A low carb and a ketogenic diet can be quite different from each other. Being on a low carb diet does not mean you are on a ketogenic diet.
A ketogenic diet means that you are eating ultra low carb to the point that you are producing ketones or have a ketone blood reading of 0.5mmol/l or higher. You can be on a low carb diet and not anywhere near “ketosis” because ketones are only produced when the body runs out of sugars (carbs).
This can come as a surprise for those who are new to the ketogenic diet. If you are coming from the standard american diet which typically includes more than 250 grams of carbohydrates a day, drastically changing your eating style will not yield results overnight. It can take several days, even weeks sometimes for your body to switch to using fat as your primary fuel.
What is the difference between a Low Carb and a Ketogenic Diet?
Low carb does not equal nutritional ketosis. When you are eating low carb it is likely that there will be ketones present in the body after an overnight fast, however the level of ketones will be nowhere near the levels found in a person eating less than 30 grams of carbs a day and restricting protein.
The average American adult consumes 250+ grams of carbs a day, so some would define a low carb diet as anything below 250g of carbs.
Mark Sisson over at Marks Daily Apple recommends adjusting your carb intake based on your fat loss goals and your exercise output with his carbohydrate curve. In this curve he recommends 150g of carbs a day or below for most people. His primal diet is often considered to be a typical low carb diet.
Some people follow more of an ultra low carb diet approach. This is generally 50g of carbs or less per day which is more supportive of reaching a ketogenic state, but again total carbs are not the only variable when it comes to reaching ketosis, other factors play a role (such as types of carbs, protein consumption, portion size, ingredients, and supplements).
In summary, ketosis is a state where your blood ketones are 0.5 to 3.0 mmol. Low carb is simply eating a low carb diet.
Can you be low carb and in ketosis – Yes, ketosis occurs when liver glycogen is depleted and the body burns fatty acids for fuel.
Do you have to be low carb in order to be in ketosis? – No
Being in a state of ketosis is not only about restricting carbs. While limiting carbs does help, and the lower your carb consumption, the more likely you are to be ketogenic, there are other factors that come into play.
“Nutritional Ketosis” is achieved through eating an ultra low carb, protein restricted, high fat diet.
“Therapeutic Ketosis” can be achieved by using a supplement such as MCT oil. High levels of MCT create higher levels of ketones. Supplements such as MCT provide the same ketone bodies that are produced naturally in the body and while they are not a complete replacement, they allow more people to experience the benefits of being in a ketogenic state without having to change their entire diet.
Description: What is the Difference Between a Low Carb and a Ketogenic Diet?