Low Carb Vs. Keto: The Differences In Diets

Low-carb and the ketogenic diet are similar in the way they restrict carbohydrates. Are they the same? What are the differences between these two diets, and which one is better?

We’ll go over the differences in this article about how low-carb diets differ from keto, the pros and cons of each diet, and give you the options to choose which one might be better for you.

Low-Carb Diets

Similar to keto, low-carb diets restrict eating carbohydrates in your daily calories. Typically on a low-carb diet, the recommendation of daily calories from carbs can be anywhere from 10% up to 30%. 

If you consume a daily caloric intake of 2,000 calories, a traditional low-carb diet will have you eating anywhere from 50-150 grams of carbs.

2,000 multiplied by 10% =200. 200/4 (grams of carbs for each calorie) = 50. 2,000 x 30% = 600. 600/4 = 150. That’s how those two numbers were derived.

If you just take your normal daily calories and substitute that in place of the 2,000 number, you’ll get the values that are specific to you.

When following a low-carb diet, typically, you’ll also eat more protein and fat, usually around the same percentage levels. So if you’re consuming 30% of your calories from carbs, then 35% will be the rest of your intake for protein and 35% for fats.

Low carbohydrate diets are popular because they result in weight loss. For example, the Atkins diet is a very well-known low carbohydrate program that generally allows patients to eat as much as they want of protein and fat and only restrict carbohydrates. 

The low carbohydrate diet results in decreased insulin levels, so the body burns primarily fat cells. It also results in a state of ketosis, where the liver is producing ketones (by-products of fat metabolism) that are used by the brain and body for energy.

Pros And Cons Of The Low-Carb Diet

The following are the pros of low-carb diets:

  • A lower level of carbohydrates will be associated with a reduced risk for diabetes.
  • Individuals can more effectively achieve weight loss on low-carb diets than those who eat foods that are high in carbohydrates.
  • A low-carb diet can stabilize the weight at a lower level than a low-fat diet.

The following are the cons of low-carb diets:

  • There may be a risk of overconsumption of calories, which may result in weight gain.
  • Long-term compliance is difficult for low-carb dieters.
  • The intake of essential nutrients may be reduced, which can lead to health problems.
  • Low carbohydrate diets are very restrictive for some individuals and could present nutritional risks.

As you can see, traditional low-carb diets will restrict carbohydrates but don’t have a set number of carbs to consume daily. The range is generally 10-30% of carbohydrates a day.

The Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is a type of diet and lifestyle change that can be used to treat certain complex neurological diseases, like epilepsy (1), but you don’t have to have this condition to benefit from keto.

Being on the keto diet causes the body’s resources to shift away from glucose and towards fat production. This is done through fasting, and if maintained for long enough periods, it can lead to substantial weight loss. (2)

The ketogenic diet has also been shown in animal models to protect against brain injury caused by stroke or trauma as well as being linked to a host of other health benefits, including reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. (3)

The ketogenic diet, sometimes called keto for short, is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. This diet aims to take your body into a metabolic state known as ketosis, where fat cells are used as the primary source of fuel.

Pros And Cons Of The Ketogenic Diet

The following are pros of the ketogenic diet:

  • Fast weight loss
  • Can eat delicious food high in fat
  • Many health benefits from helping neurological disorders, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and much more.

The following are cons of the ketogenic diet:

Related: Pros and Cons of the Ketogenic Diet

On the ketogenic diet, it’s recommended to consume no more than 50 grams of carbs per day or 5% of your daily caloric intake.

As you become fat-adapted, you start to burn fat for energy, and the body uses fat as its primary fuel source.

Which Diet Is Best For You?

If you’re thinking about going on a low-carb or a high-fat ketogenic diet, you should consider a few things first.

Know that your carbohydrate intake will be different between the two diets, so if you can’t handle jumping into super low carbs at first, it may be best to ease into keto by starting with a low-carb diet first.

The other difference is going to be protein intake. On the ketogenic diet, you’re going to be consuming around 25% of your daily calories on protein, whereas on a traditional low-carb diet, the intake will likely be closer to 35%.

Protein has been shown to kick you out of ketosis, so that’s another reason keto is superior when it comes to burning fat.

The fat intake will differ between these two diets as well. For example, on keto, your fat intake will be closer to 70-75% of your daily calories, where on a low-carb diet, it’ll likely be around 35%.

You should talk to your doctor before starting either of these diets so they can take a look at your medical history to see if it’s okay for you to start. In addition, they may want to monitor you to make sure there are no negative side effects.

There’s no doubt that keto is more restrictive with carbs between the two diets, but it will result in more weight loss, so you have to consider the trade-off. 

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