Turn the pages of any lifestyle magazine or visit any health site online and you’re pretty much guaranteed to come across the latest diet or wonder eating plan that is designed to help you shed the pounds and keep them off. Sometimes these come with a side order with of superfoods that seem to be the newest food fad.
There are certainly no shortages of healthy eating regimes to choose from. What can be hard is finding the one that works for you, and for your lifestyle. After all, many of us lead hectic and demanding schedules that mean meal prep and eating time is at a premium.
Dieting trends do come and go, but two plans in particular seem to have stayed the course and offer results that can last if the plans are followed properly. They are the Ketogenic Diet (Keto for short) and the Atkins Diet. Both regimes are low carb but have their own distinct differences which would fit into a range of differing dietary needs and lifestyles. Here, we give you the lowdown on both plans so you can find out which low carb diet would suit you the best.
Perhaps we should start by saying who shouldn’t follow a low carb plan. Anyone who takes a lot of daily physical exercise such as jogging, swimming, weights etc, or who has a similarly physically demanding job or work routine may be best advised to avoid low carb diets.
However, people who do more lower intensity exercise plans, involving yoga or pilates or walking every day would find it a benefit and a lot easier to maintain and keep their energy levels high.
We’ll outline more about what each eating plan entails as we go on, but one thing to bear in mind if your time is at a premium, is that the Keto Diet is much more specific in terms of the guidelines you need to follow and may need more in the way of planning. This can benefit people who need something strict to stick to and like rules and a proper regimen. On the other hand, the Atkins Diet can offer a little more flexibility and is perhaps less intimidating and stringent, which might suit those people who are approaching a low carb eating plan for the first time.
There are two things that anyone approaching a new diet should bear in mind before they begin. Check with your Doctor or a Dietician beforehand to make sure that any changes you’re making to your diet will be healthy, sustainable and will not cause any long term issues, especially if you have any health concerns, or are already suffering from an illness.
The second point to make is to choose the low carb diet that will slot into your lifestyle and become something you can implement long term. The diet you adopt needs to be something that isn’t a quick fix to get the pounds off. These sorts of regimes inevitably mean once you come off them, you regain al the weight you have lost.
What is the Ketogenic Diet? It’s sometimes known by its shortened name, the Keto Diet. It has been around in one shape or form since the 1920s and was originally developed to help children and adults who suffered from epilepsy, in order that they might control their seizures better.
Essentially, it is a very high fat eating plan that incorporates protein, but very low carbs. If you were to break this down into a percentage, your dietary intake would be:
The low carbs coupled with high fat means that the liver converts any fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. Over a period of three to six weeks, the body will make a transition to running on fat, rather
The Atkins Diet was developed in 1972, by Dr Robert Atkins. It was originally marketed as a low carbohydrate eating plan and was what started the modern craze for carb cutting.
The diet emphasised eating god quality proteins and fats, alongside a reduction in carbs. The carbs that were consumed had to come from high fibre options that would be satiating.
The diet has four phases, described thus: Induction Phase: In this first phase you must have no more than twenty grams of carbohydrate per day. This must always come from dark leafy greens. The rest of your food should be high fat and high protein. Balancing Phase: In this second phase you can start to introduce nuts, low carb vegetables and small portions of fruit. Fine-tuning Phase: The third phase allows you to introduce more carbs until your weight loss starts to slow down. Maintenance Phase: In the final, maintenance phase you are allowed to reintroduce high fibre carbohydrates in portions that will not make you regain weight.
The Atkins Diet can deliver quick weight loss and can also help to reduce appetites and cravings, especially if you have a sweet tooth or a penchant for desserts! One of the reasns for this could be that there is less insulin produced in the body, because the diet is low in carbs and has no included sugar.
An excess of inuslin in the Pancreas lowers blood sugar and can therefore lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels. These in turn are responsible for cravings. If there is less insulin produced, there are less blood sugar fluctuations and therefore fewer cravings.
This diet can benefit people who have diabetes, or who have the hormone condition PCOS.
Any disadvantages associated with the diet are likely to vary person to person. Some may not experience any problems at all, whilst others may feel that the diet isn’t doing much for them. If you are worried, consult a Doctor before you commit to the Atkins Diet.
It is argued that the eating plan can cause some electrolyte imbalances, alongside reduced muscle mass and weaker bones over time. As with the Keto Diet, if you lose weight quickly your body will use ketones but will also resort to using your muscle mass as a form of energy. Once you start to lose muscle mass for energy, you’re lowering it overall and could actually end up with a higher percentage of body fat in the long run.
There have been studies that have both proved and disproved the theory that the Atkins Diet can cause Osteoporosis. This is because of the high fat content of the diet, especially if they rely too much on saturated rather than unmatured fats.
As we’ve already seen, this eating plan was developed to help people who suffered from epilepsy.
The reason it worked was that it essentially ‘robbed’ the brain of sugar, including any that came from sources of carbohydrates. It was, and still is, believed that sugar can fuel the nerve impulses that can trigger off epileptic seizures. A study carried out at the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, in 2008, on a core group of young Epilepsy sufferers found that 40% experienced a reduction in the amount of seizures they had, when following this diet. Even the children that did not have a reduction in seizures noted that they felt more alert, less tired and better able to concentrate, when following the plan.
This same diet can also help with maintaining blood sugar levels appropriately and may also be useful for those with type 2 diabetes diagnoses. Some studies have shown that people who are in ketosis can actually have decreased levels of triglycerides and increased levels of good cholesterol (otherwise known as HDL)
Lower blood sugar can reduce the risk of heart disease, as you are removing a lot of high sugar foods from the diet. This coupled with an increase in leafy green veg consumption and healthy fats can have a positive effect on the health of your heart.
Perhaps the biggest drawback is that whilst some people will achieve ketosis, some never will no matter how hard they try. This is possibly because the Keto Diet encourages low carb living throughout the plan, whereas the Atkins Diet allows you to increase and include carbs over a period of time. This means that, unless you stick 100% rigidly to the guidelines, you’ll find it impossible to truly achieve ketosis and may find it harder to shift the weight.
This can put people off or make them quit the plan before they’ve seen any real result. It’s important to try and think differently about your approach to weight loss with the Keto Diet. You didn’t gain all the weight you need to lose, overnight – so it’s better to expect not to lose it all in the same time frame and allow yourself the time and space to do it properly, for long term results.
There can, as with the Atkins Diet, be a risk of electrolyte imbalance. Once you stop eating carbs or curtail them to a drastic extent you can lose a lot of sodium and potassium. It is important that you’re aware of the risks with this and if need be, have electrolyte supplements on hand to replenish anything that is lost.
Both Atkins and Keto have distinct advantages for anyone wanting to try a different way to lose weight. Both are long established plans with a proven track record for helping patients to shed pounds.
Whilst they both operate on a low-carb basis, they diverge down different roads with the Atkins offering a more transient way to cut carbs, followed by a gradual reintroduction of slow release, wholegrain carbohydrates and the Keto diet being the plan that will suit people who need a structure and rigid rules to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Both have distinct advantages for people who experience issues with their blood sugar, though if you are diabetic and wish to try either regime it’s important you speak to a medical professional before embarking on any plan like this.
The best overall advice for anyone thinking about either eating plan is to think about how much weight you would like to lose. The time frame you would like to aim to lose it in, and your overall health and any concerns you may have about your wellbeing. Speak to a Doctor before embarking on either plan, especially if you have any long term health conditions.