Clean Eating vs Keto – Introduction
When it comes to clean eating vs Keto – what are the differences and which is better for weight loss and health?
A large percentage of exercisers work out to lose weight or, more specifically, fat.
While training will most definitely contribute to weight loss, what you eat is arguably more important.
As the old fitness saying goes, you can’t out-train a bad diet!
So, as well as working out, most people trying to lose weight also adopt some kind of diet.
And boy, there are a lot to choose from!
There are hundreds if not thousands of diets, but, remarkably, they all work in much the same way – by creating a calorie deficit.
This is when you consume fewer calories than your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE for short.
Faced with a shortage of calories, your body has no choice but to begin burning fat for fuel.
The result is weight loss.
Providing your chosen diet leads to eating fewer calories, you should lose weight.
You’ll probably lose weight faster if you also work out regularly.
Exercise contributes to your caloric deficit and also helps boost your metabolism and preserve muscle mass.
It also means your diet won’t have to be quite as strict.
Still, while any diet can produce weight loss, many people have a hard time choosing between all the options available.
To help you decide, in this article, we’re going to examine two very popular diets – clean eating vs keto – to see which is best.
What is Keto?
I’ve written about keto (and its close relative paleo) before, but in case you missed it, here’s an overview…
Keto is a very low-carb diet.
Most variations involve eating 50 grams of carbs or less per day.
This not only creates the aforementioned calorie deficit but also encourages your body to burn more fat for fuel.
Without carbs, your body has no choice but to burn more fat.
However, your brain and muscles cannot use pure fat for energy, so it turns fat into a more useable source of fuel – ketones, which is where this diet gets its name.
It takes 1-2 weeks to get into ketosis, which is the time it takes your body to run down its stores of glucose and glycogen.
During this time, some people suffer from a sort of carb withdrawal called keto flu.
While not very pleasant, the keto flu is usually tolerable and should only last a couple of weeks at most.
While you can’t eat foods like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, or sugar on keto, you do get to eat lots of high-protein foods like meat, fish, poultry, and eggs.
You are also encouraged to eat lots of fat.
In fact, keto is a high-fat, moderate-protein diet.
Low-fat keto diets don’t work.
Contrary to popular opinion, keto is not a new diet.
In fact, it’s been in use for well over 100 years.
It was initially devised to treat juvenile epilepsy, and weight loss was purely a happy coincidence.
It rose to fame when Dr. Robert Atkins released his first keto diet back in the 1970s.
Since then, keto has remained enduringly popular.
However, it is not without its critics.
What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is less of a diet and more of a lifestyle choice.
In simple terms, clean eating means building your meals and snacks around “real food.”
This means natural foods like meat, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy, etc., are in, and processed foods are out.
The concept of clean eating is open to interpretation.
If you take it to an extreme, it means only eating foods found in nature, i.e., things you can hunt or gather.
This is basically the paleo diet by another name.
More moderately, eating clean means eating foods that are nutritious and unprocessed rather than 100 percent natural.
For example, you can’t eat bread or rice on paleo, but, providing you prepare them in a healthy way, such foods are acceptable on a clean eating diet.
I like to think of clean eating as just eating like a grown-up.
Instead of buying foods that come in packets, are sweetened with a ton of sugar, are heavily processed, or are artificially colored, you just eat foods that your grandparents would probably recognize.
Another word for this type of food is “wholesome.”
While there are lots of variations of clean eating, including my very own Hashi Mashi Diet, you still need to create that all-important calorie deficit if you want to lose weight.
That doesn’t mean you need to count calories, as clean foods are usually naturally lower in calories than most sources of junk food.
However, if you don’t reduce the number of calories you eat, even eating clean won’t help you lose weight.
Clean Eating vs Keto: Weight Loss
Providing you create a calorie deficit, both keto, and clean eating can help you lose weight.
However, during the first two weeks or so of keto, most people lose more.
That’s because, as your body releases muscle glycogen to use for energy, it also releases large amounts of water.
As a result, most keto dieters lose ten pounds or so during the first 14 days.
While gratifying, this water weight loss is not especially important and has nothing to do with fat loss, which is what really matters.
In short, while keto causes fast initial weight loss, in terms of fat loss, both diets will work, providing your calorie intake is less than your TDEE.
Clean Eating vs Keto: Choice of Foods
One of the most significant downsides of keto is that it’s very restrictive.
After all, it bans almost all sources of carbohydrates, most of which are considered dietary staples.
While eliminating carbs from your diet will contribute to weight loss, it will restrict the types of food you can eat.
Clean eating also means giving up certain types of food, such as processed foods and foods high in chemicals, but your choice of what you can eat is still pretty broad.
After all, you can still eat potatoes, pasta, oatmeal, bread, etc., when eating clean.
If you don’t mind very restrictive and even repetitive meals, you’ll probably be okay with keto.
But, if you prefer to eat a more balanced diet like the Hashi Mashi plan, clean eating is perhaps the way to go.
