High-Protein Low-Carb Fast Food: What Are Your Options?

A burger here, some nuggets there and sub sandwiches in between meetings – this kind of diet can be the norm for people with a busy schedule, and it can seriously pack on the pounds. Most fast food is loaded up with carbohydrates and regular consumption can become a huge detriment to your diet and your body.

Whether you’re starting up the ketogenic diet, are in a cutting phase or you’re simply trying to shed a bit of weight, cutting down your carbohydrate intake while still getting that much needed protein can make a big difference in the way you look and feel. But first, let’s take a look at why all of the horror stories you’ve heard about carbohydrates have merit, and why carb intake is worth keeping an eye on.

Why Go High-Protein Low-Carb?

About Carbs

“So I’m taking in a few carbs here and there, what’s the big deal?” Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to cut every single carbohydrate out of your diet; in fact, you need carbs for energy.

If you have a photoshoot, special event (or a hot date) coming up, carbs can be manipulated to make you look your best (loading and de-loading). But, if you’re taking in a large amount of carbohydrates on a regular basis, you will gain weight.

Your body only needs a certain amount of carbs (300g recommended daily value, slightly more if you’re bulking). If you eat more carbs than your body needs for energy, your body will store them as fat. That means that even if you’re keeping your fat intake low, if you have a high carb intake your body will take them on and store them as fat.

About Protein

As far as protein goes, your body needs protein to rebuild your muscles after a workout (and daily use). If your body isn’t taking in enough protein to satiate your muscles, your body will enter a catabolic state and start degrading your muscle tissue for use as energy.

Getting enough protein in your diet means maintaining an anabolic state in your body. Think of anabolism as constructive metabolism. Anabolism takes the proteins and other hormones in your body to rebuild, repair and maintain body systems, including your skeletal muscles (the ones you grow by working out).

Fast food isn’t the best choice for delivering this protein to your body while keeping the carb count low; but, all’s not lost. There are some options out there that can get you by when time is short and there is much to be done. Here are some high protein low carb fast food options so you can maintain your hustling, bustling lifestyle without the guilt (and extra pounds).

Although it isn’t what you think of first, meal replacement shakes with high protein and low-carbs also qualify as “fast food” and are something to consider.

High-Protein Low-Carb Fast Food Options


Whenever the topic of fast food is brought up, burgers are usually the first food to be dismissed as unhealthy. While it’s true that excessive toppings and cheese can push the topic, generally burgers aren’t that bad, especially without the bun.

If you’re a regular burger-er and you can’t quite stand cutting them out of your diet, simply get your burger without the bun (and cut back on the cheese). This cuts carbs dramatically, and beef patties are high in protein.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries have historically been comfortable with the no-bun option, as well as several other burger joints like In N Out and Arby’s.


Sandwiches are mostly carbs, especially sub sandwiches. However, this can be worked around by getting your sandwich contents wrapped in lettuce. Lettuce wraps are a much more body-friendly option to the classic subs you would get at Subway or Quiznos.

If you’re looking to cut carbs, bread is the first place to look into. Simply cutting a good portion of the bread out of your diet drastically reduces the amount of carbs you’re bringing in. Substituting grilled chicken for breaded chicken on your sandwiches will also cut down your carb intake.


Most fast food places nowadays offer a few options in terms of salads. As long as you’re not getting breaded chicken or a heaping portion of croutons, any salad should be fine. Just to be safe, it’s good practice to get on the website of your favorite fast food joint and look up their nutritional information (some fast food salads can be a little heavy on the carb side).

Feel free to load up your salads with meat and unsalted nuts, as we’re aiming to keep the protein high. Fast food places like Wendy’s, Subway and even convenience stores like CVS have generally have decent options in the way of salads.


If some of your frequented fast food places have low-carb high-protein sides, don’t shy away from skipping the entrée and going to town on them. Sides of meat, beans, fruits and vegetables can be combined for a satisfying meal that won’t weigh you down. While remaining low carb, some of these options (beans and meat, in particular) are high in protein.

Taco Bell (yes, Taco Bell) has several sides that can be combined for a fraction of what a regular meal would cost.


Have a favorite wrap or burrito place? Tortillas, though thin, are loaded with carbohydrates. Instead of having your burrito or wrap enclosed in a tortilla, you can skip the carbs and get your meal in a bowl. This is pretty common at fast food places like Chipotle and Roti, so you won’t have to worry about the side-eye of a surprised cashier.

Final Thoughts

We all know that fast food isn’t going to be the best option for meeting your macronutrient requirements. Some of us, however, rely on it for its convenience and cost-effectiveness. If you’re looking to cut carbs and maintain a high protein intake, there are some options for you. Making a few simple changes to your fast food habits and adhering to the tips discussed above will make a big difference in how you look without a complete lifestyle switch.

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