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
- 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.
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
- Weight gain after going off the diet
- Sugar cravings
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.