The John McDougall Diet Vs. Keto Diet – What Is Better For Weight Loss?

John McDougall, bestselling author and medical doctor, has recently made a video bashing yet again the keto diet. [1]

Which got me wondering: What is scientifically proven better for weight loss? The John McDougall diet – or the keto diet promoted by Dr. Eric Berg?

In this video we’re looking at the John McDougall program – and we’ll compare it with Dr. Eric Berg’s nutrition recommendation.

In doing so, you’ll discover:

  • What the absolute best diet is for rapid and sustainable weight loss
  • What the best diet is for you to have the LEAST amount of cravings and hunger.
  • And lastly: What the best diet is for you to reduce the chances to suffer from common chronic diseases. Because a sixpack is of no use, if you’re time is spent hanging around in a hospital. Right?

For those that are new here: Hi, I’m Florian. Award-winning personal trainer, published author and vegan since 8 years.

florian wuest, fit vegan

So let’s just dive right in:

McDougall Program Vs Keto Diet: The Basics

To discover what is best for sustainable and rapid weight loss, we have to look at what makes the McDougall program different from a keto diet.

john mcdougall program

The McDougall Program

The McDougall program, recommended by John McDougall (living in Santa Rosa) in his national bestselling books, is based on a vegan, low fat high carb diet:

  • It avoids any animal products, including meat, cheese and dairy products. It also has no oil.
  • And instead, the diet is full of starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, etc.) with the addition of either fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • To sum it up: The McDougall program is high in carbohydrates, low in fat and relatively low in protein.

The Keto Diet

The keto diet, promoted by wildly popular chiropractor Dr. Eric Berg (living in Virginia):

  • Avoids all starch-based foods and reduces carbohydrates to a minimum. So on that side it is the polar opposite to the starch-based diet of John McDougall.
  • Instead, it focuses on moderate amounts of protein (often animal products) and foods high in fat.
  • With the goal to induce ketosis, or the production of ketone bodies that serve as an alternate energy source for neurons and other cell types that cannot directly metabolize fatty acids.
  • To sum it up: The Keto Diet is high in fat, low in carbohydrates and moderate in protein.

What both the keto diet recommended by Dr. Eric Berg DC have in common with the McDougall program is that they both put a very heavy emphasis on vegetables.

The John McDougall diet does not like coffee, while the keto diet does.

weight loss, keto diet, mcdougall program

McDougall Program Vs Keto: What Is Better To Lose Weight Rapidly And Sustainably?

Now, to find the best possible diet to lose weight rapidly and sustainably – we don’t want to look at who of the 2 influencers is more convincing.

I think Dr. Eric Berg would win that match. He’s clearly the better salesman – he after all sells tons of supplements – he’s younger and he’s more attractive.

Instead, when it comes to matters of health we want to think like Elon Musk. We want to boil nutrition down to it’s constituent parts and then reason up from there.

This is called ‘first principles thinking’. And as the name implies: We want to think. We want to use our brain. Which is, believe it or not, a thing very few people ever do.

*Me sometimes included.*

But let’s try:

In a previous video we’ve seen that we have 3 macronutrients.

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • And fat

Carbohydrates has a caloric content of 4 calories per gram. Protein has also 4 calories per gram. And fat has 9 calories per gram.

Given that multiple studies have proven that the only thing matters for the speed of weight loss is calories. [2]

Debunking intermittent fasting, as the only mechanism intermittent fasting seems to work at is calories. [3]

And a crazy genius of nutrient professor even starved himself with Twinkies to prove that only calories matter. [4]

Which macronutrient does it make sense to avoid?

  • Carbohydrates with 4 calories per gram.
  • Protein with 4 calories per gram.
  • Or fat with 9 calories per gram?

It’s the fat, right?

To put this in context, let’s say you are a CEO of a company. You have a marketing budget of $10,000 per month. You absolutely know that if you spend it on Facebook Ads, you get a good return on investment. If you spend it on TikTok Ads, you get a good return on investment. But if you spend it on Reddit Ads, you absolutely fail.

Now imagine, you as a CEO of that company waltz in on a Monday morning meeting in the beginning of the month and proudly declare to your staff that 80% of your marketing budget will be spent on Reddit Ads. Even though you absolutely know that it’s not as efficient as spending it otherwise, right?

