Paleo vs. Atkins

The Paleo Diet vs The Atkins Diet – Which one is right for you?

As many of you know, I started following the paleo or primal diet in 2011. It’s based on ancestral health and whole foods. Recently I’ve been asked for the difference between The Paleo Diet and the Atkins Diet. I’ve never tried the Atkins diet or given it much thought so I went to

The two diets appear quite similar at first glance but after further research I discovered that they are actually quiet different. The biggest difference is that the Atkins’s Diet has 4 phases. Phase 1 (Induction), is the most restrictive and it progresses to phase 4 (Lifetime Maintenance) which is the least restrictive. The Paleo Diet does not have any phases, only modifications for people who are athletes, suffer from auto-immune diseases or would like to lose weight. Essentially everyone follows the same guidelines for life.

The Paleo Diet vs The Atkins Diet

Carbs – low-moderate depending on your goal (Paleo) vs low in phase 1 and moderate for phase 4 (Atkins)

Protein – moderate (Paleo) vs moderate (Atkins)

Fat – moderate – high (Paleo) vs high (Atkins)

The Paleo Diet encourages organic vegetables and fruit. The Atkins diet encourages vegetables but doesn’t allow fruit until phase 2.

The Paleo diet emphasizes grass fed, hormone-free and free range meat. The Atkins diet doesn’t really talk about meat quality. Both diets promote eggs and fish.

The types of fat recommended is another way the two diets differ. The Paleo Diet emphasizes saturated fat like coconut butter, grass fed butter as well as olive oil and oil from nuts and seeds. Vegetable oils like canola, grapeseed, soybean, sunflower, and safflower are not approved. The Atkins diet promotes vegetable oils as well as butter.

Dairy is generally not permitted on the Paleo Diet but cheese is allowed in phase 1 and heavy cream in phase 2 of the Atkins Diet.

Are these phases getting confusing yet?

What about grains and bread?

The Paleo Diet doesn’t allow any. The Atkins diet lets you have some in phase 3 and 4.

How about legumes?

None for the Paleo Diet and The Atkins Diet allows them in phase 3 and 4.

What about sugar and artificial sweeteners?

Neither of the diets encourages sugar but The Atkins Diet says that SPLENDA (artificial sweetener) and diet sodas are permitted.

Which diet is right for you?

It depends on what your goals are.

Are you only trying to lose weight or are you interested in healing your digestive system or improving your athletic performance?

Can you live without cheese and Diet Coke?

Do you care about the quality of your food or are okay with eating processed food and food from factory farms?

Okay, I admit I am just a little biased towards one of these diets. If you would like more information on the Paleo Diet please feel free to contact me. The bottom line is that there isn’t one diet that will work for everyone. Each of us is unique and has slightly different nutritional needs.  Dig out your food journal and start taking notes. Who knows what you will discover about yourself?

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  1. Hi,
    I started Atkins Diet in January 2012; mother Type 2 Diabetic; I am 1.74m and 63kg, 13%body fat, training for Ironman SA in April 2012.
    Feel good on diet, however still have ‘letharic’ days and feel lethargic at start of my runs, rides and swims, but after 30 mins feel great and feel better as the hours tick by. Sure my carbs are too low – but I put on weight easily with carbs.
    Carbs : 20g – 50g/day
    What carb level should I maintain for training and what type of carbs do you use for training?. I have changed to Hammer Nutrition since Feb for long rides and runs with water; and shorter rides and runs use water.
    Thank you

    • Hi Tracy,

      Your carbs do look low for someone who is training for an Ironman. Sports nutrition is not my specialty but I would go by how you feel and perform. Baked sweet potatoes, dates and bananana are good sources for carbs. I’m not sure what Hammer Nutrition is but I’m guessing it’s a type of sport gel. I personally don’t enjoy sport gels but if you need quick convenient fuel they do the trick.

      Good luck with your training!


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    • 5 grams of carbs is not enough, in 4 days your still not FULLY in Ketosis. Your alweold 20 grams a day, EAT 20 grams a day. Don’t play with the diet. Your craving because your blood sugar is still all over the place. If you were following the diet correctly your blood sugar would have probably leveled off by now and you wouldn’t be craving. If you don’t have the Actual book in hand, get it and FOLLOW it, don’t improvise. Until your in full Ketosis your body is going through starvation (yes, even though your eating). Doing what your doing with the carbs can be very dangerous. follow the diet correctly. I lost 80lbs is 12 weeks staying in Phase 1 the whole time, but again if you improvise you asking for failure. There’s no shortage of people who think they know more than Dr. Atkins himself so they screw with the diet, then blame IT for it’s failure. Or when the weight comes right back because they didn’t listen.Do it RIGHT and you’ll be very happy with the results, keep up what your doing and you will guarantee a failure, or a trip to the hospital.

      • Celia, not sure what you’re talking about here. I had to go to zero carbs, as suggested by Dr. Atkins in his New Diet Revolution 2002 version of his diet, in order to go into full ketosis and adapt. I tried 20 carbs a day and it kept me on the verge, feeling like crap, but never going into true ketosis. Once I cut out all carbs, I went within 3 days. After I adapted, I started adding carbs back into my diet. I feel great, am losing weight, and I haven’t looked back since.

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  13. I am on Atkins, eat only organic vegetables and fruits, grass fed meats, do not use vegetable oils with the exception of olive oil, do not eat grains nor nuts due to allergies, but do eat dairy products, such as cheese and cream. I’ve been eating whole organic foods for years – even before I went low carb. Not everybody on Atkins eats processed crappy foods or conventionally grown/raised foods. What turned me off to Paleo is the no dairy, which is why I went with Atkins.

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