Clean Eating vs Keto: Convenience
Personally, I find clean eating pretty easy.
After all, it’s just a matter of buying and preparing natural foods.
You can still eat at many restaurants, especially if you steer clear of fast-food joints.
Having tried keto, I can honestly say it’s not such a convenient diet to live with.
Going keto means constantly reading nutrition labels looking for hidden carbs, asking for meals to be served with salad instead of rice or potatoes, and continually having to seek out keto-friendly snacks when I’d much rather eat a banana!
It’s also worth mentioning that while clean eating is fine for vegetarians and vegans, keto is entirely impractical for anyone who doesn’t eat animal foods.
Most vegan/vegetarian protein sources are also high in carbs.
Clean Eating vs Keto: Cost
Keto can be an expensive diet to follow.
Most meals need to contain a source of protein, such as meat or fish, and those foods are generally more costly than vegetables and whole grains.
For any diet to work, you need to be able to stick with it for not just a week or two but for as long as it takes to reach your weight loss goal.
If your diet is prohibitively expensive, you may find that you have to give it up before achieving your target weight.
Most dieters find that clean eating is a cheaper diet to follow, and that may be beneficial if you are losing weight on a budget.
Clean Eating vs. Keto: Health
Keto and clean eating can be healthy.
After all, both eliminate the foods most likely to cause health issues, such as large amounts of refined sugar.
That said, keto is notoriously high in fat and can be low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, especially if you don’t eat enough low-carb vegetables.
One of the things that people don’t talk about much is the effect of your diet on your mental health.
Not eating carbs can lead to feelings of anxiety and even give you the blues.
That’s because carbs are linked to the production of dopamine and serotonin, which are hormones associated with mood.
Cutting carbs may also interfere with your ability to sleep.
If keto makes you feel unhappy, and not just because you’ve had to give up bread (!), it could be because you are hormonally unbalanced, and it’s affecting your mood.
Keto has been around long enough that it’s been studied extensively.
And, while it’s not an unhealthy diet, it is restrictive, which means you could end up missing out on some important nutrients.
As such, clean eating is arguably the healthiest of the two diets.
Clean Eating vs Keto: Maintainability
I think you can eat clean for life!
In fact, done right, it’s not really a diet; it’s just something you do.
You don’t even have to eat clean all the time.
As you close in on your weight loss goal, you can enjoy the occasional unhealthy treat without any ill effects.
People eat clean for years, if not decades.
It’s a very sustainable approach to weight loss and weight maintenance.
In contrast, most new keto dieters are already counting the days until they can start eating carbs again.
It’s often viewed as a short-term fix for what is actually a long-term issue.
If, after losing weight, you quit keto and go back to your old diet, you will regain the weight you just worked so hard to lose.
Keto is quite a hard diet to live with so, while it’s good for losing weight initially, it’s not so good for keeping that weight off.
Clean Eating vs. Keto: And the Winner Is…
Having tried keto and clean eating, I can tell you that both can help you lose weight as they create a calorie deficit, which is the gold standard that every effective diet must achieve.
No deficit means no weight loss, period.
But, in terms of sustainability, food enjoyment, cost, and convenience, clean eating is arguably the best choice for most dieters.
Compared to keto, clean eating is just easier to live with.
Also, it’s something you can do forever, so you are less likely to regain the weight you’ve just worked so hard to lose.
In contrast, keto is okay for rapid initial weight loss (primarily water, though), but it’s less than ideal for long-term use.
Losing and maintaining your weight requires a long-term approach and not a quick fix.
While clean eating isn’t as sexy as keto, and initial weight loss is less dramatic, it’s the best way to lose weight healthily and then keep it off.
Clean Eating vs Keto: Wrapping Up
While I hesitate to call keto a fad diet, it certainly can be restrictive and may not be suitable for long-term use.
However, successful weight management means watching what you eat not for a week or a month but for the foreseeable future.
That’s why clean eating is arguably the best approach, not just for weight loss but making sure you don’t undo all your hard work.
Clean eating is not really a diet at all but a sensible approach to nutrition that involves eating foods that are high in nutrients.
Those nutrients are the very things that keep you healthy.
Most clean-eating foods are also relatively low in calories and usually quite filling, too.
At the risk of sounding a bit Zen, clean eating is a diet that doesn’t involve much dieting.
In other words, it is a lifestyle, and it is the foundation of the Hashi Mashi diet plan.
It just means eating more like your grandparents and less like a kid.
In other words, more real food and less processed junk.
Can you lose weight without counting calories?
When I created the ‘Hashi Mashi Diet’ in 2012, after decades of struggling with being overweight and obese – I didn’t know it was virtually a “clean eating” lifestyle.
I have not counted one calorie since then and still maintain my original 75lb weight loss.
The bottom line is that if clean eating worked for me, it will work for you!
The next article: Clean Eating for Beginners: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started, explains what clean eating is and how to use it to lose weight and keep it off forever.
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