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Dirty Keto: Is it Harmful than Effective?

Dirty Keto

Dirty Keto: Is it Harmful than Effective?

Keto diet has gone into the mainstream, and a lot of people go crazy about this revolutionary weight loss plan. However, there’s the less-suffering version called “dirty keto,” which promises the same keto effects with no calculations or eating consciousness needed. Dirty keto allows you to eat junk foods or anything that has been processed as long as you stay away from the refined carbs. Some medical experts even explain that dirty keto is designed for the so-called lazier keto dieters who opt to eat bunless sausage with an egg sandwich and then flush it down with sugar-free beverages.


What is Dirty Keto?

The dirty keto carries the original concept of the low-carb, high-fat keto diet, but loaded with unhealthy food options. This keto version still follows the recommended breakdown of fats — 60-75% healthy fat, 15-30% protein, and 5-10% carbs. But the sources of macronutrients are unknown. You don’t worry about where to get the macronutrients since your only concern is to keep your body in ketosis by cutting off all possible sources of carbs.


While a strict keto includes grass-fed butter, avocado, and salmon, dirty keto gives you the free will to indulge on burgers, sausages, cheese and diet sodas. The huge difference is that you are allowed to get the calories from any sources, provided that you would stay within the recommended macronutrient ratio. Dirty keto is all about the convenience of enjoying keto meals without worrying over the amount of saturated fat, salt, and food preservatives you would consume. But consuming an excessive amount of saturated fat may potentially result in a number of health complications, including cardiovascular disease and high levels of bad cholesterol.


Stephanie Pedersen, registered nutritionist and author of “Keto Lunches: Grab-and-Go, Make-Ahead Recipes for High-Power, Low-Carb Midday Meals,” considers dirty keto as a keto practice that employs “pre-packed” foods, instead of consuming carb-free, whole foods. Pedersen also noted that dirty keto ignores the importance of micronutrients, which are essential for your overall health as this diet only focuses on the macro count.


Dirty Keto vs. Strict and Lazy Keto

The strict, lazy, and dirty ketogenic diet plans all have the same purpose — to keep the carbohydrates as low as possible so that your body begins producing ketones as its fuel source. They also have one thing in common — no rice, grains, pasta, pastries to be consumed whenever possible. Both strict and lazy keto plans follow the same food list while dirty keto lets you get away by eating fast food meals without the bread and grains.


Strict keto, also known as classic, standard or clean keto, requires daily consumption of fewer than 25 grams of carbohydrates per day. This ketogenic diet option focuses on the consumption of healthy fat sources and moderate protein intake to keep your body in ketosis. Strict keto would mean consuming only unprocessed and whole foods along with proper monitoring of calorie count and regular water intake. Wesley Delbridge, registered nutritionist, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics emphasized that maintaining a long-term keto diet is not recommended as extreme carb restriction may seem unsustainable.


When you’re on a strict keto, your primary sources of micronutrients and carbohydrates can only be found in low-starch vegetables, seeds, nuts, grass-fed butter, and selected fruits. Since carbohydrates are just limited to five percent of the total calories per day, all refined sources, both sugars, and carbs should be avoided. In addition, trans fat and refined vegetable oils like sunflower oil or canola oil should not be included in your daily meals. Restricting your carbs will help put your body into ketosis where you depend on fat, instead of glucose for sustained energy throughout the day.


Lazy keto

The lazy keto is an easy alternative to strict keto, which allows you to eat as many keto-approved sources as you want without necessarily tracking the calories. Though calorie tracking isn’t required, maintaining between 20 and 25 grams of net carb should be followed in order to prevent your body from going out of ketosis. You only have to eat when you feel hungry and only consume keto-friendly foods as much as you need over a specific timeline. Lazy keto also prohibits “cheat days” unlike other low-carb dieting options.


