What's the difference between a Keto Diet and Low Carb Diet?
With all the various low carb information out there, it can be confusing as to what the differences are between them all. Put simply, Keto IS a form of a low carb diet but not necessarily the other way around.
Getting to Ketosis
The goal with Keto is to reach the point of ketosis or the point at which our bodies no longer burn carbohydrates for energy but fat instead. Our bodies naturally burn glucose off first. When we deprive our bodies of glucose (carbs), ketosis kicks into gear and uses our fat reserves initially for energy.
Ketone bodies, often simply called Ketones, are chemicals that the body makes when there is not enough insulin in the blood which results in the body breaking down fat for energy instead of glucose.
There are 3 types of ketone bodies that we form when we reach the state of ketosis:
- Beta-hydroxybutryate (Commonly known as BHB and also the most important)
Benefits of Ketosis
There are several benefits of staying in a ketogenic state:
- We burn more fat.
- We feel less hunger pains (thank you, BHB)
- We feel satisfied with less on our plates
- Our blood sugar stabilizes by eating good sources of fat, protein, and veggies
- We eliminate sugar spikes caused by carb heavy diets
Who Does Ketosis Work For?
If you’re a high-performance type athlete where you’re running a lot of sprints and doing a lot of resistance training, ketosis might not be best for you because those bursts of energy required are burning that ATP, which is predominately sourced by glucose.
You may notice aesthetic benefits because you’re burning fat in some of those hard to burn places but lack the energy you need for super high-performance based activities.
Now, if you’re someone who is more of an endurance trainer, including moderate resistance training, then a low carb/ketogenic diet may work best for you because you’re not needing that ATP regeneration as much.
What are the main differences between a Ketogenic and Low Carb Diet?
When you’re in ketosis, you're consuming less than 20 grams of carbs a day, and you’re burning ketones for energy, and you will feel great. You’ll experience energy that you might never have experienced before, your brain feels satisfied, and there’s a sense of euphoria that many people comment on when they’ve been in that ketogenic state which simply put makes you feel…happy!
When you’re only lowering your carbs and eating 50-100+ grams of carbs a day, you could be constantly hovering right on that line of reaching ketosis which isn’t always pleasant. Nausea and headaches are common doing this which is why so many people don’t enjoy it or constantly feel like they’re dieting which, in turn, can make them quit trying.
Think of a ketogenic diet more of a lifestyle change rather than a diet. You no longer will consume all of those high processed sugary, high-carb foods but even better is that your brain will no longer crave them.
What works for one person may not work for another, so the best approach to achieving ketosis for the first time is simply trying it out. Give it a shot and see how you feel and see if this lifestyle may be the key to achieving your health goals.
How a Keto Diet can help boost your testosterone
It is clear and proven that testosterone levels and weight are connected to each other. So naturally, finding a method of eating is a critical component in managing your weight.
The bottom line is that people are getting overall fantastic results with the Keto diet.
And as you know, as you lose weight, your testosterone levels will naturally increase (the same is true in reverse).
But it turns out that there's another advantage that the Keto diet provides beyond the testosterone benefits you get from losing weight.
When we're in a Keto diet, we're getting roughly 75% of our calories from fat. A true Ketogenic diet has a daily dietary breakdown that follows this formula: 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fat. With this formula, you will see a natural increase in dietary cholesterol.
Stay with me here because I know this sounds counter-intuitive from a health perspective. Cholesterol is a steroid hormone, and it's actually the parent hormone to testosterone. Not to get too technical here, but what happens is that cholesterol converts into Pregnenolone.
Pregnenolone is then acted upon by an enzyme called Cytochrome P450. This enzyme helps the conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone and into testosterone. The simple equation of this is that more cholesterol equals more testosterone and less cholesterol equals lower testosterone.
There was a study done of two groups of men. One group of men were on a true ketogenic diet (5% carbs, 20% protein, 75% fat), and the other group of men were on a traditional western diet (55% carbs, 20% protein, 25% fats). So this would be considered a high/moderate carb diet vs. keto.
What they were measuring in the study was overall cholesterol, testosterone, and insulin. What they found was that there was an increase in total cholesterol from the ketosis group. The increase in cholesterol was all HDL cholesterol, which is considered the GOOD CHOLESTEROL.
The traditional western diet of higher carbs had a DECREASE in the GOOD CHOLESTEROL (HDL).
Also, in the Keto group, testosterone levels increased DRAMATICALLY by 118 ng/dL whereas the group on the higher carb-based diet saw a DECREASE in testosterone levels.
And BONUS - those in the Keto group also saw a decrease in levels of insulin. Too much insulin is one of the leading causes of obesity, type II diabetes, and lowered testosterone production. Remember, as weight increases, testosterone naturally decreases.
All these benefits of a Keto diet hinge on your body going into ketosis. If you're on a moderately low carb and high protein diet, it can prevent you from getting into ketosis. Even too much protein can prevent you from going into ketosis and can also increase insulin production.
That's why you have to have a clear understanding that a Ketogenic diet is 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fats. This formula ensures that your body will go into ketosis, and it will start burning your stored body fat for energy (vs. carbs which turn into glucose), and you'll get the other benefits of ketosis including a significant increase in testosterone production.