How to Ensure You're Eating Enough Protein on a Low-Carb Diet — Because It Matters, Too

Photographer: Maria del RioEditorial and internal use approved. OK for Native and co-branded use.Photographer: Maria del RioInternal and Editorial use approved. OK for Native and Co-Branded use.
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

Carbs aren't the only thing you should track on a low-carb diet. A healthy amount of protein will keep you satisfied between meals and help build muscle, both of which are essential for weight loss. But exactly how much protein should you eat?

"I like to look at macronutrients as a see-saw, with protein as the fulcrum. Protein requirements usually stay the same as they normally would when following a low-carb diet, while fat and carbs are on the opposite ends of the see-saw — as carbs go down, fat goes up," Erin Macdonald, a registered dietitian and cofounder of U Rock Girl in Orange County, CA, told POPSUGAR.

There's no universal definition of a low-carb diet, but you'll typically limit carbohydrates to roughly 25 percent of your calories, though it can range from 15 to 35 percent, depending on the person, explained Annie Reed, a registered dietitian in Greenville, SC. (This usually translates to eating fewer than 150 grams of carbs per day.) "The remainder of calories are made up of fat and protein — 40 percent and 35 percent, respectively," she told POPSUGAR.

Once you've determined how many calories you'll need to eat to lose weight, you can simply use these percentages to calculate the breakdown for each nutrient, where 1 gram of carbs or protein is equal to 4 calories and one gram of fat is equal to 9 calories.

However, the amount of protein you need can also vary greatly depending on your level of activity, as eating protein after a hard workout is beneficial in promoting recovery. "People who are more physically active or healing from something, as well as people in the second half of life, need more protein than the general recommendation," Annie B. Kay, a registered dietitian and certified yoga therapist in Pittsfield, MA, told POPSUGAR. Even factors like your sex and weight can shift the breakdown, so it's best to work with a dietitian, who can help you make adjustments as needed.