Tag Archives: ketogenic

Keto vs. Paleo: which diet is right for you?

Let me start by saying that I am an advocate of both the ketogenic diet and the paleo diet. But there can be a lot of confusion out there on what the differences between them are, and why you would choose one over the other. Some people think they are practically the same, but I disagree! I wanted to write this blog post to discuss this and help others understand the key differences in order to help them make the right choice.

TLDR; the ketogenic diet is an extremely effective diet for weight loss, but it’s generally not a well-balanced diet and is better used as a weight-loss tool in your eating habit arsenal. The paleo diet can be a lifestyle choice, returning the foods you eat to a more natural origin. More natural means foods that generally are not overly processed, especially foods that made up the human diet prior to the agricultural revolution.

Brief Keto Overview

The ketogenic diet is an ultra low carbohydrate diet that consists mostly of healthy fat and modest protein. It has been studied extensively, and has been used clinically to treat people with certain forms of drug resistant epilepsy. Carbohydrates rank very high on the body’s “use first” energy scale, followed by fat, and then protein. When you stop providing large quantities of Ketogenic macronutrient pie chartcarbohydrates, your body switches over to burning fat for fuel, which creates a metabolic byproduct called ketones. This is where the name “ketogenic” comes from! In a ketogenic state, your body will burn dietary fat first, and then begin tapping into your stored fat.

 

Many “fad diets” either start with a ketogenic inspired phase, or cycle ketogenic phases throughout the diet. But this isn’t necessary, especially if you’re just starting. Instead of buying into the hype of new Hollywood diets, why not just do the original? Besides, some of those fad diets can be harmful! On the topic of harm, it’s important to know that the ketogenic diet is not a balanced diet. Because of this, you should take a multi-vitamin and perhaps a fiber supplement if you find you’re not having bowel movements as much as you should.

Brief Paleo Overview

The paleo diet focuses on eating natural, easily digestible foods, especially those that existed prior to the agricultural revolution. The main reason for that is because those foods were the ones we could find and eat without advanced technology. The research behind paleo thinking suggests that foods like wheat, beans, dairy, etc. cause harmful inflammation, wrecks havoc on gut flora, and simply represents a macronutrient profile that isn’t optimal for our bodies. (i.e. too many carbs!) We evolved with a multitude of environmental factors in play over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, so one thought is that our bodies haven’t been able to catch up to things domesticated and invented more recently.
In general, eating paleo is really just trying to eat cleaner! Definitely optimize your food sources for organic and local, skip out on those overly abundant carb sources, but still allow fruits and veggies. Eat quality meat, and stick to water, occasional juices, etc. Many people go “strict” paleo for awhile, especially if they’re attempting to address allergy or inflammation issues, and then slowly add certain foods back in: such as some dairy, rice, potatoes, etc. (These are known as the “gray area” foods.)

Direct Comparison: the face-off!

Keto Paleo
General fat intake Eat tons of fat, about 70% or more of your calories should come from “good” fats. What is considered “good” on keto is not necessarily “good” on paleo: for example, keto allows vegetable and nut oils, while paleo does not. Not concerned about how much fat you eat, but definitely emphasizes that dietary fat is good for you as long as it’s natural.
General carb intake You must dramatically reduce your carbohydrate intake. While the exact reduction will be person-dependent, generally speaking the number is less than 40 grams of carbs per day. (e.g. all fruits, and most veggies, are not allowed.) No explicit restriction on carbohydrate intake, as long as it’s coming from “paleo” food sources. (e.g. fruits and veggies are allowed!)
General protein intake You must be careful with your protein intake while doing keto. This is because if you go above 20-30% of your caloric intake from protein, your body will start to use it for fuel kicking off a process called gluconeogenesis. This will take you out of ketosis! Have at it! As long as the protein is from “natural” sources (e.g. meats) you’re good to go.
Balanced diet? Definitely NOT! You must supplement at minimum a multivitamin while on the keto diet as you won’t be getting critical nutrients and minerals from fruits, vegetables, and fortified foods. Generally, yes, but you still need to ensure that you eat a variety of foods, and include foods from all the available food groups like meats, veggies, fruits, etc.
Is dairy allowed? Depends: milk, yogurt, and ‘soft’ cheeses are generally not allowed. Hard cheeses and butter, on the other hand, have had most or all of the sugar/lactose removed, and what is left is a solid fat/protein powerhouse food! Grey-area, some people allow butter, but nothing else. Strict paleo would not allow any dairy whatsoever, backed by well documented cases of dairy allergens like lactose.

