Keto Vs Atkins – What’s The Difference And Why Should I Care?
So, let’s get this one out of the way shall we? So, many people (more than I care to remember) always assume that when i say that I’m living the Keto Lifestyle, they assume i’m on the Atkins Diet.
Well, first they ask “what the hell is the keto lifestyle”? and when I start to mention low carb they immediately talk over me and say “Oh, you mean you’re on the Atkins Diet”!
So, firstly, don’t worry if you get the same response from people. You know how it is – low carb and Atkins was all the rage and heavily advertised for this amazing weight loss a few years ago so, people just assume that it’s the same thing.
After a while it just becomes amusing how people are so uneducated in many things and just blindly follow what the media’s latest money making story is.
By, money making, I mean the latest way for them to sell loads of papers. Mostly this happens by negativity towards things, creating bad news. Remember – good news doesn’t sell.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a great number of similarities between the ketogenic diet and the Atkins diet but, they are not the same.
Firstly, what most of you probably won’t even realize is that although Atkins was designed for weight loss, keto on the other hand was designed for seizure prevention!
Keto Vs Atkins? So, which one is better?
Well, some would say Keto and some would say Atkins. For me personally, it’s got to be keto but, there are others out there who swear by Atkins. So, i’ll try and break it down for you here. I’ll do a little comparison of my knowledge and thoughts on both.
Firstly, let’s start with the Atkins Diet
Known in medical circles as a fad diet, the Atkins diet (formally know as the Atkins Nutritional Approach) was actually developed by a doctor. Dr. Robert Coleman Atkins was a cardiologist and nutritionist.
He started developing his diet in the late 1960’s and after many years of research published his book Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution in 1972. He explains in his book about his findings on low carb eating and he defined a set of rules which shaped his diet.
The book was a huge success and started off decades of debate and research within the medical community.
The original Atkins diet (now called the Atkins 20) has 4 phases. i will briefly go through them here –
- Induction Phase – This is where they say you kick-start your weight loss on the low carb transformation. During this phase, you only eat a maximum of 20 grams of net carbs per day. So, this is around 10% of your daily calories. The type of carbs also matters. In a nutshell, you always go for low carb vegetables like broccoli, green beans, cucumbers, celery etc. You have to include protein with every meal too, ideally from healthy sources like poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. You don’t need to restrict fats at all in this phase. Make sure you drink lots of water, around 8 glasses a day at least.
You must avoid alcohol completely!!!! Yep, this put me right off the diet :-). Just kidding.
You normally do the induction phase for around 1 – 2 weeks.
- Balancing Phase – This is where they say that you enjoy your low carb confidence and find your carb tolerance. Basically, you start to introduce moderate carb foods like berries, nuts, seeds etc. You still need to eat the low carb carbs from the induction phase though and keep avoiding all those high carb foods. Here you need to monitor your weight loss as this will help you determine when to move on to the next phase.
You stay on the balancing phase until you are around 10 pounds off your ideal weight.
- Pre-Maintenance Phase – This is where they say that you continue to add good carbs until you find your level to allow you to maintain your weight loss. This is where you start to introduce some high carb foods. Now, by high carb, it means things like starchy vegetables, fruit and whole grains. During this phase you will start eating around 10 grams more net carbs week. Continue to monitor your weight loss and if it stall or you see an increase then you will need to cut back on the carbs.
You stay on the pre-maintenance phase until you reach your desired weight-loss goals.
- Lifetime Maintenance – This is where they say that you establish a long term way of being healthy for good. Once you weight loss goal has been reached, you move into the lifetime maintenance phase. This phase should last ermmmm, a lifetime :-). You eat as many carbs as you like to maintain your ideal weight but, up to a maximum of 100 grams is normal for most people.
What foods can you eat on the Atkins Diet
- Meats – Everything and anything and fresh is best but, stay away from processed meat.
- Fish – Once again, all fish and other seafood is a good source of protein an also high in essential Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Healthy fats – Butter and olive oil are the preferred healthy fats on the Atkins diet.
- Full Fat Dairy – All that lovely natural taste from things like butter, cream, cheese are all a great source of both protein and fat. Don’t forget about eggs either. Make sure they are free range though.
- Vegetables – Low carb veggies like broccoli, kale, spinach are the ones in the early stages but, later on things like starchy vegetables i.e. potatoes, parsnips and whole grains can be introduced in moderation.
- Nuts And Seeds – Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds are all great sources of good fats
What foods are out of bounds on the Atkins Diet
Basically, everything that you previously loved to eat and stuff your face with. Just kidding. Although, sometimes it seems like that.
- Sugars – All types of sugars are not allowed on the Atkins diet. This means any foods that are sweetened with sugar, honey agave nectar etc.
- High Carb Fruit And Veg – Bananas, apples, potatoes, carrots are all high in carbs. You wouldn’t think so would you. These must be avoided in the early stages of the Atkins diet but, can be introduced slowly in the later stages.
- Grains And Legumes – Things like rice, corn, peanuts, peas are all out of bonds in the early stages too but, can be introduced slowly in later phases
- Refined oils – Corn oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil are all a big no-no too. They are inflammatory by nature and can stall your weight loss.
- Trans Fats – Margarines and partially hydrogenated oils are are not allowed at all. These are bad for your health in so many ways so, avoid these at all costs.
Now, the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, adequate protein and low carb diet. It was developed originally in the 1920’s by doctors to treat epilepsy in children and after several studies, it found that by reducing carbs significantly it caused nutritional ketosis, which was long considered a cure for epilepsy.
