Keto vs Atkins – What’s the Better Low Carb Option?

keto vs atkins

When it comes to low carb diets – Keto and Atkins are definitely among the front runners. Even though Atkins started earlier than Keto, one might say that in the battle of Keto vs Atkins – Keto might be taking the lead, based on popularity.

In this article I will briefly introduce you to both Atkins and Keto and then we’ll compare them based on their similar aspects and differences to find out which one has the edge over the other.

Keto Overview

Keto diet works in the same way as any low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet. In short, your goal is to reduce your carbohydrate to a minimum amount, around 20 to 50g per day. If you want to follow a very strict keto, then you should reduce your carbs to a maximum of 20g per day.

For most people, carbs are the main source of energy. Carbohydrates you get from foods that are rich in them, such as sweet foods that have a lot of glucose and starchy foods, such as brad and potatoes.

Keto Diet Foods

Once you cut out the big part of carbohydrates from your life, your body needs to find a new energy source. That’s when your body starts burning accumulated fat to provide your body with energy. When your body starts burning fat for energy, it enters a state of ketosis. Ketosis is normal metabolic process during which your body starts producing ketones.

Ketones are the end product of ketosis. They help to break down the fat cells and convert them to energy. An average person usually reaches ketosis within 2 or 4 days after he reduces the carbohydrate intake. However, since each person is different, some people struggle with reaching ketosis fast. Most people who struggle choose a supplement that helps enter ketosis faster.


Once your body is in ketosis, it starts buning fat for energy 24/7, even when you’re resting or sleeping. Many people who follow keto consider it more like a lifestyle than a diet. Once of the reasons low carb diets became so famous, especially keto is the fact that following it doesn’t require counting calories or leading a very active lifestyle and still results in weight loss. However, for the results to happen, your daily calories should come from:

  • 70-80% fat
  • 15-20% protein
  • 5-10% carbs

Here you can find a detailed  keto foods shopping list. Also, here you can read the full beginner’s guide to keto.

Intro to Atkins Diet

Atkins diet was created back in 1972 and since then people started seriously obsessing with it. The creator of the diet is a famous cardiologist Robert Atkins. Since then the Atkins diet has seen some modifications. The original Atkins diet is not refereed to as Atkins 20 (1).

The original diet has four main phases from most to least restrictive. The goal of Atkins diet is turning it into a lifestyle. Here’s a short overview of the 4 Atkins phases:

Atkins Phase 1

Atkins phase 1 is the most restrictive part of the diet. Your daily carbohydrate intake is limited to 20-25 g net carbs (net carbs = total carbs – fiber). Also, your food choices become limited. Your daily calories should come from proteins, veggies, healthy fats, nuts and seeds. Also, when you keep your carbs this low, most likely your body will enter ketosis.

You should stay in this phase until you are 15 pounds (7 kg) away from your goal weight.

Atkins Phase 2

During Atkins phase 2, you can consume more net carbs per day – from 25 to 50 g net carbs. Also, more products are added to your menu. You can eat the same foods as during Atkins phase 1 plus berries, cherries or melons, whole milk, Greek yogurt, ricotta or cottage cheese, legumes and drink tomato juice.

You should stay in the 2nd phase of Atkins until you are 10 pounds (5 kg) away from your goal weight.

Atkins Phase 3

Atkins Phase 3 works similar to Phase 2 – you will increase the daily net carbs amount and add additional foods. However, this time you will have the goal to find the ideas amount of carbohydrates during which your body is still losing weight and the amount of carbohydrates per day that makes your weight stall. The amount of net carbohydrates should vary between 50 and 80 grams.

You should stay in the 3rd phase of Atkins until you reach your goal weight + a month after keeping it stable.

This means that once you discover the amount of net carbs day during which you lose weight – keep it. Once you reach your goal weight – keep the carbs amount that stalls the weight loss.

The foods you can add to your list include other fruit, starchy vegetables and whole grains.

Atkins diet foods

Atkins Phase 4

Atkins Phase 4 is the longest one, as it should last for a lifetime. During the month of maintaining your goal weight, you should have found the optimal amount of carbs per day that doesn’t make you gain weight.

The goal of Atkins Phase 4 is maintaining the habits that you gained during the third phase. You can try increasing the amount of net carbs per day (up to 100 g per day, recommended). However, you can increase the carbs only if it doesn’t increase your weight.

During Phase 4, Atkins should be your lifestyle.

Keto Diet vs Atkins – What’s Similar About Them?

