If you've ever considered cutting carbs, you have certainly come across two similar diets: keto and low-carb. These two are popular ways to restrict your carb intake and lose weight. So, what exactly sets the two apart? And, most importantly, which one is the best?
Let's start with keto.
What is a keto diet?
The ketogenic "keto" diet has been around for a century. It was created in the '20s to treat children with seizures. How? By putting them in the state of ketosis, where the body switches from using glucose in the blood and glycogen in the liver for fuel to fatty acids. The body produces ketones, and while the amount depends on your macros, the only way to measure it is through daily testing.
There are various types of tests that include blood, breath, and urine strips. It's not the most cost-effective solution, though, since blood and urine strips can only be used once. Getting a blood analyser is the best idea if you're looking for a more budget-friendly option.
Now, how can you achieve that magical state of ketosis? The answer is simple – by consuming as few carbs as possible. Instead of carbohydrates, which you'll keep at around 50 grams per day, you'll need to concentrate on increasing your fat intake.
So, your keto plate would look like this:
- 65-70% fat
- 5% carbs
- 25-30% protein
However, just reducing the number of carbs won't trigger ketosis right away. Your body will need to adjust, especially if your pre-keto diet has a lot of carbs. It will need some time to burn all the excess carbs first. In some cases, people get what's commonly known as keto flu.
Some symptoms of the keto flu include a foggy brain, nausea, headaches, irritability, constipation, stomach pain, dizziness, muscle cramps, and difficulty sleeping. All these symptoms occur because your body is adjusting to the new state, which usually takes a week or less.
There are some things you can do to reduce the symptoms:
1. Always stay hydrated. Keto or not, this goes without saying. Drinking plenty of water is crucial for your overall health and will help with fatigue.
2. Don't exercise too much. While your body is adjusting to ketosis, you might want to take it easy on yourself. Give your body a rest and switch to light activities for a while, such as yoga and walking.
3. Check the intake of electrolytes, fat, and carbs. Eat foods high in magnesium and potassium. When it comes to carbs, you may need to lower the amount gradually.
4. Get enough sleep. Reduce the amount of caffeine (it's hard, we know it), or take a bath before bed. Make sure you avoid oversleeping since it may only worsen fatigue.
Keto – pros & cons
Of course, since ketosis burns fat, the diet gained popularity among those who wanted to lose weight – or, actually, fat. However, it's challenging to build muscle while on ketosis due to the low protein intake. While keto has many benefits, it's clearly not perfect for everyone.
Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this diet.
Let's start with the benefits:
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- High blood pressure control
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Better mental performance
- Reduced seizures for people with epilepsy
Here are some of the possible cons:
- Limited fruit intake
- Not suitable for long periods
- Nutrient deficiencies
- High triglyceride levels
- Weakened immune system
What's a low-carb diet?
Chances are you've heard of the Atkins diet, which is based on minimising carb intake. While it concentrates on eating more fats and protein over carbohydrates, it's still different from keto and low-carb diets. Low-carb is much more flexible.
First, it's a way of cutting sugar, bread, and "bad" pasta, and replacing the calories you'd get with that food with certain fats and protein.
The best part is that the exact distribution is tailored to suit your needs. For instance, an example of a low-carb diet might include:
- 10-25% carbs
- 30-40% good fats
- 40-50% protein
You get to eat much more carbs and protein than you'd typically eat on a keto diet. This way, you are left with more energy and eliminate high-calorie foods. You'll be loading up on more lean proteins and veggies, which will fuel your body and leave you feeling energised.
Low-carb – pros & cons
A low-carb diet can be a better option if you are not a fan of significant restrictions. However, if quick weight loss is your main priority, this diet may not work.
Here are the benefits of a low-carb diet:
- Weight loss. Even though you won't be losing fat as fast as you would on keto, reducing the number of carbs might trigger weight loss. You restrict calories and feel full longer, which helps you to eat less.
- Improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels. You eat healthier fats, carbs, and protein on a low-carb diet, which is especially great for people with type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
- Sustainable long-term. A low-carb diet often turns into a lifestyle. You don't get frequent sugar cravings, maintain proper health, and feel full.
- Less restrictive and extreme. You won't be getting any of those keto flu symptoms we mentioned earlier since your body won't go into ketosis.
Just like keto, a low-carb diet has some disadvantages:
- Limited food options. Even though it's not as restrictive as keto, this diet still doesn't include a lot of fruits.
- Health problems. Before your body adjusts to more fats and fewer carbs, like grains that are great for the digestive system, you might get constipated. Vitamin or mineral deficiencies and gastrointestinal disturbances are not uncommon either.
So, which one is better?
If you are choosing between keto and low-carb diets, there are a few factors you need to consider.
First of all, carb intake. You'll be eating no more than 50 grams of carbs per day on a keto diet, which is much lower than on a low-carb diet. Overeating protein can kick you out of ketosis, which isn't something you'd worry about if you choose to go for a low-carb diet. Your fat intake, on the other hand, is significantly higher on keto, as it serves as a replacement for carbs and protein.
Secondly, the keto diet may be too restrictive for you. As we said earlier, the low-carb is much more flexible and is calculated individually. However, the keto diet might be a better option for those who want to lose fat quicker.
The answer isn't black and white. Each of these diets has its own benefits and drawbacks, and it's always a good idea to consult your doctor before you go keto/low-carb.
If you've made your choice but don't know where to start, these tips might help you:
- Give yourself time to adjust. With both keto and low-carb, it takes time to transition. The worst part is that this period can last for weeks and be annoying and demotivating. You won't see the results immediately, and the cravings might not go away as fast as you want. Patience is key.
- Have a plan. Plan and prep your meals to make sure your plate is correct. Track your food and macronutrients intake using an app. Attention to what you eat and how you feel is extremely important, especially at the beginning.
Try Herbalife Products
Consider adding a healthy supplement to your daily plan to avoid constipation and potential micronutrient deficiencies. Herbalife meals are also great for those who don't have time to cook.
Herbalife products are meal replacements that can be customised to suit your diet, whether you choose to go with keto or low-carb. HL include meal replacement protein shakes, bars, teas, outer nutrition products, and even vitamins and sports hydration.
There is something for everyone, even if you want one of your meals to be vegan, gluten-free, or lactose-free.
So, it's time to sum it up. Both keto and low-carb diets can help you navigate to a healthier lifestyle. The only thing left is to choose which one works best for you!