2 Potential Pitfalls of the Keto Diet | Not Enough Protein and Micronutrients

Dec 31, 2018


You Will Learn 

  • What is the Keto diet?
  • An example breakdown of macronutrients to lose 1 pound per week?
  • Why Keto may not be the best option for long-term weight-loss success. 


What is the Keto Diet?   

“Keto” stands for ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state characterized by increased levels of ketone bodies in body tissues. It occurs when your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.  

To get into ketosis, your carbohydrate intake needs to be lower than 50 grams of total carbs or 30 grams of net carbs per day for several days.  

*Net carbs is the total carbs minus fiber.  

There are different recommendations for the perfect Carb:Protein:Fat ratio on the Keto diet. The macronutrient ratio and calories allowed depends on gender, age, weight, and goals.  

A general Keto ratio is 5% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 70% fat.  

What Would Keto Look Like for Me to Lose 1 Pound Per Week?  

I downloaded the Carb Manager Application on my phone for free. The macronutrient percentage, grams, and calories for the Keto diet to lose 1 pound per week based on my age, weight, and activity level were:  

Carbs: 5%/22 grams net carbs  

Protein: 25%/110 grams  

Fat: 70%/137 grams  

Calories: 1757  


Breaking Down the Numbers  

22 GRAMS OF CARBOHYDRATES: In order to get as many micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as possible, I would try to load up on low-carb vegetables, but even those carbs add up fast when you are limited to 22 grams/day.  

110 GRAMS OF PROTEIN: This sounded low to me so I did some investigating. 

I knew for lasting weight loss, it is important to preserve as much muscle mass as possible because muscle burns more calories than fat.  

The recommended minimum dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for a sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.  

Multiple studies show that consuming 2-3x the RDA with 25-30 grams consumed at each meal when losing weight helps reduce the loss of muscle mass. (1-5)  

In light of working out several times per week, I calculated my protein needs using 2 grams/kilogram body weight (2.5x the RDA) which was about 141 grams/day.  

My instinct was correct…if I followed this diet I would likely lose muscle mass. 

137 GRAMS OF FAT: This part would be easy…but without the carbohydrates and protein, fat can be a little boring. Often on the keto diet people think they can just eat any fat they want but not all fats are created equal. I would want to bias my fat intake towards the healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like in nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil.  


Pitfalls of Keto  

After calculating my macronutrients and considering what kinds of foods I would need to eat to get into ketosis, I was concerned I wouldn’t get enough protein to preserve and build my muscle mass and and that I wouldn’t be able to eat a variety of vegetables to get enough fiber and micronutrients.

I also just like a variety of food way too much.  

So I asked another question…  


Can You Burn Fat Without Being in Ketosis?  

Can you lose weight on Keto? Yes, but not necessarily because you are getting into ketosis…because you are paying attention to what you are eating and likely making better food choices.  

Are there more enjoyable ways to lose weight that are sustainable and ensure you get enough protein to prevent muscle loss, micronutrients to keep your cells happy, and fiber to keep you feeling good? Yes.  

I think the more important thing to consider is how to keep the weight off. What kinds of foods do I need to eat long-term for optimal overall health?  

It all boils down to an emphasis on a variety of whole, unprocessed foods with plenty of non-starchy vegetables, protein, and healthy fat. Those are the kinds of foods to eat when losing weight.  


Bottom Line  

There has to be a negative energy balance to lose weight. I think the primary reason people lose weight when they are “on the Keto diet” is because when you cut out carbohydrates, you cut out many of the processed and refined foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition.  


Action Items  

  • If you are really interested in Keto, give it a try! Just be informed of the potential pitfalls, you may need a fiber supplement to stay regular. 
  • While it can be done, Keto is generally not a sustainable long-term solution for weight management. Consider following a lower carbohydrate diet, just not to the extent Keto suggests. 
  • Pick your carbs wisely. I have a few great articles to help you learn more about what carbs are best to eat and still lose weight. Check the first one out HERE.



1. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Kang J, Falvo MJ, Faigenbaum AD. Effect of Protein Intake on Strength, Body Composition and Endocrine Changes in Strength/Power Athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2006;3(2):12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-3-2-12.https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-3-2-12.

2. Lemon PW. Is Increased Dietary Protein Necessary or Beneficial for Individuals with a Physically Active Lifestyle? Nutrition Reviews. 2009;54(4). doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1996.tb03913.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8700446.

3. Longland TM, Oikawa SY, Mitchell CJ, Devries MC, Phillips SM. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;103(3):738-746. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.119339. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/103/3/738/4564609.

4. Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased Protein Intake Reduces Lean Body Mass Loss during Weight Loss in Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2010;42(2):326-337. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3181b2ef8e. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927027.

5. Phillips SM, Loon LJV. Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2011;29(sup1). doi:10.1080/02640414.2011.619204. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22150425.

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