Both the keto diet and the paleo diet have surged in popularity over the past few years. There’s no denying that these two diets share many similarities, the primary one being that both the keto diet and the paleo diet aim to improve health and weight status by eliminating certain foods from the diet.
That said, there are a few key differences between keto and paleo. If you’re interested in trying one of the two or are simply curious about what each entails, keep reading.
Below, we’ll compare the keto and paleo diets.
(But whether you’re keto or paleo, keep in mind: there’s a Gainful Personalized Protein Powder for you. Every blend can be created based on whichever diet you are on.)
First thing’s first: What is keto?
The ketogenic diet — often referred to simply as “keto” — is a low carbohydrate, high fat and moderate protein diet. This diet centers on the idea of reaching a metabolic state called “ketosis.” In ketosis, the body is said to increase its efficiency at burning fat for energy. Fat is converted into ketones, which is used as the body’s primary fuel source.
So what can (and, perhaps more important, can’t) you eat on keto? It is true that there are many different ways to “go keto,” but all versions share a common factor: carbohydrate restriction. In general, people following a keto diet aim to reduce their carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams a day.
(For reference, many people who are not following a ketogenic diet consume upwards of 225-325 grams of carbohydrates in their normal diet.)
The general breakdown of calories per day on a ketogenic diet is:
70-80% of calories from fat
5-10% of calories from carbohydrates
10-20% of calories from protein
There are a number of food combinations people can eat to achieve this breakdown, but popular foods for keto-followers include lean meats, fatty fish, eggs, bone broth, non-starchy vegetables, plain Greek yogurt, avocados and natural fats like butter or olive oil. Foods people typically avoid are sugary foods (like candy, cookies, desserts, sweetened yogurt and breakfast cereals) as well as starchy foods (like breads, pastas, rice, French fries, chips, bagels and crackers).
In addition to reducing body fat, the keto diet has been linked to numerous benefits: reduced blood sugar levels, heart disease risk prevention and diabetes management, to name a few. According to a 2017 article published by Harvard Medical School, there is evidence showing that a ketogenic diet reduces seizures in children — sometimes as effectively as medication.
Because of these neuroprotective effects, these types of studies lead researchers to believe there could be possible benefits for other brain disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, autism and brain cancer. People with type-2 diabetes and other blood sugar issues also may benefit from the keto diet’s low carbohydrate intake, as it’s easier to manage insulin levels and blood sugar levels when carbohydrate intake is under control.
That said, the University of Chicago Medicine warns that people on diabetic medication that causes low blood sugar might need to adjust their medicine for a few days when first starting keto, as they may consume excessive amounts of saturated fats that actually increase the risk of heart disease. Additionally, keto may not be safe for those with any conditions involving their pancreas, thyroid or gallbladder. Since keto requires people to consume a large amount of fat each day, it’s also not recommended for those with liver problems. The liver plays an important role in the body’s process of converting fats to energy, and excess amounts of fat can place strain on the liver and worsen existing conditions.
So if the emphasis in keto is on fat, how exactly does protein fit into the diet? Many people who first start keto experience something called the keto flu; however, supplementing with protein powder can help give your body the protein it needs for more energy (and thus effectively helping you fight off the “keto flu”). Protein powder blends that are low in carbohydrates (1-2 grams) and contain 20-30 grams of protein are best for those on keto. Gainful offers a special blend of Personalized Protein Powder designed for people following a keto diet, or for those concerned about carb intake in general. This blend is made with less than 1 gram of carbohydrates, MCT oil and collagen, which is an important component of bone and skin health.
Now onto the paleo diet: The paleolithic diet — often referred to as simple “paleo” — focuses on the diet followed by humans living in the Paleolithic era 2+ million years ago. Proponents of the paleo diet argue that because human genetics and anatomy have remained relatively unchanged since this era, eating the foods available during this time period is the key to good health.
Humans during the Stone Age didn’t have the tools to grow and cultivate plants, so they relied mostly on hunting, fishing and gathering wild plants to obtain fuel.
According to Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, many people who follow the paleo diet believe that the humans in the Paleolithic era were able to avoid modern-day diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease because of their simplistic way of eating.
Foods commonly found in the paleo diet are lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. There is lots of debate over what foods actually existed at the time, so there is not one “true” paleo diet; however, the diet overall is a high protein, moderate fat and low-moderate carbohydrate diet.
Followers of the paleo diet specifically restrict high-glycemic index carbohydrates and stick to low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. They also avoid processed foods. Refined grains and sugars, dairy products, white potatoes, legumes, alcohol, coffee, salt and refined vegetable oils are all prohibited on the paleo diet.
The stars of the show are fats and protein, with grass-fed beef often promoted as the ideal source of protein. Fats are often consumed in the form of marine fish, avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds. A typical breakdown of calories per day on a paleo diet is:
30% of calories from protein
40% of calories from fat
30% of calories from carbohydrates
Like keto, studies have shown that following a paleo diet can lead to fat loss. Some randomized controlled trials have shown the paleo diet to produce greater short-term benefits compared to diets based on national nutrition guidelines. Some of these benefits include increased weight loss, reduced waist circumference, decreased blood pressure, increased insulin sensitivity and improvement in cholesterol.
Experts do warn, however, that the exclusion of entire categories of commonly eaten foods (such as whole grains and dairy) may increase the risk of deficiencies such as calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins.
One study titled “Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers” published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed healthy participants experienced a 53% decrease from baseline in calcium intake after following a paleo diet for three weeks. Additionally, the exclusion of whole grains can lead to reduced consumption of beneficial nutrients, such as fiber. As a result, following this diet may increase a person’s risk for diabetes and heart disease.
There’s also the health concerns of the paleo diet’s high meat intake. (Per Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, studies have shown that a high intake of red meat is linked to a higher risk of death, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.)
That said, consuming meat isn’t the only way to get protein on the paleo diet. Supplementing with protein powder is a great way to get the protein required on the paleo diet without subjecting your body to an especially high meat intake.
It’s also important to remember that because of its numerous restrictions, meal planning on paleo is essential. You must take the time to plan out your meals and ensure you’re getting the proper fuel you need. Supplementing with protein powder can also make meal prepping easier and help you get all of that protein in. (Making your diet 30% protein is quite a leap in protein consumption for most people!) Gainful’s Personalized Protein Powder is made from natural sources that can align with the paleo diet.
Remember: Every Gainful blend can be created to fit the guidelines of your diet — paleo included.
There are many different factors to take into consideration when choosing a diet, and most of these factors are personal. That’s why it’s important to consult your doctor or RD before starting any diet — keto, paleo or otherwise. Your RD can help figure out what diet works best for you, your body and your fitness goals.
Every Gainful subscriber has access to an RD, who’s there to help take the guesswork out of paleo and keto. Keep in mind, diets are not limited to just keto and paleo. Your RD can also help you look beyond these two diets if necessary and help you find what works best for you.
Email RD@gainful.com to get in touch with your RD and learn more about different types of diets and meal plans.
Ready to find a protein powder that fits your diet plan? Take the quiz on Gainful.com to get started and create your personalized protein blend ASAP.
Disclaimer: Gainful does not necessarily advocate for the ketogenic diet or paleolithic diet for our customers. There is still conflicting research as to the nutritional effectiveness of following these diets. We recognize that what works in terms of diet for one person may or may not work for another. We encourage our customers to consult with a physician or dietitian before starting any new diet plan.
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