Atkins vs Ketogenic Diet: Which One is Better for You?

Keto vs Atkins Diet
Which One Has the Upper Hand?

keto vs atkins

The Keto vs Atkins debate has been raging for years with neither able to establish a clear advantage in the eyes of the public. Both have their passionate advocates and equally ardent detractors so trying to find a definitive answer to which is better can be challenging. Much of the confusion regarding which low carb diet is better centered on the fact that there is a significant amount of overlap between the two diets. But while the overlay is real there are genuine differences as well. Below we’re going to take a close look at both the similarities and the differences between the diets. First a brief overview of each.

What is the Atkins Diet?

The Atkins Diet is often called the "Atkins ketosis diet," which you eat as much fat and protein as possible while avoiding foods that are high in carbs. This process has been known to work for many people along with medical proof from proven professionals. The Atkins diet has been highly popularized and it consists of 4 different phases:

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    Induction Phase - Lasts for 2 weeks during which time the weight loss process is achieved.
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    Balancing Phase - Finding a balance between carb intake and weight loss.
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    Fine Tuning Phase - Gradually reintroduce pastas and other starchy food.
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    Maintenance - Complex carbohydrates are allowed as long as they don’t result in weight gain.
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The Pros

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    Because the body produces ketones Atkins can be effective in producing weight loss.
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    The Atkins diet is sometimes called the “meat lovers diet” because meat is allowed.
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    It has been shown to reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol.

The Cons

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    The Atkins diet may promote the growth of kidney stones.
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    It can sometimes cause constipation.
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    Atkins diet and ketosis are contradictory terms.

Facts about the Ketogenic Diet:

The Keto diet (read about it in-depth here) was developed nearly a century ago. Like the Atkins diet that came after it (and borrowed from it) this diet relies on drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and entering ketosis where the body is burning fat for energy. There are several accepted variations of the diet:

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    Standard - Low carb intake, moderate protein intake and a high intake of fat.
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    High Protein - Nearly twice as much protein as the standard process.
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    Cyclical - Periods of ketosis followed by periods of increased carb intake.
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    Targeted - Carbs may be added around workout periods.

The Pros

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     It has proven weight loss benefits.
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    It may have benefits for those at risk of diabetes.
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    It can help reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
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    Increases cognitive functions 
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    Provides energy boost that most other diets do not

The Cons

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    Can require significant monitoring and measuring of foods.
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    Depending on your particular circumstances you may need to take supplements.

The Important Differences Between Them:

The following table presents a side by side comparison of known issues with the 2 diets so you can better understand the important ways in which they differ.

Possible Issue



Carbohydrate Leve​​​​ls

With Atkins this changes from phase to phase, starting with drastic reductions followed by gradual re-introduction.

Fixed level: Approximately 10% of average consumption.

Carbohydrate Monitoring Method

Net carbohydrates

Total carbohydrates

Protein Intake

Three 4 to 6 ounce servings of protein daily.

Approximately 1 gram of protein for each kg of bodyweight.

Fat Intake

Calories of last resort after protein and carbohydrates.

Significant fat intake. As much as 75% of daily food intake may be comprised of fats.


Atkins and ketosis is a 4 phase process where carbs are slashed then gradually reintroduced.

Once nutritional ketosis is achieved optimal carb, fat and protein levels are sustained.

Ketone Production

With the Atkins diet ketones are at maximum levels during phase 1. After that ketosis is slowly ratcheted back.

Optimal production levels maintained throughout.

Time When Individual Achieves Ketosis

With ketosis the Atkins diet looks to achieve it in phase 1.

Depends on the individual.

Atkins Diet Risks


The Atkins diet has begun to fall out of favor in recent years for one significant reason: the perception that it’s self-contradictory. That is, at the beginning of the Atkins process one is expected to reduce carbohydrate intake by as much as 90% drastically. Doing so initiates the process of ketosis which results in the burning of fat instead of carbs for energy. Rapid weight loss often ensues. However, as noted above, starting with “phase 2” of the Atkins diet carbohydrates are gradually reintroduced. Many claim this reintroduction is in fact where Atkins bars ketosis and so collapses in on itself.

What often happens, however, is that once allowed to eat high carb foods again, discipline breaks down, ketosis is abandoned, and weight gain resumes. In essence, the person has put their body through a complicated transition process (achieving the state) for no reason.

Keto Diet Risks


Some nutritionists raise concerns about the Keto diet because it encourages the consumption of fats. As much as 75% of your daily macro nutritional intake may consist of fat under the diet. Why is this a problem? Because numerous studies have suggested a link between the consumption of saturated fats and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer. It should be noted, however, that as of this writing there is no proven link between the diet and those maladies. We are merely stating that it is technically possible, but there have been no real-life cases of it ever happening.

Also, the most common issue that people tend to talk about when it comes to this diet is the "Keto Flu." Although, it has been known to be a direct result of lack of vitamins and minerals in the body which can be easily prevented by using the right supplements (see our recommendations).

Which is Actually Better?

Both diets embrace ketosis and have been shown to be beneficial to a fair percentage of those that undertake them. However, the fact that the process of Atkins diet carries with it the seeds of potential “relapse” is understandably enough to turn some people away. Dieting, after all, is difficult enough, without putting your body through major changes for no reason. By presenting their “phases” as being a kinder, gentler way of achieving ketosis Atkins creators seek a balance that may be untenable. Which raises the question: “Is Atkins a ketogenic diet?” The answer would be: “No.”

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The Keto diet, by comparison, asks you to make significant changes and then to incorporate those changes into your lifestyle on a permanent basis. No compromising. No backing away. Just a full adjustment regarding how you view food in general and nutrition in particular. So which is the better the lifestyle, Atkins or Keto? For the above-stated reasons, Keto seems to be finally emerging as the preferred method of low carb, ketosis weight loss as it is slightly easier to maintain. Paired along with its other health benefits, it has cemented its place as the better lifestyle in our opinion.

About the Author

Ryan is a personal trainer, athlete, health enthusiast, and entrepreneur. He is researching and expanding his knowledge about the ketogenic diet. He spends most of his time writing content about his new learnings of the ketogenic diet and shares it on Ketogenic Supplement Reviews. You can find me on: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.