The question is: which one is the good one? There are several low-carb diet plans that have similar principles, but are different in their approach to losing weight. Is one better than the rest? If so, how much better? Diets rely on several factors to be effective, including nutritional requirements, simplicity, and convenience.
So, if you didn’t even know that there were different kinds of diets, let’s first take a closer look at the most popular low-carb diets and break them down piece by piece.
What are the main low-carb diets?
The three main low-carb diets out there today are the Atkins, ketogenic and Paleo diets. All three use a decreased carbohydrate intake as one of their foundational building blocks, but they do have their differences when it comes to other nutrients.
The Atkins diet, as famed through their prepared meals, is one of the most popular diets on the planet (regardless of low-carb or non-low-carb). The Atkins diet works in phases. First, you cut out carbs almost completely (under 20g per day), then you slowly add them back in and fine tune the diet until you notice a change in your weight loss. This diet relies a lot on “listening to your body,” and although it does start out with extremely low carbs, these levels will increase throughout the duration of the diet.
The ketogenic (or keto) diet has sparked in popularity in the recent years among health and fitness enthusiasts, and for good reason. The ketogenic starts out the same way as the Atkins diet; however, instead of reintroducing carbohydrates, you keep them out. This diet is very simple: high fat, moderate protein and low carbs (around 20g per day) to maintain the process of ketosis that turns your body into a fat-burning furnace.
Lastly, the Paleo diet is popular in many of the same circles where the keto flourished. The Paleo diet, while also low-carb, takes a more natural approach. In other words, the plan encourages to get proteins and fats from all-natural sources like nuts, meat, olive and sunflower oils, fish and some fruits and vegetables.
Pros and cons of each diet
As these diets have their differences, they also come with their own pros and cons, which may make them easier or harder to follow depending on your eating preferences.
The biggest benefit to the Atkins diet is its flexibility. You may start with serious carb reduction, but the ability to reintroduce carbs makes the diet easy to follow. With that said, this flexibility can also be its downfall. The first phase of the Atkins diet effectively puts your body into ketosis, wherein it substitutes fat for carbohydrates as the body’s main energy source.
A negative aspect of the Atkins diet is that when carbohydrates are reintroduced, your body is kicked out of the ketosis state. When your body enters and exits ketosis like this, it can cause a set of flu-like symptoms (called the induction flu). The symptoms can be one-time or indefinite depending on how often your carb intake fluctuates.
The induction flu isn’t unique to Atkins, though, as it also occurs during the beginning stage of the ketogenic diet (which is why it’s also commonly called the “keto flu”). However, with the ketogenic diet, it only happens for the first week or so while your body is adjusting to the process of ketosis. After this “initiation” period, as long as you monitor your ketone levels and keep your body in the ideal state of ketosis, you won’t experience the symptoms again. Once that’s over, the only downfalls to this diet are the same downfalls experienced with any low-carb diet - decreased lean muscle mass and quicker muscle fatigue.
Despite all of its health benefits and attraction for those wishing to live a more natural and healthy lifestyle, the Paleo diet can be inconvenient and difficult to adhere to. You may not experience flu-like symptoms as with the other two diet plans, but your ability to stick to the diet over time is certainly tested.
High-fat snacks (often referred to as “fat bombs”) can be the saving grace of a craving during a low-carb diet. A lot of these satisfying treats are restricted by the Paleo diet due to its natural focus, which also makes it more expensive (natural meat and nut-diets tend to be pricier).
Which is the most effective?
The best diet for you is going to depend on your lifestyle. You know yourself and you know your cravings. Play to your strengths when choosing your diet to give yourself the best possible circumstances for sticking to it and being successful.
If you can handle a temporary carb reduction, but want to phase them back in for convenience and overall diet satisfaction, Atkins might be the right diet for you.
Maybe you don’t have a problem cutting out carbs, but you don’t want to go completely all-natural to keep costs down. In this case, the ketogenic diet might be more up your alley.
Or, maybe you’re turning over a new leaf and starting your journey to an all-natural diet, and you want your diet to reflect that. If weight loss is the goal, but you’ve restricted yourself to getting your calories from only natural sources, the Paleo diet is going to be the most appropriate path for you to take.
Low-carb diets are popular and effective ways to lose weight. However, despite their shared principle, the three most popular low-carb diets are quite different. As with all dieting, the most effective diet is the one you’re actually going to be able to stick to. Whether that means that you dip your toes into cutting carbs with the Atkins diet, cut them out completely with keto, or go all-natural with Paleo, is completely up to you, your body, your cravings, and your lifestyle.
Want to complement your low-carb diet with a vegetarian lifestyle? Go on a vegetarian yoga retreat and learn to eat healthy with no need of meat!