I’ve been asked by many of my readers to clarify what it means to follow a low carb or ketogenic diet. Because these two terms can mean two very different things, I thought it would be easiest to do a comparison. If after reading this you have more questions, please feel free to reach out. I’m always happy to answer questions or update my post here if something isn’t clear.
What is a low carb diet?
Generally speaking, the term “low carb” can be applied to any type of diet where you reduce your overall carb intake. This is a very loose term and can mean different things to different people.
There is a general consensus out there that eating low carb “usually” means eating between 20 and 100 net carbs per day. That is a very large range, and not everybody will follow those guidelines.
The term low carb referrs to simply reducing your overall carb consumption. The number of carbs you eat is totally up to you or whatever diet book you may be reading.
A low carb diet does not equal a ketogenic diet.
What are net carbs?
Net carbs are very easy to figure. All you have to do is look at the nutrition data for whatever food you are eating and subtract the fiber count from the total carb count. Many people choose this method to ensure they get more fiber in an eating plan that could easily cut out fiber completely.
There is also some science behind it, but I will leave that to you to google if you like. I don’t like to get that technical around here.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A Ketogenic diet does equal a low carb diet.
A Keto diet is one of many different approaches to eating low carb. It has very specific parameters with the idea being that you put your body into a state of ketosis where fat becomes your body’s main fuel source. It is considered a high fat, moderate protein, low carb eating plan.
While macros will be slightly different for each person, a Ketogenic diet will require that your macros are generally around 80% fat, 15% protein and 5% carbs. This can seem extreme to some people, but for those who follow a Ketogenic diet, the health benefits can be significant.
Plus, after a while, it becomes extremely easy to get that amount of fat. Like any diet, there is a term of adjustment. But it’s pretty easy to get the hang of.
That being said, a ketogenic diet is not for everyone. If you have certain health concerns, such as kidney problems, a Ketogenic diet will not be a good option for you. So talk to your doctor or a qualified dietitian before getting started.
A note on the medical profession
Many medical professionals out there hear the word “Ketosis” and automatically equate it with ketoacidosis (which is basically ketosis that has gone too far). This is a serious condition most often associated with diabetes.
Also note that most doctors do not study nutrition, much less nutrition that is viewed as “fringe” in any way. So if you need to work with a medical professional, just know that you may have to search for somebody who knows about this sort of eating plan. These folks are not always easy to find, and there are new studies coming out all the time on this type of eating plan. So look for somebody who keeps up with the latest.
If you think you might be interested in following a Ketogenic diet, I implore you to do your research. There are many concerns and issues that can arise based on your own, individual constitution. For those people who can benefit from this sort of eating plan, the benefits are endless. But there are things you need to watch for when following this sort of eating plan. So do your homework. This is not for everyone.
I tend to follow a Keto eating plan and I have seen many benefits from doing so. Often people ask me how I can possibly be healthy eating that much fat. But when fat becomes your main fuel source, your whole body functions differently. Traditional nutrition “rules” no longer apply in that respect. I have seen all my lab work come back into normal ranges within a matter of months. So if you feel you may benefit from a Keto plan, it could definitely be worth, at the very least, a try.
Low carb eating is a broad term that can be applied to many different approaches and eating plans. It can be based on just about any number of carbs that are less than what you would typically eat. Every low carb diet out there from South Beach to Atkins will give you a different number of carbs to shoot for. So if you want to eat low carb, but are not interested in a Keto diet, you will need to do your research on the many, many low carb diets available on the market today.
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