You may be living under a rock if you’ve never heard of the Ketogenic or Keto diet. Especially as of recently, the diet has been picking up a lot of steam. Even if the diet has been around for quite a while. Something else that’s also been around for a while is protein powder. You know where I’m going with this. Can you use protein shakes on a Ketogenic diet? Is protein powder low-carb? Well, after doing some much-needed research, the answer is very clear and obvious!
What Is Keto?
If you’re not sure what Keto is, the Ketogenic diet is a way of eating that substantially cuts down the number of carbohydrates you eat in a day. With what purpose? The goal is to stop using carbs as a source of energy and begin to use your stores of fat instead.
Our body’s first source of energy comes from carbohydrates, and once they run out, they begin to use fat to keep us going. This state of the body has a name to it, known as ketosis. It’s called ketosis because water-soluble molecules called ketones begin to form in your bloodstream from fat burning.
The reduction in carbs makes a lot of sense when trying to get into ketosis. If your body has no carbs to use up, it will go straight to fat for energy. It’s a strategy that makes logical sense and works in practice. How do I know? Well, I’ve actually tried Keto, and to be honest, it was probably one of the best decisions of my life. If you’d like to see my journey, click here to check it out, it’s worth reading about if you’d like to change your life.
Are Protein Powders Low-Carb?
Now we face the question at hand. I’ve given you a brief enough lecture about the Ketogenic diet, so continuing is now possible. Not to say that the Keto diet is the only diet that cuts carbohydrates for weight loss. Other popular diets like the Paleo Diet and general low-carb diet all have the same strategy of lowering carbs in one’s diet.
So, would drinking protein powder be okay on a type of low-carb diet? Well, to answer this question, I’ll give you a demonstration to help you decide. I’ll grab three different types of protein powders and be putting their nutrition label up to compare. We’ll observe the carbohydrates amount and see if they fit the diet plan! Let’s begin with the most popular protein powder type by far on the market, dairy protein.
Dairy Protein Carbs
As the most popular protein powder on the market, dairy protein has two heads representing them in the industry, whey, and casein. You may be pretty familiar with whey protein, but casein protein is one that many people have never heard of. I’ll give brief descriptions of both and see how their carbohydrates fair in a low-carb diet.
Whey Protein Carbs
For each protein type, we’ll be looking at a popular protein powder on the market that you can buy right now. Whey protein is a dairy protein that is a byproduct created from the process of curdling milk or making cheese. I have an entire article on the lengthy process of making whey protein right here if you’d like to check it out, it’s pretty impressive.
However, whey is distinct from its’ brother casein because of the timing of the protein released into the bloodstream. The amino acids, the building blocks, of protein, must enter your bloodstream to travel around your body to where it’s needed. Whey protein spikes into your bloodstream immediately after digestion casein slowly trickles. Either timing has it’s benefits and it’s drawbacks.
Above is actually the protein powder I drink regularly, Bodybuilding.com’s Signature Whey Protein. The number of carbs per scoop is only 3 grams in total. In a keto diet, the maximum amount of carbs you’re allowed to eat is 50 grams. This protein powder would fit perfectly in a low-carb diet.
Not only that, but the carbohydrates have only 1 gram of sugar. The ingredients that BB.com is very transparent, and with all of the accumulated, 3 grams of carbs are produced. It’s safe to say that whey protein is definitely low-carb.
Casein Protein Powder
Next up in the dairy protein family is casein protein. Whey’s brother is not as popular as casein for several reasons, which include pricing, taste, and general preference. However, just because it’s not as well known doesn’t mean its benefits should be neglected.
I mentioned that casein protein releases amino acids slowly into your bloodstream. It gives way for the potential of you having protein at your disposal for up to 9 hours. This means you could be snoozing and still be building muscle from protein repairing your muscle tissues. Loss of muscle is much less likely to happen when taking casein right before bed, which is the optimal time to take it.
Right above we have Dymaztixe Elite Casein Protein, one of the best caseins on the market right now. The company Dymatize emphasis the use of “Real Science” to better improve the quality of their supplements for consumers. The total amount of carbs per scoop in this casein protein is only 2 grams, zero of them being sugar.
That’s not only less than whey protein’s carb amount, but it fits perfectly for a keto/low-carb diet. It’s safe to say that dairy protein powders pass the low-carb test. Whichever one you pick will fit nicely into your diet, fewer carbs, more protein.
Vegan Protein Carbs
We arrive at one of the up and coming protein powder types in the industry right now, the vegan protein powder. The protein powder market forecasters predict that the growth of the vegan protein powder market should grow significantly. The value will undoubtedly go up as people start to turn vegan and become more health-conscious.
Vegan protein powders resort to using protein sources that are mostly plant-based. Some people may find it hard to believe that any plants provide solid protein, but it is all too true. Sources like peas, brown rice, and hemp are all plants that get used for the making of vegan protein powder. The vegan protein powder I chose has a good mix of all three plant-based protein sources. It’s by PEScience, and it’s their Vegan Series Select Protein. PEScience has its standards right in the name, quality through science. They take a lot of time and a lot of research to craft their supplements. The carbs per scoop here add up to 6 grams, which, once again, is very minimal.
It might be a little more than the two or three grams whey and casein have in their scoops, but 6 grams is still nothing to worry about. The protein powder can still be easily incorporated into a low-carb diet, as it doesn’t use up many that many carbs of your 50 grams of the day.
Mass Gainer Carbs
Lastly, we have a distinct type of protein powders that is not similar to rest. I refer to mass gainers as “super protein powders” or “protein powder on steroids.” Why? Well, you’ll soon understand why after taking a look at the nutrition label at the one I have below. Mass gainers are taken by a certain group of people; hardgainers.
A hardgainer is someone who struggles with putting weight, let alone muscle, due to their hyper-fast metabolism. They convert food into energy way too fast which makes it impossible for them to preserve muscle on their body. If a hardgainer would like to build muscle, the amount of calories they need to consume needs to skyrocket.
The average person consumes 2,000 calories a day, which varies a lot depending on your body type, goal, etc. Hardgainers, in order to build muscle, sometimes need to consume double that amount, maybe even triple. Consuming 6,000 calories a day sounds like quite a pain, which is why the most dedicated are the ones who build muscle.
Above, we have the mass gainer from long time company Optimum Nutrition, their Serious Mass Gainer. ON has been around since the 80s, and their developing high-quality products is going to keep them in the game for a while. In this nutrition label, we see a break in the trend from the other protein powders.
Still going off the carbs in one scoop, the number of carbs will be at 127 grams. Compared to the other three, that knocks them out of the park. It also knocks out mass gainers from being utilized in low-carb diets. The serving size is actually two scoops, meaning you’d be consuming 254 grams of carbs. To only be limited to 50 grams of carbs per day, there’s no possibility of using a mass gainer in a keto/low-carb diet.
In conclusion, is protein powder low carb? The majority of them are. Protein powders like whey, casein, and even vegan have minimal amounts of carbs. They can be easily incorporated into a Keto/low-carb diet. However, mass gainers are protein powders that cannot be used in those diets as their carbohydrate amount is tremendous. The table below shows which of the powders is low-carb friendly and which aren’t.
Got any questions? Leave them down below, along with comments you may have!