The keto diet involves following a low carb, high fat diet, with plenty of protein. Many people supplement their diet with a keto protein powder to make sure they’re getting just the right amount of protein every day.
This article takes a look at some of the best keto protein powders, as well as how to use them, plus more…
Ketosis is when our metabolism changes to the extent that our bodies are mainly fuelled by fat and access to glucose (blood sugar) is limited.1 When this happens, the body burns fat instead of its usual energy source, carbohydrates.2
In terms of how you reach ketosis, there’s a bit of a ‘science’ to it. People’s total daily calories need to be made up of 70 to 80% fat, 5 to 10% carbohydrate and 10 to 20% protein. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this works out to be at around 165g of fat, 40g of carbohydrate and 75g of protein.3
Note - if you exercise regularly, increase your protein intake to 25%.4
To find out more about ketosis, its symptoms and its side effects, check out these articles for the basics:
According to Diabetes.co.uk, following a keto diet can:5
Carbohydrates play a big part in raising blood sugar. Because ketogenic diets are low in carbs, they help eliminate large increases in blood sugar.
A study carried out in Australia found that obese people were able to lose, on average, 15kg in a year. This was 3kg more than the low-fat diet that was also followed as part of this research.
Numerous studies have shown a ketogenic diet can decrease blood pressure levels in people who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes.
Overall, ketogenic diets tend to improve cholesterol levels. Over time, ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels drop and ‘good’ HDL cholesterol increase.
Higher energy levels, less anxiety, better liver health and sleep quality, fewer cravings and a sharper brain.6
Ketosis isn’t something that just happens overnight. It can take up to 12 weeks to happen.
Ketosis is when the body switches from burning fat to carbs. It can take around 12 weeks to achieve ketosis.
If you consume too much of any type of protein in one day or one sitting, not just whey protein, it can kick you out of ketosis. However, this is no different to consuming too many carbs or not enough fats.8
Generally speaking, whey protein is keto-friendly because it’s low carb and contains 25g of protein per serving.
Likewise, not consuming enough protein can kick you out of ketosis too. It can result in your body eating away at your lean muscle mass. Meanwhile, your metabolism will produce glucose from non-carb sources, which can potentially compromise your ketosis results.
Whey protein is keto-friendly because of its low carb make-up, around 25g per serving. Eating the right amount of it, not too much or too little, will keep you in ketosis.
Protein and weight loss go hand-in-hand. This is mainly down to the fact protein has more of a satisfying effect than carbs or fat and can make us feel fuller for longer. Diets with plenty of protein are also more likely to be associated with having a lower BMI.9
The ideal, is for us to take on 0.8g of protein per kg of our body weight. For a 150Ib woman, this is 54g of protein, and for a 180Ib man, this equates to 65g.
However, it’s not always possible for people to reach these levels every day, especially if they’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet, which is where protein powders come in.
As for the best low carb protein powder for weight loss, it’s reportedly whey protein, which is a protein that’s naturally present in dairy products. And there are scientific studies to back up this claim too.
Research has found people who were given whey protein at breakfast, as a protein shake, lost more weight than people who ate other types of proteins, including eggs, tuna and soy. What’s more, when researchers gave people a whey protein drink, they lost around 4Ib more and an inch more from their waists over 6 months. They also felt less hungry than those who were given a carbohydrate shake instead.
For the best results, eat the main bulk of your protein at dinnertime and a minimal amount for breakfast (aim for around 20 to 30g of protein per meal).
Whey protein has been scientifically proven to be better for weight loss. For the best results, eat less of it at breakfast and the main bulk of it at dinnertime.
There are lots of different ways you can enjoy keto powder. One of the most common ways of consuming it is to make a shake, which are just as quick and easy to make as they are to consume.11
Shakes aside, you can also be a bit more imaginative with how you use your keto protein powder. The main thing is you remember to take it and it becomes part of your everyday diet. For instance, you could get your low carb protein powder fix by:
Obviously, for some of the ideas listed above, flavourless keto powder will work better than flavoured varieties. E.g. flavourless powder for soups, salad dressings and scrambled eggs and vanilla, strawberry, chocolate or similar flavours for your fresh fruit, coffee and yoghurt.
