Every week a new fad diet hits the tabloid stands, or so it seems. Some of the most popular diets in recent years also some of the most ridiculous. The idea that drinking lemon water seasoned with cayenne can help you shed pounds without making any changes to your diet or lifestyle is silly. And while green smoothies are a great way to boost your intake of fresh fruits and veggies, a smoothie can be just as high in calories as a normal meal.
If you’re trying to lose weight and improve your health, you’re probably wondering what diet is the best to help you reach your goals. For many people, reducing carbohydrate intake can be very beneficial for weight loss,and it may have some additional benefits like controlling blood sugar and reducing cravings. When it comes to low-carb diets, however, there are several options – the Atkins diet and the ketogenic diet are two of the most popular.
In this article, we’ll talk a little bit about how reducing carbohydrate intake can help you lose weight. We’ll also go over the details of what makes Atkins and keto so different.
What’s the Problem with Carbs, Anyway?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients. Along with protein and fat, they provide your body with energy in the form of calories – they also provide other essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. One of the main problems with carbohydrates, however, is that they can cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. This cycle can leave you feeling tired,and it can interfere with your hormones as well – especially the hormones responsible for sending the signal to your brain when you’ve had enough to eat. High carb intake can lead to carb cravings which can also lead to overeating.
But how exactly does a low-carb diet provide benefits for weight loss? Numerous studies have shown that reduced carbohydrate intake can support weight loss, even without calorie restriction. One such study involving obese adolescents showed nearly doubled weight loss in the low-carb group versus the control group. These results were independent of any calorie reduction, as the low-carb group consumed more than 1,800 calories a day and the control group just 1,100 calories.
So, it’s easy to see that low-carb diets work, but HOW do they work? Glucose is your primary supply of energy and it comes from carbohydrates. When you consume more than your body can use in the short-term, your body stores it in the form of glycogen. Later, when you go without eating for a while or you exercise, your body taps into those stores. As long as you have glycogen stores to tap into, your body will always choose them first instead of focusing on another source of energy – your fat stores. When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, you can encourage the body to start burning fat.
Atkins vs. Keto – What’s the Difference?
The primary goal of the Atkins diet is to achieve insulin stability through carbohydrate reduction.
This diet doesn’t necessarily require calorie counting (though you can certainly do it) – instead, it focused on net carb consumption. Net carbs are measured by the amount of total carbohydrate intake minus the intake of dietary fiber and sugar alcohols. The food list for the Atkins diet consists of lean proteins, healthy fats, nuts, and certain low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
The program itself has four phases through which you gradually increase carbohydrate intake from a maximum of 20g net carbs per day until you find the optimal level that supports weight loss for you. You can stay in any given phase as long asnecessary, but the end goal is to reach phase 4, or Lifetime Maintenance.
The ketogenic diet operates on a similar principle as Atkins, but in some ways, it is simpler.
There are no phases, though you can certainly choose to taper off your carbohydrate intake over the course of a few days or weeks if you prefer to transition into the diet slowly. In order to follow the ketogenic diet, you must adhere to a daily macronutrient ratio of about 70% to 25% fat, 20$ to 25% protein, and up to 5% carbohydrates. As long as you stay within these ratios, it generally isn’t necessary to count calories. Once you hit this ratio, your body will burn through your glycogen stores over a period of 2 to 10 days at which point it will start tapping into your stored fats for extra energy.
Both the Atkins diet and the ketogenic diet are designed to put the body in a state of ketosis – this is simply the name for the metabolic state in which the body burns fat for fuel rather than carbohydrates. Ketone bodies are a byproduct of this process and they are a highly efficient source of fuel for the body, especially the brain. While you may experience some side effects during the early transition for either diet (things like low energy, headaches, and hunger), most people eventually find that their energy levels are higher, and their minds are clearer – you may also find relief from food cravings and hunger. The longer you stick to the Atkins or ketogenic diet, the better your results will be. It’s up to you whether you choose to maintain the diet after you meet your goals or not – it will depend how well the diet fits with your lifestyle and whether you feel satisfied with it for the long-term.
Which Option is Right for You?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for weight loss. Every person’s body responds to dieting in a different way, so you’ll have to make some personal adjustments to get the results you want. That being said, you may find it helpful to pick a diet, so you have some kind of framework to follow. But how do you know which diet is the right choice for you?
Simply put, the best diet for you is the one that you’ll be able to stick to. Both the Atkins diet and the ketogenic diet have some great benefits, but you need to take a closer look at the requirements and restrictions to determine which one will be easier for you to maintain until you reach your goal. You should also factor those goals into your decision. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight to better manage your diabetes, the Atkins diet might be the better choice. If you’re simply trying to shed excess body fat and you are otherwise healthy, the ketogenic diet is a great option.
Before making your decision, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to your doctor. Your doctor should have a good understanding of your medical history,and he’ll know whether it is safe for you to make significant changes to your diet. Once you’ve thought it over and, with your doctor’s approval, you can feel good about the choice you’ve made. At that point, all you have to do is get started and stick with it!