As you can see from the overview of Keto and Atkins above, both diets are quite similar in terms of:

Ketosis – Atkins Phase 1 is similar to strict Keto, when your carbohydrate intake is limited to 20 g net carbs per day. For most people limiting carbs to approx. 50 g net carbs per day is enough to enter the state of ketosis. So, during first Atkins phase, you should reach ketosis as well.

Approach to carbs – both diets are strict on carbs and limit their daily intake. The foods that you should limit are quite similar for both diets.

Weight loss – limiting carbs and making fat your primary source of energy leads to effective weight loss for most people, especially since it doesn’t require a lot of exercising and your body burns fat even when you’re sleeping.

Potential health benefits – since keto and Atkins limit your carbohydrates intake, it means less sugar. Having lower blood sugar levels leads to lowered risks of diabetes and various cardiovascular diseases.

What is The Difference Between Keto and Atkins

Even though Keto are quite similar, they have quite a few differences that allows you to separate them. Keto vs Atkins differences are:

Amount of proteins – Atkins and Keto differ in recommended daily protein amounts. Overall, Keto offers that 15 to 20 percent of your calories should come from protein. Atkins on some of it phases allows up to 30 percent of daily calories from protein.

Restriction of carbohydrates – on Keto, your body keeps the limits of carbohydrates very low so that your body would stay in ketosis for as long as you follow the ketogenic diet. On the other hand, Atkins is very strict only on the first phase. During it your body should also reach ketosis. After the phase 1 of Atkins, you will step by step increase your carbohydrate intake and your body will step out of the state of ketosis.

Food variety – since Atkins increases your carbohydrate intake with each phase, you also get more food options with each phase. On the contrary, if you follow Keto and keep your carbohydrate intake to the very minimum, the products you can choose for food won’t change a lot, so only the recipes you choose will differ.

Phases – technically Keto does not have any phases that you should follow. Only you can, for example, come up with phases that will help you reduce / increase carbs step by step. this way your body won’t experience the unnecessary stress due to sudden diet changes.

Atkins, on the other hand, has 4 phases. The later the phase, the easier it is to follow its rules as they become less and less strict.

Following the diet on long-term, When it comes to following Keto vs Atkins diet on the long term, for most people following Atkins should be easier. Atkins is more flexible and less strict when it comes to carbohydrates. A greater variety of foods you can eat for most people help to stay on track of the diet longer.

Keto or Atkins?

If you’re wondering which diet wins the Keto vs Atkins battle, the answer is quite simple – everything depends on your goals and needs.

If your goal is to lose a lot of weight fast – both diets will suit your needs. Atkins and Keto are practically the same thing as long as you have more than 15 lbs (7 kg) to lose.

If your goal is to lose a lower amount of weight in a shorter time – go for Keto. Keto is more strict, so it means faster results. If your goal is to lose less than 15 pounds fast, then go for Keto.

Weight Loss

If your goal is to maintain weight and just lead a healthier lifestyle, most likely you don’t need any diets, just don’t overeat and choose high quality products. However, if you simply must choose one of these two, go for Atkins as it is less strict and for most becomes more of a lifestyle than a diet.

As you can see, any of the diets can be the Atkins vs Keto battle winner, as it all depends on your needs and choices. Remember, that it doesn’t matter which diet you choose, the goal is having a healthy body.

Keto vs Atkins – TL; DR

To sum up, I would like to acknowledge the fact that both diets are low in carbohydrates, so both should help you lose weight. Since they have many people who tried them and found them very effective – it’s not a surprise that they’re famous around the world.

The older one, Atkins was created more than 30 years ago and it comes in 4 phases. Atkins phase 1 is the most strict, while phase 4 is the most liberal and allows you to eat more carbohydrates and select from more diverse foods.

The younger one – Keto is more strict throughout the duration of it and requires you to keep your carbohydrate intake to a minimum in order to remain in ketosis and keep losing weight.

Overall, if weight loss is your goal, both diets should be effective. However, if you’re looking into losing smaller amounts of weight, Keto could be more effective. On the other hand, Atkins, on the long term is easier to follow. It is more flexible, has less restrictions and a more diverse menu.

In the Keto vs Atkins choice, the winner depends on your personal goals as both diets are very similar. So, if you start from Phase 1 of Atkins, you’ll basically be on Keto. From there you can decide whether you want to keep the low carbohydrate intake or whether you want to increase it and move to phase 2 of Atkins.

If you’re still not sure which diet to choose, or whether low carb is for you – check out this Keto and Paleo comparison. Paleo is yet another very popular diet philosophy that mimics eating habits of the cavemen.

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