If you’ve been following along in the keto blogosphere, you’ve probably begun to notice a debate cropping up around “lazy keto” and “dirty keto.”
Does this new approach count as keto, or is it just an unhealthy imposter taking all the credit for the true keto diet? Does it work for weight loss, or are there negative effects that lazy keto dieters aren’t thinking about? Is lazy keto just another name for a standard low carb diet or does it really send you into ketosis the same way the “real” keto diet does? What’s best for long-term health?
Keto groups all over the internet are weighing in on the topic, and the answers still aren’t incredibly clear. Whether you’re new to the lifestyle or a veteran to the ketogenic diet, where you stand on this debate might be as simple as who you follow on social media.
We’ve gathered the best arguments for and against the lazy keto diet to help you decide whether or not it’s the right approach for you.
What Is Strict Keto?
If you’ve so much as engaged in a quick Google search about the keto diet, you know that it’s a high fat, low carb approach to weight loss.
Strict keto requires that you monitor a few things:
- The proportions of fat to protein to carbohydrates. The ideal ratio is 65–75% fat, 15–30% protein, and 5-10% carbs.
- Your total calorie intake (varies based on your current weight and weight loss goals).
- Your carb intake, which must remain below 20 grams of net carbs per day to ensure that you achieve and remain in ketosis (the optimal fat-burning state).
In an ideal world, if you’re on a strict keto diet, you’re choosing healthy fats, high quality, grass-fed meats, and organic vegetables in order to maintain the ratios we mentioned. After all, you’re embarking on this major change for the health benefits, right? So you might as well go all in and choose the best foods you can for optimal health.
So What’s Lazy Keto?
Lazy keto is a loose form of the strict keto diet. Instead of tracking all four macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins, and calories), it only requires that you track carbs. On the lazy keto diet, you still want to maintain a carb count of 20 grams or less per day, but you can basically eat whatever else your heart desires outside that single parameter.
Some keto groups call this approach “dirty keto,” due to its allowance for foods that nearly all healthcare professionals regard as unhealthy: fast food, commercial meats, tons of bacon, low-carb processed snacks like pork rinds, artificial sweeteners, and the keto treats and desserts you see advertised on Instagram and Facebook.
Another term for this style of keto is called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), which basically calls for the same lackadaisical approach to keto. If it fits your macros, you can eat it, no matter how unhealthy it might be.
This is where the sticky questions begin to bubble up for most proponents of the strict keto diet, especially those that overlap with the paleo community. If lazy keto allows for unlimited consumption of unhealthy foods, then is it really keto at all? Might it even be dangerous?
What the Proponents are Saying
They claim a ton of personal success on this plan. No Bun Please has successfully lost 80 pounds on the lazy keto diet plan and kept it off successfully for more than three years. Not only that, he boasts major relief from his chronic IBS symptoms and has even gone into remission from Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Laska, who wrote the best selling book “Dirty, Lazy Keto,” lost 140 pounds on the plan and has sold her approach to hundreds of thousands of inspired readers.
These two and other lazy keto proponents like them argue that sometimes the perfectly strict keto plan isn’t realistic. Sometimes you have to make a keto-friendly choice at a fast food restaurant that fits with the carb requirements but doesn’t have the most ideal ingredients (a fast food burger without the bun is a great example). Sometimes it’s easier to stay on a keto meal plan long term if you know that eating a sugar-free snack that isn’t technically “healthy” (like pork rinds or something with artificial sweeteners in it) from time to time won’t wreck your whole diet.
Lazy keto advocates acknowledge that tracking all of your macros all of the time can get old and cause people to go off-plan rather than face the burden of having to track everything forever. The argument goes that if you can keep your blood sugar down, your ketones up, and you’re avoiding weight gain, then you’re probably doing it right.
It’s also worth noting that not everyone can afford to be strict about only buying organic veggies and grass-fed meats, and that if you loosen the rules of keto, it makes the diet more accessible to the masses.
But is it healthy?
What the Naysayers are Saying
You might already be imagining the list of grievances the purists have accumulated about the lazy or dirty approaches to the keto diet. For one, if you aren’t tracking your proteins, you might not be getting enough, which means your body might be consuming your lean muscle mass when it runs out of fat-based fuel.
Or the reverse could be happening. You could be eating too much protein, causing your body to process that for energy instead of the fats you eat, and throwing you out of ketosis (which is the whole point of the diet). Neither scenario is good for the number on the scale.
Other considerations include a deficit in the healthy micronutrients you get when you focus on eating vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados. Most general medical advice suggests that prioritizing nutrient-dense foods will help not only promote optimal health, but will fill your diet with lower-calorie, more filling foods that will nourish your body far better than their processed food counterparts. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber are concentrated in these foods, which are essential to any diet, regardless of whether or not the keto diet is involved.
Naysayers like the author of Keto Diet Living argue that the keto desserts filled with almond flour, heavy whipping cream, and Splenda are not only not keto foods, but they undermine the shift dieters should be making in their relationship with food in general.
In other words, if you’re swapping out indulgent regular high carb desserts with keto recipes that just replace the sugar with the fake stuff, you aren’t doing all that much to help yourself in the long term because you aren’t changing your relationship with the unhealthy choices. It’s definitely something to think about.
Some Experts Are Someplace in the Middle
Of course, there are also a few keto experts who sit somewhere in the middle of these two polarized points of view. The folks over at Ketovale argue that lazy keto is a good way to ramp up to strict keto if you’re just starting out with the diet.
Strict keto requires a lot of granular knowledge and adherence, which can feel intimidating to a new dieter, but if you have a lot of body fat to lose and have been eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) your whole life, you might see some pretty impressive results from the shift to lazy keto alone.
They recommend switching over to stricter keto once you get the hang of the diet and start seeing some results – or once you plateau on the lazy plan.
Which Keto Is the Right Keto?
Untangling the confusion about whether or not lazy keto is a good idea might be as simple as figuring out what works for you. While we do recommend that you prioritize vegetables and other nutrient-dense, gut-supportive foods, the balance you strike will ultimately come down to how you feel.
Keep a food journal for a week or two as you transition into your new keto plan to uncover which foods help you stay in ketosis and which foods push you out of it.
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