If you keep up with diet trends, you’ve no doubt heard of the ketogenic diet. Although first developed in the 1920s as a treatment for childhood epilepsy, the keto diet has only gone mainstream over the past several years. But in that time, it’s become one of the most popular diets out there. And while to casual observers it seems a pretty straightforward method of dieting—drastically cut carb intake and load up on fat instead—the reality is that it’s a bit more complicated than that. So much so that a lighter version of the keto diet has recently begun to make inroads among people who find the usual keto approach a bit more than they want to take on. Known as lazy keto, proponents say you can get the same results as a regular keto diet without all the work. But what is lazy keto, and does it really work?
In this article, we’re digging into the pros and cons of the lazy keto diet and uncovering everything you need to know about this latest trend in diet and weight loss.
But first, let’s review…
Like other low-carb diets, a traditional keto diet involves cutting carbohydrate intake. But that’s generally where the similarity ends. Because the keto diet doesn’t replace all those lost carbs with extra protein. Instead, it aims to keep protein levels moderate while it ramps up fat intake so the body enters a near constant state of ketosis, or fat burning.
Although the body has a natural ability to burn ketones—which come from fat—as fuel, it’s not its natural state. It would much rather rely on the sugar in carbohydrates for its energy supply. Which means maintaining a ketotic metabolic state requires considerable effort.
How much effort?
According to the rules of a strict keto diet, no more than 5% to 10% of calories consumed each day should come from carbs, while a whopping 70% to 80% should be supplied in the form of fat and the remainder in the form of protein.
That’s a lot of carb-, fat-, and protein-counting.
Which is why lazy keto was born.
Unless you’re truly dedicated, keeping track of the number of macronutrients you consume at every meal can get pretty tedious pretty quickly.
But when you go lazy keto, you don’t have to worry about the vast majority of that. As long as you keep up with how many grams of carbs you’re getting each day (typically 20 to 50), you can eat whatever you want.
As you might imagine, following a lazy keto diet has a number of both pros and cons.
First, the pros…
As just stated, when you follow a lazy keto diet, you track only your carbs, so you don’t have to think about your fat and protein intake. While some people enjoy the challenge that comes with the finer points of a strict keto diet, others may find tracking everything that goes into their mouths both time-consuming and stressful.
In addition, because lazy keto doesn’t require monitoring protein and fat intake, you can eat as much or as little of each as you want, in whatever ratio you want.
And because cutting net carbs often has an immediate impact on weight, an initial loss of body fat on the lazy keto diet can encourage someone new to the ketogenic lifestyle to stick with it.
If you’re ready to go keto but feel intimated by all the restrictions, then lazy keto might be a good way to get your feet wet. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s the macronutrient balance of a traditional keto diet that makes it so effective.
And this brings us to the cons of lazy keto…
Even if you’re diligent about cutting out high-carb foods, striking the right balance between protein and fat is essential for reaching ketosis. Eating too much protein, for example, will stop your body from going into ketosis because the body can actually convert protein to glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis.
In other words, the ratio of protein to fat has to be kept at the right balance for ketosis to occur. But if you’re not measuring how much of either of these you’re eating, you’re shooting in the dark.
What’s more, if your protein and fat levels are out of balance, you may actually find yourself feeling constantly hungry.
Because, in addition to putting your body in a ketotic metabolic state, fat keeps you feeling fuller longer. But if you’re eating too much protein, this effect can be lost. And the gnawing hunger you feel as a result can cause you to take in more calories than you need, which can lead to weight gain instead of loss.
As if being hungry all the time and not getting into the coveted state of ketosis weren’t enough, if you’re not careful, lazy keto can easily turn into what’s known as dirty keto.
What is dirty keto, you ask?
Some people think the ketogenic diet is all about low carbs and high fat. And, if you break it down into its simplest components, that’s a pretty accurate assessment.
But if you step back a little bit, you begin to understand that going keto is about a lot more than just low carbs and high fat. In fact, you might say it’s actually a lifestyle.
And that’s because going keto is all about changing the way you relate to food.
So even though, yes, you’re limiting carbs, moderating protein, and increasing fat, you’re also changing the types of foods you eat. In other words, you’re tossing out nutrient-poor processed and fast foods and bringing in micronutrient-rich foods, including lean proteins and healthy fats.
But many people who go the lazy keto route end up eating more processed and fast foods instead of less. And these foods are not only nutrient poor, they’re also linked to inflammation, which is a known factor in the development of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Still, we know lazy keto is a lot simpler to follow than a full-blown keto diet, so if you still feel committed to going the easier route, we’ve got some tips to help you follow lazy keto the right way.
Since lazy keto involves tracking your carbohydrate intake and really just guessing at everything else, the best way to ensure you’re mimicking a traditional keto diet as closely as possible is to monitor what goes into your mouth.
This means avoiding fast food and processed junk that calls itself keto friendly and instead focusing on whole foods, including:
On the flip side, you should also cut down or eliminate food stuffs like:
If you’re including plenty of keto-friendly foods in your lazy keto diet, good for you!
However, since you’re not tracking your protein and fat, how do you know if you’re in ketosis? Aside from symptoms, including dry mouth, loss of appetite, and weight loss, you can also measure the amount of ketones in your body using ketone test strips.
Like most diets, the lazy keto diet brings with it a host of both pros and cons. However, for people with busy lifestyles or those who find food tracking excessively stressful, lazy keto can be much easier to stick with than the standard keto diet.
And while the weight-loss benefits might not be as pronounced as those seen with a strict keto diet, by avoiding the pitfalls of dirty keto and sticking to whole foods instead of processed and fast foods—and by keeping up with your ketone levels—the lazy keto diet can be a valid alternative to a traditional keto diet.