High-Protein Diet vs. Ketogenic Diet

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

Imge of High-Protein Diet vs. Ketogenic Diet



Low-carb, high-protein, low-fat… when it comes to eating plans, the most effective macro distributions can vary according to your goals. Both the high-protein and ketogenic plans are among the most popular available on the market, so you may be wondering how they compare and which is right for you.

So, which is better, higher-protein or keto? Depending on your goals and lifestyle, the answer may be different. To make the right decision, in this article, you will learn all about both diets and how to use them most effectively. In the end, you will be able to choose the one that fits best for you.  


What is the high-protein diet?

There are a couple different ways to define it.

In one approach, a high-protein program is when you consume over 30% of your daily calories coming from protein. 

Another recommendation is measured in grams. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), this diet could also be classified as consuming 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. On average, this could be 30-40% of the total calories. 

You can achieve this by consuming foods like chicken, meat, fish, seafood, tofu, and protein shakes. 

The remaining macros are based on the percentage that you have of protein. For example, a common distribution might be 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fats, or even 30% carbs, 40% protein, and 30% fats. The distribution depends highly on your goals and exercise levels. 

One of the benefits is that you can combine it with a ketogenic plan. However, you cannot increase the protein too much (don’t go over 30-35% on a high-protein ketogenic diet) since a large intake could be converted into glucose, negatively affecting ketosis. 


Similarities between high-protein and keto 

Weight loss

Proteins and fats take longer to digest in the stomach, which gives you an increased sensation of fullness throughout the day. Thanks to this satiating effect, in most cases people often have a reduction in their caloric intake (caloric deficit), which leads to weight loss. 
Both diets have compelling evidence when it comes to losing weight. 


If you find yourself constantly looking for something to snack on, following either one of these plans can help. 
While at the beginning of keto, you might experience an increase in your food cravings, they should go away. Thanks to the increased satiety on both diets mentioned above, you will feel fuller for longer, which can help you break the pattern of habitual snacking. 

Chronic disease

Both ways of eating can help with chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, mainly due to weight loss but also because of improved diet quality if you follow the healthiest version of the plan. This requires a low intake of highly processed foods and saturated fats.

Research shows that it is possible to significantly decrease high blood pressure with either diet (through weight loss, increased intake of vegetables and and reduction of salt). With a reduction in highly processed foods (which are typically high-carb foods), many chronic illnesses can be improved. 


Differences between a high-protein diet vs. keto

Macronutrient distribution

One of the most significant differences between these diets is the macronutrients composition. On a higher-protein plan, you have an increase in the total protein intake. This means that you can end up having a higher carb intake (as high as 40%). 

On the other hand, in a keto diet, fats are increased (70-80%), while protein remains in a moderate intake (20%). 
You can always combine both plans, but you need to be careful, as mentioned before, to avoid overeating proteins and getting knocked out of ketosis. 


Depending on the type of exercise you do, one diet might be better than the other. For example, bodybuilders may benefit from more protein, since this can aid in muscle building. 

On the other hand, for endurance athletes (like marathon runners), where proteins are not as essential, a ketogenic diet might be a better option. 


Benefits of a high-protein diet and keto

While they are somewhat different, both plans can have several similar benefits. Here is a list of the most common benefits you may get when switching to either one of these eating patterns. 

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced cravings
  • Improved glucose levels
  • Decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Increased satiety levels 
  • Better quality of sleep 
  • Reduction in inflammation 

Keep in mind that results vary from person to person, and are impacted by factors including the foods you eat, how much you exercise, and your medical history. 


Side effects of a high-protein diet vs. keto

Both diets have similar side effects, though you may experience more when following a ketogenic plan. Here is a list of common symptoms: 

  • Low-carb flu (only in keto). During the first few days, you might experience fatigue, headaches, increased hunger, and a foggy brain. 
  • Constipation (both). With a reduction in carbs or increase in proteins, you might decrease the consumption of fiber, which often leads to constipation. 
  • Nutrient deficiency (both). If you don’t have diversity in the foods permitted in each diet, you might experience nutritional deficiencies. Make sure to have different foods throughout the day and week. 
  • Reduced athletic performance (keto). While your body adapts to ketones, you might experience a reduction in your performance. Thus, during the first couple of days, you might want to reduce the intensity of your workouts. 


Keto vs. high-protein foods 

Another significant difference between these diets is the foods that you can eat. In a higher-protein plan, the foods permitted depend in large part on whether the remaining macros (carbs or fats) are increased or decreased. 

For example, if you are also aiming for more fat, the foods are going to resemble those from a ketogenic diet, though they may be eaten in different quantities. On the other hand, if you plan to have an increased carb intake, you might end up consuming more carb-based foods. 

In the following table, you can compare the foods permitted (✓) and not allowed (X) in both of these eating patterns. 

Beans and legumes In moderation
Condiments and sauces

✓ (low-carb)

Dairy ✓ (low-carb)
Sugar-free drinks
Sugar-sweetened beverages X
Alcoholic drinks ✓ (low-carb) In moderation
Fish and seafood
Fruits In moderation
Grains and starches In moderation
Herbs and spices ✓ (low-carb)
Meat and poultry
Nuts and seeds
Oils and fats
Processed foods ✓ (low-carb)
Sugar-free sweeteners
Natural sweeteners


White and brown sugars X
Starchy vegetables In moderation
Non-starchy vegetables


Ultimately, the type that has more restriction is the ketogenic diet. While you can still consume foods that are carb-based, you need to be careful so you don’t go overboard with your daily carbs. If you have any doubts about whether a food is keto-friendly or not, you can check the following list.

A higher-protein diet is more permissive. As long as you manage to stay within your macros, then you can include almost any food. Still, it’s recommended that you avoid high-carb processed foods since they can increase your carb intake without you noticing.  


Which is cheaper?

Meat, fish, and seafood are often the most expensive part of a grocery list, so a high-protein diet may be more expensive than keto. However, low-carb products (like replacements for bread, chips, or other processed foods) can also add to costs. 

In the end, your grocery bill depends a lot on where you buy your products. If you want to save on groceries, buy produce that is in season, avoid expensive carb alternatives, and try getting local foods from your farmer’s market.


Which one is healthier?

A ketogenic diet might be a healthier option for people with glucose intolerance or PCOS. It can help you stay away from empty calories from high-sugar and high-carb foods, and it encourages you to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, such as with low-carb versions of pizza (made from cauliflower) and pasta (made from zucchini). 

For certain types of athletes, a diet with more protein might be the better option when it comes to body composition results. This way of eating is also a more balanced approach, which can make it easier to get a variety of different nutrients throughout the day. If you don’t want to give up foods like pasta, pizza, bread, or rice, this approach may suit you well. 

Ultimately it depends on which diet you find more sustainable and easier to follow. Remember to always add a variety of veggies and fruits to get different nutrients. 


Bottom line 

Both diets have compelling evidence when it comes to weight loss, managing chronic illness, and reducing cravings. If you are an athlete, you might want to consider a higher protein rather than lower carb, but it depends on the type of training you do. 

Choose the plan that you can follow for a long time. You’ll get better results when you can incorporate your new diet into your regular lifestyle.