The Ultimate Guide to Dirty Keto
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The Ultimate Guide to Dirty Keto

The Ultimate Guide to Dirty Keto

Posted a year ago

Carb Manager Staff

Carb Manager Staff

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

Dirty Keto can be seen as the lazy man’s way of adhering to the low carb, high-fat lifestyle.

With this style of Keto, you’re allowed to consume any food source as long as you keep carbohydrates under 50g a day.

In this article, we’ll go over the basics of dirty Keto and whether or not it’s actually good for you.

What Exactly is “Dirty Keto”?

Dirty Keto follows the same eating protocol and macros targets as standard Keto, where you focus on consuming 65-75% of total calories in fats, 20-35% in protein, and 5% in carbohydrates.

But the one main difference is that you’re allowed to get these calories from any food source as long as you stay within the given macronutrient ratio. This means if you’re craving a bunless double cheeseburger with bacon from a fast-food restaurant, it’s perfectly okay to eat (as long as you aren’t consuming carbohydrates).

Dirty Keto Vs. Standard Ketogenic Diet

The standard Ketogenic diet and dirty Keto both have the same goal, to keep carbohydrates to a minimum so that your body starts burning ketones (fats) for energy instead of glucose from carbs.

A properly formulated standard Ketogenic diet:

  • Recommends consuming healthy fat sources like olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and avocados
  • Against the consumption of vegetable oils and processed meats
  • Recommends protein from healthy sources like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, fatty cuts of grass-fed steak, and cage-free eggs
  • Encourages large amounts of non-starchy vegetables

Dirty Keto:

  • More convenient
  • Any food sources are allowed, as long as carbohydrates are kept under 50g total
  • Doesn’t prioritize eating vegetables (if at all)
  • Allows vegetable oil and processed meat consumption such as fast food, lunch meats, and packaged food.

Why Do People Do Dirty Keto?

Short answer: convenience.

Many beginners on the low carb, high-fat lifestyle find it difficult to adhere to a properly formulated Ketogenic diet. Without proper guidance, the additional meal planning, cooking, and preparation may feel a little overwhelming.

But with dirty Keto, you can get away with eating low carb by simply going to your local fast food restaurant and opting for bunless burgers.

Or by picking up processed meats and packaged foods at the grocery store instead of having to spend time cooking a grass-fed NY strip steak with a healthy serving of vegetables.

Should You Try Dirty Keto?

No, not unless you have to.

It can be useful in a pinch if, for example, you have a long day of traveling and you're stuck in airports and taxis for hours on end. Or if you have an exceptionally busy day on rare occasions that doesn't leave you time to cook healthy, nutrient-dense meals.

But unless you absolutely must eat dirty Keto (for convenience sake), we recommend steering away from it as much as possible, and using it only in "emergency" situations where the alternative would be to eat a pile of carbs.

Dirty Keto and Weight Loss

Even though you’re not eating the cleanest Keto foods, you’re still in ketosis when following dirty Keto. Remember, the goal of Keto - no matter what type - is to restrict carbohydrates so that your body starts burning ketones for energy.

So, can you still lose weight when following dirty Keto? Yes, absolutely.

In order to lose weight on dirty Keto, you’ll have to:

  • Eat at a calorie deficit. Perhaps the most important aspect of dropping weight is eating fewer calories than your body burns on a daily basis.
  • Burn ketones for energy. You can still burn fats as the main fuel source as long as you’re keeping carb intake under 50g and consuming enough dietary fat.

With that being said, following dirty Keto comes with a few negative health complications.

The Downsides to Dirty Keto

Just because you’re seeing body composition improvements on dirty Keto, doesn’t mean it’s entirely healthy for you.

When you consume large amounts of processed foods and vegetable oils, several inflammatory markers are increased in your body which can be detrimental long-term[*].

In addition, foods typically consumed on dirty Keto often contain little to no micronutrient value. This means you aren’t replenishing the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive.

Here’s what can happen:

  • Skin blemishes
  • Exacerbated Keto flu symptoms
  • Dehydration
  • Weight gain after going off the diet
  • Sugar cravings
  • Inflammation
  • Bloating

Remember, when you restrict carbs, your body flushes out water along with essential electrolytes. These minerals are typically replenished with green leafy vegetables and avocados, foods that are often neglected on dirty Keto.

Tips to Eat Clean Keto as a Beginner

A clean, standard Ketogenic diet is not only healthier for you, but you’ll notice that your mental clarity and focus is much better.

If you’re struggling to eat clean on Keto, here are a few tips to help you:

  • Incorporate intermittent fasting so you only have to eat once or twice a day
  • Avoid processed foods like lunch meats
  • Aim to have at least one avocado a day
  • Prepare grass-fed steak in bulk and store it in the fridge so you don’t have to cook as much
  • Drink lots of water (and a water bottle immediately upon waking up)
  • Eat a serving of vegetables with every meal

Dirty Keto May Be Easier, But It’s Less Effective

While you can still lose weight following a dirty Keto diet plan, both the short-term and long-term consequences aren’t worth it.

If you’re brand new to Keto and find yourself eating “dirty” because it’s easier, following the tips above will help you adjust to eating a standard Ketogenic diet without having to devote hours of your day towards meal prep.

Note: The content in this article is not medical advice and is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Always talk to your doctor before changing your diet.

