Whole30 vs. Keto: What's the Deal With These Trending Diets?

It seems like both Whole30 and the keto diet have been everywhere these days. And while they are very similar, there are some pretty big differences between the two. What you can eat, how you measure your intake, and what the long-term plans may be in order to sustain any weight loss or healthy strides made while in the zone are all key points in which the diets can differ.

However, while any diet depends on a lot of factors — including your mental toughness and emotional readiness — it's truly the change in lifestyle that will contribute to long-term success.

Keto Diet

On the keto diet, the body relies on the lack of carbohydrates in order to send the body into ketosis, which is when ketones are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver. This sends the body into a metabolic state through the starvation of carbohydrates. The more restrictive a dieter is on the carbohydrate intake, the faster the body will settle into ketosis. Experts said that fewer than 15 grams of carbohydrates a day is the optimal intake. You will know if you're in ketosis, though, through symptoms including bad breath, increased urination, dry mouth, and increased energy. But, some hard-core keto dieters use blood and urination tests to ensure they are in ketosis.

Those who get into the keto diet can eat meat; leafy greens; above-ground vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, and green beans; high-fat dairy; nuts; seeds; avocado; berries; sweeteners; oils; and fats. The diet eliminates grains, sugar, fruit, and tubers, like yams and sweet potatoes, from the daily intake.

In addition, counting macros and net carbs is a method used throughout the diet with the help of apps or by following the keto formula, and calculating your macros is nothing to be taken lightly. The formula is your basal metabolic rate (using the Harris-Benedict equation) times your activity level. This will give you the number of calories you should be taking in for maintenance only. Adjustments may be necessary based on how much weight you are looking to lose and how quickly. However, for the most accurate results, body fat should also be measured and factored into the equation. Using an online tool such as this keto calculator can help.

Some side effects of the keto diet include headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, and aggravation in the first few weeks as your body adjusts to its new diet. Keto flu, as well, can hit the body as it withdraws from sugar and other carbohydrates. This can include fatigue, nausea, and cramping.

One of the main differences between Whole30 and Keto is the inclusion of healthy "treats." Keto is designed for weight loss, not for reducing cravings. On the keto diet, healthy swaps that help to satisfy a sweet tooth are allowed, as long as they are made with compliant ingredients.

As for exercise, adding in an exercise program if you don't already have one will aid in weight loss on the keto diet. Ramping up an exercise routine if you are already active is also a plus.

Craig Clarke, an expert in the keto diet and the founder of Ruled.Me, a blog and recipe website for keto followers, said that he has made keto his lifestyle. He has been on the eating plan for about a decade in order to keep up his healthy lifestyle. While he noted that some people do go off the keto diet once they lose weight, he warns against going back to the old habits that created the weight gain in the first place.

Janine McHale, a healthy eating and wellness coach based in Staten Island, NY, told POPSUGAR via email that keto is worth trying if shedding weight is your main focus. "Keto is particularly good for people who have a lot of weight to lose and want quick results," she said.


The Whole30 is an elimination diet, founded by Melissa Hartwig, that is supposed to help people figure out which foods trigger their systems to bloat and aid in weight gain. Those who jump on the Whole30 train (myself included for three rounds!) will eliminate beans, legumes, grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and wheat, leaving only meats, vegetables, fruits, fats, and some nuts/nut butters. After the 30 days are up, those who have embarked on the diet are supposed to add back these food groups little by little and see how the body reacts.

Instead of counting macros or net carbs, those on the Whole30 are encouraged to eat as much as they would like, as long as they stick to the list of allowable foods. Whole30 has different versions of the diet — one for omnivores and another for vegan/vegetarian dieters.

However, one major difference between the keto diet and Whole30 is the ability to re-create your favorite "treats" except with compliant ingredients. Hartwig calls it "sex with your pants on." This, she says, does not allow your body or mind to break from its habits or its cravings. While keto allows this, Whole30 is firmly against this tactic.

In addition, the Whole30 is just that — a whole 30 days of all in on the plan. There is no room for cheats, slips, or special occasions. You must stick to the diet for the entirety of the 30 days in order to see and feel the full effects the diet has on your body.

According to McHale, Whole30 differs from keto as a short-term reset to cleanse the body, while losing weight is not the top priority in the process.

"Whole30 is meant to be short term, and I think its focus on getting whole fresh foods is a great way to reset poor eating habits and kick a sugar habit," she said.

Because Hartwig bills Whole30 as a program and lifestyle, not a diet, those on the program are also encouraged to step away from the scale for the entirety of the program. The focus here, says Hartwig, is on your overall health, which you can monitor by paying attention to your energy level, how your clothes fit and how your body feels.

With any elimination diet, some people will also experience side effects on Whole30. This can include headaches, sleepiness, crankiness, breakouts, cravings, and some digestive issues. This, however, has a lot to do with how you were eating prior to the Whole30 and are usually felt within the first 14 days.

However, McHale says, whether you end up trying keto or Whole30 to hit your goals, either one you choose may not be a long-term lifestyle.

"Both diets are pretty restrictive, and it can be difficult to maintain them for the long term. Both require meal planning, and since both cut out certain food groups, they can lack key nutrients if not done properly," McHale says.