Lazy keto, clean keto, dirty keto — just how many versions of this low-carb diet are there?
In recent years, the keto diet has grown exponentially in popularity. As more people follow the diet, people began approaching keto in new, different ways — for better or for worse.
Lazy keto is a version of the ketogenic diet which strictly focuses on carb intake, without worrying about tracking other macros or what you eat. Advocates of lazy keto says it's not as restrictive as traditional (or clean) keto, and therefore is easier to follow. Critics state that lazy keto is not as efficient as a traditional keto diet, as you won’t be counting your fat or protein intake and you can very easily go over 20g carbs per day without realising.
Dirty Keto is a version of the Ketogenic Diet which focuses on macros and not the quality of the foods that you are eating. You may find “keto” foods using ingredients such as seed oils, grains and even gluten because the grams of carbs per serving is below 20g they market them as “Keto”! We hate the term dirty keto and would encourage you to avoid this at all costs. The quality of the foods you eat impacts your overall health and wellness, which is key for entering ketosis and feeling at your best.
Below, we explain what lazy keto is, and the advantages and disadvantages to the diet.
What Is Lazy Keto and How Is it Different Than Clean Keto?
Lazy keto is a version of the traditional keto diet — a high-fat, low-carb diet where your body burns ketones, rather than glucose, for fuel.
In a traditional keto diet (commonly called "clean keto"), you will monitor your intake of fat, carbs and protein in order to enter ketosis, a fat-burning state. Most keto dieters consume 75% of their calories from fat, 20% of their calories from protein and just 5% of their calories from carbohydrates. To do this, the keto diet recommends eating plenty of meat, bone broth, eggs, fish, high-quality dairy, healthy fats and oils, leafy green veg and low-sugar fruits. The diet cuts out a number of high-carb foods, including grains, legumes, sugar, starchy vegetables and most fruits. You would also avoid any seed or vegetable oils like rapeseed or sunflower oils as these are inflammatory.
As you might imagine, counting macros day after day can easily become a burden — which is where lazy keto comes in. On lazy keto, you will only track your carb intake, aiming for 20 grams of carbs per day or less. You will not count your other two macronutrients, fat and protein.
On a clean keto diet, you count every macronutrient — carbs, fat and protein. On both a clean keto and lazy keto diet, you will focus on eating real, whole foods. This means consuming the highest-quality meat, cheese and produce you can reasonably afford, while avoiding unhealthy foods including fast food, processed oils or "low-carb health bars" (commonly found on other low-carb diets, like the Atkins diet).
The Potential Problems With the Keto Diet
Every diet comes with a learning curve. When transitioning to a strict keto diet, many keto beginners make a number of mistakes, including eating too little fat, or electrolytes, eating too much protein or not getting enough calories.
Luckily, most (if not all) of these beginner errors correct themselves over time. However, critics of the lazy keto diet state that this particular keto diet approach reinforces these poor eating habits, including:
1. Eating Too Few Calories
One of the number one mistakes people make when beginning keto is not eating enough calories. People underestimate just how many carbs sneak into standard diets — breads, crisps, breakfast cereals and starchy vegetables — and unintentionally under eat when those foods are removed.
On a lazy keto diet, you will only be counting one macronutrient — the macro making up just 5% of your daily calories. In doing so, you ignore the other 95% of calories you should be consuming, and can accidentally eat too little.
2. You May Never Enter Ketosis
People mistakenly believe that by cutting out carbohydrates, you will automatically enter a state of ketosis. But this is a myth.
Cutting out carbs and sugar is just one part of the equation. When your body can no longer run on glucose for fuel, it will select the most readily available alternative energy source: fat. Therefore, in order to enter a ketogenic state, you need to ensure that you are also getting enough fat to feel satiated and to encourage this transition into burning fat for fuel.
For decades, dietitians have recommended low-fat diets, even though low-carb diets have been shown to be more effective for weight loss . Therefore, most standard diets are incredibly low in fat. If you don't tactfully track your fat intake on keto, you run the risk of not eating enough of it, and thereby never entering a ketogenic state.
3. You May Not Get Enough Micronutrients
Critics of a clean keto diet mistakenly believe that keto is nothing more than a plate of bacon, cheese and hard-boiled eggs. In reality, clean keto recipes are filled with a wide variety of foods, including a number of low-carb vegetables, nuts, seeds and low-sugar fruits.
Creating a diverse meal plan is imperative on the keto diet, as it allows you to consume a number of micronutrients as well as help to ensure you do not waiver.
Are There Any Benefits To the Lazy Keto Diet?
In our attempt to be as open-minded as possible, there are a few benefits to the lazy keto diet. However, let us be clear: We do not think these benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.
The primary benefit of the lazy keto diet is it doesn't force you to count macros, which offers mental benefits for some dieters. If you attempted a clean keto diet in the past, but found the diet too restrictive, you might find that a lazy keto approach works better for you. In particular, if you struggled with an eating disorder in the past or struggle with orthorexia, then counting macros each day may not be a suitable choice for you. In these cases, we recommend speaking to a nutritionist or psychologist before beginning any diet — not just keto.
Is the Lazy Keto Diet Right for You?
In most cases, we do not recommend following the lazy keto diet when first starting out. The lazy keto diet is a version of keto where you only track your carb intake. You will not track your intake of fat or protein, as you would on clean keto. This may work for some after they have discovered what works well for their bodies, but this can take many years. Tracking your macros can really help you to know when you are on the right track.
The lazy keto diet has a number of drawbacks. You can easily eat too little calories or fat, never enter a ketogenic state or not get enough micronutrients which can be frustrating if you are not sure where you have gone off course.
Instead, we encourage you to follow a keto diet focused on nourishing, whole foods. If you follow a lazy keto diet, focus on building a diverse plate with plenty of leafy greens, berries, meat and seafood, so you can enjoy a wide variety of nutrients. If you need recipe ideas to get started, we highly encourage you to view our keto recipe library.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.