At first glance, it seems like the ketogenic diet and low-carb diet are very similar. After all, they both require carb-cutting and have been proven to help with weight loss. However, the ketogenic, or keto for short, diet is a much more restrictive plan for eating and involves limiting your consumption of carbs, as well as eating moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of fat.
The keto diet causes your body to be triggered into a state of ketosis, where it uses fat instead of glucose for energy. On the other hand, a low-carb diet simply limits the amount of carbs consumed, especially simple or refined carbs, such as sugary foods, bread, and pasta. When you stick to a low-carb diet, your blood glucose is regulated, but it does not cause ketosis. Therefore, your body uses glucose first to produce energy and then moves on to using fat to produce energy instead.
Before you start any new diet plan, it’s important that you take the time to understand your body and the calories and nutrients needed for it to function effectively. Ideally, you should consult with your medical provider or a dietician first.
In this article, we’ll take the time to explore the differences between the keto diet and a low-carb diet. This will equip you with the information you need to decide which one is best for you and can help you meet your goals.
Keto Diet Explained
A keto diet is based on decreasing the number of carbs you are consuming and increasing the number of healthy fats you are consuming. The keto diet is fairly restrictive and it’s important to understand that while the keto diet is always low-carb, the reverse is not always true. The keto diet requires that you get 70% of your daily caloric intake from fat, 20% from protein, and 10% from carbs.
Low Carb Diet Explained
A low-carb diet follows the same idea of replacing carbs with veggies, protein, and healthy fats. Carbs are much easier for the body to digest, but they don’t give you the essential nutrients your body needs to grow and develop.
How are keto and low-carb diets similar?
There are several similarities between keto and low-carb diets. First of all, the same objective applies to both: weight loss. However, the keto diet is a subcategory of a low-carb diet. Low-carb is the umbrella that covers a variety of diets.
Basically, a low-carb diet is relative. There are no specific requirements for carbs that you should or should not consume unless you’re following a specific diet plan, such as Dukan or Atkins.
When you go low carb, you’re likely not eating as much fat as you do when trying to trigger your body into ketosis. Plus, you’re likely to be eating a lot of lean proteins to help you stay satiated and veggies to increase energy.
Both keto and low-carb diet plans have some obvious health benefits associated with them as well. One study in the BMJ showed that going low carb led to remission in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Another study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology stated that a keto diet could improve heart health. Additional research in the Frontiers of Neuroscience stated that the keto diet can be used to treat epilepsy and prevent seizures. This was first used in the 1920s.
How are keto and low-carb diets different?
The primary difference between keto and low-carb diets is that your carbohydrate consumption will differ. On the keto diet, you’re restricted to no more than 50 grams of carbs per day. On the other hand, a low carb diet allows you to eat up to 150 grams of carbs per day.
Another difference between the two is the protein consumption. Low carb diets typically require a lot of protein, while the keto diet limits your protein consumption to 20 to 22% of your total caloric intake. Additionally, keto requires higher levels of fat compared to low-carb diets. This is to compensate for the reduced protein and carbs.
If your goal is to build muscle, a low-carb diet plan could be the better option for you because your body requires glucose to repair muscle.
Many people believe that a low-carb diet is easier to transition to from a typical diet and can make it easier to transition into a keto diet. Keto is also quite popular with athletes and marathon runners because their bodies are “fat-adapted” and it allows them to maintain endurance longer without requiring carbs to refuel.
However, there are some unpleasant side effects associated with both. First, transitioning to either one can be a process- but more so with the keto diet. When you first begin a low-carb diet, you may feel weak or have constipation due to the impact on your micronutrient consumption. If you’re new to keto, you may experience what is known as the “keto flu”, which includes lack of motivation, brain fog, headaches, fatigue, and irritability.
Typically, the “keto flu” will only last for about a week or so- but some have reported their symptoms lasting for a month. Therefore, it’s important that you mentally prepare yourself and make sure that you are in touch with a professional that can help guide you before you get started on your keto diet plan.
Which is Best: Keto or Low-Carb?
Both the keto diet and the low-carb diet can help you lose weight. Therefore, it is up to you and your medical provider to determine which is best for you and your body based on your goals. If you want a physique that is lean but muscular, you may want to opt for the low-carb diet. However, if you prefer a physique that is slim, you may be better off on the keto diet. Either way, make sure that you do your research and consult with your medical provider and/or a dietician to help you transition into this new way of eating.
Ayren Jackson-Cannady. “The Dukan Diet.” WebMD, WebMD, 11 Dec. 2013, www.webmd.com/diet/az/dukan-diet.
D’Andrea Meira, Isabella, et al. “Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy: What We Know so Far.” Frontiers in Neuroscience, Vol. 13, no. 5, 29 Jan. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6361831/, 10.3389/fnins.2019.00005.
Goldenberg, Joshua Z, et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Low and Very Low Carbohydrate Diets for Type 2 Diabetes Remission: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Published and Unpublished Randomized Trial Data.” BMJ, Vol. 372, 13 Jan. 2021, p. m4743, 10.1136/bmj.m4743.
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