Paleo vs Keto diet showdown
I ignore fad diets. But paleo and keto have been around for a while now, and they each have enough fans that I had to take a good look at both of them.
I need to lose some significant weight at one point in the past, so this wasn't just idle research for me. I had to decide on a good diet and
Paleo Vs Keto Diets
Before we get into specifics, it may be best to take a high-level look at the two.
Keto is hardcore. It's very strict. Any mistake or cheating is disastrous. What it does is temporarily change your body chemistry. It forces your body to burn fat.
Your body doesn't like this. It wants to go on in the way it's accustomed to. It can be a struggle, but you get quick results.
Paleo is more of a lifestyle change than a strict diet. You don't count calories or adhere to hard rules.
Basically, paleo stresses natural foods and a balanced life. It takes away junk and gives you better health than what you probably have now.
Is one better than the other? Well, you can't really make a qualitative judgement like that. They're different.
There's enough differences between the two that one will surely suit you better than the other. But here's a spoiler for you: They can work together. You really need to understand each one on its own before you think about that, though.
So let's look at each one. After reading the rest of this, you'll have a working knowledge of both of them.
Get To Know Keto
If you're familiar with Atkins and similar low-carb diets, keto will be pretty easy for you to understand.
But keto goes beyond avoiding carbs. And it is far more restrictive. Furthermore, it is not split into phases like some Atkins plans and the South Beach diet.
It's a strict, short-term diet that can help you lose weight and inches. After you hit your goals with keto, you have to follow a sensible diet and stay active for the long term. If you go back to a poor diet and low activity, you'll gain the weight back quickly.
Please understand this: The keto diet is meant to be a way to lose weight quickly. You have to lead a healthy lifestyle to keep that weight off and stay fit and lean afterwards. It's not a one-and-done kind of thing.
How the keto diet Works
Your body prefers to use glucose for energy. This simple sugar is easy to burn and makes a very efficient fuel. Glucose is what causes the sugar rush right after you eat a big sweet dessert.
Fat is your body's secondary fuel. Think of it as an energy reserve. Its evolutionary purpose is to keep the body functional during times of short food supply.
That's enough biology for now. Let's jump into the keto diet health benefits.
Following keto depletes blood glucose levels. The body still needs energy to go on, so it enters ketosis.
You have to be familiar with ketosis to understand how this diet works. Simply put, ketosis is a state in which your body burns fat for energy.
During this state, fat enters the bloodstream and is captured by the liver. Then the liver converts the fat into ketones and turns them loose into the blood. The body's cells use these ketones for energy.
Keto can work without exercise. Your body burns energy even when you're asleep. Once your body enters ketosis, it's going to use fat for all of its energy needs.
Even though exercise isn't totally necessary to lose fat and weight on the keto diet, I would still recommend it. Following even a light exercise routine will increase your body's energy consumption. You'll burn fat and drop those extra pounds much quicker.
Another good thing about exercising during ketosis is that exercise can become a habit. What good is losing weight if you're just going to gain it back when you stop dieting? And the keto diet is meant to be short-term, so you'll want to get used to exercise if you want to keep your losses.
What Can You Eat?
Carbs are out, all of them. There is no point where you can start eating a moderate amount of carbohydrates, like there is in the South Beach diet. It's zero carbs until you hit your goal and begin your healthy life.
So what'll happen if you cheat a little bit and have some bread or, worse yet, a piece of cake? Your body will immediately hop out of ketosis. It'll start burning all the glucose it can find. Then it will convert any leftover sugars into fat.
Since fat is the main source of energy during the diet, you can have way more fat than you normally would. Healthy fats are best. Don't load up on trans or saturated fats.
To give you an idea of what you can eat, here's a short list of low-carb foods with good amounts of healthy fats for keto:
- Fatty fish
- Peanut butter
- Olive, peanut and coconut oils
Those are all protein-rich foods. You can eat them, but you'll want some high-fiber foods in there too.
The body can use protein as energy, so you have to be careful not to get too much of it. If your body has enough protein, it'll leave ketosis and burn protein instead of fat.
Generally, you should be getting about 80 percent of your calories from fat while doing keto.
Limit protein to a maximum of one half of a gram per pound of your body weight.
Keep carbs as close to zilch as possible.
Can Keto Work For You?
If you want to lose weight fast, keto can be your best friend. Once ketosis begins, the fat drops pretty quickly.
You have to be able to watch all of your macronutrients. That includes fat, protein and carbs. If you can scrutinize everything that closely, you'll likely do well on keto.
Do you have little time for exercise? You'll lose weight quicker on keto of you workout at least a little bit, but it's not crucial. If you can't or won't exercise, keto may be one of the few options you have for weight loss.
While deciding whether keto is for you or not, keep in mind that it's just the beginning of a healthier and slimmer life. If you can stick it out for a few months, do it.
Keto may not be good for diabetics who struggle with their blood sugar levels. I'm not a doctor, and I don't give medical advice. It's always a good idea to talk to a health professional before starting any diet.
If you can't go without carbs, keto probably isn't your best bet. There are other diets that allow you to have carbohydrates. Check out what I learned about the paleo diet below. It may be a better fit for you if you can't cut out the carbs.
Now Check Out Paleo
The paleo diet is so named because it supposedly mirrors the diet followed by our Paleolithic ancestors.
There is an unfortunate shortage of saber toothed tigers and 200-pound salamanders in our current era, so we have to look elsewhere.
