If you are trying to deciding whether to opt for a low carb or keto for weight loss you are likely to be having a bit of a dilemma. I see many people in some of the online health groups asking which is the best diet to follow and I can see that there is a lot of confusion over the diets.
It’s important to know that the keto diet and low carb diet are two different diets. Both diets involve restricting the amount and type of carbs you eat to achieve weight loss. So, what exactly makes the keto diet different from low carb diets? And should you go for low carb or keto for weight loss?
Related reading: Keto Diet Versus Low Fat Diet For Weight Loss
In this article I’ll explain the difference between these two diets so you will hopefully get a better understanding about which diet should work best for you if losing weight is your goal.
What is a Low Carb Diet?
Given the popularity that the keto diet receives these days, a lot of people are already familiar with this high-fat, very low-carb diet. Yet, not a lot of people are familiar with the various low carb diets. In fact, when they hear of the low carb diet, they will immediately associate it with the keto diet.
Low carb diets have already been around for decades. But they come in various forms. Some of the most popular examples of a low carb diet are the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet. Both diets limit carb intake, especially refined carbs such as pasta and white bread.
The amount of carbohydrate allowed for a low carb diet will depend on the type of diet. For instance, the Atkins Diet is divided into four different phases. Phase 1 would require followers to cut out almost all carbs, eating only 20 grams of net carbs per day, mainly coming from vegetables.
Related reading: How Carbohydrates Contribute To Weight Gain
A low-carb diet is generally used for losing weight. However, some low-carb diets may have health benefits aside from weight loss, such as reducing blood pressure, controlling blood sugar levels, and lowering the risk of heart diseases.
How Does a Low Carb Diet Differ from the Keto Diet?
In order to make the best decision on whether you should choose low carb or keto for weight loss, it’s important to understand the differences between the two.
First of all, the keto diet is more restrictive compared to low carb diets. One of the most important requirements in a keto diet is to remain in ketosis. That may mean that your carbohydrate intake remains at no more than 20 grams per day although some people do manage to increase their carbohydrate intake from time to time without affecting ketosis.
Related reading: Modified Keto Diet – A Better Way to Lose Weight?
Although 20 is the same amount of carbs that the Atkins Diet would require, this will only apply to the first phase of the diet. As you move towards the third phase, you can add about 10 grams of carbs to your diet each week.
Related reading: Best Carbs to Eat for Weight Loss
Another significant difference is that the keto diet has strict macro requirements. With keto, 70% of your daily calories should come from healthy fats, 20% will come from protein, while the remaining 10% comes from carbs. This is what’s needed for you to maintain ketosis which acts as an alternative energy source to glucose.
Related reading: How to Calculate Macros for Weight Loss
To give you a better idea of how low the carbs are in this way of eating the typical American diet consists of at least 50% carbohydrates. Many or these are refined carbohydrates which spike your blood sugar and is not good for your health.
Related reading: No Added Sugar Diet For Immense Health Benefits
On the other hand, if you go for a low carb diet, you may chose to adhere to different levels of carb intakes depending on your aim.
According to Kris Gunnars, a nutrition researcher with a bachelor’s degree in medicine, in an article for Health Line the various levels of carbs for a low carb diet might be as follows:
100–150 grams. This level of carbs is used for maintenance of weight once you are at the level you want. It is also the amount you may need to eat if you do high-intensity exercise.
50–100 grams. This amount of carb is better for steady weight loss or weight maintenance.
Under 50 grams. This is the best level for fast weight loss. At this level you can eat plenty of low carb vegetables but limit fruit intake to low carb fruit like berries.
So you see there is a certain amount of leeway with a low carb diet.
Low Carb or Keto For Weight Loss?
Given the differences mentioned above, should you choose to follow the low carb or keto for weight loss?
Related reading: How Much Weight Can You Lose on Keto?
The answer will mainly depend on whatever works best for you. For most healthy individuals, they can do better with a low carb diet for weight loss since it’s not so restricted.
Unlike keto, this diet will not require that you put your body into the state of ketosis. Instead, you simply have to watch your carb consumption and avoid foods that are high in sugar and starches.
On the other hand some people prefer the keto diet since it has helped them to lose weight fast and very easily. What’s more, the diet encourages followers to load up on fats, which is what most people would prefer.
They can still eat their favorite food in a low carb form while reaping the health benefits of keto, which include weight loss.
Want to get started on a Keto Diet? Check out my 7 Day Keto Jumpstart Program
Related reading: Benefits of Fat for the Keto Diet
However, some people find the keto diet too restrictive and difficult for to sustain for the long-term.
Writing on Medium.com Dr Bill Cole states:
Some of our patients will do a 5:2 program, where five days a week they will be in Ketosis or following that low carb existence. And then two days a week, they might boost it up to that more moderate level of 100 grams of carbohydrates per day
Both the keto diet and low carb diets are effective for weight loss and yield many health benefits. But when it comes to deciding whether you should go for low carb or keto for weight loss, you should choose the diet that you believe you can sustain in the long run.
There’s no point in losing weight if you cannot maintain it for the long-term. It has to become a lifestyle and not a short term diet.
You can start with the keto diet for that quick weight loss but bear in mind that it comes with some side effects, especially in the initial phase when your body starts adapting to the ketosis phase.
Once you’ve lost the weight you could ease off the very restrictive level if carbs and see how many carbs you can eat without putting weight back on. However, if you find it very restrictive, you can go for the low carb diet.
Some people like to cycle on and off the keto diet. They follow the keto diet until they reach their weight loss goal and improve any other health issues then have a break from it eating a more normal diet but a healthy one.
If you have any particular health problems it’s a good idea to discuss the various diets with a knowledgeable doctor, naturopath or nutritionist before embarking on either diet.
Author bio: Sandy Halliday is a former nurse, Holistic Nutritionist & Health Coach. She is passionate about health and loves to share health information online through her blogs, reports, guides and ebooks.