The Keto Diet VS Low Carb. What’s the Difference?
I’ve been getting a ton of questions about the difference between a ketogenic lifestyle and a low carb lifestyle. Customers want to know what is the big difference between the two? Which one is best for you to do? My answer: It all really depends on your goals!
I think it’s a great question and I’d like to visit both angles so you can make an informed decision about which one is better for you! Keto and low carb diets are indeed different avenues for a few reasons. I wouldn’t make a claim that one is definitely better than the other because again, we are all different. So how do you know which one to choose?
The Basics of Keto
The ketogenic way of eating is about as low carb as you can get. The macronutrients recommended for keto are 70% fats, 20% Protein, and 10% carbs. Some even consider lower amounts on the carb count. I personally attempt to keep my carbs at 20g or lower a day.
You’ll notice the carbs are super low. For most people following the ketogenic way of eating, keto means eating 20-30g net grams of carbs per day. Net carbs= total carbs-fiber since fiber isn’t digested like a regular carb, we don’t count the fiber in carbs. The purpose of the keto diet is to force your body into burning stored body fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, since carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy because they are easily accessible.
If you want a more comprehensive look on keto, please visit “how to start a keto diet” here.
The Basics of A Low Carb Diet
There’s not a strict definition of macros for low carb that I’ve found helpful. Basically, low carb is keto in a sense, with slightly more carbohydrates ranging from 50-100g a day.
Low carb diets usually aren’t low enough in carbs to keep the body in full ketosis all the time. You’ll probably dip into mild ketosis in-between meals and once carbs are consumed again, the body will come out of ketosis. You wouldn’t experience the full benefits of keto if you’re going in and out of ketosis like this.
You could possibly enter full ketosis on a low carb diet if you’re working out, you’re sleeping 7-8 hours a night, or if you’re fasting intermittently. I could almost bet your body would be in ketosis during these times.
It’s not a bad thing for those wanting to benefit in the exercise department and follow a low carb diet. You may feel better physically eating some higher carb foods pre-workout. Or maybe you just don’t like the strictness of keto- having to watch a carb intake day in and day out. That’s where low carb may become your sweet spot.
So, Which One Is Best?
It depends on your goals, honestly. Your lifestyle, your preferences, and your own unique biology and chemical makeup. Some people do much better with keto others do phenomenal with low carb.
Let’s chat about some benefits of both styles of eating so that you may choose for yourself.
Keto is Great for:
Weight loss. First things first here. Just because you’re burning fat for fuel, doesn’t mean you’re burning body fat for fuel- that is one common misconception of the keto lifestyle. In ketosis, you’ll burn the fat you’re eating first, and then stored body fat after that. So it’s very possible to overeat fats with keto and gain weight. However, it’s a lot harder to overeat on keto for a few reasons.
The first is that ketones, the by-product of burning fat for fuel, are much stronger natural appetite suppressants. Eating keto can make you feel full on lower calories, meaning you’ll gradually burn through body fat without being hungry all day long.
The other benefit of keto is a faster metabolism (1) A well-controlled study found that keto dieters burned about 300 more calories a day than non-keto-dieters.
In other words, keto can help you burn more calories while feeling full on less food. That’s a solid recipe for sustainable fat loss.
Stable energy and blood sugar.
This is a big one for most keto dieter’s vs low carb diets. Do you ever notice that afternoon crash after lunch? My first recommendation would be to cut the sugar out of the diet to avoid those crashes. If you’re watching your sugar and you still feel like you yo-yo between feling energized and exhausted or hungry, you may be especially sensitive to blood sugar and insulin spikes. Keto will most definitely help with these issues. While carbs effect your blood sugar and insulin response, fat does not. Cutting carbs can help you keep your blood sugar balanced, giving you steady energy throughout the day.
A few small studies have found that keto will lower inflammation in the body. Possibly thanks to a ketone metabolite called Beta-hydroxybutyrate. Keto seems especially good for liver inflammation due to poor diet choices throughout your life.(2)
Keto isn’t always the best choice for Cross fitters or powerlifters, but several recent studies show that it works pretty well for endurance athletes and may give them a slight performance edge over carb-burners.
Low Carb Diets
Best for non-endurance athletes
A lot of people will find with keto that they feel sluggish and hard to get through a workout so they will do what is called “targeted keto” and consume carbohydrates directly before their workouts so they have energy to push through. If you’re lifting, sprinting, or doing any exercise of intense workout a few times a week, you’ll most likely feel like your performance is slipping and may want to add some carbs back into the diet.
Stable energy and blood sugar
Like keto, low carb will go a long way toward balancing your blood sugar, especially if you eat complex carbs instead of simple carbs. Plenty of people find they get stable energy with low carb diets and that they don’t need to go full on keto.
Being more relaxed with your diet.
Maybe you just like carbs now and again and you don’t want to cut sweet potatoes or butternut squash out of your diet. Keto requires you to avoid carbs. That strict lifestyle just doesn’t jive with everyone. Low carb gives you the space to be a little more relaxed with what you do eat.
Nutrition is a personal thing. It depends on biology, lifestyle, age, sex and all kinds of other factors. Some people just never feel right on keto and that’s totally ok. Some people feel awful eating carbs (me!) and some people thrive on high carb low fat diets.
Use the guidelines above and try them all out for you in my opinion. Pay attention to how your feel and that as your main source to find what works for you.
If you’re interested in finding more options of lifestyle patterns, please join the Bee-Xtreme Community, where one diet does not fit all.