Whole30 VS Keto: Which is better?
Anyone on a health improvement journey, with access to social media, will have heard the terms “Keto” and “Whole30” at some point. These two low-carb diets have been trending for a while. However, there are some crucial differences between them.
In this article, we will explain how each diet works; the benefits and drawbacks of each; and what may be the healthiest way to eat.
In the red corner: THE KETOGENIC DIET
The Keto diet has become a bit of an unfortunate meme. Since it’s a diet encouraging high fat consumption, there has been a bit of a tendency for people to get the wrong end of the stick, eating excessive amounts of fried cheese and bacon and calling it “health food”.
Yes, believe it or not, fried butter balls with a side of lard won’t help you lose weight, or improve your overall health. Nor does the Ketogenic diet propose you do that.
What is the Keto diet?
Invented in the 1920s as a possible treatment for epilepsy and other seizure disorders, Keto’s original purpose was not as a weight loss programme. It works by reducing your carbohydrate consumption to less than 10% of your daily intake, increasing your fat consumption to 70%, with the rest of the day’s calories coming from protein.
To follow the Keto diet, eat foods from the following list:
- Lean meat (no pork or bacon!)
- Healthy fats (avocado, nuts)
- Leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli)
- No potatoes!
As you can see, following the Keto diet is no carte blanche to slather a pile of pork crackling in mayonnaise and call it a salad. But how effective is the diet?
How does the Keto diet work?
Cutting carbohydrates means your body has to alter where it gets its energy from. Since respiration usually occurs from the metabolization of glucose, when that source is taken away, your body goes into a state called “ketosis”.
This is a state where your liver metabolises fats into compounds known as “ketones”. Burning ketones for energy encourages your body to use up the rest of your fat deposits, thus causing you to lose weight faster than if you were burning glucose.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Keto
It can help you lose weight quickly. If you want to lose weight for a certain event, or you are bodybuilding, and trying to change your body composition, it can be good short-term. It has also been shown to help people with type 2 diabetes to reduce their insulin dependency, and improve the lives of people with epilepsy.
However, there are questions surrounding the ketogenic diet’s long-term efficacy. It is a tough diet to follow, and if you were to cave in, you’d probably regain all the weight you lost and more. Moreover, there is a possibility that eating that much fat can put pressure on your heart, putting you at risk of coronary artery disease.
In the blue corner: Whole30
A relative newcomer, Whole30 was created by Melissa Hartwig Urban in 2009. However, they do not claim to be a diet as such, but rather more of a cleanse to reset your biological clock and improve your overall health.
Unlike the Keto diet, which focuses on macronutrients, this diet eliminates particular food groups, including:
– Baked goods
– Processed meat
It doesn’t eliminate carbohydrates, however, and you are allowed to eat starchy vegetables.
How Does Whole30 Work?
The idea behind Whole30 is to curb cravings and change your overall approach to food. Unlike Keto, it has an end point after 30 days, at which point you gradually reintroduce some foods back into your life. While you are doing this, you are supposed to monitor your symptoms and your health.
It is supposed to help you work out which exact ingredients and allergens were causing you difficulty. It claims to help with chronic pain, stomach troubles, skin conditions and allergies.
Similar to Keto, its original purpose is not for weight loss. Instead, it is about forming healthier habits and a more constructive lifestyle.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Whole30 is like the cold water therapy of dieting. It seems to understand that adhering to a long term restrictive diet is neither healthy nor sustainable, and instead focuses on re-calibrating your approach to food.
This can be very effective for longer term changes in your body, and a general sense of well being. It is not a “crash diet” in the same way that Keto can be perceived as one.
However, logistically speaking, it can be difficult. The ingredients required for it tend to be more expensive than processed foods; it makes dining out a nightmare; and it requires you to plan pretty much every meal.
As it is an elimination diet, this can be triggering to those who are predisposed to eating disorders, as it can fuel the “fear food” fire. Be honest with yourself before starting this diet and consider whether it is safe for you to do so.
So, who wins?
We are wary about anything that is both trending and health-related. Restrictive diets and long-term are two fairly incompatible concepts. That said, Whole30 seems to be the more sensible of the two, as long as after the 30 days, you transition over to a diet that is balanced, controlled and healthy.
Cutting out, or at least reducing, your refined sugar and processed food intake is certainly a great place to start. Doing the 30 day long “reset” may be a good way of kick starting that.
There is however another thing that neither diet takes into account, and that is the time of day at which you are eating. The 16:8 diet, also known as “leangains” has you fast for 16 hours of each day (which essentially only means you don’t eat too late in the evening or too early in the morning) and you consume all of your calories within an 8 hour window.
This discourages over-eating, gives your digestive system a rest and makes you more mindful about your food choices.
Sometimes you don’t need a “fad diet” to be healthy. Simply control your portion sizes, don’t eat too much processed stuff and exercise.