The Difference Between Keto and Low Carb

Is there a difference between keto and low carb? Is one diet better than the other? If you eat low carb foods, will you be in ketosis? Your answers are here!

Keto vs. low carb with plate of avocado and egg

Are keto and low carb the same?

Keto and low carb diets are great for anyone looking for an effective way to lose weight, reduce their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some chronic illnesses. However, while these diets are similar, they are not identical. 

Both are diets that include high fat, low carbohydrate, and moderate protein foods. They also both require keeping track of the protein, fat, and carbs per day.

Here’s where things can get a little confusing. If you are on a keto diet, you are also on a low carb diet. However, you can follow a low carb diet without being on a keto diet. 

Strange as this may sound, it is possible. How? Well, it has to do with a requirement of the keto diet – being in KETOSIS.

What is ketosis?

If you want to follow a ketogenic diet, your body must be in a long term state of ketosis. In simple terms, this means that your body is burning fatty acids (ketones) for energy instead of carbohydrate stores (glycogen in the liver and glucose in the blood). 

While being in a state of ketosis isn’t a requirement of low carbohydrate diets, depending on the foods eaten, some low carb dieters are in ketosis.

But getting the body into a state of ketosis takes more than just eating low carb and high fat foods. 

How can I tell if I’m in ketosis?

Getting your body into a state of ketosis requires a couple of things, including:

  • Journaling – Most keto dieters keep a daily food log. This gives the person an accurate recording of daily macros (macronutrients). 

What are macros?

Macronutrients are the grams of carbs, proteins, and fats consumed. A macro calculator is a good tool to help you determine how many macros you should have in your keto diet.

  • Ketone Testing (Guideline Targets) –  To determine the body’s ketone levels requires testing either your blood or urine every day. To be in ketosis, ketone levels in the blood should be at least 0.5 and up to 3.0 mM/dL.
Understanding Ketones Chart Image

Low carb vs keto – is one better than the other?

Are keto and low carb the same thing? No, they are not.

Now that you know the difference between keto and low carb, is one option better for you?

If you normally eat processed foods and a large amount of your diet is starchy carbohydrates, either keto or a low carb diet will help. This is because your body uses those carbs as an energy source. We know that eating high-starch carbohydrates causes blood sugar to spike which isn’t healthy. As a result, blood sugar spikes can also cause you to feel hungry more often. 

To burn fat as an energy source requires reducing carbohydrates and increasing fat. Both keto and low carb diets can help with this, but when the body is in ketosis, it burns fat more efficiently.

Although a keto diet is more restrictive than a low carb diet, it is usually a more effective way to reduce net carbs and reach your goal weight.

But in general, it is always best to check with your doctor before starting any type of diet or long term eating plan.