Too Much Protein On Keto? A Doctor Presents Facts & Scenarios

The steps to get into Ketosis are simple, right? You make sure that the calories you’re consuming throughout the day are divided between 70% Fat, 25% Protein, and 5% Carbs, and you should be on your way there. But what happens if you exceed one of them and mess the ratio up? It happens to all of us. Especially if you hate counting macros and calories as I do.

So, What Happens If You Go Over Your Protein Limit On Keto?

If your lifestyle remained the same and you only went overboard with protein, that excess protein can be turned into glucose, which might kick you of Ketosis. However, if you’ve recently added exercise and weightlifting to your routine, eating more protein will help you build more muscle.

And that’s exactly what we will be diving into today, the specific details of each of these two scenarios, plus answering other questions on your mind regarding this topic, such as how much protein you should be eating, whether or not drinking protein shakes can kick you out of ketosis and the importance of the Gluconeogenesis process.

Two Scenarios of Going Overboard With Protein

Touching up on what we discussed earlier, we now agree that there can be at least two scenarios when going overboard with protein on Keto.

  • The First Scenario is you doing your everyday activities and not changing anything other than your protein intake. In this case, and if the protein limit you have set for yourself was right, then going too much over it without putting that excessive protein to use, can lead to its conversion into glucose.

    This can become a problem in large amounts when you get a lot of glucose in your blood via a biological process, called Gluconeogenesis. Using this process, your body is able to create glucose even if you don’t eat any carbs.
    So, the result of this scenario is one of three options:
    1. The excessive amount is unremarkable that it doesn’t actually get noticed==> Nothing happens.
    2. The excessive amount is beyond your body’s ability to use it, it gets converted to glucose (via Gluconeogenesis), it raises your blood’s glucose but your body is able to take care of it and keep you in ketosis ==> Nothing happens
      (If you do this regularly, you might start noticing plateauing. It’s not good to be in this scenario if you’re trying to lose weight.)
    3. The excessive amount is beyond your body’s ability to use it, it gets converted to glucose, it raises your blood’s glucose beyond your body’s ability to take care of it (either because it’s a huge amount of protein, or due to your insulin sensitivity) ==> You get kicked out of Ketosis.
  • The Second Scenario is when you add exercises, especially weightlifting, to your routine. Then, your body requires more protein and will be able to use that excess amount of it that you’re consuming. There are other instances when your body is in need of more protein amounts. An example of that is stress. With exercise, we covered one type of stress your body can go through, but seriously, other kinds of stress that you are thinking of right now will also make you require more protein.

Bottom Line: If you’re in a unique phase right now, whether you’re doing weightlifting, undergoing different kinds of stress, or even if you’re under 18 years old and your body is still growing, then you need more protein than a usual keto dieter. I want to emphasize that you need that excess protein. I did not say you can get away with it. You need it.

On the other hand, if you’re just doing Keto, and have in the past made your calculations and figured out the appropriate limits and now you’re exceeding them and having problems with your diet, you can blame it on Gluconeogenesis.

Gluconeogenesis & What It Has To Do With Protein On Keto

To simply put it, Gluconeogenesis is the process of producing glucose from non-carbohydrates precursors. Our bodies have this ability to always produce glucose even if we’re consuming 0 carbohydrates every day. The importance of this process comes from the fact that while most of our organs can either use glucose or ketones as their source of energy, there are some organs with specific processes that are only able to use glucose.

One important example is our brain.

So, you’re starting to see how crucial this process is. Why then does it have this bad rap in the Keto community?

Does Gluconeogenesis Kick You Out Of Ketosis?

Gluconeogenesis is a necessary process that happens every day to everybody. It’s not a process that, when triggered, will kick you out of ketosis. However, when it happens on a large scale, it can produce a big amount of glucose that your body might not be able to tolerate on Keto.

The latter case is usually associated with an excessive amount of protein that when consumed, people report problems in their diet, specifically getting out of the state of ketosis.

It’s something to keep in mind that more protein can cause problems. But less protein can cause even deeper problems. That’s why, with the help of science, you should strive to know the amount of protein that you need and try to commit to it.

How Much Is Too Much Protein?

To help you get an idea of the numbers, I’ve created some tables for you to show you the protein amount in some of the common keto-friendly foods.