Comments 27

  • SplendidRadish422508

    SplendidRadish422508 4 months ago

    I’m assuming I’m doing “dirty” keto as I cook for two kids and husband and afterwards don’t want to cook for myself. I do eat tuna salad, salads, lots of eggs, rotisserie chicken from grocery store, and the lunch meat I buy isn’t packaged, I buy it from the delicatessen. I eat vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini and cabbage. So is this “dirty” keto?

    • LavenderBlueDilly

      LavenderBlueDilly 3 months ago

      Based on the description in the article, yes.

  • RemarkableArugula413099

    RemarkableArugula413099 5 months ago

    Are you supposed to eat your burnt calories and carbs? Will you still lose weight?

    • Pen

      Pen 5 months ago

      My problem is my partner cooks and shops (he's retired but I still work) and it's been difficult to move him away from what's cheapest!

      • jebuckingham01d2

        jebuckingham01d2 2 months ago

        Perhaps you could do the shopping for your meals only?

      • LavenderBlueDilly

        LavenderBlueDilly 3 months ago

        That’s a hard mindset to change.

    • SpectacularKale286269

      SpectacularKale286269 5 months ago

      I do drink lots of water. Eat good. But stuck.

      • ME

        ME 5 months ago

        What about Atkins bars? I’m assuming these are dirty keto?

        • LavenderBlueDilly

          LavenderBlueDilly 3 months ago

          It’s a processed food so yes.

      • SplendidArugula954780

        SplendidArugula954780 5 months ago

        I feel like my breakfast and lunches are clean. Had salmon and asparagus for dinner twice this week and am eating my first quest pizza tonight. My snacks are pork rinds and cheese sticks. I've been drinking 4 to 5 bottles of water a day, plus a sm coffee sometimes. So I guess I'm mostly clean. Had 2 mcdonalds hamburger patties no buns last night and I was on my back lethargic and ick feeling for about an hour afterwards.... so I guess ill just do my best and enjoy my Avocado toast that I love with my 1 net carb bread

        • Foxspirit

          Foxspirit 6 months ago

          Allergic to eggs, and avocados. I do the best I can and can afford. Redneck keto I guess!

          • Lita237

            Lita237 6 months ago

            Also allergic to avocado- trying to talk to anyone about trying Keto is frustrating because someone is always telling me to eat avocados!

        • AMYEKAS820

          AMYEKAS820 7 months ago

          I started the keto way of eating more slanted to dirty keto type eating such as some products were quest protein bars and zero carb bread etc. For me, it helped me to lose 70 pounds very quickly and it was easier to transition to this lifestyle and way of eating as someone who is a carb/sugar addict and has BED. I also did a lot of research about keto and on many recipes to make healthier versions of foods. There is so much information out there and really is a recipe for anything. Going keto is one of the best things I have ever done to lose weight and keep it off.

          • Cuteinketo

            Cuteinketo 8 months ago

            I feel I'm 60/40, 60 being clean. I gotta live! Lol just kidding, recovering carbaholic and foodie here 😋

            • SuperMacadamia726628

              SuperMacadamia726628 9 months ago

              I am doing 100% clean keto

              • jebuckingham01d2

                jebuckingham01d2 2 months ago

                Well, then. Good for you!

            • AwesomeCauliflower168006

              AwesomeCauliflower168006 9 months ago

              I travel a lot with my husband for business. When we're home, I do clean keto. Traveling, I do dirty keto. Didn't realize I was doing both!

              • AmyB

                AmyB 9 months ago

                I call my style "dingy keto" I eat clean about 75% of the time, but sometimes I'm on the road for hours, and a Wendy's Bunless Baconator is the best I can do.

                • CarsonAnn

                  CarsonAnn 9 months ago

                  I have stayed well beneath my allotted 15 carbs per day and lost well (22 lbs) for the first 2 months. Now it's been up and down losing and gaining the same 3 lbs for about 6 weeks I rarely eat processed foods so what's up.

                  • jebuckingham01d2

                    jebuckingham01d2 2 months ago

                    I read somewhere (Noom?) that we should weigh in every morning. As horrifying as that sounds, it actually helps me in keeping my motivation as I can see how my weight fluctuates on a daily basis even if I do nothing different. I, too, am stuck at 10 pounds above my goal weight, so I started doing IF 12/12. It helped. Good luck!

                  • ChristinaSturdy929

                    ChristinaSturdy929 6 months ago

                    The egg fast helped a lot! You can look it up in recipes or on Pinterest. It helps get you out of a weight loss funk plateau

                  • AmazingAvocado137923

                    AmazingAvocado137923 8 months ago

                    Sodium? Fast food has a lot of it. Maybe you are experiencing fluid retention? True....We need sodium especially on Keto but not necessarily the amount found in most processed/fast foods. Don’t lose heart. Our weight can vary from day to day. I only weigh once a week for that reason. Cheers. 😊

                • Julie

                  Julie 9 months ago

                  I mostly follow the clean Keto but monthly shopping trips require a swing through McDonald's as a treat. Dirty Keto at its best!!

                  • hpjones1989@gmail.com

                    hpjones1989@gmail.com 10 months ago

                    I'm doing a combo as well

                    • Fat2FitGabby

                      Fat2FitGabby 10 months ago

                      I'd say that I'm 70% clean keto and 30% dirty keto

                      • FantasticArugula935834

                        FantasticArugula935834 10 months ago

                        Interesting. I just realized that I am not doing classic keto nor dirty. It's a combination 🤪

                        • Sarah

                          Sarah 9 months ago

                          Me, too. Having just read the 4 Types of Ketogenic Diets article, I now realize I'm doing a High Protein Ketogenic Diet.