Low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet and the Atkins diet are nothing new. Science has long shown the advantages that come with cutting carbs, such as improved mental performance, weight loss and plenty more health advantages.
While these two most popular low-carb diets share some similarities, they are also different in many ways. Let’s take a closer look to see which can have a greater impact in your life.
Here is what we’ll cover in this article:
- What is the Keto Diet?
- Keto Diet Pros
- Keto Diet Cons
- What is the Atkins Diet?
- Important Difference
- Atkins Diet Pros
- Atkins Diet Cons
- Keto vs. Atkins: Which is Better?
Created nearly a century ago as a treatment for epilepsy and to provide an alternative to fasting—which was much less mainstream—the keto diet is based on the premise of drastically reducing your carb intake so the body will move into a metabolic state called ketosis.
Being in ketosis is the goal of the keto diet because it allows your body to burn fat for energy.
This diet can be challenging for newcomers as it requires close monitoring and measuring of foods to ensure the body is getting the right balance of micronutrients and macronutrients to stay healthy and maintain ketosis.
- The increase in ketone bodies boosts physical and mental performance
- Ketosis yields fat loss
- Suppresses hunger pangs and cravings
- Leads to many other health benefits
- Restrictive and you might need keto supplements
- Need to closely monitor food intake
- Requires you to measure if you are in or out of ketosis (mostly in the beginning)
Often referred to as the “Atkins ketosis diet”, this diet calls for high fat and high protein intake while cutting carbs. It consists of four phases:
- Introduction Phase: This phase is the most essential and also the most difficult. It has a two week window where the carbs you take in need to be close to 20 grams each day. Just to give you an idea, the typical individual eats around 250 grams daily.
In this stage, food sources should be from low-carb veggies, poultry, fish, meat, and shellfish. Water consumption should also be increased since frequent urination occurs when drastically cutting carbs.
Because of the Introduction phase limitations, most dieters lose the most weight during this period.
- Balancing Phase: Also referred to as the Ongoing Weight Loss Phase, this phase is where you slowly begin adding more carbs back to your diet and finding the right balance to ensure the continuation of weight loss.
Carb tolerance can vary depending on the individual, so the goal here is to find what your max carb amount is per day while still losing around 1-3 pounds per week.
The duration of this phase depends on what your current weight is and what your weight loss goals are, but it typically lasts until there are between 5-10 pounds left to lose. This can take months or even years for some people.
- Fine Tuning Phase: In this phase, your carb intake should increase by 10 grams per week. You can start introducing more foods with higher carbs, such as pasta or bread, but the carb count should still be kept well below the average level. This period lasts until your weight loss goal is brought down to only 1 pound per week.
- Maintenance: As its name suggests, the maintenance phase is the final phase where you maintain healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes. You can begin adding back more carbs to your diet, but it’s best to stick with healthier complex carbs rather than those that are simple and processed.
If you begin to gain weight again, return to phase 3.
Now that you have a more solid understand of what each diet entails, let’s break down some key differences between the keto diet vs the Atkins diet.
- Carb Intake: The keto diet has a fixed level of carb consumption whereas the Atkins carb intake changes from phase to phase, beginning with a more drastic decrease followed up by a gradual carb increase.
- Carb Monitoring Method: The keto diet monitors the total carbohydrates while the Atkins diet monitors net carbohydrates.
- Protein: The keto diet calls for 1 gram of protein per kg of bodyweight. The Atkins diet calls for three 4-6 oz servings of protein each day.
- Fat: The keto diet relies on high fat intake, which can be as much as 75% of your daily food consumption. On Atkins, once proteins and carbs have been accounted for, the leftover calories should be comprised of fats.
- Progress: On the keto diet, progress is seen once ketosis is achieved and optimal fat, protein, and carb levels are sustained. On the Atkins diet, ketone levels are at their max during the first phase. After that, ketosis slowly falls back.
- Ketosis: The time it takes to achieve ketosis on the keto diet can vary and depends on the individual. On the Atkins diet, ketosis should come in phase 1.
- Results in significant weight loss
- Suppresses hunger pangs and cravings
- More sustainable in that is allows all food groups in the last two stages
- More carb counting and guesswork
- Drastically low carb intake in the first phase can lead to dehydration risks
- High risk of nutrient deficiency if multivitamins aren’t used, especially in the initial phases
While both diets focus on being low-carb, it’s still important to remember that you never want to cut out carbs completely, as this can lead to micronutrient deficiencies.
The ketogenic diet is far more precise in what and how much you eat to change your body’s metabolism and how it uses energy. While it can be a hassle to keep track of food and ketone levels, the positive and healthy results are plentiful and worth it.
The Atkins diet is more easy to follow, but comes with some health risks without the same health benefits of the more strict keto diet.
So which is better for your overall health and lifestyle?
The keto diet wins this battle and has emerged as a more preferred method for losing weight and staying healthy.
 Paoli A. Ketogenic diet for obesity: Friend or foe? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11:2092–107. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
 Calton J.B. Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2010;7:24. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-24. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]