You can do much more with keto protein powder than just simply make shakes with it. Options include adding it to your scrambled eggs and morning coffee.
It’s not uncommon for keto dieters to use protein powders to supplement their diet and make sure they’re getting the right amount of protein. However, this can be easier said than done because not all protein powders are keto-friendly.12
Many protein powder formulations contain a lot of carbs, as well as sugar and additives. And they can reverse the ketosis process, which is far from ideal. The best keto protein powders have a low carb count and aren’t going to mean you wind up exceeding your 165g of fat, 40g of carbohydrate and 75g of protein limits a day.
The best keto protein powders are low carb and will help you stay within your 165g of fat, 40g of carbohydrate and 75g of protein daily limits.
Before we list some of best keto protein powders. Here’s a checklist of some of the key characteristics to look out for:13
As we’ve already mentioned, this form of protein powder is great for weight loss and also ticks the keto protein powder box too due to its low-carb content.14
Taking whey protein can also lead to reduced inflammation and blood pressure. Whey protein is available in two forms, concentrate and isolate. Whey Protein Isolate is the best choice for keto dieters because it contains fewer carbohydrates per serving than Whey Protein Concentrate.
This is due to the fact there’s an additional processing step involved with the production of isolate, which yields a 90 to 95% protein powder by volume (filtering out the unnecessary carbohydrates).
Collagen is one of the most widely available proteins in the human body, with collagen protein powders originating from animal by-products, such as bones and egg shells.15
Naturally carb-free collagen contains eight of the nine essential amino acids. It’s rich in proline and glycine, for joint, skin and gut health. Certain collagen peptides also contain Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are fatty acids that can be found naturally in some oils, specifically palm oil and coconut oil. They have long been associated with increasing ketone production and achieving an overall state of ketosis.16
Pea protein is a plant-based protein that’s a good alternative to dairy protein sources. It’s made by extracting the protein from yellow split peas and grinding it into a flour-like powder. Water is then used to separate the fibre and starch to create pea protein isolate.17
Pea protein isolate is naturally low in carbohydrates, making it a popular keto protein powder choice.
Following a high fat, low carb diet can lead to people experiencing certain side effects, which include:
Cutting your carbs and achieving ketosis can result in a number of symptoms - headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhoea, which are all also known as the Keto Flu. This can happen when your body is adjusting to burning fat instead of carbs.19
We need carbohydrates to produce serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood, sleep and appetite. Eating fewer carbs can lead to lower levels of serotonin.20
This is a common side effect of going keto. This is down to eating less carbs, which usually means eating less high fibre food, such as whole grains, beans, as well as limited fruit and veg, all of which can help keep us regular.21
Eating food that contains fat enables our liver to release bile into our digestive system to help break it down. Following a high fat diet, such as keto, makes the liver release extra bile, which is a natural laxative.22
As well as Keto Flu, it’s also possible to experience Keto Breath. This happens when your body is in ketosis and starts to produce by-products called ketones. These by-products are released through your breath, and are said to have a distinctive smell.23
The right type of carbohydrates are needed for energy. But if you’re following a low carb diet, you may not be getting enough of these carbs, which can contribute to brain fog and make it difficult to concentrate.24
It’s not uncommon for people who are in ketosis to urinate more often. This is often due to excess protein consumption. Our kidneys can only process so much protein at once, so the excess starts to build up.
This build-up creates a much more acidic environment, resulting in you having to urinate more often.25
Given the fact the keto diet is based on eating very specific amounts of nutrients, it would be easy to assume very few keto protein powder options exist.
However, this isn’t the case at all, there are several different low carb protein powders out there, ranging from whey protein isolate, to pea and rice protein. What’s more, there are lots of different ways you can enjoy and add them to your diet too.
Last updated: 12 May 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: January 2018
Bsc in Nutrition, Registered Associate Nutritionist and Certification in Pre and Post Natal Nutrition
Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018.
Donia has over 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.