If you are looking to lose some weight, a common go-to solution is the ketogenic diet. Although keto is the most popular diet today, in years past people used to follow the Atkins diet for the same purpose.
So, what is the difference between keto and Atkins? Are they safe to follow? What are the pros and cons of following each one? What foods are allowed in each?
Although the two eating styles are very similar, since both are low-carb, high-fat diets, there are important differences that make each one unique.
If you are wondering which one is more effective, or which is more compatible with your lifestyle, keep reading to find the best option for you.
The Atkins diet is a low-carb way of eating created by the physician Dr. Robert C. Atkins in 1972. It was created for people who are looking to lose weight.
The Atkins diet has been optimized over the years. There are different macronutrient ratios on the Atkins diet depending on how much weight you want to lose. The main difference is the carb ratio. Protein usually stays around 20-30% of your total daily intake, and the fats account for 70-90%. Carbs are divided into three categories.
Atkins 20 has four different phases. At the start, you greatly reduce your carb intake. As time goes on, you increase the number of carbs you consume.
The main focus of Atkins is that it doesn’t rely on counting calories but on only counting carbs. However, on average, they have 1,500-1,800 kcal meal plans for women and 1,800-2,000 kcal for men.
No, you can’t. Although they have a similar base of being low-carb and high-fat diets, you really cannot follow both at the same time.
Atkins slowly starts increasing the carb intake and focuses mainly on protein intake rather than fats. On keto, you keep carbs consistently low and focus on eating fats.
Since they have different macronutrient compositions, you can’t follow them together.
If you wanted to combine them, you could do keto first, then transition to Atkins and slowly increase your carbs.
How are keto and Atkins related? Let’s find out!
The exact carbohydrate intake depends on the Atkins phase you are in and the type of keto you are doing. However, the carb limit is always very low.
|Carb limit (grams of net carbs)||Phase 1: 20-25 g |
Phase 2: 25-50 g
Phase 3: 50-80 g
Phase 4: 80-100 g
|Less than 50 g|
Even though the Atkins diet slowly increases the carbs slowly, 100 g of carbs per day is still considered low-carb. Most people eat around 50% carbs, which would be about 250 grams (or 220g net carbs) for the average person consuming 2,000 daily calories.
Both diets are commonly used to lose weight. Since they are low-carb, they induce a ketosis state. This means that you end up using your fat reserves for energy. In both cases, you can see dramatic weight loss.
For bodybuilding, both are excellent options for those that are looking to shed some fat mass. If you are in a cutting phase, either one of these diets could be a good fit..
If you are in a bulking phase, you could potentially achieve weight gain. However, since fat and protein are more filling, it might be more challenging to reach the total daily caloric intake for a bodybuilder in a bulking phase. This can reach 3,000 calories or even more.
Thanks to their ability to induce ketosis, both can be options for those trying to handle type 2 diabetes. For people who have a hard time reducing their carb intake, following either keto or Atkins can be a good way to decrease sugar levels.
Remember to always speak with your healthcare provider before making any special diet changes.
For both diets, there are several studies on their relationship with inflammation. Being in a ketosis state seems to reduce inflammation in the body. (Both ways of eating use ketosis.)
Also, both eliminate high-carb sugary foods like candy, sugar, cakes, pastries, and refined grains. This, in the end, leads to reduced inflammation.
However, following traditional Atkins, where there is a focus on saturated fats and protein, might not be the best for reducing inflammation. In that case, keto may be better for reducing inflammation than Atkins.
Atkins has added modifications over the years, so it may be possible to follow a healthier version.
Now that you know the similarities shared by both diets, let’s look at the ways they differ.
While both carb intakes are very low, there is a difference with the protein intake. Atkins prefers a high-protein approach, with 20-30% of total daily calories from proteins.
Keto, on the other hand, prefers a moderate protein approach. Typically, it recommends having no more than 20% of total calories dedicated to this macronutrient.
