atkins vs keto diet explained

What’s The Best Low Carb Diet? Keto vs Atkins Diet Explained

How is the Keto diet different from the Atkins diet?

The more that we learn about nutrition, the clearer it becomes that carbohydrates, not fats, are the primary causes of obesity, diabetes, and other nutrition-related conditions. People who want to lose weight and become healthier have increasingly put their faith in low-carb diets starting with the fad-like popularity of the Atkins diet in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

Over the last few years, the ketogenic (Keto) diet has largely replaced the Atkins diet as the most popular low-carb nutritional philosophy. How is the Keto diet different from the Atkins diet, and which diet is best if you want to lose weight and achieve peak physical fitness?

Find the answers in this guide.

What is the Atkins diet?

The Atkins diet was devised by cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins in 1989. This unusual dietary regimen did not receive very much attention, however, until the early 2000s. Once it became popular, however, the Atkins diet swept the nation, reducing sales of high-carb staples like pasta and rice and influencing one out of every 11 Americans to pursue low-carb diets.

While it isn’t without its flaws, the Atkins diet is largely recognized as the first nutritional movement to correctly identify the role that carbs can play in weight gain and poor physical health. Many of the subtleties of contemporary nutritional science were, however, lost on the Atkins Nutritionals company, which propounded the benefits of expensive Atkins diet foods like lobster tails while downplaying more affordable forms of protein.

By the mid-2000s, the Atkins diet had lost a significant degree of popularity, and Atkins Nutritionals filed for bankruptcy in 2005. It wouldn’t be long, however, before a new low-carb nutritional ideology emerged that built on the success of the Atkins diet while taking a more extreme approach.

What is the Keto diet?

The ketogenic diet was originally developed to help reduce the symptoms of epilepsy, but it quickly became apparent that this dietary methodology could also be beneficial for other groups. The goal of the Keto diet is to force the body into a metabolic state of ketosis, in which it derives the majority of its energy from fats instead of carbs.

Once your body is in a state of ketosis, it uses ketones as fuel, which are produced when your body breaks down fats you consume or that are stored in your body. At the extreme end of the spectrum, some followers of the Keto diet consume less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, and fats make up around 70-90% of the average daily calorie intake of individuals following this extreme dietary regimen. Common Keto diet foods include salmon, cheese, and avocados.

While the Atkins diet largely centers around specific dietary recommendations and incorporates an entire line of low-carb snacks, the ketogenic was not developed by any particular individual, and it is not associated with specific brands or fad diets. On the contrary, the Keto diet simply follows scientific evidence to deliver a basic set of dietary recommendations that can easily be adapted to a person’s particular needs.

Similarities and differences

The Atkins and keto diets share a few core similarities, but they are also different from each other in significant ways. Learn the similarities and differences between the Atkins diet and the keto diet to make the right choice:


Since they are both low-carb diets, the Atkins diet and the keto diet are ultimately quite similar. The Atkins diet, however, which has gone through quite a few iterations to reach its current state, only pushes your body into ketosis during its first stage, in which participants are encouraged to limit their daily carb intake to 25 grams.

As you progress through the stages of the Atkins diet, however, your daily carb limit gradually increases to 100 grams, which brings your body out of ketosis. Even when you’ve reached Phase 4 of the Atkins diet, however, you’re still encouraged to eliminate refined carbs such as soda, chips, and other forms of junk food, which is a core recommendation of the keto diet as well.

By encouraging you to reduce your carb intake and, most importantly, focus on consuming healthier foods, both the Atkins and the keto diet have the potential to cause weight loss. Both of these dietary regimens also generally incentivize individuals to consume safe, organic sources of fats and protein that contain less additives and toxins, which could lead to even greater health improvements.


The Keto diet is much stricter and more intense than the Atkins diet. Even most modified forms of the Atkins diet still gradually leave space for the inclusion of higher concentrations of carbohydrates, which might make this diet more comfortable for individuals who want to keep eating fruits, vegetables, and other sources of important nutrients and antioxidants.

The primary goal of the ketogenic diet, on the other hand, is to continuously keep your body in a state of ketosis, which is only achievable by almost entirely removing all forms of carbohydrates from your dietary intake. Followers of the keto diet regularly test their ketone levels to ensure that they’re still in ketosis, which can become burdensome and costly over time, and they consume higher concentrations of protein than followers of the Atkins diet. 

Benefits of each diet

Both the Atkins diet and the Keto diet appear to provide similar benefits:

Weight loss benefits

Reducing your carbohydrate intake almost invariably leads to impressive weight loss. The Keto diet may lead to more weight loss than the Atkins diet while retaining your muscle mass. It also appears that the Keto diet maintains your resting metabolic rate, which means that you continue to burn the same amount of calories when you aren’t exercising.

Diabetes benefits

Low-carb diets reduce the need for diabetes medications in diabetic patients while also promoting weight loss and reducing blood sugar levels. Since carbohydrates break down into glucose, which then enters your bloodstream as blood sugar, this benefit is a no-brainer that every diabetes patient should take seriously.

Cardiovascular benefits

Low-carb, high-fat diets might reduce your risk of heart disease. Reducing your carb intake and consuming more fats lowers your triglyceride levels while simultaneously increasing your HDL (good cholesterol) levels. As a result, your entire cardiovascular system operates more smoothly, and you’re less likely to develop coronary artery disease or suffer a heart attack.


Now that you have a better idea of what the Atkins and keto diets are and how they compare, how do you choose the right nutritional path? As the owner of Basic Training PFC, I’ve seen a lot of diet fads come and go, but I’m convinced that reducing your carbohydrate intake and increasing your healthy fat and protein consumption is a surefire, science-backed way to lose weight and become healthier.

Since both the Atkins and keto diets achieve this purpose, I won’t come down in favor of either dietary regimen. What I will say, however, is that the less-restrictive aspects of the Atkins diet might be better for people who want to take a more relaxed approach to reducing their carbohydrate intake, and the keto diet might be better for people who want immediate results and aren’t afraid to make major changes to their dietary habits.

Evaluate the differences between each approach to reducing your carb consumption, and choose the diet that best fits your goals.

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