Later on though, it became really popular as not only a weight loss diet but also, a diet for overall health.
Like the induction phase of the Atkins diet, the idea of the ketogenic diet is to induce ketosis which is a metabolic state where the body displays enhanced fat burning and a greater number of ketones.
Basically when you stave your body of carbs (glucose), your body then creates ketones which is a more efficient and cleaner fuel for the body to burn as energy. I have a more in depth post here about what the ketogenic diet is.
It’s not just that though. Further studies also showed that there were various health benefits to being in ketosis and not just weight loss. These included better brain health and a reduced risk of heart disease.
While the main goal of Atkins is weight loss, the ketogenic diet provides a whole lot more benefits to overall health, for example reversal of type II diabetes, enhanced mental clarity, greater energy levels to name a few.
The keto diet can be very strict when it come to macro-nutrients. They are based on years of research. The ratios that they recommend are as follows –
- 5 – 10% of energy from carbs
- 20 – 30% of energy from proteins
- 65 – 80% of energy from fats
Of course, these are just guidelines. Me personally, although i started off calculating the macro-nutrients, I got bored very quickly and nearly gave up but, once i chilled the hell out and stopped being so strict, it all fell into place.
I work on the thing now of, anything I reduce in carbs, I replace with fats but, remember that 1 gram of carbs is 4 calories whereas 1 gram of fats is 9 calories so, you need to take this into account.
Protein is always kept to an adequate amount because if you ave too much, it could knock you out of ketosis.
If you are new to the ketogenic diet then it’s probably best to calculate your macro-nutrients if only to get an idea on serving sizes etc then once you are confident with that you can forget the calculations and go by sight.
I have a handy little keto diet calculator if you need one so, feel free to use it until you feel more confident about it all.
What foods can you eat on the Ketogenic Diet
I could make another list here as I did for the Atkins section but, I already have a previous blog post detailing what you can and can’t eat on the Ketogenic Diet so, you should check that out.
If you want to take all the guess work out of the whole thing then check out this great book. It’s still my go-to book for some great recipes.
So, after all that, what have we learnt about the the difference between the Atkins Diet and the Ketogenic Diet?
Keto Vs Atkins – Similarities and Differences
- The Atkins Diet is the same as the Ketogenic diet during the initial induction phase. Both restrict carbs to minimal amounts which promote ketosis. However, protein on the induction phase would need to be monitored because if you consume too much, you won’t get into ketosis. Later on in the Atkins diet, the greater amount of carbs being eaten will definitely not allow the body to get into ketosis.
- The Keto diet is a high fat diet whereas the Atkins diet is a low carb diet. Yes, both are low carb but, in the keto diet, around 80% of your daily intake of calories are from fat sources which is considerably higher than the standard recommendations. Although Atkins is higher in fate too, it’s not as high fat as the Keto diet. Atkins is more about reducing carbs while increasing fats and protein.
- All sugars and honey are a big no-no on both diets. These will spike your blood glucose massively. Sweeteners like stevia and erythritol are both alternative substitutes as they are no known to spike blood glucose but, ideally you want to remove all these too.
- Both diets lead to weight loss but, keto is far superior in the fact that you are constantly burning fat for energy whereas in Atkins, you will only start burning fat for fuel once you have depleted the carbs. Atkins allows up to 100 grams of carbs per day whereas keto only allows up to 30 grams.
- Both diets however, focus on clean eating. Basically, eat real and clean foods. Avoid all processed junk and your body will thank you for it. The cleaner and more natural the food, the more nutrients your body is getting which in turn ads to better health.
So, what’s the verdict?
Well, it’s entirely up to you. Obviously, me personally, I go for the ketogenic diet as it seems to have a lot more health benefits associated with it. However, I have friends who have done or currently still do the Atkins diet which they love due to less restrictions in carbs.
At the end of the day it’s your decision. Research has said that the ketogenic diet scores higher for not only weight loss but, also the health benefits with it.
The problem with Atkins is that with such an inconsistency with carbs, your body never stays in ketosis and you still get the sugar and sweet cravings which is why probably so many people ultimately end up putting back on the weight when carbs are introduced more. It doesn’t happen to everyone but, it is an issue.
The Keto diet is more consistent and you have a set maximum amount of carbs per day which is set very low so, your body will be in a constant state of ketosis. It also allows the body to get fat adapted which ultimately leads to no sugar cravings, no ups and downs associated with carbs.
The body kinda forgets about cars as it’s perfectly fine with its new fuel source.
This doesn’t happen overnight of course. Getting into ketosis and becoming fat adapted takes time but, one you are there, it’s an awesome feeling. It certainly is tougher to do which is why some people opt for Atkins instead.
Another reason why the ketogenic diet outweighs the Atkins diet is the added health benefits ranging from reversing diabetes, mental clarity, more energy and even stopping cancer cells from growing.
Whether you decide to try the ketogenic diet or the Atkins diet, you will lose weight if you stick it although, later phases of the Atkins diet could see you putting some weight back on.
The ketogenic is harder to sustain than Atkins for a while due to such restrictions in carbs but, once adapted you will wonder what all the fuss was about. You will also see so many different health benefits with the ketogenic diet.
Some you may not even realize until one day you think “Oh, I haven’t had that issue for a while” or “Oh, I haven’t had that pain for a while”.
Ultimately, from my point of view the Ketogenic Diet is the way to go. Yep, it’s tough to begin with but, in my personal opinion it’s worth it to reap all the added health benefits that you just don’t get with Atkins.