When I was at the Superstore check-out last week, I stole a glance at the magazines on display. Wow – so many are trying to entice us with promises of weight loss. And most are using the words ‘keto diet’ or ‘low-carb’ in their titles. The thing is, this can be super confusing for many people…because, really, what are the differences between HFLC and keto diets anyway? And which one is right for you?
Everywhere you turn – magazines, health blogs, the gym – someone seems to be touting the keto diet. I see groups popping up on Facebook all the time for ‘support’ and ‘advice’. It’s being hailed as the ‘miracle diet’ for weight loss and, yes, even boosted energy.
But how true are these claims anyway? Especially for women?
The Keto Bandwagon
Yeah, I like to call this a bandwagon. Because SO many people I know are trying to follow keto and, hard truth, a lot are simply not doing it right. Or following it healthfully. Keto has become the “It” diet of the past few years and I do not doubt that many more people will hop aboard this bandwagon in 2019.
I mean, who wouldn’t try something that promises extremely fast weight loss plus more energy?!?! Right?
What is Keto Anyway?
Keto is an extremely low-carbohydrate diet that replaces carbohydrates with moderate amounts of protein and large quantities of fats. Not always healthy fats (please keep this in mind – this a major difference between HFLC and keto). The keto diet was originally developed to help manage seizures in children – really!
Where I see problems is that anyone can claim to eat fewer carbs and more fat. Doing this doesn’t mean you’re eating a true ketogenic diet. Nor does it mean you’re doing your body any favors. One of the biggest issues I see (and one of my favorite pet peeves) is how much unhealthy fat people following keto eat. Things like bacon, deli meats, the ‘meat’ from fast food joints, and SO MUCH dairy! Sure, yeah, this is eating more fat, but not the right kind. Not the right kind for sustained weight loss OR better energy.
Plus, a lot of people go way too far with keto and start avoiding healthy carbs, like fruits and vegetables, too. And this, as I’ve said time and again, is so wrong for your health. Those foods have so many super important nutrients to nourish your body and keep inflammation and disease away.
Or, I see people boost protein intake when removing carbs, which can be quite hard on your body. Especially the kidneys.
Confusion Between HFLC and Keto Diets
The truth is, there’s a lot of confusion around what constitutes an actual ketogenic diet vs. a high-fat low-carb (HFLC) diet.
HFLC means ‘high fat low carb’ and this is the type of diet I promote. One that’s rich in low-carb vegetables, moderate amounts of low-carb fruits, good quality protein, and, of course, tons of healthy, plant-based fats.
Anyone can easily follow a HFLC diet, and, for women, this is the better choice. With HFLC, you can adjust the macronutrient ratios to help nourish your body and address your unique health concerns. HFLC allows for proper hormone balancing for women, too, to keep reproductive health strong, reduce cravings and manage stress hormones.
What I like about HFLC is that many of the healthy plant-based foods I promote are actually the very same ones that boost energy, improve sleep, promote hormonal fat loss and reduce inflammation. Unlike traditional ketogenic diets, which are rich in fats that promote inflammation and boost stress hormones (thus creating an imbalance in other sex hormones).
Ketosis and the Keto Diet
What is the main difference between HFLC and keto? Well, it all boils down to ketosis.
Ketosis is a metabolic state where your body uses fat instead of glucose as its main source of energy. (Of course, with HFLC, your body also turns to fat for energy over glucose, with better more sustainable results.)
Ketosis is the main goal of a ketogenic diet. Your body prefers glucose as fuel, so the slightest change in daily carbohydrates or protein (yep, the body can make glucose out of protein when there’s enough of it) can shift the body out of ketosis and back to running on glucose.
The exact breakdown of macronutrients needed to keep your body in ketosis varies from person to person because we each have unique metabolisms. However, with most keto diets, you’ll see carb intake kept between 5 and 15% of your daily caloric intake (with ‘carb-up’ days thrown in for good measure).
Ketosis is kind of a drag, too, because you have to monitor your ketones daily. This is done via urine strips or blood testing devices.
With HFLC, you use things like the fit of your clothes, how you feel (aka energy), and often just the state of your skin, hair and nails, to know if your HFLC diet is working.
A HFLC diet is less strict and focuses more on eliminating unhealthy carbohydrate sources, like refined grains and sugary foods, and including more whole foods, including healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, some whole grains and fruit, and vegetables. No measuring or strict macro tracking required! (Who has time for this anyway?)
HFLC versus Keto – Which to Choose?
Alright, to be fair, both diets will help you lose weight, boost energy, and probably improve sleep and other health symptoms. Which diet is right for you depends on a few things, like, how much control do you want over your diet, how much time and energy do you have to spend tracking macros and planning meals, and whether or not you want to balance your hormones and keep the weight off long-term…naturally.
With Keto, your main goal is getting into ketosis. This may not equate to weight loss, at least long-term. It may equate to you feeling like a truck hit you for weeks on end. Essentially, with keto, you eat very little carbs, moderate protein (and watch this carefully), and a lot of (unhealthy, generally) fats.
On HFLC, you have more freedom or wiggle room. Most women work to find that ‘sweet spot’ that works with their lifestyle, health goals and hormones, so your carb intake is a bit more flexible. While unhealthy carbs are restricted, you can still enjoy whole grains on occasion (without ‘blowing’ your diet). My philosophy includes a lot of healthy fats that are proven to help improve overall health, reduce inflammation and boost hormonal health. You don’t necessarily have to count or track your macros (but you can). This diet is way more sustainable long-term.
While it may not seem like there are a lot of differences between HFLC and keto, the truth is, for most women, HFLC is a better approach to improve health. It’s true, following either, you’ll lose weight, improve blood sugar and insulin levels, and likely get a better HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio.
However, traditional keto, because there is so much fat required, usually involves pro-inflammatory foods and processed ‘keto’ snacks that don’t improve health. Plus, eating 5-15% of your daily intake in carbs isn’t sustainable for most people long-term.