Seeing the difference

A standard ketogenic diet (applicable for strict and lazy keto) is expected to have the following:


  • Regular consumption of healthy fats from tuna, seeds, nuts, olive oil and salmon
  • Complete elimination of processed meats, vegetable oils, refined carbs and sugars of any kind
  • Allowable consumption of healthy fats from omega-3 and grass-fed sources including “organic” poultry, eggs, salmon and grass-fed butter
  • Encourages regular eating of low-starch, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and cauliflower
  • Encourages healthy alternatives like herbal coffee, plant-based sweeteners, and high-fat creams


However, dirty keto lovers see it otherwise, and the diet includes:


  • Food sources aren’t restricted as long as the net carb is kept under 50 grams
  • No calorie tracking
  • Eating vegetables is not a priority
  • Allows pre-packed meals (cooked or frozen), fast food meals, vegetable oils, and low-sugar beverages


As you can see, dirty keto gives you all the conveniences of eating what you want as long as you focus on checking the macro count and avoiding carbs. The standard keto, on the other hand, seems more stressful since you need to calculate and organize everything you need to eat, but may provide better health benefits than the former.


Long term vs. Short term

A lot of keto beginners find it difficult to follow a “properly-formulated” keto diet as they struggle to control their cravings and amount of consumption. The additional meal prepping, advance planning and calorie monitoring may become a bit overwhelming, which may result to frustration if not properly guided. But with the comfort from dirty keto, all you have to do is to visit your favorite fast food chain and order yourself some delicious, mouth-watering bunless burgers and sugar-free refreshments.


While dirty keto is not recommended for a long-term plan as restricting carbs isn’t sustainable, some medical experts still believe that is can be effective for short-term weight loss. That’s because a ketogenic diet, regardless of which type, is about trimming down the carbs and increasing the number of fats to put your body into ketosis according to Scott Keatley, a registered dietician from Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy. The primary goal of a keto diet is to deprive your body of sugar and trains it to use fat for energy instead. Even if you’re on a dirty keto, you are still encouraged to add more healthy fats and organic sources while managing the intake of saturated fats.


You’re still in ketosis even if you’re following the “free will” principles of dirty keto since you’re trying to put away the carbs completely. However, dirty keto wouldn’t be possible for long-term weight loss as your body would eventually experience several detrimental health effects such as the increased risk of hypertension, elevated cholesterol levels, heart disease, and type II diabetes. These potential health complications are all linked to increased intake of saturated fats, food preservatives, and extenders you get from processed meats and refined vegetable oils. Unless you really want a dirty keto lifestyle for the sake of convenience, health experts strongly discourage people to live with it.


The Concern About Consuming a Lot of High-Saturated Fats

High saturated fats

Dirty keto provides you full control of what you want to eat, meaning you wouldn’t care about the quality and nutritional labels of your food sources. You can pick up pre-packed meals and processed meats at any store, instead of preparing grass-fed beef steaks loaded with mixed vegetables at home. What happens to you when you practice this type of keto for a long period of time? The answer is simple; you’ll eventually fill up your body with saturated fats, free radicals, and toxins, which may significantly contribute to increased risks of different health issues.


Fat is high in calories as compared to the number of calories you get from protein and carbs. Excess amount of saturated fat will lead to weight gain since your body is taking more calories than what you actually need. Weight gain may significantly affect your diabetes control, daily routines and mental sharpness. However, fat plays several functions in your body, so you still need to include it as part of your dietary routine. These functions include:

  • Provides an additional layer of protection for the body organs
  • Supplies necessary energy for the body cells
  • Creates essential fatty acids which your body can’t produce
  • Transports different fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin A, K, and B


Always keep in mind that fats are still high in calories, so limit the amount you consume, especially if you’re under weight management. One way to do it is to check the nutritional labels to see what types and the number of fats that are present in the product you’re purchasing. Most processed foods contain saturated and unsaturated fats, but the former should be cut down as much as possible. Unsaturated fats and oils are better as these options are safer for diabetes management and overall heart health.


As medical experts always claim, consuming foods which are high in saturated fats raises the cholesterol levels in your blood, particularly the bad ones (LDL). Long-term high levels of LDL cholesterol increase your risk of obesity and heart disease, which may result in stroke and cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests targeting a dietary pattern that only achieves five to six percent of calories from saturated fat per day. For instance, if you need about 2,500 calories per day, you shouldn’t exceed over 150 calories, which is equivalent to 16 grams, from all sources of saturated fat.


