Low carb vs Keto: Differences & Benefits – find out which diet is better for you! Which helps you lose weight faster? And what about Atkins….?
Low Carb Vs. Keto: Differences & Benefits
If you’ve been looking into a Keto or Low Carb diet, you might be wondering what the differences are between the two.
While a Keto diet is a low carb diet…. a low carb diet isn’t necessarily Keto. Clear as mud, right?
The difference lies mainly in just how many carbs you allow yourself and how much fat you add, with Keto being an extremely low amount of carbs with high fat and Low-Carb being more generous and less fat. In this article, we’ll walk through the differences between a few low carb diets that are popular right now. Plus we’ll talk about how they’ll benefit you!
While I’ve found Keto to be my preferred way of eating, I encourage you to do your research and find out what’s best for you! We are all different, and what makes some folks happy might be too restrictive for others.
Don’t miss my guide to getting started on keto.
What is a Low Carb Diet?
A low carb diet restricts carbs (from things like pasta, bread, higher carb fruits and veggies, and sugars) and emphasizes eating more protein and moderate fats. There is no exact limit for being “low carb” – but a good rule of thumb is to restrict the number of your calories that come from carbs to under 20%- 40% of your daily intake.
If you eat very few calories per day, that number will be different than someone who eats more calories per day. So what does that look like? While it varies, generally speaking, a typical low-carb diet involves restricting your carbs to around 50-150 grams of carbohydrates per day.
This might seem very difficult if you’re used to eating a lot of carbs, but keep in mind that you are able to deduct any dietary fiber from your total carbs, to reach a “net carb” amount. For example: 9 Total Carbs – 2 Grams Dietary Fiber = 7 Net Carbs
How does the Low Carb Diet help with weight loss?
A low carb diet can help with weight loss simply from lowering the number of carbs, processed foods, and caloric intake compared to what the person was consuming before they started. When you eat fewer carbs, your insulin levels drop, which also contributes to weight loss. Low carb dieters may choose to further decrease carbs to speed up weight loss, as well as decreasing calories and adding more physical exercise.
Benefits of a Low Carb Diet
Following a low carb diet can benefit your health in several ways! Weight loss is typically the most desired benefit, but you should also be able to go longer between meals without feeling as hungry because the added emphasis on fats and proteins will make you feel more satiated. Many people have more energy while on a low carb diet as well since they aren’t having constant blood sugar crashes.
If you’re diabetic or borderline, you’ll be happy to know that low carb diets can help you gain more control over insulin levels and blood sugar. For more long term benefits, skip ahead to the last section!
What is the Keto Diet?
A Ketogenic diet is a stricter version of a low carb diet with some modifications. Simply put, it’s a high-fat diet that includes moderate protein and very low carbs with an added emphasis on ketosis. Fun fact – It was initially developed to help people with epilepsy in 1924 and is the most studied diet in history. This Guide to getting started on keto is fantastic for those new to eating a ketogenic diet.
The Ketogenic diet typically involves restricting net carbs to no more than 20 – 25 grams per day while most settle around 20. The main goal of a Keto diet is to put your body into a state of Ketosis. When your body is deprived of carbs, it burns fatty acids for fuel instead – and this metabolic state is called Ketosis. Being in Ketosis has many benefits for weight loss, mental clarity, and overall health! (You can check your ketone to see if you’re in ketosis by using Ketone Testing Strips, or a more accurate – but more pricey Ketone Blood Glucose Monitor that will test the level of ketosis.)
What Are the Benefits of Ketosis on the Keto Diet
The benefits of being in Ketosis are similar to the benefits of doing low carb – but a bit more effective! You’ll enter Ketosis when your body becomes fat-adapted, anywhere from 3-5 days to a week or more into your Keto diet. When that happens you’ll begin to experience a number of benefits, and possibly go on to see long-term benefits as well.
- Fat Loss
- Less Hunger
- More Energy – Some don’t experience more energy kicks until they become fat adapted.
- More Focus
- Break Cycles of Food Addiction
- Reduces cravings for Sweets
Studies show that blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels also were decreased on a 24-week Keto diet. (See the last section of this article for more long-term benefits!)
How do you Lose Weight on Keto?
A lot of people have great success with losing weight on the Keto diet. When your body is deprived of glucose and has to switch up to burning fat for energy, you will see pounds and inches begin to melt away. Over time, your body will continue to burn through old fat stores for fuel. Your body will also burn calories during the process of turning fat into glucose.
The ketones in your body and the healthy fats you consume both help keep you feeling full. All of these things work together to help you lose weight.
