Keto Vs Low Carb Diet – Which Should I Choose?
Low Carb and Keto diets are two popular ways of eating that prioritise reducing your intake of carbohydrates.
On the surface they seem quite similar, and you may be wondering what exactly sets them apart.
Here we will give you a brief overview of what these diets involve, some pros and cons of each and how they might be suitable for your goals.
What Is Low Carb?
Simply put, a low carb diet requires you to drop your carbohydrate intake. There isn’t a fixed number on the amount of carbs that you are allowed to eat – however as a general rule most people stick to eating somewhere between 50 to 150 grams per day.
Typically, the breakdown of your daily calories on a low-carb diet looks like this:
- 10-20% carbs
- 30-40% protein
- 30-40% fat
Most of the carbs that you do eat tend to be slow burning, whole grain, whole foods that don’t cause such large spikes in blood sugars like refined, simple carbs can do.
The main way that low carb diets work is by influencing insulin levels within your body.
Insulin is a hormone created by your pancreas that moderates how much glucose is in your bloodstream. It helps your body to store glucose in your liver, muscles and body fat. It also helps with the body’s metabolism of proteins, fats and carbs.
Of all the foods you eat, the ones with the highest amount of carbs will have the largest effect on insulin levels. This is because when you eat carbs your body turns them in to glucose, which is a sugar that your body uses for energy.
Once glucose enters the bloodstream, it’s either used in the cells for energy or stored in the liver as glycogen. Anything left over is stored as body fat.
When insulin levels are high, it increases how much fat your body makes and reduces that amount of fat your body burns. Obviously this makes losing weight pretty tricky. High insulin can also slow your metabolism and increase how hungry you feel and how much food you want to eat.
By reducing your carb intake, you reduce the amount of insulin being released in your system and help to increase your body’s ability to burn fat.
What Is Keto?
Whilst low carb diets simply encourage you to reduce your carb intake, keto is technically a low carb, high fat diet. This means that when you’re on keto the majority of your energy intake must come from fats.
The word keto is short for ketosis, which is a state that your body enters when it burns fat as a primary fuel source as opposed to its default source, which is glucose.
An example of your daily calorie intake on a keto diet looks like this:
- 70-80% of your calories must come from fat
- 10-20% protein
- 5-10% carbs
Keto diets require you to limit your intake of protein, more so than low carb diets. Eating too much protein has the potential to kick you out of the state of ketosis - the goal of the keto diet.
Similarly to low carb, a keto diet helps to lower your insulin levels. However as stated, the goal of keto is to enter ketosis; a metabolic state where your body uses fat for energy instead of glucose from carbohydrates.
When you drastically reduce your carb intake, your body becomes deprived of glucose.
Your body is always in search of energy – glucose being the preferred source – and because you’ve not consumed enough in the form of carbohydrates, it will resort to any glucose that has been stored in your liver.
Once this reserve has also been depleted, your body then searches for another source of energy – body fat.
Your body takes this fat and turns it in to ketones. When you have a certain amount of ketones in your bloodstream you enter the state of ketosis.
Because your body can make ketones from body fat, many people experience fat loss when transitioning to a keto diet.
I want to lose weight. Which diet should I choose?
Both low carb and keto, when followed consistently, will help you to lose weight – provided you remain in a calorie deficit.
This is very important to note as ultimately weight loss will only occur if you consume less calories than you burn each day. Following a low carb or a keto way of eating, combined with a calorie deficit, helps to ensure that the weight you end up losing comes from body fat.
As with anything in life, there are pros and cons associated with each diet:
- Can lead to weight loss.
- Excludes processed carbs that have little nutritional value, such as cake, cookies, processed snacks, pizzas and bread
- Can help to balance blood sugar levels and make you more responsive to insulin, which can reduce your risk of certain health problems, like high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- May help reduce sugar cravings.
- Easier to meet your fibre intake than keto since you can eat a wider variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Less restrictive than a keto diet.
- Difficult to keep up if you love processed carbs.
- Potentially more difficult to get certain nutrients in your diet as you have to eliminate some food groups.
- Can decrease performance during high-intensity exercise.
- Weight loss can happen quicker because of increased fat burn when in the state of ketosis
- Makes you metabolically flexible, which means you can switch between burning fat and burning glucose for energy without any issues. This happens once you've been on a keto diet for a while and become fat-adapted.
- Has been linked to improving various health conditions
- Depending on what you are currently used to eating, it can require some pretty drastic changes to your lifestyle.
- Can be harder to stick to than a low-carb diet.
- Can require a lot of meal prep and planning.
- May trigger the keto flu, a short-term period of side effects where you experience flu-like symptoms that happen as your body adjusts. This can happen every time you exit ketosis and enter again.
- Harder to meet your daily fibre intake due to how many food groups you have to cut out.
- Can reduce performance and power during high-intensity exercise, making you feel flat.
Aside from these points, both diets come with a period of adjustment whilst your body gets used to living off less carbs.
It’s very normal to feel discomfort in the first few days of low carb and keto eating, with the symptoms ranging from fatigue, feelings of irritation and hunger, cravings and generally just feeling a bit off.
This should pass after a few days or so as your body becomes better at getting energy from fat and protein as opposed to carbs.
Because of the restrictive nature of both diets, one important consideration is whether or not they will allow you to eat enough variety if you have food intolerances.
If you are allergic to dairy, for example, it can be more difficult to follow a Keto diet as many high fat foods are dairy products – things like cream, cheese, butter, yoghurt and so on.
Another consideration, if you are vegetarian or vegan, is that most plant based protein sources tend to be quite high in carbohydrates. Although these are largely good carbs, they still count towards your daily carb intake and, although by no means impossible, could make keeping to a low carb lifestyle more difficult.
Both Low Carb and Keto diets can be brilliant ways of burning body fat. Whether or not they work for you comes down to consistency and how easily you are able to incorporate them in to your lifestyle long term.
This is where we come in! By having ready made meals in the freezer that are in alignment with your way of eating you remove a huge amount of pressure when it comes to meal times.
Our Low Carb range does exactly what it says on the tin – helping you to eat a tasty, nutritious meal that is low in carbohydrates regardless of how busy your day is.
Many of our Low Carb meals are Keto friendly and can be made in to Keto meals simply by adding in your favourite fats.
So then, Low Carb or Keto? The choice is yours!