Unfortunately, an average person is capable of consuming more than 300 grams of saturated fat per day, increasing his chances of developing heart disease and neurodegenerative problems as the person ages. Replacing foods with healthier options and lower saturated fat is expected to improve your lipid profile and total blood cholesterol levels. As you can observe, dirty keto isn’t a practical solution to lose weight safely and enhance your overall health. In addition, this keto diet can potentially increase your risk of having “keto flu” symptoms including dehydration, bloating, blood sugar fluctuations and constipation.


Although dirty keto is already a low-carb diet, the process only removes the potential sources of sugars but not the excess calories you may get from saturated fats. Nutrition experts explain that saturated fats and other food processing methods have already altered the nutritional value of the food, hindering your body’s ability to absorb the essential micronutrients more efficiently. You’ll gradually find it difficult to cope up, particularly when you’re performing high-intense exercises. But cardiovascular exercises such as brisk walking or jogging can help remove these unwanted fats out of your body while improving your blood sugar and cholesterol levels.


Losing Weight While Eating Junk Foods

Losing weight while eating junk food

You should remember that the main goal of the keto diet, whether strict or dirty type, is to restrict the intake of carbohydrates, so your body keeps burning fat for its own energy. Besides, you’re still in ketosis when practicing keto even though you’re not consuming the healthiest keto options. Now the question is, can you still lose weight when following dirty keto? Some medical experts confidently think you are, but filled with lots of concerns in mind.


Calorie restriction is still the key ingredient in maintaining a ketogenic lifestyle and dropping your weight down, of course. Consuming fewer calories than how much your body can burn expedites the burning process at greater speed. You can still burn fat and produce ketones as long as you’re keeping the carbs fewer than 50 grams and still backing it up with dietary fats.


While dirty keto may lead to weight loss, other health experts still warn against eating a lot of unhealthy options even if you think you’re losing weight. Kara Landau, a registered dietician and founder of Uplift Food, said that she would not recommend this type of keto since dirty keto severely lacks the needed micronutrients that are necessary for overall gut health. Healthier versions of keto may include several “gut-nourishing” nutrients such as prebiotic fibers and resistant starches, which you don’t usually get from dirty keto, considering that both dietary plans have been shown to have positive results on inflammatory markers and weight management for certain healthy individuals.


Barbara Quinn, an accredited nutritionist, also expressed that the saturated fats from almost all processed foods are pro-inflammatory fats, which are directly linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and memory problems. While strict keto strongly emphasizes the importance of consuming healthy foods, according to Quinn, dirty keto does the opposite way as it severely removes the healthy components of the original dietary principle. She also noted that the human body isn’t specifically designed to maintain a “chronic” state of ketosis regardless of the person’s intention. With that being said, following this alluring keto version might result in a number of negative health complications, especially for people with diabetes and heart problems.


Knowing the Downside of Dirty Keto

Downside of dirty keto

Dirty keto seems promising at least for short-term weight loss. Just because you see some improvements over your weighing scale, that doesn’t mean you’re getting healthier each day.


You should expect inflammatory markers in your body to go up when you eat a lot of processed foods and refined vegetable oils, which may lead to several detrimental effects in your overall health. That’s because chemically-modified processed foods don’t really add that necessary micronutrients for sustained health. This also means you’re not replacing lost vitamins and minerals when they are excreted out of the body. Here are the potential health risks which may happen when following long-term dirty keto:

  • Increased risk of keto flu symptoms
  • Bloating and stomachaches
  • Inflammation
  • Continuous sugar cravings
  • Skin irritation due to rashes and blemishes
  • Water loss
  • Weight gain (when you get off from the diet)
  • Poor athletic performance


When you restrict the intake of carbs, your body continues to flush out water and other important nutrients and electrolytes. But you may replenish these lost minerals with avocado, fruits, and green leafy vegetables, food sources that aren’t seriously considered on dirty keto. What’s important here is not to disregard the essential nutrients you may get from healthy sources, meaning you shouldn’t overdo it. You can still practice dirty keto, but try to include this dietary routine only on cheat days.


