This article is an addendum to my last post Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 1. If you have not read that article, please do so before proceeding. I intended to discuss the information below in that post, but I forgot. Special thanks to Raymund Edwards of the Facebook group Optimal Ketogenic Living for bringing it to my attention.
Okay, so I want to be absolutely clear: I am not recommending that anyone practicing a Zero Carb diet should eat only their minimum requirement for protein. Eating too little protein on a Zero Carb diet can be just as detrimental as eating too much protein.
While Dr. Ron Rosedale is a proponent of eating only your minimum daily requirement, it is important to understand that he prescribes a Low Carb High Fat diet, not a Zero Carb diet. This means that his patients can get part of their nutrients from very low carb fruits and vegetables. However, people who eat a Zero Carb diet must get all of their nutrients from meat and other animal products.
There are very few nutrients in the fat portion of meat. While fat does have some fat soluble vitamins, it has no appreciable amount of water soluble B vitamins or minerals. It is the lean portion of the meat that contains most of the nutrients. So, restricting protein too much will also restrict total nutrient intake and, thus, compromise overall health and nutritional status.
This is why children who eat a very High Fat Ketogenic diet to manage their epilepsy are given vitamin and mineral supplements. 90% of their calories come from fat, and it is impossible for them get enough essential nutrients from the other foods they eat to meet their nutritional needs. But, in their case, the benefits of the high fat diet outweigh the nutrient shortfall, so supplements are used to make up the difference.
It is important, therefore, to find a happy medium with your protein intake. Again, I believe that our best examples for optimal protein consumption on a Zero Carb diet was provided by Stefansson and Donaldson. Both of these men ate and recommended a protein intake of between 100-140 gm per day.
During the year long Bellvue study, Stefansson showed no sign of nutritional deficiencies, not even for vitamin C. And Donaldson never once mentions the need to prescribe nutritional supplements to his patients while they followed his dietary program.
So, optimal protein on a Zero Carb diet is not about eating the least amount of protein that your body needs to function because – to reiterate – if you restrict protein too much, you restrict the lean portion of meat; and if you restrict the lean portion of meat too much, you restrict essential nutrients; and if you restrict essential nutrients too much, you risk compromising your total health profile.
But, optimal protein on a Zero Carb diet is also not about eating unlimited quantities of protein. Too much protein is no better than too little. You do not need 200+ grams of protein per day, and eating that much on a regular basis has its own set of potentially negative effects. Like everything else in life, it is about finding balance.
This is why fat consumption is the key to being successful on a Zero Carb diet long term. If 75-80% of your calories come from fat, like it did for Stefansson and Donaldson, it is unlikely that you will eat too much protein. Fat is the macronutrient that provides satiety. If you eat enough fat with your lean, you will not be so inclined to overeat protein.
Just don’t go overboard in the opposite direction either unless you have a really good medical reason such as epilepsy, diabetes, or cancer management. And if you do need to keep your protein at the bare minimum due to a serious medical condition, then it probably would be wise to incorporate nutritional supplements into your program.
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