This diet focuses mainly on foods that could be had by hunting and gathering. Think meat and fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and some grains and beans.
The main things to avoid are dairy and refined foods.
Refined foods are anything we eat that is stripped of part of its wholesomeness. Refined sugar is separated from the fiber of sugar cane. White flower loses the germ and hull during its run through the mill.
From a distance, the paleo diet doesn't look that restrictive. You can have carbs, protein and fat. But avoiding processed foods is harder than you may realize. Most things that come in a box are incredibly refined.
I checked out my favorite bread: seven-grain loaf. The first ingredient was refined white flour. It's not allowed in paleo. Whole wheat bread is OK, as long as its made wholly from whole wheat flour and contains no white flour.
Some versions of paleo outright forbid bread. They deny many grains, even whole ones, as well. This is odd, because grains were eaten in the Paleolithic era.
Have you noticed that there is sugar in almost all boxed foods? Think about it. And what doesn't have sugar usually has corn syrup, which is heavily refined.
You probably have a pretty good idea of what's natural and what's not. That's a good starting point. But you have to get good at reading ingredients.
How the Paleo diet Works
Food is usually processed to improve the flavor, lengthen its shelf life or make it easier to use in recipes for further processing.
Take flour as an example. Most of the nutrients are in the hull, or bran, and germ of the wheat grain. The part that is milled into white flour is the starchy reserve that is meant to feed the young wheat sprout after it germinates.
Guess what happens to most of the highly nutritious bran and germ that is removed from the grain before we eat it. It's fed to pigs! Seriously, most of the bran produced in America is destined to a feed lot.
Following the paleo diet assures you that you're eating healthy food. You eat only whole grains, unless you choose a stricter paleo diet that forbids grain altogether, so you get all of the nutrition instead of the junk.
With paleo, the sugars you eat are complex ones. This is important, because simple sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly. You can't use all that sugar in your bloodstream fast enough, so it gets converted to fat.
You can still have sweets on paleo. Honey, molasses and stevia are all acceptable sweeteners. They aren't extracted. They are collected from their natural sources and sold in their natural state.
One thing I like about paleo is its emphasis on healthy living. It's not just about food.
Cavemen didn't take elevators. They probably didn't really use stairs either, but you can see where I'm going with this. Exercise is important.
This diet is not a quick way to lose weight. You're not altering your body chemistry the way you would with keto. What you're doing is making healthier choices in food. Exercise will help those pounds come off much more quickly.
So how does it work? You eat healthy food and get exercise. It's simple, and it works.
Paleo friendly caveman foods
How does a thick steak, steamed broccoli and a baked sweet potato sound? That's a good paleo meal.
Paleo isn't about eating certain foods. It isn't even about on avoiding certain foods based on what their nutritional content is. It's about avoiding food that's been messed with by man's modern technology.
Here are some examples of foods that are OK on paleo:
- Meat, including game
Here's what's banned:
- White sugar
- White flour
- Bread and some grains
- Corn syrup
Who It's For
There's nothing about paleo that excludes anyone. Even if you have special dietary restrictions, you can still do it. If the paleo diet was bad, there wouldn't be a human race today. It's not a fad diet. Our forebears were doing it 10,000 years ago.
Think of paleo as a slow but steady way to lose weight. Your success will be measures over months and years, not weeks. It'll work for you as long as you aren't after quick results.
Who It's Not For
If you can't commit to a long-term lifestyle change, you won't stick to the paleo diet.
You have to stick with it for the long haul. If you go back to refined foods, any weight you slowly lost will slowly jump back on you.
Can Keto And Paleo Work Together
I'm going to throw you a curve ball. Up until now, we've kinda done a comparison: paleo vs keto diets.
But what if we took the best features of both and used them together in harmony?
The keto diet's health benefits include quick weight loss and fat loss.
The paleo diet benefits your life life long-term by keeping you away from junk food and making you exercise.
So what if you're overweight and out of shape? You want to drop the weight and keep it off, right?
Here's an idea. Do keto until you hit your weight goal, then transition into paleo for maintenance of your new healthy weight.
This approach isn't exactly new. It would take some serious mental gymnastics to say that I thought of it. The South Beach diet that I briefly talked about earlier works in the same general way.
You can put yourself into ketosis in a few days. That's the easy part. Remeber, once you're in ketosis, the fat starts melting away.
Start exercising from day one, unless your general health prevents it. You don't have to go all out. Walking is good exercise. Riding a bike or light cardio will work too. Burn as many calories as you can for quick weight loss.
Track your progress. It would be a simple matter to make a chart with your beginning weight and goal weight. Each week on the chart can show your weight for that time. It can be encouraging to look at your progress.
When you reach your goal weight, it's time to start paleo. It would be a good idea to start out with one of the stricter forms of paleo for a smooth transition. Avoid bread and grains for the first few weeks, then gradually add them back into your diet if you want to.
Is There A Winner Here?
You're probably used to seeing a winner and a loser by the time you get to the end of an article like this.
The winner is you. Researching different diets is the first step in weight loss. You've already started.
The loser is fat. Both of these diets will make it go away. They take different approaches, but they both help drop fat.
Keto is great for rapid results. It's a short-term diet that can give you a great start on a new, healthier life.
The paleo diet's benefits go on for years, or until you end the diet. It's safe for everyone, and you can stay on it forever if you want to.
We've seen how the two diets can work together. It doesn't have to be Paleo vs. Keto diets. They can be on the same team. I'm combining the two. What's your choice?