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Keto Vs. Calorie Deficit: Which One Should You Choose to Lose Weight?

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  Published on September 13th, 2023
  Reading time: 4 minutes
  Last modified September 1st, 2023
Tracking a calorie deficit

Losing weight is challenging for most people, and choosing the right diet is the first hurdle to clear when it comes to shedding pounds. The keto diet has demonstrated remarkable efficacy at reducing overall weight, but is it better than the standard calorie deficit diet that allows you to eat what you want–just in moderation? 

There’s a lot of talk about how, since losing weight is simply a matter of calories in and calories out, a simple calorie deficit is a good way for anyone to lose weight. But it’s not quite that simple. Here are the facts about keto vs. a calorie deficit, and how each of these methods fits into the bigger picture of your overall health. 

Keto Vs. Calorie Deficit: What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to understand why there’s often confusion about keto vs. calorie deficit diets because there is some overlap between them. The keto diet emphasizes a low-carb approach to eating with an emphasis on high fat content and moderate protein. [1] While this is a healthy way to approach your diet, it may not be enough to help you lose weight unless you simultaneously count calories. To lose weight on keto, many people (though not all) need to stay in a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you consume. [2]

The difference between keto and calorie deficit diets is that keto involves being stricter about what you put into your body, rather than simply looking at the calorie content alone. For example, carrots are often touted as a great food for dieters because they are extremely low calorie. On the other hand, they aren’t the best choice for those following a keto lifestyle because they are relatively high in carbs. [3]

Benefits of Keto Over a Calorie Deficit 

There are many benefits to choosing a keto diet with an emphasis on calorie deficit over a calorie deficit diet on its own. Ketosis affects the body in some key ways that enhance the natural mechanisms of the body in a way that calorie deficit simply cannot compete with. 

While keto is more restrictive than a calorie-counting diet in terms of what you can eat, most people find that the sacrifice is worth it. 

Here are a few of the benefits of keto over a calorie deficit alone.

Lowered Appetite

Even if you find that you need to cut your calories to spur on weight loss while on a keto diet, many people find the keto diet to be easier to stick to than a calorie deficit alone. This is because, instead of feeling hungry all the time (as many people report feeling on a calorie deficit diet), keto dieters reap the appetite-suppressing benefits of the ketones produced while in ketosis. Ketones lower the hunger-causing hormone ghrelin, helping you feel full for longer. [4]

Keto meal with mayo sauce

The consumption of high-fat foods and relatively high protein also helps keep you feeling satiated, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out while waiting on your next meal. 

Decreased Inflammation

Most people who deal with chronic inflammation in the body find that their markers decrease significantly when they stick to this high-fat diet. [5] This makes you feel better almost right away by reducing pain and swelling throughout the body. Plus, decreased inflammation is known for having other benefits, and is associated with lower obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. [6]

Improved Insulin Sensitivity 

Improved insulin sensitivity is another key benefit of ketosis. Some studies are showing that those who stick to the keto diet see better glycemic control, especially in those with Type 2 Diabetes or those who are at risk for this condition. [7] This means your body will be able to better manage glucose levels when you do eat sugar. 

Lower Triglycerides and LDL Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol vs HDL cholesterol on a checklist

Another common issue for those who want to lose weight is high triglyceride counts. A keto diet can drive down your triglycerides, as well as your overall cholesterol levels. [8] One study shows that your HDL cholesterol will increase with adherence to a keto diet (30 grams of carbohydrates per day), while LDL cholesterol decreases.  

These benefits are significant for anyone who is interested in the overall health of their body in addition to the simple goal of losing weight. If you can achieve so many more beneficial outcomes by following a slightly calorie deficit keto diet, it simply makes more sense to stick with the proven effects of the keto diet.

The bottom line? Calorie deficit is necessary when you want to eliminate stubborn pounds, but it won’t make you feel as good as ketosis can. 

Choose Your Diet Thoughtfully 

Both keto and calorie deficit diets can help you to get rid of weight that you may no longer want to carry around. To some extent, there is some overlap between the two dieting methods, since a calorie deficit is recommended while on keto in order to prompt weight loss. However, the state of ketosis promotes many more benefits for those who can stick with it.

Make the most of your diet and choose a calorie deficit keto diet to cash in on some of these core benefits for your body.

Ashley Simpson is a freelance writer dedicated to helping people improve their lives -- in every way possible. She understands that food and diet are necessary components to a healthy lifestyle and experiments with both. When she isn't typing away, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son.



Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2019, May 22). Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for weight loss. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/ 


Kim J. Y. (2021). Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Journal of obesity & metabolic syndrome, 30(1), 20–31. https://doi.org/10.7570/jomes20065


United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Carrots, Baby, Raw. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2258587/nutrients 


Benlloch, M., López-Rodríguez, M. M., Cuerda-Ballester, M., Drehmer, E., Carrera, S., Ceron, J. J., Tvarijonaviciute, A., Chirivella, J., Fernández-García, D., & de la Rubia Ortí, J. E. (2019). Satiating Effect of a Ketogenic Diet and Its Impact on Muscle Improvement and Oxidation State in Multiple Sclerosis Patients. Nutrients, 11(5), 1156. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051156


Ruskin, D. N., Sturdevant, I. C., Wyss, L. S., & Masino, S. A. (2021). Ketogenic diet effects on inflammatory allodynia and ongoing pain in rodents. Scientific reports, 11(1), 725. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80727-x


Khafagy, R., & Dash, S. (2021). Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease: The Emerging Role of Inflammation. Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine, 8, 768119. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcvm.2021.768119


Skow, S. L., & Jha, R. K. (2023). A Ketogenic Diet is Effective in Improving Insulin Sensitivity in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes. Current diabetes reviews, 19(6), e250422203985. https://doi.org/10.2174/1573399818666220425093535


Dashti, H. M., Mathew, T. C., Hussein, T., Asfar, S. K., Behbahani, A., Khoursheed, M. A., Al-Sayer, H. M., Bo-Abbas, Y. Y., & Al-Zaid, N. S. (2004). Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Experimental and clinical cardiology, 9(3), 200–205.

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