Protein Requirement

There's a lot of confusion about protein requirement in a low carbohydrate diet.  People who aren't educated in the correct way of following a low carb lifestyle will often say that you can eat all the meat you want.  "Isn't that the diet where you only eat meat?"  I hear that one a lot.  Ummm...no. That's just not true.

A low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbs.  The amount of protein you personally require will depend on many things.  Your gender, your height, your sensitivity to carbohydrates and your activity level will all factor in.

A general rule of thumb is to consume about  0.5 grams of protein for every pound you weigh.  If you're very active or very tall, or very muscular, then you can have a little more than that.

Let's simplify this, shall we?

Let's keep things real and simple.

For every 1 ounce of cooked meat there are about 7 grams of protein.

Let's say you weight 190 pounds.  We take 0.5 grams of protein and multiply it by 190 pounds.  We get 95 grams of protein. 

Divide 95 by 7 and you get 13.58.  This means that over your meals for one day, you can have about 14 ounces of protein.

Then you just split that up evenly between 3 regular or 5 small meals, whatever suits you best.  Easy! 

Weight in pounds _______ X 0.5 = _______ Divide by 7 = ______

The answer you get is the number of grams of protein you require for one day.

What kind of protein?

Protein is found in all meats, fish and shellfish and poultry. Other sources of protein come from eggs and dairy as well as nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.  Most vegetables contain some protein. 

Animal protein is considered a complete protein, while the others are incomplete proteins.  The animal protein has all of the 9 essential amino acids.  By the way, your body can't produce essential amino acids on its own.  So getting your protein from meat is ideal.

Plants have only one or more of those nine essential amino acids.  It's good to keep your diet varied so that you cover all of your nutritional needs. 

For the purposes of following a low carb lifestyle, your protein will mostly come from meat, dairy and some nuts and seeds.  Avoid grains and legumes or starchy foods.

What about fat?

Fat is your friend.   A generous amount of fat in the absence of high carbs is healthy. You need it.  The only way that vitamins A, D, E and K can be absorbed is through dietary fats. 

Fat keeps you feeling full and boosts your energy.  It's important for brain function and for other things like sending signals from your nerves and hormones and brain cells to your entire body.

I'm talking about natural fat.  Fats from animals, butter, coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, fatty fish like salmon and sardines. 

By choosing these fats you're getting a great mixture of three important fatty acids.  You're getting Monounsaturated Fatty Acids, Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Saturated Fatty Acids.

How much fat do you need?

Does this mean that you can just have a grease fest and be healthy?  Nope, it just means you shouldn't fear fat and that it belongs in a healthy diet.

If you've been trying to follow a low-fat diet all of your life, this may be hard to swallow (pardon the pun).  And that's understandable.  But before you do anything else, read this:

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet

In the meantime, here's a snapshot from my own personal food journal.  I've underlined the fat sources that make up my meals.

Breakfast:

1/2 tbsp butter to fry 2 eggs that I've beaten with 1 tbsp heavy cream

2 cups dark leaf lettuce, drizzled with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and the remaining butter from the pan

1/2 small avocado

1 cup cherry tomatoes

Lunch:

2 cups dark leaf lettuce mixed with 2 cups raw baby spinach topped with 1/2 cup sliced cucumber topped with 1 oz cheddar

drizzled with 1/2 tbsp olive oil mixed with 2 tbsp sour cream and 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot

3oz cooked chicken breast with the skin

Snack:

10 black olives

Dinner:

4oz salmon steak pan-fried in 1/2 tbsp butter (once cooked the salmon is about 3oz)

1 cup steamed cauliflower and 1/2 cup steamed broccoli topped with pan drippings

That translates into

81.19 grams Fat

39.13 grams Total Carbohydrates

18.9 grams Fibre

20.23 grams Net Carbohydates

84.09 grams Protein

1203 Calories

That means 61% fat, 26% protein and 13% carbohydrates,  High fat, moderate protein and low carb. 

These numbers work for me because I'm short and being a writer and recipe inventor, I'm not expending a whole lot of energy.

More on this subject matter later!  Let's go from Protein Requirement back to the Home page.