Paleo Diet vs. Atkins diet

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Paleo Diet vs. Atkins diet

Recently made popular again by Kim Kardashian, the Atkins diet has been one of the mainstay diet programs in the “fad diet” world. Created by Dr. Robert Atkins in the mid 1960’s, this diet uses a low-carbohydrate approach that moves through phases to achieve weight loss. Since then, it gained mainstream awareness in the 90s before falling off for other popular diets. However, recently it has experienced a resurge in interest & attention.


What Is the Atkins Diet

The atkins is a trademarked diet by Robert Atkins. It’s designed to help you remove high starch veggies and high sugar fruits and has a focus on nutrient dense foods (with a high focus on fiber).

What Is the Paleo Diet

The paleo diet is a return to paleolithic living or as some people say “living like a caveman.” The main diet cues involve eating real food that cavemen would have had access to including meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and limiting processed foods as much as possible.

Why Atkins Might Not Work For You

The Atkins diet advertises that no calorie counting is needed to successfully lose weight on their plan. While this is true, the program requires that users track both their weight and carbohydrates consumed. This can become just as time consuming and a point of obsession as calorie counting can be.

Also, fluctuations in body weight is something that happens for everyone. When you have to diligently track your weight, and it isn’t moving how you would like, this can easily become a point of shame and guilt. And, as most people have come to realize, weight does not always equal health.

Atkins and “NUTRITION” Products

As with most weight loss programs, Atkins highly encourages its users to purchase the nutrition (I use that word very loosely) products it makes. These include things like frozen meals, bars, and shakes.

While these are admittedly super convenient, they often come with an ingredients list that is a mile long and contains ingredients such as “malitol palm kernel oil” and “partially defatted peanut flour.”

The consumption of artificial sweeteners is also encouraged for followers of the Atkins diet. While artificial sweeteners are calorie-free, the research is still out on how beneficial they truly are for weight loss. And while the research is relatively new, there is evidence that these ingredients might damage gut flora for some people.

3 Types of Atkins Plans

Atkins is a business and has expanded the diet plans to appeal to more customers. This makes sense from a business perespective, but makes it harder to analyze from a strict “diet” perspective. In fact, now atkins has 3 main plans on their home page.

Atkins 20 – focused on eating only 20 net carbs per day for 12-15 days.

Atkins 40 – focused on eating only 40 net carbs per day for 12-15 days

Atkins 100 – focused on eating only 100 net carbs per day for 12-15 days.

While the plans can change, because Atkins® is a business – they have created a wide arrray of atkins approved products and these are available in a wide variety of stores – which may make it more accessible to a wide number of people who may find paleo more daunting.

Why Paleo Might Work Better Than Atkins

One of the biggest things we hear from people who follow the Paleo guidelines is how much they appreciate the non-dieting aspect. Most people don’t even like to refer to Paleo as a diet – they much prefer calling it a lifestyle.

There is no calorie counting, weight tracking, or carb counting needed.

You eat when you are hungry and you stop when you feel satiated. For people who have been following fad diets for many years, this comes as a welcome relief.

And while there are many new Paleo food and snack options on the market (these are some of our favorites), none of these are required for successfully sticking to this way of eating. Paleo is rooted in eating real food – no packaged food required. And by avoiding the packaged convenience products, you don’t have to worry about consuming those mystery ingredients (what is defatted peanut flour, any way??)

The Big Difference Between Paleo & Atkins

While the Atkins Diet focuses solely on carbohydrates and losing weight, Paleo is focused on a REAL FOOD diet that nourishes the body in every way.

The differences between paleo & atkins could be boiled down to this:

The Atkins Diet is

  • Founded in 1989 by Dr. Atkins
  • Focused on carbohydrate dreduction
  • Similar in concept to keto and low carb diets
  • A trademarked diet and products owned by a company
  • Has a high interest in fiber consumption.
  • Popular in the 90s but going through a current revivial.

The paleo diet is

  • Focused on a paleolithic (or caveman) way of eating.
  • Focused on real food and natural ways of living (beyond eating)
  • Focused on carbohydrates as a secondary effect (or sometimes not at all)
  • Not always weight loss focused
  • Usually does not include calorie counting.
  • Does not have an “owner” but sometimes credits Loren Cordain for starting the diet trend.

The differences between the two are slight, but worth knowing as you make your decisions on which diet to follow.

Similar But Different.

As you can see, once you get the hang of it, following the Paleo guidelines is relatively simple. (Still confused? – check out our paleo guide).

If there’s one thing that we hear the most, though, it’s that deciding WHAT to eat is the biggest chore. That’s why we created a paleo version of our meal planner –  so you can spend less time thinking about being healthy and more time actually being healthy.

When you sign up with us, you receive weekly meal plans, recipes, shopping lists, and access to our Paleo Nutritionist who can answer all of your questions. It doesn’t get easier than that.

Other Comparison Series

Did you enjoy this piece? Read our other diet comparison series to see how other diets stack up.

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Joel Runyon
Joel Runyon is the founder of Ultimate Meal Plans. Joel is an ultra endurance athlete and entrepreneur. He's also the founder of Ultimate Paleo Guide, MoveWell and is the founder of IMPOSSIBLE ® - a lifestyle performance brand helping people push their limits in fitness and life.

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