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The Ketogenic Diet vs. The Atkins Diet Similarities and Differences

Fact Checked By Jill Armijo, PTA, CHC

The Big Deal about Keto

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of comparing the ketogenic and Atkins diets, let’s talk about why they’re so popular.

Do you know anyone who “eats keto?” Maybe YOU do. Or you did. Should you?

Humans need food to live, and historically, we’ve typically maintained “normal” weight ranges without dieting, supplementing, or going to the gym.

Until the mid-20th century, with the advent of widely accepted processed food and TV dinners (1). 

The increasing variety of sedentary careers away from manual labor to confinement in cubicles containing drawers for candy and baked goods contributed to a growing number of folks with growing bellies.

Eating food provides essential nutrition for the cells and organs in our bodies to function. 

We need fat for energy, cell growth, and support, protecting our organs, and keeping us warm (2).

Our bodies use protein to build and repair tissue, allow our metabolic activity, and maintain pH and fluid balances (3).

Carbohydrates fuel our bodies’ brain, nervous system, heart, and kidneys. They help digest food, make us feel full and satisfied, and keep cholesterol levels normal (4).

So why the witch hunt for carbs? Why are so many people dissing carbs and turning down spaghetti and French bread?

When we need energy, our bodies like to use what’s most readily available—sugar in our bloodstream in the form of glucose. If we don’t exercise and eat every few hours, we don’t tap into our next energy source stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen.

We have plenty of energy, so our bodies don’t need to recruit energy from our fat cells.

Carbohydrates are the source of glucose, as well as other sugars. Fasting, exercise, and reducing our glucose supply create the need for energy from fat (5).

How are Keto and Atkins Alike?

Both diets restrict carbohydrates

A carbohydrate is a string of carbons, each one attached to a water molecule. Everything from ice cream to garbanzo beans has this structure.

Some people think that if they’re eating veggies and fruit, they’re avoiding carbs, but what they’re avoiding is the empty calories—food-like products that don’t contain much, if any, nutrition, like donuts and white rice.

Plants are made up of carbohydrates, but they contain many nutrients that our bodies need, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants (6).

Keto and Atkins diets severely restrict carbs—even many that are good for us, to help us “burn” fat more readily. When the body runs out of glucose and turns to fat for fuel, it’s called ketosis (7).

While it’s possible to get all the nutrition you need and restrict carbs, it takes effort and practice, and usually helps to have a support system like a nutritionist or coach. And any dietary change should occur only after a consultation with your healthcare provider.

You don’t have to count calories

Studies show that counting calories doesn’t usually help people lose weight as well as restricting carbs does (8).

A study done in 2004 showed that participants who ate a low-fat diet lost less weight than the dieters who had a low-carb diet, even though the subjects with the low-carb diet typically averaged a slightly higher calorie intake than the low-fat dieters (9).

Although strict calorie counting isn’t necessary, keto dieters will eat sensibly and provide good nutrition and exercise to enhance ketogenesis.

Supplementing the body’s ketone production can add energy for someone practicing a keto lifestyle and improve their success by limiting unpleasant side effects. A body transitioning from using blood glucose to ketogenesis might experience

  • Excessive thirst.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Fatigue.
  • Hunger.
  • Confusion.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Rapid heart rate (over 100 beats per minute).
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Shakiness.
  • Sweating.
  • Chills (10).

Clinical Effects Keto BHBoost provides the same ketones our bodies produce during intense physical activity, fasting, and low carb intake. This support makes it possible to stimulate fat burning and move into ketogenesis with fewer side effects.

You do have to count carbs

Low-carb diets consider the percentages of fats, proteins, and carbs instead of the total counts, as with calorie counting. Since many nutritious foods have carbohydrates, figuring out a percentage can allow more overall carbs if the amount of fiber in a food is subtracted from the carbs. The difference is called “net carbs.”

To calculate the net carbohydrates, take the total carbohydrates and subtract both the grams of fiber and the sugar alcohols. The remaining amount is the total net carb count (11).

Since carbohydrates are so restricted, both Atkins and the Keto diet are recommended for people with diabetes. (12).

You’ll lose weight

When we deprive the body of glucose, the energy for all our cellular activity, we produce an alternate fuel called ketones, derived from fat stores. Our brains require a continuous supply of glucose because it doesn’t store any.

When we fast, exercise for a long time, or don’t eat carbohydrates, our bodies must use glycogen stores from the liver and muscles. Muscles use all their glycogen after converting it to glucose for muscle contraction. Eventually, the liver makes ketone bodies from fat to provide usable energy for the rest of the body (13). 

But transitioning from using glucose for energy to using ketones isn’t always a walk in the park. Some people experience what’s called Keto flu. BHBoost can enhance your body’s response to ketosis by decreasing symptoms such as

  • Dizziness.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Nausea.
  • Irritability

These symptoms are temporary ailments resulting from the changes your body is accommodating. Keto flu is uncomfortable but won’t last long, and not everyone experiences it (14).

Differences Between Keto and Atkins

Protein Intake

There are two ways that Keto and Atkins differ. The Atkins Diet prescribes an unlimited amount of protein. You can go to town on anything with tons of protein and minimal carbs. This can result in too much protein, and sometimes encourages a large meat intake, which can affect the heart and other organs.

With the Keto diet, only twenty percent of calories are recommended to be protein. A steady balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates provide the framework for a permanent lifestyle.

Lifestyle Change

The Atkins approach is a process of using four phases to lose weight. During the first phase, and possibly the second, the dieter will be in ketosis but will gradually add foods with more carbohydrates back into the lineup.

Eventually, when the Atkins dieter reaches the goal weight, their carbohydrate intake is still limited, but not as rigorously as the keto diet (15).

Many Atkins dieters lose weight and keep it off for a year or two, but gradually add refined carbs and sugar back into their meals without the consistency of the keto restrictions.

The Keto diet prescribes a continuous lifestyle that allows few carbs. A supplement like the formula in BHBoost provides support for optimal health, cognitive function, fitness, and consistent weight management.

Along with these health benefits, the ketogenic diet and excess weight reduction have produced metabolic changes that decrease insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides (16).


Fact Checked By Jill Armijo, PTA, CHC