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Are Protein Shakes Keto?

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FACT CHECKED
  Published on January 18th, 2023
  Reading time: 4 minutes
  Last modified December 28th, 2022
Man drinking a keto protein shake

Most people who adhere to the keto diet know that there are three main macronutrient categories they need to be concerned with: carbs, fats, and protein. Protein can easily come from food sources like meat and eggs, but some people prefer to supplement their diet with protein shakes. If you plan to stick to a strict keto diet, can you still have protein shakes? 

Protein shakes are a great source of protein and many are low enough in net carbs to keep you in ketosis. If you plan to drink one, make sure to mix it with keto-friendly milk like unsweetened almond or coconut. Use unsweetened or dairy-free yogurt to thicken it. Steer clear of fruit add-ins other than small amounts of berries.  

For more information on how you can mix up a protein shake while staying keto, here is what you need to know. 

Are Protein Shakes Keto?

Protein shakes can be keto, but there are also plenty of shake mixes out there that will bump you out of ketosis. If you plan to consume protein shakes while in ketosis, you will want to find a protein powder that is low in carbs and sugars. One of the most common types of protein shakes consists mostly of whey protein isolate, an ingredient that is high in protein but still low in carbs. Obviously, when choosing a protein shake product, check the nutritional facts to ensure the amount of carbs per serving fits into your macros.

For instance, according to nutritional data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the chocolate whey isolate protein powder by The Quaker Oats Company easily fits into your keto diet. In a 100-gram portion, it has 80 grams of protein and 4 grams of net carbs. [1]

With that being said, this is a lot of protein and may not be necessary for most people. (An exception is if you’re seeking to build muscle while keto). A general rule of thumb is that you should have about 75 grams of protein per day if you are on a 2,000-calorie diet plan. [2] For those not exercising intensively, about 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight is a good way to calculate optimal protein consumption.

How to Mix Your Protein Shakes on Keto 

Keep in mind that to make a protein shake from powder, most people mix the whey isolate with milk. Unfortunately, most dairy is too high in carbs to be keto-friendly. As a result, you may have to experiment a little bit to determine what liquid works best mixed with protein powder.

Many people prefer to use common keto milk alternatives like unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk. You could also use flax milk or cashew milk, depending on availability. You may also thicken your protein shake using yogurt. Specifically, look for full-fat, plain unsweetened Greek yogurt or a dairy-free alternative like soy milk yogurt or coconut milk yogurt.

Keto protein shake with berries

 

Adding Flavor to a Protein Shake 

Often, people like to add fruit to their protein shakes for flavor and sweetness, not to mention that fruit is a natural source of antioxidants and vitamins. However, adding too much fruit to your protein shake can push you out of ketosis by adding too much sugar.

Stick with low-carb fruits such as berries if you plan to add some. Raspberries and blackberries have some of the lowest carbs (5 net carbs), followed by strawberries (6 net carbs). 

If you plan to add berries to your protein shake, make sure that the addition won’t put you over your net carbs for the day. This might mean that you need to look for a protein powder with a very low net carb count. Finding a protein shake mix like this is very achievable, as many companies are now making whey protein powder that is low-carb to accommodate more add-ins. 

Of course, if you plan to add low-carb, high-fiber ingredients to your shake such as spinach and avocado, you shouldn’t have much trouble keeping your carb count low, but you’ll still want to be sure to calculate the net carbs you’ve added.

Given that this will likely substitute for a meal like breakfast, you may be able to get away with a slightly higher carb count. Be sure to plan out your meals for the day before you decide to indulge in a protein shake. 

Look for Supplements in Protein Powders

In addition to looking for protein shake mixes that are low in net carbs, you may also want to look for brands that have additional supplementation. Namely, most people are looking for a protein shake that also has a high amount of collagen

There are a number of benefits to adding collagen to your diet including improved gut health, reduced joint pain, and tissue repair. Collagen supplementation has also been correlated with improved body composition and muscle strength. [3] [4] [5]

Depending on why you are drinking a protein shake, adding collagen can compound the benefits, especially if you are using it to support muscle gains. You can also add collagen separately if you have a hard time finding a protein powder with this add-in that is low in net carbs. 

Drinking Your Protein the Keto-Friendly Way 

The good news is that a keto diet does allow for protein shakes, but you have to be mindful about the one you choose and what you mix it with. Traditional protein shakes are made with dairy, but simply substituting cow’s milk for unsweetened almond or coconut milk is all you need to ensure you stay in ketosis. Once you’ve found a keto-friendly protein shake mix and the right liquid and add-ins to make it tasty and keep you keto, you’ll have an easy keto meal that’s ready in just a few minutes.

References

1.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Chocolate Whey Isolate Protein Powder, Chocolate. FoodData Central. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1668072/nutrients 

2.

Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for weight loss. The Nutrition Source. (2019, May 22). Retrieved December 14, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/ 

3.

Favazzo, L. J., Hendesi, H., Villani, D. A., Soniwala, S., Dar, Q. A., Schott, E. M., Gill, S. R., & Zuscik, M. J. (2020). The gut microbiome-joint connection: implications in osteoarthritis. Current opinion in rheumatology, 32(1), 92–101. https://doi.org/10.1097/BOR.0000000000000681

4.

Schauss, A. G., Stenehjem, J., Park, J., Endres, J. R., & Clewell, A. (2012). Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 60(16), 4096–4101. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf205295u

5.

Zdzieblik, D., Oesser, S., Baumstark, M. W., Gollhofer, A., & König, D. (2015). Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. The British journal of nutrition, 114(8), 1237–1245. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114515002810

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