You may also help the weight loss along by going longer in between eating and adding physical activity to your routine. See my post about Intermittent Fasting for Beginners to learn more about this secret weapon!
Low Carb Vs Keto: Differences & Benefits
There are three key differences between being low carb and being Keto.
- Keto emphasizes High Fat while Low Carb emphasizes High Protein
On the Keto diet, you’ll want to be careful NOT to eat too much protein because it can be stored as glucose and therefore give your body back its favorite old fuel. It can wind up kicking you out of ketosis, and you’ll no longer be fat-adapted. It’s not fun starting over!
- Keto diets restrict carbs to 20-25 grams or under while Low Carb may allow 50 to 150 grams
Keto diets allow for about 5% of your daily calories to come from carbs, as opposed to 20% with the more liberal low-carb diet.
- Being on the Keto diet means your body enters Ketosis (and remains there!) while being low-carb is more of a vague reduction in carbohydrates.
How is the Keto Diet Different from Atkins?
Okay so we’ve sorted out the difference between Low Carb vs Keto- but what about Atkins?
The Keto Diet was introduced in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy while the Atkins diet has been around since 1972. The same basic principles are at play – low carb, higher protein, and fat – but the Atkins Diet splits into 4 phases:
Induction: During this rapid weight loss phase, eat no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. Eat both high-fat and high-protein foods, with most carbohydrates coming from dark, leafy greens.
Balancing: As you begin getting closer to your goal weight, incorporate more nuts, low-carbohydrate vegetables, and small amounts of fruit.
Fine-tuning: Once you’re close to your goal weight, add more carbohydrates until the weight loss slows down.
Maintenance: Eat more and more high-fiber carbohydrates while keeping an eye on maintaining your weight loss.
Is Low Carb or Keto Better?
This depends on every individual! If you are looking for fast weight loss, and feel like you can restrict your carbs to under 20 net grams per day, then Keto may be a good fit for you. However, it does mean cutting out some foods you may find valuable that are higher in carbs, like some fruits and vegetables. If you look into the Keto diet and decide it’s not right for you, you might want to give low carb a try!
The Keto diet has more precise guidelines, while a low-carb diet is more flexible. If you need a diet that is a little fewer restrictions as you are making adjustments to your diet, it might be a good idea to start with low carb and work your way up!
The benefits are more intense with Keto than with Low Carb, but the restrictions are as well. Think about which option fits into your life and your body’s needs the best when deciding between low carb vs keto.
Is Low Carb or Keto Better for Fat Loss?
You can lose weight doing either a low carbohydrate diet or a Keto diet. In general, people lose weight more quickly when following a Keto diet because it involves more extreme restrictions with the goal of ketosis. When your body is in ketosis, it uses fat for fuel. However, over a longer period, both diets can deliver excellent weight loss results.
Studies have shown that individuals following a ketogenic diet report less hunger and reduce cravings, which led to significant weight loss in comparison to moderate calorie restriction.
What are the long term health benefits of Low Carb vs. Keto
Studies have shown that both of these types of low carb diets may help with the following, but a Ketogenic Diet may offer more long term health benefits such as:
- better gut health & digestion
- lower blood sugar
- less risk of heart disease
- lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- reduced risk of metabolic syndrome
- improvement in high blood pressure
- reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- lowered blood cholesterol
- lowered triglycerides
- improved immunity
- better hormone regulation
Ketosis can even lead to further health benefits like better brain function and PCOS – read more about the Benefits of the Keto Diet here!
Low Carb Vs Keto In Summary…
To summarize, a low carb diet is an effective way to lose weight that emphasizes restricting carbs while adding more healthy fats and proteins. A Keto diet is a stricter low carb diet that leads to a state of Ketosis. It emphasizes high fat intake, moderate protein intake, and extremely low carbs. Weight loss results on Keto are typically more dramatic and happen faster. Both diets may lead to short term and long term health benefits including lowered blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides and a lowered risk of diabetes and heart disease.
It’s always a good idea to consult with your physician before starting any new diet.
If this has helped you – I’d love for you to share this post about Low Carb Vs Keto: Differences & Benefits with anyone you know considering a low carb or Keto diet!
More Keto 101 Resources:
- What’s the difference between Keto and Low-Carb?
- How to meal prep on the Keto Diet
- Intermittent fasting for beginners
- What is Ketosis and what are the signs you’re in it?
- What does it mean to be fat-adapted?
- Leg Cramps on Keto: Causes and Solutions