When people talk about a low-carb diet to lose weight, there’s a high probability they are discussing either keto or the Atkins diets. You might be asking yourself, but aren’t they the same thing? While keto and Atkins are two of the most popular versions of low-carb dieting, the similarities end with limiting carbs. To help you determine if either of these diets are appropriate for your clients, here’s what you need to understand.
What is the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet, casually called keto, is a dietary eating pattern that focuses on high-fat and a low-carb balance. While this macro structure may seem a bit unconventional, the reasoning why comes down to one thing: ketosis. To understand ketosis, let’s dive into a bit of basic human physiology.
Carbs are a primary source of energy for the human body – when you eat carbs, they get digested and enter the blood stream as glucose to be used as fuel for cells. Without carbs and glucose as an energy source, the body looks to find alternatives. Enter ketosis. Ketosis is when the body’s metabolic system shifts to using ketones (made from burning body fat) instead of glucose as its primary energy source.
To achieve a state of ketosis, an individual must limit their net carb intake (total carbs minus the amount of fiber) to only 20-50 grams per day. The lower the amount of carbs, the better. This means a heavily restrictive diet and close monitoring of daily macro intake is needed to ensure the individual stays in a state of ketosis. Say goodbye to most breads, grains, cereals, milks and even some fruits and vegetables as many will push the limits of the daily allowance of carbs.
So why do people do keto? After burning through the body’s glucose reserves and being in a state of ketosis for some time, many individuals see rapid weight loss and the numbers on the scale drop.
Individuals best suited for this type of restrictive diet are those that are overweight, have diabetes, and individuals looking to improve their metabolic health. Due to the restrictive nature of keto, it’s important to ensure that clients are eating a variety of foods to get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals – and supplement where necessary.
Individuals can maintain the results of keto by ensuring processed foods are cut out and focusing on fresh produce, meat, fish, eggs and dairy. If individuals go over the allowed carb intake for the day, they should return to the keto diet the following day and start the process over to return to a state of ketosis.
What is the Atkins Diet?
Think of the Atkins diet as keto light. While there are a few variations of Atkins, the original has become known as Atkins 20 and includes 4 phases. Here’s what to expect from the 4 phases:
· Phase 1 (Induction) – Phase 1 is intended to kickstart weight loss by greatly reducing the intake of carbs, generally allowing only around 20 grams of net carbs a day (of which at least 50-75% should be in the form of vegetables, similar to the keto diet). This is used as the steppingstone to find the personal carb balance. Generally, this phase lasts around 2 weeks but can vary depending on the individual weight loss goal. To proceed into the next phase, the individual should be 15 pounds from their goal weight. If the individual is looking to lose less than 15 pounds, the induction phase may not be needed.
Foods in this phase should primarily be fish, fowl, shellfish, meats (avoid processed, cold cuts and added nitrates), eggs, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, and most cheeses.
· Phase 2 (Balancing Your Diet) – Phase 2 is about continuing the momentum from Phase 1 to meet weight loss goals while reintroducing a variety of carbs to find a healthy personal carb balance. At the start of Phase 2 the individual will be eating about 25 grams of net carbs daily, and then begin to increase the overall carb intake by 5 grams per week. This phase will last until the individual is within 10 pounds of the goal weight. By the end of this phase individuals should have a strong idea of their personal carb balance – which usually is between 30 and 80 grams of daily net carbs.
Foods in this phase should be those from Phase 1 with the addition of more nuts, seeds and berries.
· Phase 3 (Maintaining Your Weight After Dieting) – Phase 3 is about working out the specifics of the personal carb balance in order focus on maintaining weight loss. This phase will last until the goal weight has been met and maintained for a full month. Think of this phase as practice for long-term success.
Foods in this phase should be those from the previous phases plus small amounts of starchy vegetables, fruits and grains – remembering to scale back if weight gain begins to occur.
· Phase 4 (Lifetime Maintenance) – Phase 4 is using what was learned during the first three phases to build a permanent, and more sustainable, eating pattern. Phase 4 allows the individual to do some trial and error by reintroducing different types of carbs so long as they remain near the goal weight. If Atkins is continued for years, it’s important to note that the human body’s needs change as it ages and that some discovery and alterations may be needed.
Foods in this phase should continue the trend from Phase 3 with some swapping.
To find a full list of Atkin friendly foods for each phase, you can visit Atkins.com. Or you can let Evolution Nutrition do the heavy lifting for you by using one of our Atkins meal plans, created by our team of experienced and knowledgeable Registered Dietitians.
How are Keto and Atkins Similar?
Both keto and Atkins are similar in the fact that they have a low-carb focus, don’t enforce overall calorie counting, induce ketosis to burn body fat, and may help to lose weight, improve cholesterol levels and manage blood sugar.
What are the differences between Keto and Atkins?
One of the main differences between keto and Atkins is that the keto diet limits carbs altogether whereas Atkins limits carbs initially but then allows for a gradual increase, up to the personal carb balance amount.
Another major difference is that keto encourages whole foods only, compared to Atkins which does allow for some processed foods. In fact, the popularity of the Atkins diet has spurred production of premade, diet-friendly meals and snacks. Keto also requires generous portions of fats while Atkins favors more protein, as illustrated and explained below.
In the end, both the keto and Atkins diets serve as a weight loss tactic by limiting the amount of carbs to enter a state of ketosis, and then relying heavily on the individual to stay disciplined to deliver those results. The reduction in carbs is a fine balancing act with both. While the keto diet can deliver rapid results, many will find the eating pattern far too restrictive to maintain long term compared to Atkins, which can be slightly more forgiving.
If all this information seems a bit complicated to construct a meal plan from, don’t worry – Evolution Nutrition has got your back. With Evolution Nutrition, trainers get access to keto and Atkins meal plans along with 19 other diet category types (all researched and developed by Registered Dietitians, so you know they are legit).
And as always, your clients should consult with their healthcare team prior to committing to any new diets. There are some health conditions that should be taken into consideration before starting either of these options.