Quinn emphasizes that the most effective weight loss plan is the one that is sustainable and contains an adequate amount of nutrients coming from all food categories instead of feasting on buttery steaks and bunless burgers. And since dirty keto is already at the side of restricting micronutrients, the addition of “nutrient-deficient processed foods is likely to make you feel more hungry, thus hampering your weight loss goals in the long run.


What are The Mistakes of People Doing Dirty Keto

If you’re a beginner to a low-carb, high-fat diet, you’ll definitely need to undergo a lot of adjustments from food consumption to the duration of the exercise. Unfortunately, you may also end up having to follow dirty keto if you don’t have enough time to prepare some nutrient-dense meals. You should look out for these common dirty keto mistakes to reduce the risks of developing health complications in the future:


Consuming an Excessive Amount of Saturated Fat

Eating a lot of saturated fat is one common mistake of keto dieters, including those who are following dirty keto. Even if the keto diet should be high in fat, you should be cautious enough when you’re already consuming too much trans fats. Still, it’s recommended to combine healthy and saturated fats if you can’t completely tolerate the standard keto. Don’t allow saturated fats to make up the majority of your meals if you can’t totally eliminate them.


Fat is Still Not Enough

Fat is not enough

If you aren’t consuming enough fat, chances are you won’t be able to reach or maintain ketosis since the true intention of keto is to train your body to rely on fat as opposed to glycogen, which is normally produced from sugars and carbs. It would be difficult to hit the target amount of fat if you’re not used to consuming a lot of fats. As a general guideline, stick to the original calorie breakdown of the keto diet, consisting of 60-75 percent fat, 15-30 percent from protein, and five to ten percent from carbs.


The exact macronutrient can be a case-to-case basis in accordance with the person’s prevailing health condition. It’s still important to plan your meals ahead or devise your own keto diet by combining different sources of saturated and unsaturated fat rather than focusing on controlling the bad ones only.


Eating Too Much Protein

Eating too much protein

Keto diet, in general, encourages more intake of fat instead of protein, but people always love to feast on burgers, steaks, and grilled meats. Excess protein hinders the process of ketone production since the body will convert the protein into glucose. Consuming too much protein also increases the risks of developing kidney problems, primarily due to the heavy presence of salt and fatty acids. Make a regular habit of monitoring your protein intake to make sure you’re hitting the 15-30 percent recommended amount.


Disregarding Fruits and Vegetables

Disregarding Fruits and Vegetables

Even though dirty keto allows you to consume saturated fat in various amounts, you should not forget to include fruits and vegetables on your diet. Many keto practitioners focus too much on restricting the carbs up to the point where they don’t eat fruits and vegetables anymore. The essential nutrients you get from fruits and vegetables are very important which make them critical for your overall health. Also, these healthy food sources contain fibers and micronutrients, which are helpful to ease indigestion and bloating.


Prepare yourself a full serving of healthy fruits and vegetables on every meal. Remember not to rely on food sources labeled as “keto-friendly” because they likely contain preservatives and saturated fats too.


Water is Not Enough

Drinking water is not enough

Regular water intake is critical when you’re on a keto diet because you lose a lot of water for limiting your carbs. Remember these simple indicators to remind you that your body needs to have water:

  • Frequent thirst or when you fail to meet the 12-glass requirement
  • Urine is in bright yellow
  • Unable to focus or concentrate on your task
  • Muscle cramps and numbness


Dirty keto has been shown to be less effective than following a standard ketogenic diet though calorie tracking can be optional for this. While losing weight may seem possible for dirty keto, both long-term and short-term practices should be taken into consideration to prevent further health risks.

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Maribelle is a writer, health enthusiast, and a registered nurse by profession. She broadens her knowledge more on the ketogenic diet and shares some tips based on her personal experience.

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