Spending your limited money on Reddit Ads is like spending your limited calories on fat.

The absolute last thing you’d do…

… as a sane, thinking individual (a group that makes up at max 1% of the population)…

… is circling your diet around fat if weight loss is the goal.

At this stage, the nationally renowned diet from John McDougall clearly has an advantage over the Keto Diet. John McDougall has definitely made his calculations, whereas Dr. Eric Berg probably didn’t.

But where is losing weight easier? After all, you’d prefer a weight loss routine where you’d not starve yourself but lose fat a bit slower, correct?

So let’s see which diet facilitates weight loss, by producing less cravings and hunger:

McDougall Plan Vs Keto: Which Facilitates Weight Loss?

Out of the 3 macronutrients, what is the least satiating?

  • Is it carbohydrates with 4 calories per gram.
  • Protein with 4 calories per gram.
  • Or fat with 9 calories per gram?

According to science, it is fat. [5]

And what is the most-satiating macronutrient?

  • It was previously thought to be protein. But protein, while producing some feelings of satiety, does not seem to reduce the intake of calories on subsequent meals.
  • But the fiber, found in carbs does. So it’s carbs. [6]

This is why the most satiating food, according to a 1995 study in the European Journal of Nutrition, is the boiled potato. [7]

potato, new harvest, nature

Which is probably one of the reasons bestselling author John McDougall had the potato on his book called ‘The Starch Solution’:

starch solution book potato

But isn’t the lack of protein in one’s nutrition going to make you lose a lot of muscle?

As a person that trains a lot, I absolutely understand that concern.

But it’s not a factor, studies show that a doubling of your protein intake during weight loss does not preserve muscle mass. [8]

The best way to prevent muscle loss during weight loss is with an exercise program, which both John McDougall and Dr. Eric Berg focuses on. [9]

eric berg focuses on exercise

Starch Based Diet Vs Animal Foods: What Is Better For Healthy Living?

Let’s say you got in shape. You look in the mirror, you see your sixpack, because you maintained your muscle mass and feel great in the process. Then you put the surgical gown down, the IV back in – and walk back to your hospital bed because you messed up your health in the process.

Not cool.

The best diet is the one that helps you lose the weight quickly and sustainably, and also allows you to live healthy long-term. Right?

Which gives you the best lasting health benefits – a keto diet or a starch based diet?

We’re looking for the diet that helps you:

  • Reduce chronic fatigue
  • Reduce heart disease risk
  • Improve high blood pressure and potentially go off medications
  • Reduce your chances of serious illness and health problems in the long-term

But how do you do so?

  • The only diet that has ever proven to reverse heart disease in a clinical setting is a low fat vegan diet. [10]
  • The largest study on the links between cancer and nutrition has found that cancer is geographically localized. Meaning: The more low fat, plant-based your nutrition is, the lower the net risk of cancer. [11]
  • Even studies on the downsides of a low fat vegan diet always quote that a vegetarian or vegan diet high in carbohydrates is extremely healthy:

On the other hand, recent studies [12] quote that the keto diet’s risk may outweigh the perceived short-term benefits:

On disease prevention, the McDougall diet clearly wins as well.

So in other words, McDougall diet is for people with a brain – and a keto diet is pretty much for everyone else.

If you’re looking to make your first step to get in fantastic shape, but you’re fed up with analysis paralysis and somehow can not move forward…

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the fit vegans secrets

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[1] Dr. John McDougall MD’s video:

[2] Body weight gain in free-living Pima Indians: effect of energy intake vs expenditure:

[3] Association of Eating and Sleeping Intervals With Weight Change Over Time: The Daily24 Cohort:

[4] Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds:

[5] Macronutrient profile affects diet-induced thermogenesis and energy intake:

[6] Effects of a brown beans evening meal on metabolic risk markers and appetite regulating hormones at a subsequent standardized breakfast: a randomized cross-over study:

[7] A satiety index of common foods:

[8] Protein intake and lean body mass preservation during energy intake restriction in overweight older adults:

[9] Resistance Training Prevents Muscle Loss Induced by Caloric Restriction in Obese Elderly Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis:

[10] Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial:

[11] Atlas of cancer mortality in the People’s Republic of China. An aid for cancer control and research:

[12] Ketogenic Diets and Chronic Disease: Weighing the Benefits Against the Risks: