Keto Diet vs Low-Carb Diet vs Paleo Diet: Which Is the Best?

Should you follow keto, low-carb or the paleo diet? We tried all three so you don’t have to make a mistake.

Updated29 Jul 2019, 07:10 AM IST
7 min read

On this episode of Vishnu Ki Secret Life we answer one of the most searched questions on the internet when it comes to health and fitness.

What diet should YOU follow?

We cover three popular diets on this podcast – the Keto Diet, the Low-Carb Diet and the Paleo Diet.

Listen to the podcast for the whole story:

The Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet, or Keto, is an almost zero-carb diet that focuses on high protein and high fat food. In simple terms, when you’re on a ketogenic diet, you eat almost no carbohydrates. You get most of your daily calories from high fat, high protein food that has little to no carbohydrates. For most people, this means a diet that’s rich in food like chicken, eggs, meat, cheese, paneer, and some leafy green vegetables.

A keto diet also means saying no to rice, grains, cereal, sugar, milk(in some cases), fruits, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn.

Quick side note: In case you didn’t know it yet, it’s called keto because it puts your body in a state of ketosis.

Ketosis is the state where your body, after it has run out of sugar to burn, turns to its own fat stores. But ketosis is technically a survival mechanism so it takes your body time to get used to it and switch on the mechanism that burns fat for energy.

That means saying bye bye to most of your favourite food, and saying hello to a diet that’ll leave you feeling full, but also make you crave sweet things, rice and deep fried stuff, in the first few days or weeks.

So if you’ve just started keto, in the initial few weeks or days you may be feeling tired or low on energy. But once your body switches from burning sugar to burning fat for energy, it’s smooth sailing.

The Ketogenic Diet: Possible Pitfalls

I’ve tried a keto diet for a few years now, and I keep trying it, but I keep failing, for two simple reasons.

  • One, a keto diet is extremely restrictive. You can’t eat 85% of the food that’s commercially available and the 15% that you CAN eat, is food that’s really expensive. In case you don’t know, protein sources, especially chicken or most other animal-based sources of protein, are really expensive. This meant I was spending a lot on food.
  • Second, even if I ate healthy the whole day, on many days I’d give into my cravings for carbs and eat something extremely unhealthy later at night. Chocolate, biscuits, chips, random munchies, whatever. I didn’t cook too often, so that also meant that I wouldn’t have food to eat randomly if I was hungry. So don’t make the same mistakes I did.

What you can learn from this is that a keto diet is the most restrictive of the four diets. It lets you eat VERY little carbs, if we’re talking specific numbers, it tells you to eat UNDER 15 grams of carbohydrates a day, and eat more high fat, and moderate to high protein.

You can lose a LOT of weight doing a keto diet. But you’ll have to plan your meals in advance, start cooking and preparing your meals for the next few days, ensure you don’t go over your daily allowed intake of carbohydrates, and invest quite a bit of money on your nutrition.

Don’t eat too little, or go cheap on your food. Spend time and money, and invest in your health. You’ll definitely see rewards if you do keto properly.

Keto is great for weight loss for people who are INSANELY COMMITTED to losing weight or for people looking to shred that last bit of fat, but if you’re super obese and just starting out, I wouldn’t suggest it, because it’s not sustainable for long periods, especially if you’re coming from eating junk regularly. For a sustainable diet keep listening and I’ll get to it soon enough.

The advantages of keto are that if you make it past the first few weeks and you’re still sticking to it, then the sailing is smooth after that.

The Low-Carb Diet

Low-carb allows a low to moderate amount of carbohydrates in your diet, high protein, and moderate to low fat. There are two key differences between low-carb and keto.

  • The first difference, is that low-carb is easier to maintain and it’s less restrictive. You can eat more carbs, like white or brown rice or some starchy vegetables like potatoes. This is a little easier to stick to, psychologically and nutritionally, but your weight loss also, usually, is slower on low-carb. On keto you’ll be having almost no carbohydrates and this can be tougher to stick to.
  • The second difference is that when you’re on keto, you get your energy from fat, and when you’re low-carb it’s a combination of carbohydrates and fat.

When you’re eating low-carb your body burns a combination of carbohydrates AKA sugar ALONG with fat. To dip into ketogenic fat-burning when you’re on low carb, you need to restrict carbs even more strictly or work out intensely.

The Low-Carb Diet: Who Should Do It?

  • The first – You’ve lost a lot of fat by eating healthy and working out, and now you want to stay in a state of maintenance, AKA, you don’t want to lose any more weight, and you don’t want to lose any muscle either. This is the ideal situation for a low-carb diet. In fact, if you tweak the macronutrients you’re getting in your diet at this point, you can do a lot of fun things like gain muscle, lose fat, get more stamina, and so on.
  • The second – if you’re an endurance athlete, or you work out a lot, or lift very heavy, you SHOULD have slightly more carbohydrates, because carbohydrates give you glucose which is stored as glycogen. Glycogen is the stuff that fills up your muscles and gives you the ENERGY you need to lift heavy, run hard, climb high and sustain workouts. If you’re low on glycogen, you won’t be able to keep going with your workout.
  • The third – If a ketogenic diet is too restrictive for you, or if it’s too difficult to stick to a diet that’s so ridiculously low in carbs, you can opt for a low-carb diet. This is only effective if you stick to the diet plan you’re following.

On a sidenote: If you tend to have a trigger or a spillover effect from eating certain foods, and if those foods are available on the low-carb diet, then be careful about those foods.

The downside of low-carb is that involves quite some rigorous planning and calorie regulating. Second, it involves moderation, not extremes of abstinence like keto or even paleo. And there’s an old saying that goes, “Moderation is easy to implement, but hard to maintain. Abstinence is hard to implement, but easy to maintain.”

And finally, since you’ll have to plan, you’ll also have to either cook a lot of your own food AKA meal prep or you’ll end up spending an enormous amount on ordering in.

The Paleo Diet

Short for paleolithic, in one sentence the paleo diet is eating like paleolithic man, or how a caveman would eat.

In simple language, you can eat meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts. No grains – that includes rice, atta, maida, and corn – no legumes, this is tough, and no rajma, chole and most other beans that need to be processed or fermented before eating, no dairy – goodbye milk and cheese – no cereal – no more muesli, cornflakes or other crap to make your mornings comfortable – and finally no sugars, period.

But you can eat as much meat, eggs and vegetables (no potatoes and corn) as you want, and some fruits and nuts. My average day, when I was on paleo, would be – wake up, bacon and eggs for breakfast, eggs or chicken and raita for lunch, and finally a lot of chicken for dinner.

It was how I lost nearly a third of my body fat, or roughly 40 kilos, over a span of two years. While it works on the same principle as most diets, that you lose weight because of a calorie deficit, it felt different, because, on a personal note, I’d just focus on eating as much meat as I wanted, till I was full, and stopping when I was full.

Paleo allows for some carbs as well, unlike keto. But it’s different from low-carb, because paleo’s biggest emphasis is on naturally available food.

The simplest way to differentiate the two is that paleo allows vegetables and most natural carbs that don’t require processing or refining, which means grains aren’t allowed. Low-carb allows grains like rice and atta, and is less focused on the food being natural, and more focused on the macronutrients the food has.

A simple way to know if the food you’re eating is paleo, is that if it comes in a package it’s probably not paleo. Also read ingredient labels. If it’s got more than five ingredients, it’s usually not paleo. But again, these aren’t set in stone, they’re just general rules of thumb to guide you.

Paleo, in my opinion, gives you the best of both worlds. The fat-burning effects from keto, and some carbohydrates, like low-carb.

But that said, you need to try things out to figure out what works for you.

In fact, that should be your biggest takeaway from this podcast. Try everything out for a few weeks. See what works, and stick with that. Because a diet isn’t a pair of socks, where one size fits all. It’s like a fine, tailored suit. What fits and looks good on you, won’t fit and look good on someone else.

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Published: 17 Jul 2019, 02:03 PM IST
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