Pea Protein and Ketogenic Diets
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Pea Protein and Ketogenic Diets—What You Need to Know

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AUTHOR: Cliff Harvey, PhD (Clinical Nutritionist & Researcher)

The ketogenic diet has become, in recent years, one of the most searched diets online and one of the most popular diets for weight loss and because of its benefits to a range of health conditions. Have many questions, such as are peas keto? What are ketogenic diets? Read below to learn all about pea protein and ketogenic diets.

Table of Contents

What are Ketogenic Diets

The ketogenic diet (keto diet) itself is a form of low-carbohydrate, high-fat (and sometimes high-protein) diet. Keto diets are characterized by the expression of ketone bodies in the blood, breath, and urine. This expression of ketones is a functional nutritional ketosis (NK) and this nutritional ketosis is usually defined by levels of ketones (specifically beta-hydroxybutyrate) in the blood of > 0.5 mmol/L.

What is Ketosis?

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis refers to the production of ketone bodies from fats (and some amino acids from protein). These ketone bodies are produced in greater amounts to provide fuel in times of fasting or when carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced. So, they provide a fuel source that can be used by most tissues throughout the body including the brain and nervous system and also provide other benefits such as relaxation of the neurons of the brain, and reduced inflammation and oxidation.

Protein on a Keto Diet

A lot of people drastically reduce protein when following a ketogenic diet. They think that eating higher amounts of protein will cause increased production of glucose (sugar) within the body, a process known as gluconeogenesis, but this idea is unfounded and there are many benefits to be had from following a higher-protein version of a ketogenic diet. Various types of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have been studied, and they typically perform better than high-carbohydrate calorie-restricted diets (no surprise there) and have been used to enhance weight-loss with greater loss of body-fat, and reduced loss of muscle along with improved blood markers of health.1-5

Increased protein on a low-carb diet can be beneficial, resulting in improved satiety (feelings of satisfaction and fullness from eating) and thermogenesis (calorie burning) when compared to equivalent amounts of either carbohydrates or fat.6-10 Higher protein keto-diets have been shown to increase weight loss and provide more satiety than high protein, moderate carb diets.11

Increased protein intakes, irrespective of the type of diet you follow have extensive benefits anyway, ranging from, improved bone health,12 fewer overall health complications,13 greater retentions of muscle and increased fat-loss, strength and power,14-16 and improvements in body-fat, and blood measures of future health risk.17,18

Pea Protein and Ketogenic Diets: Are Peas Keto?

Pea Protein and Ketogenic Diets: Are Peas Keto?

People often don’t think about pea protein when embarking on a keto diet because it is a plant-based protein. Other plant-based proteins can have much higher carbohydrate contents. For example, hemp protein is typically around 25% carbohydrate, and rice protein isolate is around 10% carbohydrate (by weight). A 25-gram serving of pea protein isolate, however, contains around 20 grams of protein with no added sugar and fewer carbohydrates than other plant-based proteins…and exhibits a digestion and absorption rate of more than 89%.19 It is also able to be used by almost everyone, as it is free from the most common allergens, is virtually free from anti-nutrients that can upset digestion, and it is completely vegan. Pea protein also achieves basically identical outcomes for muscle growth and retention compared to the supposed gold standard of whey protein.20

How to Use Pea Protein on a Keto Diet

Remember that increased protein won’t stop you from achieving ketosis and there are considerable benefits from optimizing protein intake.

For a convenient keto meal, try a serving or two of pea protein with a tablespoon of nut butter, non-starchy vegetables, a small handful of berries (which are quite low in carbohydrates), and a dash of a healthy oil (such as coconut, hemp, or flax).


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  2. Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, Painter JE, Shiue H, Sather C, et al. A Reduced Ratio of Dietary Carbohydrate to Protein Improves Body Composition and Blood Lipid Profiles during Weight Loss in Adult Women. The Journal of Nutrition. 2003;133(2):411-7.

  3. Piatti PM, Monti LD, Magni F, Fermo I, Baruffaldi L, Nasser R, et al. Hypocaloric high-protein diet improves glucose oxidation and spares lean body mass: Comparison to hypocaloric high-carbohydrate diet. Metabolism. 1994;43(12):1481-7.

  4. Farnsworth E, Luscombe ND, Noakes M, Wittert G, Argyiou E, Clifton PM. Effect of a high-protein, energy-restricted diet on body composition, glycemic control, and lipid concentrations in overweight and obese hyperinsulinemic men and women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;78(1):31-9.

  5. Labayen I, Diez N, Gonzalez A, Parra D, Martinez J, editors. Effects of protein vs. carbohydrate-rich diets on fuel utilisation in obese women during weight loss. Forum of nutrition; 2002.

  6. Keller U. Dietary proteins in obesity and in diabetes. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 2011;81(23):125-33.

  7. Halton TL, Hu FB. The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23(5):373-85.

  8. Westerterp KR. Diet induced thermogenesis. Nutrition & metabolism. 2004;1(1):5.

  9. Johnston CS, Day CS, Swan PD. Postprandial Thermogenesis Is Increased 100% on a High-Protein, Low-Fat Diet versus a High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet in Healthy, Young Women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2002;21(1):55-61.

  10. Robinson SM, Jaccard C, Persaud C, Jackson AA, Jequier E, Schutz Y. Protein turnover and thermogenesis in response to high-protein and high-carbohydrate feeding in men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1990;52(1):72-80.

  11. Johnstone AM, Horgan GW, Murison SD, Bremner DM, Lobley GE. Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(1):44-55.

  12. Darling AL, Millward DJ, Torgerson DJ, Hewitt CE, Lanham-New SA. Dietary protein and bone health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009.

  13. Cawood AL, Elia M, Stratton RJ. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of high protein oral nutritional supplements. Ageing Research Reviews. 2012;11(2):278-96.

  14. Kim JE, O’Connor LE, Sands LP, Slebodnik MB, Campbell WW. Effects of dietary protein intake on body composition changes after weight loss in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition reviews. 2016;74(3):210-24.

  15. Kim JE, Sands L, Slebodnik M, O’Connor L, Campbell W. Effects of high-protein weight loss diets on fat-free mass changes in older adults: a systematic review (371.5). The FASEB Journal. 2014;28(1 Supplement).

  16. Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR. The Effects of Protein Supplements on Muscle Mass, Strength, and Aerobic and Anaerobic Power in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine. 2015;45(1):111-31.

  17. Altorf – van der Kuil W, Engberink MF, Brink EJ, van Baak MA, Bakker SJL, Navis G, et al. Dietary Protein and Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review. PloS one. 2010;5(8):e12102.

  18. Santesso N, Akl EA, Bianchi M, Mente A, Mustafa R, Heels-Ansdell D, et al. Effects of higher- versus lower-protein diets on health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012;66(7):780-8.

  19. Gausserès N, Mahe S, Benamouzig R, Luengo C, Ferriere F, Rautureau J, et al. [15N]-labeled pea flour protein nitrogen exhibits good ileal digestibility and postprandial retention in humans. The Journal of nutrition. 1997;127(6):1160-5.

  20. Babault N, Païzis C, Deley G, Guérin-Deremaux L, Saniez M-H, Lefranc-Millot C, et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12(1):3.