As you search for recipes or information about a keto diet, you’ll often see the Atkins diet and keto lumped together. And get ready for a raised eyebrow and a “So … like, Atkins?” when you tell people you’ve embraced a keto lifestyle!
But how similar are keto and Atkins? What are the key differences? And is one diet “better” than the other?
Let’s find out:
Atkins and Keto: A Side-by-Side Comparison
Both keto and Atkins revolve around a low-carb lifestyle that can help adherents lose weight and improve their health. But taking a look at the key tenets of each diet helps reveal important differences between the two:
As the Venn diagram shows, while both diets focus on a low-carb lifestyle, Keto places an emphasis on higher fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates while Atkins focuses on high protein with moderate fat and low carbohydrates.
A Closer Look at Keto Vs. Atkins
Let’s dive into the differences between keto and Atkins:
The Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet consists of four phases. Phase one is the most similar to a ketogenic diet, since the goal of this phase is to stay below 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, for two weeks. It’s worth noting that phase one of the Atkins diet is where most people lose significant weight. Phase two and three gradually add more complex carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables, and grains, back into the diet. The goal in the final phase, phase four, is to maintain weight loss and health goals while adding as much variety back into the diet as possible. Dieters may return to phases one, two, or three if they want to lose more weight at any point.
Typically, weight loss and general improved health are the primary goals of the Atkins diet. Because of the focus on protein rather than fat, most Atkins dieters never truly become “fat adapted,” and instead enjoy the benefits of a low-carb lifestyle with increased insulin sensitivity, weight loss, and improved overall health.
The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet isn’t divided into phases, but rather revolves around helping the body adapt to using fat for fuel instead of glucose--a process that can take several weeks to several months. However, once fat adapted, most people find maintaining a keto diet to be simple, enjoyable, and intuitive. Keto focuses on ratios of macronutrients: for instance 70% fat, 25% protein, 5% carbohydrates. The reason for keto’s “moderate protein” prescription is that high levels of protein can be converted into glycogen, or sugar, in the body. Keto revolves around whole, nutrient-dense foods like avocados, nuts, olive oil, protein, and low-carb vegetables and fruits.
The paradigm shift in energy caused by the keto lifestyle comes with numerous health benefits, including weight loss as insulin sensitivity improves and cravings for sugar and simple carbohydrates disappear. The ketogenic diet also comes with other documented medical benefits. In the absence of glycogen, numerous neurological and inflammatory conditions (including epilepsy and PCOS) improve, endurance for exercise and physical activity improves, and mental focus and concentration improve.
So, Is Keto or Atkins Better?
The answer is, of course, that neither keto nor Atkins is better overall. Both diets hold a lot of appeal for different groups of people, and both provide significant health benefits. However, depending on your health goals, personality, and unique lifestyle, either keto or Atkins may be a better choice for you:
Atkins Might Be a Better Choice If …
Atkins might be for you if your goal is a low-carb lifestyle for primarily weight loss, and variety is very important to you. Atkins will help you reduce your dependence on processed foods, simple carbohydrates, and sugar. Most people enjoy a lot of success losing weight and improving their health with the Atkins approach, and being able to re-incorporate more complex carbohydrates in stages 2-4 is a big draw.
Keto Might Be a Better Choice If …
Keto might be your best bet if you have health goals in addition to weight loss. Becoming fat-adapted is not only a terrific way to accomplish your weight-loss goals. It’s also been shown to improve pre-diabetes, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, PCOS, and a whole host of neurological and inflammatory conditions. Keto will also help you achieve your fitness and cognitive goals, with improved mental clarity and endurance. Another reason many people choose keto, is that after the initial adjustment period, the cravings for carbs will improve significantly, and the combination of fat and protein will leave you feeling full and satisfied with higher-quality, nutrient-dense food. This lifestyle approach helps avoid the negative effects of yo-yo dieting.
Whether you choose keto or Atkins, making the choice to lower your dependence on refined carbohydrates and sugar is a step toward improved health. And exploring the different benefits and potential drawbacks of your options for low-carb lifestyles will help you make a sustainable choice that’s right for you.