If you've ever been curious about trying the uber-trendy keto diet, you've likely discovered that the eating approach has very restrictive guidelines. For some, the thought of adhering to these rules and tallying up macros is overwhelming, which makes opting for lazy keto — a less restricted twist on the traditional ketogenic diet — appealing.
People can find the keto diet hard to maintain, says registered dietitian Maria Sorbara Mora. "These variations help ease the negative side effects and make it more appealing and available," Mora says.
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But before you dive into following the lazy keto diet, you may be wondering if it's a healthy choice, and if following this eating strategy will help you achieve your weight-loss goals. Here's what experts have to say.
What Is Lazy Keto?
First, a refresher on how the traditional ketogenic diet works: Followers of this eating strategy track macros, with a typical breakdown being 70 to 80 percent fat, 5 to 15 percent carbohydrates and 10 to 20 percent protein, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Drastically cutting down on carbs and maintaining this mix of macros induces ketosis, a state where your body will use fat for energy, instead of glucose (sugar) which derives from carbs. Since both fat and protein are very satiating, you may consume fewer calories, which leads to more energy expenditure and weight loss, says Sam Kramer, RD, a licensed nutritionist and senior nutrition coordinator for Kroger Health.
But tracking macros and devising meals that adhere to the diet's rigid guidelines can be tricky.
Enter lazy keto, which offers a far simpler approach: Rather than tracking carbs, fat and protein, all you'll need to do is tally up carbohydrates, Kramer says. Some professionals refer to this style as "dirty" since you're still maintaining a high-fat diet without regard to your meals' overall nutritional value.
What Are the Rules of the Lazy Keto Diet?
The critical difference with lazy keto is the attention to detail. Your only restriction is keeping in that 5 to 10 percent carbohydrate range.
"With lazy keto, you are not concerned about the sources of your nutrients [so long as] carbohydrates are restricted. This means the only rule is limiting carbohydrate intake, including grains, fruits, vegetables, simple sugars and so on," Kramer explains.
Another difference with lazy keto is food choices, Mora says.
While strict keto encourages participants to avoid highly-processed foods, dirty or lazy keto has more liberties since the only true restrictions are your carbs.
"This usually means foods are more processed, higher in sodium and less nutrient-dense. It may be very low in fiber as well," Mora says.
The Benefits of Lazy Keto
1. It's Less Work
Unlike keto, where many people will spend a Sunday afternoon carefully measuring and prepping for the week ahead, the lazy style doesn't require as much planning and thought, making it a holistic approach, Kramer says.
"By not having to worry about specific macronutrient distribution besides carbohydrates, there is less focus on planning meals, hitting specific macronutrient targets and fewer guidelines as to the foods you can incorporate or exclude besides carbohydrates," Kramer explains.
2. It Lets You Test-Drive Keto
If you want to have an introduction into what a keto diet is like without fully committing, trying out lazy keto could be a good start, says Gabby Geerts, registered dietitian at Green Chef.
"Lazy keto gets people involved in the keto lifestyle more easily with only the carb restriction," Geerts says. "While more difficult, lazy keto could lead to the keto diet's touted potential health benefits including weight loss, better control blood sugar, reduced heart disease risk, improved lipid profiles and others."
3. Lazy Keto Makes Eating Out Easier
One of the setbacks of keto is having a social life. Because there are many restrictions, ordering off a menu for takeout or at a restaurant is no easy task.
"Proponents of this version of keto say it's less rigid and restrictive and more flexible. They can more readily adhere to the rules of low carb and can go out to eat in restaurants," Mora says.
For example, a lazy keto plan will include a double bacon cheeseburger with no bun instead of having a low carb salad with grilled organic wild salmon with high-fat dressing.
The Downfalls of Lazy Keto
1. It May Not Result in Weight Loss
Though not everyone chooses to be on a keto diet to lose weight, it's a selling point for many. And if that's your ultimate goal, Mora says it's better to go all-in, rather than one-third of the way.
That's because it's not as easy to get into a ketosis state where you burn fat with a lazy keto diet. You're more likely to eat foods that lack the nutrition your body needs to meet health goals.
"Lazy keto usually includes high processed and high sodium foods that are inherently loaded with saturated fats. It is usually low in fiber and vital nutrients," Mora says. "Because people don't need to track calorie intake can be quite high and may not lead to weight loss."
2. There's No Science to Back It Up
Though there many studies on keto, particularly in its ability to treat some health conditions, none have been conducted about a "lazy" approach, according to registered dietitian Melissa Nieves.
As with anything, it's risky to shift your eating habits without understanding the efficacy, effectiveness or the potential long-term effects on your body. Before you give it a go, Nieves urges people to check with a physician or trusted medical professional.
3. You May Feel Hungrier
One main drawback of lazy keto is that it doesn't produce the same feel-good vibes that many keto fans rave about, says Amar Kalidas, DO. Like, feeling fuller for longer.
With lazy keto, many patients tend to not eat enough fats, which can make them feel hungrier than if they weren't on a diet at all, Dr. Kaildas says.