These are just a handful of markers to compare the two diets. Remember, both of them have their merits! Do you have any other stand-out markers I should add to this table? Feel free to write me a comment and I’ll consider it!

Conclusion

At the end of the day, both diets are excellent in my book. I use the keto diet for rapid weight loss, and consider the paleo diet a “long term” lifestyle change. At the moment, I’ve been following the ketogenic diet for over 9 months now. I’ve attained a body fat percentage that I would have never thought possible. (Under 10% body fat, which for me is insane!) I of course advocate others to consider approaching these two diets the way I do, and incorporate them into their lives. Once satisfied with my progress using the keto diet, I will switch over to the paleo diet in order to maintain my hard earned physique for the long run.

My Keto Plan

I get asked a lot about what plan I’m following and to most people’s dismay, I tell them my keto plan is just following the principals of the ketogenic diet and working out consistently. That involves a lot of learning! But at the end of the day, I guess I have created my own “plan” if you will, that is dynamic and changes depending on how I feel. This is actually an important aspect of a good weight loss plan because the body adapts quickly to both diet and exercise. If you don’t stimulate the body, it will plateau and cease to progress. Let’s go over some of the core ideas:

Eating

This is where it’s all about the ketogenic diet and getting your body into the fat burning state known as ketosis! It’s actually fairly simple concept on the surface: eat as few carbs as possible (less than 40 g) per day, increase/optimize your intake of good fats, and eat moderate protein. Your fat to protein should be something like 60/40 or 70/30. Don’t make the mistake of eating too much protein! That will cause your body to perform gluconeogenisis, where it breaks down protein for energy and you don’t want that!

Remember to drink lots of water and stay hydrated. You’ll also need decent amounts of dietary salt intake, but don’t go overboard. Avoid vegetables that aren’t green or white, and even some of those are dangerous (e.g. onions and peas should be avoided or eaten very sparingly). I enjoy adding a small handful of blueberries to my diet every couple of days because they are low in sugar (relatively) and full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

If you find that you’re having trouble keeping regular in the bathroom, try eating more fiber sources that don’t add much to your carb intake. Remember that you can subtract fiber listed on the nutrition label from the total number of carbs. You can also subtract sugar alcohols. Broccoli is my go-to for safe keto vegetables.

Some great foods to eat while doing keto: avocados, bacon, eggs, hard cheeses, nuts, meats (just make sure they’re fatty, or served with a good fat source), olives, pickles, sausage, etc.

Some great condiments and seasonings to rely on: mayo, mustard, aoilis (that haven’t been sweetened), vinegar, ranch, blue cheese dressing, red hots and other sugar-less hot sauces, etc.

And just so you get an idea, here’s a very incomplete list of foods you should avoid: bread, pasta, cereal, rice, potatoes, virtually all fruits, carrots, beats, peas, etc.

And watch out for condiments, lots of them sneak in sugar, so avoid: ketchup, bbq sauce, thousand island, french dressing, relish, etc.

As for drinks, stick to water as often as possible. If you’re a coffee or tea fan, you can use heavy cream if you want. Starbucks is one of the few coffee shops that actually stocks heavy cream, and they also have a stevia-based sugar alternative! Check out the blog post I wrote on that!

When in doubt, look up the nutrition facts! Keep your carbs under 40 g for the day, and make sure most of your calories are coming from fat. That’s really all there is to it!

Working out

Do something every day! Even if it’s half effort, get up, and get going… I highly recommend everyone consider adding resistance/strength training to their routine. People who are more into cardio should be careful while doing a ketogenic diet because your body will be very low on glycogen pretty much all the time. Glycogen is what your body uses for fast energy, needed when you’re doing things like running. I’m not much of a runner anyway, so it doesn’t bother me.

I focus on lifting, and I have been doing a 3 day split: push, pull, and legs.

