With the start of a new year, I’ve watched with the usual fascination as all the diet plans and health products start making a new surge as people once again make a “resolution” to lose weight and get healthier.
I always marvel at how complicated people try to make it. It honestly just doesn’t have to be so.
Anyway, one of the things I’ve been itching to get to is writing this post doing a little comparison of a low carb diet and the keto diet.
Are they the same? What makes them different ? Is one possibly any better than the other?
I hope to offer some educated perspectives to this current trendy topic.
What’s the difference?
A low carb diet is simply that. You can make adjustments in your eating and modestly or greatly cut back on carbs. You become more selective about your carbs and where they come from.
For instance, I can really do without the carbs in cake or chips, while the carbs in an apple or sweet potato offer my body lots of good vitamins and minerals along with those complex carbs all for very few calories.
But hold up.
Not all carbs are equal as you may know. Simple carbs like the ones found in refined sugars meaning…. breakfast cereals, muffins, pastries, chips, cookies, crackers, baked goods, boxed snacks, sodas, sugared drinks, candy, alcohol etc… are ones that should be looked at critically first.
Simple carbohydrates are made up of just one or two sugar molecules. As such, it doesn’t take much for your body to break them down and absorb them (as glucose) into the bloodstream. For this reason, simple carbohydrates raise blood sugar much faster and usually higher than complex carbohydrates.
Often people may find with an awareness of exactly what they consume in a day they will realize those simple carb foods are the ones who need to be reduced in their daily diets. Doing so can almost painlessly lead to a slow steady loss of weight.
Complex carbs ( starches made up of long chains of sugar molecules—are considered good carbs because they take longer to digest and thus don’t spike blood sugars as quickly as simple carbs) are found in good foods like whole grains breads and pastas, legumes, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, low fat yogurt, milk, and tons of good for you fruits and veggies. So many veggies…..
Not only are they good for supporting all systems of your body they provide crucial energy as well. Find my post on carbs here…… https://sassyfitnesschick.com/2017/04/11/carbs-are-not-the-enemy/
Being on a low carb diet doesn’t mean you are on a keto diet although some tend to think that. I hear so many people say it but honestly, many are on just an extremely low carb diet.
That being said, keto is a low carb diet. An extremely low carb diet to the exclusion of many of those healthy, good for you good carbs I mentioned along with most fruits and veggies.
In order to truly follow a ketogenic diet you need to be in a state of ketosis. This simply means your body is burning fatty acids (ketones) for energy instead of carbohydrate stores (glycogen in liver, and glucose in blood) and your carb intake must be at, and stay at, a consistently low level to achieve that.
The levels of ketones produced can be varied depending on daily macros. ( Macro nutrients are the daily protein, carbs and fats you eat) And the amount of carbohydrates consumed is one of the big differences when looking at low carb vs keto.
a ketogenic diet demands specific changes to all three macronutrients. For this reason, it’s hard to recommend a keto diet to someone unless they know how to track their macros or are really serious about learning.
When you have normal levels of ketones in your bloodstream, your brain and the rest of your body are fueled by stored body fat. But the only way to know for sure if you’re in a state of ketosis is confirming it through daily testing.
This can be done through blood, urine, or a breath analyzer test.
Urine strips are perhaps least confirming because they merely show the excess that you’ve eliminated.
Blood and urine strips are also more expensive as they are a one time use.
Breathe and blood tests show more up to the moment ketone levels.
So to clearly state… you could believe you are doing a keto diet but without actually testing for ketone levels and tracking your total macros, you could just be doing an extremely restrictive low carb diet.
Saying you’re doing keto doesn’t really mean you’re actually doing that without evidence to show that you truly have your body in a state of ketosis, this is where your body is actually using the fatty acids for energy and not glucose. Just because you reduce the amount of carbs you eat doesn’t mean you are using body fat for energy.
Lowering carbs can help you lose weight.
If you’ve been consuming more food than your body requires, and a lot of it in forms of the simple carbs we discussed, then lowering those carb levels will contribute to weight loss. You can reduce these carbs that contribute to spiking insulin levels and that produce wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels.