The fat intake can be a little bit lower in the Atkins, depending on the protein intake. Fat could range from 60-70%, while on the keto, it is usually higher at 70-80%.
The macros for the keto diet stay the same over time. You calculate your macros and stick to them.
In the Atkins diet, this is not the case. As seen above, there are four different phases to go through, with the total carb intake increasing over time.
Although it has changed its approach to foods, the traditional Atkins diet emphasizes the consumption of high-fat meats. This means that the saturated fat intake was higher than normally recommended (no more than 10% of the total daily calories).
The keto diet recommends healthy fats from unsaturated sources like nuts, seeds, olive oil, olives, and avocados. It also emphasizes using whole, natural ingredients for clean eating and reducing your intake of ultra-processed foods.
The traditional ketogenic diet is used by doctors as an effective treatment for epilepsy for both children and adults. This is why the diet was first created, before people realized its potential for weight loss.
The Atkins diet is not traditionally used to treat epilepsy. There is a modified Atkins sometimes used for these cases, but it was not originally intended for this purpose.
Because both promote a ketosis state, they have similar advantages. Here is a list of the benefits you can get from following a low-carb and high-fat diet.
You can get similar disadvantages from the Atkins or the keto diet, mostly due to the low-carb intake. Here are the most common risks.
Even if they are similar, there are different foods that are allowed in one and not the other.
Since Atkins has different phases, this also affects which types of foods you can eat.
Remember that this is a guideline for you to use. As long as you have variety and manage to keep your carb intake below the recommended amount in both diets, you can include almost any type of food in moderation.
|FOOD||KETO||ATKINS (PHASE 1)||ATKINS (PHASE 4)|
|Beans and legumes||Allowed |
|Condiments and sauces||Allowed |
(high-fat diary like cream & hard cheeses)
|Sugar-sweetened beverages||Not allowed||Not allowed||Not allowed|
|Alcoholic drinks||Allowed |
|Not allowed||Allowed |
|Fish and seafood||Allowed||Allowed||Allowed|
|Not allowed||Allowed |
|Grains and starches||Allowed |
|Not allowed||Allowed |
|Herbs and spices||Allowed||Allowed||Allowed|
|Meat and poultry||Allowed||Allowed||Allowed|
|Nuts and seeds||Allowed||Allowed||Allowed|
|Oils and fats||Allowed||Allowed||Allowed|
|Processed foods||Limited |
|Natural sweeteners||Allowed |
|White and brown sugars||Not allowed||Not allowed||Not allowed|
|Starchy vegetables||Allowed |
|Not allowed||Allowed |
This table gives you a summary of which foods to eat according to the diet you are following. You can see that they are very similar with a few differences.
If you have any questions on which foods are keto, you can search for them in the index of keto-friendly foods. Other resources are available to check whether or not you can eat certain foods, and how much.
The cost of each diet is very similar. The cost of them depends on your personal choices. For example, if you choose more premium types of meat cuts or buy them organic, the price tag will be bigger.
If you buy local and look for products that are in season, there shouldn’t be a big difference in buying more veggies to add to your diet.
There might be a slight cost increase on the Atkins diet since it requires you to eat more protein, which can be more costly. However, if you choose low-cost meats, this shouldn’t be a significant difference.
Thanks to the adaptations made throughout the years on both diets, they can both be great options for someone looking to follow a low-carb lifestyle.
As long as you eat lots of vegetables and focus on including more unsaturated fats like peanuts, flaxseeds, salmon, olive oil, and olives, doing either Atkins or keto can be a healthy choice.
If you opt to do the Atkins diet, try to increase your protein intake with lean protein instead of fatty proteins like bacon (there is nothing wrong with adding it once in a while).
Both can be effective low-carb diets to follow for weight loss. If you don’t want to feel so restrictive, following the Atkins diet might be the one for you since it has slightly more carbs.
Remember to also add more color variety to your fruits and veggies. Try to have the goal of having at least three different colors during the day. The more, the better, but try to reach at least 3. That way, you get different nutrients.