Is Keto or Atkins Better?

LOW CARB DIETS

When searching for low-carb diets, the two that you are most likely to come across are Ketogenic and Atkins diets.

They both restrict your carbohydrate intake, so what else could be different? The truth is that there are some key differences to be aware of before you make a decision, and choosing the wrong one could be not optimal for your health.

We’ve broken down the main differences and similarities between the Ketogenic Diet and Atkins diets, and which one clearly outweighs the other.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Despite a sudden growth in popularity, the Ketogenic diet (or keto diet as it is commonly known) has been around for years with its origins being tracked back to the 1920’s as a treatment option for epilepsy.

Since then, it has grown in popularity due to its other amazing proven health benefits, such as weight loss, hormone balance, blood sugar control and more.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat low in carbohydrate diet with moderate protein intake. Most calories on the keto diet are broken down:

  • 70 to 80% of your daily calories from fat
  • 20 to 25% of your daily calories from protein
  • Only 5 to 10% of your daily calories from carbohydrates (usually between 20-25g net cabs per day)

The principle behind the ketogenic diet is that the body needs to enter a metabolic state known as ketosis. This occurs when you switch your fuel source from carbohydrates to fat.

Ketones are a byproduct that occur naturally when your body starts breaking down fat for energy when you change to a keto lifestyle.

Ketones are a cleaner and more efficient fuel source than glucose as it’s processed quicker and doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes.

So how does it work?

When you restrict your carbohydrate intake your body starts to look for another source of fuel; fat.  Your liver starts to convert stored fat (glycogen) into ketones. Then, it can be processed into energy for your cells.

PROS AND CONS OF KETOGENIC DIET

PROS

  • The high-fat, high-protein foods make you feel more satisfied and fuller for longer.
  • You WILL lose weight
  • You can eat up to four ounces of cheese. 
  • Protein is more limited than on Atkins, so your liver will not end up processing it.
  • Your cholesterol is going to get better: The good cholesterol will go up and the bad triglycerides go down.
  • Your blood pressure will go down.
  • The more you have to lose, the faster it will come off.
  • Some studies to improve the health of women with PCOS, reduce cholesterol, decrease seizures in epileptic children, and improve acne.

CONS

  • The Keto Flu: when you start the diet you may feel grumpy and foggy while your body and brain adjust to using ketones instead of glucose for fuel. 
  • Fruit is limited
  • Constipation. Again, the limited amount of fiber can cause issues.
  • If you are on medication for hypertension, diabetes, or other conditions, you must talk to a doctor before starting the diet. For example, your blood pressure is likely to drop too far and you will need to adjust your medications.
  • You have to be careful about dehydration. You might need to take a sodium and potassium supplement.
  • You’ll want to get ketone urine testing strips to confirm you stay in ketosis.

WHAT IS THE ATKINS DIET?

The Atkins program was developed by Dr Robert C. Atkins in the 1970s. The program restricted carbohydrate, promoted ‘optimal’ protein intake, and encouraged fat consumption. There are 3 versions of the diet

Atkins 20

The Atkins 20 is structured into 4 Phases:

Phase I consists of a very low carbohydrate intake, 20-25 or less grams per day. This phase promotes a drop in blood glucose which eventually signals the body to burn fat for energy (ketosis). During this time, there will also be a rapid loss of retained body water followed by fat loss.

Phase 2 allows for up to 50 grams of carbohydrate per day. You start by adding 5 grams per day while monitoring your weight closely. This is meant to help you find a carbohydrate threshold where you can continue to lose weight.

Phase 3 allows for slightly more carbohydrates per day, up to 80 grams. In this phase, you add in 10 additional carbohydrates daily each week. You continue to monitor your weight to see if you reach a threshold where you begin to regain weight.

Phase 4 is when you have reached a target weight and have settled on a carbohydrate intake that does not promote additional weight gain. This is the maintenance phase where you remain for the rest of your life if you continue to follow the Atkins plan.

Atkins 40

Atkins 40 is the newer, simpler version of the classic Atkins diet. Its main principles are portion control and eating 40 grams of net carbs daily. This version is best when you only need to lose only a little bit of weight and don’t like restricting your food choices. 

Modified Atkins

This version is one that’s most similar to Keto and the one with the most health benefits. The diet is called modified because it limits carb intake to a maximum of 20 grams per day while encouraging a higher fat intake. It also does not put any emphasis on calorie restriction just like Keto.

PROS AND CONS OF ATKINS DIET

PROS

  • You won’t be hungry and will feel satisfied: Eating fat and protein helps you feel more satisfied than munching on rice cakes, so at least for the short term, you don’t feel deprived.
  • Weight comes off quickly, although some of it will be water weight.
  • The four phases allow you to slowly add some carbs back in, making it somewhat easier to sustain.
  • Atkins has a line of snack bars, shakes, and frozen meals, which make the diet convenient.
  • There is evidence that the diet helps improve both cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Cons

  • Your initial dramatic weight loss is a lot of water — you won’t keep losing at the same level, and the minute you eat carbs again it will come back on.
  • You can eat too much protein, which can cause serious liver issues. This can also prevent you from going into ketosis, which means you won’t lose weight.
  • Eating barely any cabs at the begininng can make you feel cranky, lethargic, and even achy — not just because you miss your morning toast, but also because your brain takes time to adjust from processing glucose to ketones.
  • Bad breath: Being in a state of ketosis causes stinky breath — and since the bad breath doesn’t come from your mouth, brushing isn’t going to help.
  • The Atkins line of foods and snacks often contain artificial sweeteners and other processed ingredients.
  • It is easy to pack in the unhealthy fats that gave this diet its bad rap. The onus is on you to pick healthy fats.

KETO VS ATKINS WHICH ONE IS BETTER?

At face value, the keto diet and Atkins seem to be pretty similar, since they both focus on low carb — and that’s where people get confused. But as you now know, there are big differences in approach and outcomes from each.

The ketogenic diet is a precise way of eating  that changes your metabolism and the fuel your body uses for energy.

Although it requires you to track food and ketone levels, you have access to supplements that make ketosis easier to achieve and maintain, such as exogenous ketones and MCT oil.

While the Atkins diet is easy to follow, it falls short both on weight loss and health benefits,when compared to the more effective ketogenic diet.

So, if you’re wondering whether to hop on keto or Atkins, it’s  pretty clear that ketosis offers long-term health benefits that include and go beyond fast and effective weight loss.

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