go insane with the fat intake.

        Either way, for that study by Coleman to say there is no correlation between fat loss and ketone readings makes sense. However, as much as I check myself, I haven’t really lost a noticeable amount of fat within a day and the only way for me to get my readings higher now is to severely restrict both protein and calories. Would I adapt to 80g of protein/day eventually also and not continue to read higher ketones? By the way, another time after fasting for 18 hours, I read .05 on the breathalyzer, which is of course acetone. Assuming I didn’t eat those “calories” back, of course that would’ve been an indicator of fat loss.

        Damnit when all we are left to is n=1. Well, n=2, I know Ash is checking himself too with breath/blood measurements. Maybe he’ll stall his weight and get low/no amounts on his readings. In which case, Jimmy Moore may be right.

        Just as I was about to hit send I thought of something. The people in the study where they measured breath acetone as an indicator of fat loss likely didn’t eat low carb. They ate low calorie, but not low carb. But of course, carbs have to be gone for lipolysis to occur. So does that mean all weight loss diets are ketogenic? Likely those people consumed carbs and even if ketones were present they didn’t adapt, causing plenty of acetate (and then breath acetone) but never solid levels of BHB.

        Long ramblings I know. I just feel like it’s really difficult to get to the bottom of this. I thought I had it solved but things just keep popping up in my head as worth it to question the dogma again.

        • Thanks for those links! very interesting.

          you make a lot of great points. When people talk about dietary protein impacting ketosis, it’s really a matter of energy balance – ketones will be higher when calories are lower, almost regardless of the macro’s… I’ve seen some relatively high carb diets induce ketosis simply because total calories were so low.

          As to the kinetics of the different ketone bodies and its relationship to the loss of body fat, again, this seems pretty complicated and *very* context-dependent. I’ll check out those papers, and probably write a follow-up blog post…

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  • Zach

    Hey Bill,

    I know I am WAY late to the party, but I am assuming protein would need to be kept lower if one is in a caloric surplus, correct?

    I am actually trying to gain weight with a keto approach (due to gut issues and other reasons) and I am actually having a hard time keeping protein below 1g/lb of bodyweight. I love protein. Do you see this as detrimental?

    I would assume a low carb, high protein diet would work, but Jacob Wilson has talked a lot about how it is suboptimal for building muscle as compared to a well-formulated keto approach.

    Just curious on your thoughts.


    • Hi Zach, no worries!

      “protein would need to be kept lower if one is in a caloric surplus, correct?”

      it doesn’t “need” to be kept lower, but in general, as calories increase, the amount of protein to maintain nitrogen balance declines

      “Do you see this as detrimental?”


      “low carb, high protein diet … less optimal for building muscle as compared to a well-formulated keto approach”

      if by “well-formulated keto,” you mean replacing protein with fat… most studies agree that higher protein is better for body comp, and I’d say especially so if you’re on keto in a caloric surplus

      hope this helps!

      • Zach

        Thanks so much for the quick response, Bill. I should have been a little more specific. Do you not think there is a protein amount that would lead a person to feel pretty crummy (brain fog, etc.) if it was too high and carbs are too low?

        For example, if someone was in a surplus and they were eating 30 grams of carbs and 3g/lb of protein, don’t you think this would be a bad scenario?

        I just think you would want some ketones for fuel (brain, nerves, etc.) if carbs were kept really low and I would think too much protein (especially when in a surplus) would not allow for this. Or, you would convert the protein to glucose

        I am wondering what that protein amount might be? Or, at least a rough estimate.

        Sorry if you have already covered this somewhere. If so, please link me to it. Thanks!