Keto vs Low Fat – Which Diet Works Best?
The ketogenic diet has been one of the most popular fad diets in recent years. I’m sure you’ve heard many people rave about its weight loss capabilities and positive health benefits. However, it’s just like any other diet. It works well for some people, and not so much for others.
At the opposite end of the spectrum there are people who make substantial improvements to their weight loss and health on a low fat diet. You’re probably wondering, how is it possible that two diets with directly opposing strategies can provide the same or a similar outcome? Surely one diet is better than the other?
Well the truth is, both diets have their pros and cons, so when it comes to figuring out which one is best, the answer is a not so clear-cut. Frustrating I know! So let’s look at both in turn and help you figure out whether either of these dieting strategies might work for you.
First, let’s go over one of the most trending diets right now, the Ketogenic Diet. In short, keto is a very low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet which puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. When we say low-carb, we mean LOW! We’re talking less than 5% of your daily caloric intake which can be as little as less than 20 grams of carbs a day. So day goodbye to fruit, pasta, whole grains & any starchy veggies. Your fat intake will be somewhere around 70% of your overall intake and your protein around 25%.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Keto
The main goal of keto is to switch your bodies primary energy source from glucose to fat so that your body is in a state of ketosis. While the keto diet may seem pretty intimidating, you may decide that the benefits are a good trade-off:
- Weight Loss: Because the ketogenic diet is using body fat as an energy source, your body will begin to burn the unwanted fat causing obvious weight loss benefits.
- Increased Energy: Keto helps to provide your body with a more reliable energy source allowing you to feel more energized throughout the day.
- Control Blood Sugar: Keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to not eating as many carbs so your body can’t produce glucose. Because of this, keto can be extremely beneficial for those that are pre-diabetic or have Type II diabetes.
- Appetite Control: Fats are digested more slowly by the body and so they are naturally more satisfying as they keep our bodies feeling satiated for longer. This often means you’ll experience fewer cravings and find yourself grazing less throughout the day.
- Treatment of Medical Conditions: Keto is thought to improve symptoms of health conditions such as, epilepsy, PCOS, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Migraines and more.
However, as I mentioned above keto also has a lot of drawbacks. For example, it’s extremely difficult to sustain as you are essentially excluding entire food groups from your diet. Carbs are most readily available and convenient, and not just the processed kinds but natural forms too.
Here are the foods that you would need to focus on consuming:
- Protein: Your protein should be consumed in moderation, as the keto diet mainly focuses on fat. Some good protein options include Grass-fed beef, fish, chicken, eggs, and bacon.
- Oils and Fats: Fats are the primary focus of the keto diet. Here are some good fats to add to your meal: Avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and heavy cream. Try and limit your consumption of sunflower oil, Safflower oil, and Corn oil.
- Fruits and Veggies: Some good choices for fruits and veggies include avocado, leafy greens, asparagus, berries (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, etc.) and kiwi. Avoid starchy veggies like potatoes and still keep carbohydrate intake to less than 5% of your calories.
- Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are perfect snacks, and are a key ingredient in many keto recipes. Some good options are walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and macadamia nuts.
Some other notable components of the keto diet are dairy products like cheeses.
Keto & Performance
Additionally, trying to follow a Keto Diet, could affect your performance in the gym in the following ways:
- Less Energy: While the keto diet can increase your energy, it can also decrease energy. Especially for those who are more active. Those who are following the keto diet cut out processed sweets and starches. However, they also cut out severely restricting nutrient-dense simple carbohydrates found in fruit, as well as whole grains and legumes. Missing out on these high-quality carbohydrates can have some negative effects on those who are active.
- Diminish Intensity: Since the ketogenic diet is such a major adjustment for your body, you may have to focus on low-intensity workouts. The switch from burning glucose as your main energy source to fat may severely impact your power and endurance. So if you are switching to the keto diet, make sure not to try any new or intense workouts.
- Slower Recovery Time: While keto is good for weight loss, it’s not great when it comes to improving athletic performance. In fact, When it comes to power sports like weightlifting or sprinting, most research has found that the diet does not benefit performance in any way.
2. Low Fat Diet
Fats are extremely important for our bodies to properly function. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out our article all about fats. However, given their caloric value, it’s best to consume fats in moderation.
In fact, fat is a crucial macronutrient, but when you start tracking your fat intake you learn a lot:
- Fat packs a calorie punch at 9 calories per gram (compared with 4 calories / gram from protein or carbs);
- Fat intake adds up quickly as it’s easily added into many foods;
- You consume a lot more fat than you thought you did;
- You consume more fat than you need.
With a traditional Western diet, it’s extremely easy to go overboard with eating fats. The low-fat diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins such as lean meat and fish.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Low-Fat
Following a low-fat diet can provide you with some health benefits. Some of the benefits of a low-fat diet are thought to include:
- Weight loss;
- Reduces the risk of heart disease;
- Reduces the risk of high cholesterol;
- Reduces the risk of some cancers.
The concern over too much fat in our diet really emerged during the 80s when too much dietary saturated fat was thought to be the cause of heart disease and other health issues at the time. Now it’s understood that not all fat is “bad” for you and that fat is a key component for regulating our hormones and bodies’ cell signaling mechanisms (amongst many other functions!).
The drawbacks of a low-fat diet are:
- there’s no quantitive measure of how much fat you should consume;
- you may struggle to feel satiated or control your appetite;
- you may find energy and blood sugar levels unstable.
The Low Fat vs Keto Takeaway
At Own Your Eating we don’t promote fad diets. Despite claims that the Keto diet
Although the low-fat diet may seem a lot less limiting than keto, it still involves restricting a food group from your diet. The reason why these strategies may work in the short-term is because by restricting a food group, you are inevitably reducing your overall caloric intake. In reality it’s not that your body prefers to be on a low-fat diet and that’s why you’re losing weight. No, the reason for your weight loss is that you’re burning the same amount of calories, but consuming less food.
All macronutrients in balance are important for optimal function and health. We believe the best protocol is a balance of all three macronutrients that promotes health, supports weight loss and allows you to enjoy your life without stressing out about being on a diet. I might not always result in rapid weight loss, but our method does work! To find out more about our clients experience of flexible eating and sustainable weight loss, check out our transformations.