Cutting back can definitely help with those issues, but again, it’s lower carb, not keto, but you will lose weight. Learning to replace those carbs with healthier choices will keep you feeling satisfied while your body adjusts to not having those foods.
If you’re goal is to lose weight but not be in ketosis, then eating plenty of veggies and a healthy dose of exercise will get you to your goals.
For me, when I want to lean out more, I stick to just tons of healthy veggies, fruits, some whole grains as needed and protein. I’m not restrictive and I’m not hungry.
As you can see the differences between low carb and keto is more than “just” carbs.
What can I eat?
With just a low carb diet you have the ability to manage your macros a bit more easily. Low carb with lots of healthy veggies and protein will keep you full and satisfied. You won’t necessarily be overly concerned at carbs in veggies because they will fill you up especially with added protein. Not only that, your body loves all the vitamins and minerals that are loaded into veggies and fruits.
You will be more mindful of carbs found in grains, rice, breads, pastas etc. as well as your simple ( non-essential) carb consumption.
You can however, if you want to, have a small slice of birthday cake at grandmas 90th birthday and know it will knock you out of ketosis because you did so.
That’s kind of a win 😉
If you think the keto diet is something you must do, a typical macro breakout for your daily diet is 25% protein, 70% fats and 5% carbs.
Yes. You are seeing that correctly. 5%.
These are recommended macros for keto. Lowering your carbs to this level will force your body into ketosis meaning it will begin to use fat for energy.
Maybe unwillingly, but it will.
If you choose this path, ideally, you would want to do it in steps as drastically cutting all carbs will make you…. want to eat a wall…
well… maybe you wouldn’t but you might feel ridiculously hungry and all kinds of other awful things from immediate restriction. It’s best to do a gradual reduction to allow your body to prepare for what’s coming.
Another common mistake on this diet is to lower calories while cutting carbs which isn’t the best idea. Lowering carbs will lower calories. Don’t push for both.
So what’s the best choice?
I have a personal opinion, for sure. I wrote a post comparing the keto diet and the DASH diet… you can get a lot of my thoughts and also the comparisons of these two diets in this post… find it here…. https://sassyfitnesschick.com/2017/07/21/keto-and-dash-diet-review/
I’m honestly not a huge supporter of the keto way for lots of reasons. It’s just a hard sell to convince me that a higher fat diet is better than the many, many veggies and fruits and food groups that are eliminated on this diet.
And really, I gave up a long time ago following anything that tells me “foods I can eat and foods I can’t eat” plans. #rebel
And besides, I kinda like bread once in a while…and cake… and eating those things definitely wreaks havoc on the keto plan as it can knock you out of ketosis. Not only that, to many people I know who are on it seem to live for “cheat” days so there’s that thought as well.
Don’t do a diet plan that you look forward to cheating on.
I think going a more low carb approach is less restrictive, easier to maintain, and has a broader range of foods you can consume which leads to less feelings having to do with out or deprivation. Not only that there isn’t the constant manipulation of macros and counting and all that other stuff which seems kinda tedious.
Maintaining a less restrictive diet will give you freedom and let you lose weight as well.
However, we’re all different. One method works for one and not the other. Find what is easiest to live, what let’s you still enjoy life, and what doesn’t leave you feeling left out because you “can’t have” what’s being served.
I still find at the end of the day, balance, moderation, and mindful eating are where it’s at when it comes to weight loss and no one thrives being deprived and hungry.
And don’t forget no matter what “diet” you may pursue, Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, South Beach, gosh there are so many, even my favorite, the old school sensible, moderate eating plan, at the end of the day weight loss occurs because of a calorie deficit and nothing else.
There is no magic diet.
Your best opportunity to be successful is to find the plan that you can easily stick to and is long term sustainable leading to a permanent lifestyle change while achieving weight loss.
Tell me…do you have experience with either of these options? If so, did you have success or have tips to someone considering it?