What is Dirty Keto? Why You Should Avoid It + When It's Okay

Dirty keto is a convenient approach to the ketogenic diet that prioritizes macronutrient ratios over quality food choices. However, by relying on low-quality, processed foods, this version of keto can ultimately lead to micronutrient deficiencies, prolonged keto flu symptoms, and even weight gain. While dirty keto can be appropriate for short-term situations like travel or social events, the best weight loss and health results are achieved with a clean, whole-food-based approach to the keto diet.

In this article, you will learn:

What is a Dirty Keto Diet?

Also known as lazy keto, dirty keto is a spin on the traditional low carb, high fat keto diet that prioritizes weight loss instead of overall health. The idea behind dirty keto is alluring because followers can eat low carb junk food and quickly lose weight.

Dirty keto focuses exclusively on the keto macronutrient split of 70% fat, 5% carbohydrates, and 25% protein. As long as a meal adheres to this breakdown, regardless of the quality of the food, it's allowed.

For example, a dirty-keto dieter may opt for fast food options like keto donuts for breakfast, diet Coke and chicken tenders at KFC for lunch, and a ginger-glazed beef plate at Panda Express for dinner. Though these meals fit the keto macros, they're also full of highly processed health-harming ingredients like additives, preservatives, high levels of sodium, and chemicals (to name a few).

In contrast, someone following a clean keto diet might adhere to the keto macros with a micronutrient-rich, whole-food-based meal of grilled salmon, sliced avocado, and steamed vegetables topped with grass-fed butter.

It’s true that restricting carbs can put your body in a state of ketosis which comes with impressive fat-burning and brain-boosting benefits, but ignoring food quality and skipping out on important micronutrients will likely cause major vitamin deficiencies in the long-term.

Can You Lose Weight on Dirty Keto?

Yes, although the results will likely be short-lived. Dirty keto will put you in a state of ketosis and help you burn fat, but a diet of processed foods will likely result in inflammation, elevated endotoxin levels, gas and bloating, intense cravings, and rebound weight gain once you go off the diet.

What’s more, the dirty keto diet may leave your body lacking essential vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes it needs for optimal physical health, causing fatigue, sleep disruptions, brain fog, and prolonged symptoms of the dreaded keto flu, like constipation, headaches, and more.

You won’t get the same health and beauty benefits from dirty keto as you would on a clean keto diet, like clearer skin and smoother, shinier hair.

(Want to learn more about "Clean keto"? Check out "What is Clean Keto? + 8 Simple Tips to Clean Up Your Keto Diet")

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Why You Should Avoid Dirty Keto

Though indulging daily in greasy junk food on dirty keto may sound appealing, it can result in any number of these unfortunate side effects:

  • Uncontrollable cravings
  • Micronutrient deficiencies
  • Digestive issues
  • Skin issues
  • Inflammation
  • Gas and bloating (due to the high sodium of junk food)
  • Rapid weight gain post-keto
  • Constipation (a result of too many dry, processed foods)
  • Prolonged keto flu symptoms

Plus, with healthier approaches to the keto diet like clean keto, you can enjoy the fat-burning benefits of ketosis along with a variety of other positive side effects like increased energy, better concentration/focus, and the development of sustainable healthy eating habits.

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When is it Okay to Do Dirty Keto?

Though the dirty keto approach shouldn't be the foundation of your keto diet, there are certain situations when it's appropriate to temporarily lower your standards in order to maintain ketosis.

Here are the times it's okay to do dirty keto:

  • Travel: You’re starving at the airport and there are few healthy options available.
  • Eating Out: Your best friend’s birthday party is at a restaurant with a limited menu and you have to get creative.
  • Family Get-Togethers: You’re at a family dinner where your mom made a dirty keto dish for you.

It's not always possible to be in control of your food options, so when you find yourself in these challenges times, eat the dirty keto meal, and then get back to a cleaner keto approach at the next meal so you can nourish your body and feel your best!


UP NEXT: Keto Diet Side Effects: Separating the Keto Facts from Fiction

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