Push Days: on push days, I focus on chest, triceps, and shoulders. Then I throw in an exercise I like to call “hypercores” where I use the hyper-extension bench, do 12 reps of hyper-extensions, then 12 reps of oblique extensions on both sides. This really kicks my butt! I’ll often have to pause for awhile after each set to catch my breath and slow my heart rate down a bit.

Pull Days: I focus on back, delts, lats, and biceps. I also throw in some central abdominal work on the crunch machine, or on a medicine ball.

Leg Days: pretty self explanatory, no?

The actual exercises I do vary, and that’s on purpose to keep my body guessing. I like this split because it gives your muscle groups enough time to rest so that if I didn’t want to have a dedicated rest day, I could immediately repeat it. (I do rest though, but it’s more based on my mood and what else I have going on that day.) Some people might not like the idea of training muscles in the same “group” like this, but I find it to be incredibly effective for me.

Supplements

I’m kind of a supplement junkie and I’m trying to kick the habit, to be honest. The supplement industry is a huge cash cow, and there are all sorts of stuff out there that people really have no idea if it’s effective, or if it’s even safe. Honestly, between you and me, just stick with the basic stuff… don’t get sucked into the hype about thermogenics (which are usually just overloaded caffeine and B-complex pills) or test/thyroid boosters, etc. Here’s what I take:

A Multivitamin

This is important, especially on the ketogenic diet, because you won’t be eating a lot of fruits or vegetables. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for the body to function properly and you typically get them from those sources. Since those sources are out, you gotta get them from a multi. I’m currently using Evolution Nutrition Multivitamin VitaMode but you can use any quality multi that you trust.

 

Pre-workout

While not really necessary, and yes, it’s also just a caffeine loader, I do like the little pick-me-up that it gives right before working out. You can also get ones with amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of protein and muscle tissue, so having this floating around your body while you’re lifting weights is beneficial. I currently use Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy with the Green Apple flavor being my favorite!

Protein Powder

Tired and true! After every workout I down a protein shake to help give my muscles the needed resources to rebuild and recover. I’m currently using CytoSport Muscle Milk Light which is great tasting and low in carbs. If you select a different brand, just make sure the carbs are low! Click here to search Amazon for available protein powders!

MCT Oil Powder

I throw a scoop of MCT Oil Powder into my protein shake for an added surge of ketogenic energy. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which are a type of fat that converts rapidly into ketones by the body. It’s found in coconut and is well documented for it’s keogenic properties. Take it slow with this stuff, as chugging too much of it can cause your stomach to be overwhelmed and might give you a tummy ache. But if you ingest it slowly, you should notice a very steady and powerful surge of energy for several hours afterwards. I think this is also great because it encourages the body to use ketones and when it burns through the MCT Oil, it’ll look to dietary fat and your fat stores to make more ketones. I like the brand Quest Nutrition MCT Powder Oil.

Fiber Supplement

Because your diet is going to be lacking in most fruits and vegetables, you may notice that… um… well, how do I say this without being too explicit? Going to the restroom may not be as solid as you once were. This is due to the reduced amounts of fiber in your diet, so it’s not a bad idea to grab a fiber supplement. I personally prefer taking pills/capsules, but you can opt for the powdered form that you mix into a drink. Just don’t overdo it, just like how too little fiber can cause problems, too much fiber can cause them too! Click here to search Amazon for available fiber supplements.

Results

The ketogenic diet is by far the most effective fat loss/cutting diet I have ever tried. You can lose between 1-2 lbs per week easily, if not more, targeted at your fat stores! I also find that it’s remarkably easy to stick with, compared to other diets. On my keto plan, I do not calorie count, and while many foods are off limits, lots of other amazing foods are totally acceptable. I’ve also become fond of trying to recreate my favorite meals following the keto principles. Some people might think this defeats the point of re-training your mind to eat better, but in this case I disagree as long as you’re actually learning about the ingredients. I don’t just follow recipes online, I actually look into the ingredients to see what’s inside. Walking away from this, I have much more knowledge on the macronutrient content of different foods. I encourage people to look at the ketogenic diet like this, developing a new relationship with carbohydrates, so they work for you instead of against you!

I’ll continue to post my progress and other related articles on my site, so if you’re interested please consider subscribing! Or just come back at a future date. You can also find all my current ketogenic related posts by using this category link. 🙂 GOOD LUCK!