FoodServing SizeProtein
Beef (grounded, 85% lean)100g26g
Chicken Breast1 cup (140g)43g
EggsOne Large, Boiled Egg (50g)6g
Cottage Cheese1 ounce (28g)11g
Ricotta Cheese1/4 cup (25g)7.5g
Milk1 cup (240 ml.)8g
Almond Milk1 cup (240 ml.)1g
Mozzarella Cheese100g28g
Black BeansHalf cup, cooked (85g)7.5g

Some keto-friendly nuts:

FoodServing SizeProtein
Almonds1 ounce (28g)6g
Almond flour1/4 cup (25g)6g
Brazil nuts1 ounce (28g)5g
Cashews1 ounce (28g)4g
Macadamias1 ounce (28g)2g
Hazelnuts1 ounce (28g)6g
Pecans1 ounce (28g)2.7g
Pistachios1 ounce (28g)7.5g
Walnuts1 ounce (28g)4g

Some seeds:

FoodServing SizeProtein
Chia seeds1/4 cup (30g)5g
Pumpkin seeds 1/4 cup (30g)9g
Sesame seeds2 tablespoons (18g)3.2g
Sunflower seeds1/4 cup (30g)6g
Hemp seeds1/4 cup (30g)9g

Some nut & seed butters

FoodServing SizeProtein
Coconut butter1 tablespoon (16g)1g
Almond butter1 tablespoon (16g)3.5g
Cashew butter1 tablespoon (16g)3g
Macadamia butter1 tablespoon (14g)2g
Sunflower seed butter1 tablespoon (16g)2.8g
Tahini1 tablespoon (15g)2.6g

How Do You Know The Amount Of Protein You Need On Keto?

As we’ve mentioned many times already, each body is different. But to give you numbers, which I know you love, I did the research for you and the amount suggested can be broken down into 3 categories of people: Those of you with a sedentary lifestyle, active lifestyle and the weightlifters. It goes as follows:

  • With A Sedentary Lifestyle: You should be aiming for 0.6-0.8g of protein for every pound of lean body mass.
  • With Regular Activity: You should be aiming for 0.8-1g of protein for every pound of lean body mass.
  • Weightlifter: You should be aiming for 1.0-1.2g of protein for every pound of lean body mass.

These are estimates. You should always try to find out what works for you.

That being said, you should focus on trying to hit these numbers on a daily basis. If you go just a little bit up or down now and then, it won’t matter. What matters is not depriving your body of the adequate amount of protein that it needs for various biological processes that are happening around the hour. And also, not exaggerating the amount of protein too much, to avoid glucose problems that can be caused by Gluconeogenesis.

You should also try to consider other factors that might require you to eat more protein than you usually should. Stress and growth are two important examples.

Do Protein Shakes Kick You Out Of Ketosis?

What determines whether or not protein shakes kick you out of ketosis is the total amount of protein you’re consuming. If that protein shake will make you exceed your protein limit, it can trigger Gluconeogenesis to the point that there is too much glucose in your blood that you’re out of ketosis.

I have written an entire article on protein shakes on keto, you can read it here.

As you can see, this question, too, takes us back to science. You need to understand the fact that there is an amount of protein that should religiously be hit each day. Going too much down can disturb your body from its most basic biological processes. Eating too much protein might turn into glucose that will cause you problems if you’re on Keto. That being said, I am not a fan of counting each calorie and half a gram of macros you’re consuming. I’m also not a fan of you not paying attention to what you’re putting into your mouth.

I understand that, at first, it might be overwhelming to wrap your head around all the numbers. You might also be afraid of eating way less or way more than you should. But with a little bit of time and practice, you will be bouncing off numbers, macros, and calories around in your brain like it’s nobody’s business.

Let’s do it one more time.

Is It Bad To Go Over My Protein Limit On Keto?

It’s not bad to go over your protein limit if the amount is unremarkable, if you’ve started weightlifting or if you’re undergoing stress. However, if your needs are the same and you went a lot overboard, you might get kicked out of ketosis due to more glucose production via Gluconeogenesis.


You have probably read the same idea in several different ways throughout this article. But this was done to emphasize the truth about protein and to ensure that it has sunk in. So I might as well say it again. Protein is, arguably, the most important macro in the Keto diet. It can cause problems when consumed in bigger amounts and even bigger problems when eaten in smaller amounts. Slight changes in your intake, here and there will cause mostly no problems. You shouldn’t obsess about it. But always make sure you’re getting enough of it, while also not overdoing it too much to the point where it can cause problems for your diet and start slowing your progress down.


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Nabeel Kallas

I'm a medical doctor with a lot of passion for Keto & Intermittent Fasting. They have completely changed my life and I am beyond honored to help you experience that same change. I'm ready when you are. Read more here.

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