If you’re looking to lose a little weight, you have two main options: changing your diet or intensifying your exercise regime. Research has shown, however, that diet contributes about 80% towards weight loss while exercise is effective for only 20% efficiency in shedding pounds. While it’s always a good idea to be fit and toned, simply upping your daily exercise isn’t going to help you lose weight. And that’s where diet comes in. There are plenty of options, but two of the more popular are the Paleo and Keto diets, both of which focus on low carbs and healthy fats. Here’s my take on these two diets, based on my own participation and research.
Remember, before undertaking any significant change to your lifestyle, it’s a good idea to check-in with your doctor first. Certain diets can interfere with any medications you are taking or negatively affect any medical issues you are experiencing, so this is a very important first step before making dietary changes.
Choosing The Right Diet
The right diet for you depends largly on your personal dietary preferences and requirements as well as your ability to embrace change and stay the course. Perhaps you have allergies, intolerances or ethical codes that prevent you from consuming certain foods. The good news is that there are plenty of options available and there is bound to be something suitable, whether that’s going low carb, low fat or incorporating a mix of healthy foods. For now, let’s look at the Paleo diet and the Keto diet.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet has seen a rise in popularity over the past few years, particularly because it allows you to eat what most Americans crave: things like bacon, red meat and butter along with healthy greens, fruits and vegetables. The general premise of the paleo diet is that modern day people shouldn’t consume anything that our Paleolithic ancestors (who inhabited the Earth around 10,000 years ago) wouldn’t have been able to make, gather, grow or hunt themselves. Again, the focus is on a natural, organic diet. Of course, food available to Paleolithic people in different areas would have greatly varied, so most people take a more casual than regimented and extreme approach to the diet. Generally, things like dairy are excluded (as animals weren’t domesticated and our ancestors did not milk them), processed food and grains or cereals (our predecessors wouldn’t have been able to process these to create products such as bread).
Paleo Diet Pros
There are plenty of benefits to eating a Paleo diet. Not only will you achieve significant weight loss, but many users report feeling satiated without overeating, a boost in immunity, an increased consumption of fiber (which is so often neglected in many people’s lifestyles) and an initial improvement in blood sugar regulation.
Paleo Diet Cons
While this diet can encourage an improved way of eating, it is important to remember to eat what is available to you in moderation. Do not suddenly restrict yourself to a diet of pure red meat, for example, as this will likely be more harmful than your current, unregulated diet. You should also be aware that the Paleo diet can cause a drop in your athletic performance and endurance, at least initially, until your body adjust to its new nutritional intake. Another con is that this diet restricts things like whole grains, quinoa, legumes (peanuts, beans, peas, etc.) and some (particularly starchy) fruits.
A key factor in choosing a paleo or keto diet is understanding that they are both different practices centered around different ideologies. As both are so often mentioned together or compared, it is easy to believe that they are similar or that one is a more extreme version of the other. While both are low carb, keto diets were initially inspired by the health benefits associated with your body entering a state of ketosis in which fat supplies are used for energy. So how do you encourage your body to enter a state of ketosis without entirely depriving yourself of fuel? To do so, you must eat extremely low levels of carbs, even sources of “good carbs” like fruits and beans while eating higher levels of fat and moderate amounts of protein. This will result in your body losing fat extremely quickly and you will begin to see a significant reduction in the inches on your waist, around your arms, thighs and other areas.
Keto Diet Pros
A keto diet usually results in rapid weight loss and/or inches, which is brilliant if you are looking to slide from an overweight or obese body type into a healthier section of the BMI scale. While on this diet, you may also experience the added benefit of an initial drop in cholesterol and reduction of inflammation. Most people also report an increase in energy levels and a feeling of satiety, which prevents the need to snack throughout the day. For the first couple weeks, adult beverages are a no-no, which can help some people get over alcohol addiction and cleanse their body of toxins.
Keto Diet Cons
When taking on a keto diet, it’s essential to understand that you may experience nutrient deficiencies or imbalances due to a lack of fiber and a potentially low intake of important antioxidants. If you begin to experience cognitive problems (including brain fog), fatigue, weakness or flu-like symptoms, it may indicate the need to adjust your diet a bit or add supplements (MCT powder is a popular one). Many people find that adding electrolytes, such as salt, helps. All of these supplements add to the price of the diet, which is rather hefty since only organic, grass fed beef and butter are allowed. The biggest con to this diet, in my opinion, is that it limits healthy, nutritional foods such as fruits (due to the extremely low amount of carbs permitted, it’s nearly impossible to include any fruit), leafy greens, legumes, quinoa and whole grains while promoting dishes laden with bacon, butter and cheese, although some people also choose to be dairy-free along with the keto diet. You may also find it very hard to incorporate the 75 – 80% of healthy fats recommended with this diet.
Even though there are many similarities between the Paleo and Keto diets, they are two distinctly different regimens. Neither one is easy to keep on for the long term, and you may find that you gain back all the weight you lost after going back to a more normal manner of eating. But depending on your goals, a low carb/high fat diet may be the jump start your metabolism needs to lose weight and inches. In any case, be sensible, do your research and check in regularly with your doctor to chart your progress and monitor your general health and well-being.