Ketogenic (Keto) Diet
Originally introduced in 1924 by Dr. Russel Wilder at the Mayo clinic to treat epileptic patients, the ketogenic diet has since evolved into a popular weight loss regimen better known as the ‘Keto Diet’. Characterized by a very-high-fat to carbohydrate ratio, the diet is designed to fuel the body with fat instead of glucose (a simple sugar), inducing a condition known as ‘ketosis’. The ‘Keto’ name is derived from ‘ketones’, which are molecules produced by the liver in response to the absence of sugar. Without glucose, the body burns ketones for fuel, turning it into a ‘fat-burning machine’. The benefits resulting from burning ketones instead of glucose are rapid weight loss, improved blood sugar control, greater energy and focus, and the reduction of inflammation in the body. Although grains and legumes are not allowed on Keto, full-fat dairy is.
The following is a typical ‘macronutrient’ distribution of a ‘Keto Diet’:
- High Fat (70-75% of total calories)
- Moderate Protein (20-25% of total calories)
- Low Carb (5-10% of total calories)
Guiding Principle: The guiding principle of the Keto Diet is to promote and sustain a state of ketosis, in which the body switches from using glucose (sugar) as its primary fuel source, to using ketone bodies (created from ingested fats or fat stores) as its primary fuel source.
Much like the Keto Diet, The Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet with the primary goal of weight loss. It was originally promoted by the physician Dr. Robert C. Atkins, who wrote a best-selling book about it in 1972.
The Atkins diet is split into 4 different phases, with each of the first three phases introducing varying degrees of carbohydrate restriction with the fourth and final phase focused on promoting long term weight maintenance.
A typical daily upper-limit carbohydrate allowance on the final, ‘Maintenance Phase’, of Atkins is 100g.
Guiding Principle: The guiding principle of the Atkins diet is its namesake’s theory that overconsumption of carbohydrates is at the root of weight gain. Like Paleo, it focuses on reducing carbohydrate intake in favor of consuming protein-rich foods.
Loren Cordain, PhD, who literally wrote the book on “The Paleo Diet”, claims that by eating like our prehistoric ancestors, we are less likely to develop many of the more common chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Also called the Caveman Diet or the Stone Age diet, the Paleo diet is based on foods humans used to eat during the Paleolithic period, which ended 10,000 years ago. It is fundamentally a high-protein, high-fiber eating style which advocates for eliminating grains, dairy and legumes and focusing on eating whole, minimally-processed foods. Both the ketogenic diet and the paleo diet have similar goals of controlling blood sugar and weight, and promoting better health.
The Paleo Diet allows for up to 150g carbohydrates daily, depending on your personal goals.
Guiding Principle: The guiding principle of the Paleo diet is, in short: if your ancestors could “hunt or gather” the food to be consumed, it is allowed.
While ketosis plays a role only during Phase 1 and possibly Phase 2 of the Atkins diet, the Keto Diet centers around the body being in ketosis for the long term. Ketogenic diets can potentially be a hunger-free way of eating that produces regular, sustained weight-loss. Unlike weight loss from very low calorie diets, ketogenic diets result in a much lower degree of muscle wasting. After the initial water weight, most of the weight lost is excess body fat. Aside from the varying degrees of carbohydrate restriction between the Keto, Atkins, and Paleo diets, a key difference between the three diets is the amount of protein allowed. While both Atkins and Paleo allow for generous amounts of protein, the Keto Diet limits protein to about 20 percent of the daily calorie intake. This is because higher protein consumption can lead to gluconeogenesis – the state when your body begins to convert protein into glucose to burn for fuel, rather than carbs. The one commonality between all three diets, however, is that all focus on eating whole, natural, nutrient-dense foods that are filling.