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Why Dirty Keto Doesn't Actually Work

Published June 16, 2019 (Revised: April 04, 2020) Read Time: 8 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

5-reasons-to-pass-on-dirty-keto
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2018/11/superfoods-in-white-bowls.jpg" } }, "headline":"Why Dirty Keto Doesn't Actually Work", "datePublished":"2019-06-16", "dateModified": "2020-04-04", "description":"It might sound nice to lose weight eating fast food on the dirty keto diet. But here's 5 reasons why it won't give you the results you're after.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2018/11/superfoods-in-white-bowls.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What is dirty keto?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Dirty keto (also called lazy keto) is a nutrition plan that follows similar macronutrient guidelines to the standard ketogenic diet—approximately 70 percent fat, 25 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs. However, the difference is there's no emphasis placed on eating nutritious foods. Quality doesn't matter, so long as you stick to the macronutrient split of the diet (high fat, moderate protein, low carb)." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Is Dirty Keto?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">5 Reasons Dirty Keto Doesn't Work</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Believe it or not, there's a diet out there that suggests you can eat fast food all day and still lose weight.</p> <p>It's called the dirty keto diet, and it's essentially a "shortcut"—a low-carb diet where you can eat fast foods and other chemically altered products instead of prioritizing healthy ingredients. </p> <p>But as we all know, taking shortcuts rarely gets us where we want to be long-term.</p> <p>Such a diet might seem tempting, but there are several reasons it's not a good idea.</p> <p>Here's what the dirty keto diet is, and how it works (<a href="#section2">keep scrolling to see our top 5 reasons why it will not work</a>).</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What is dirty keto?</h2> <p>'<i>Dirty keto</i>' (also called 'lazy keto') is a nutrition plan that follows similar macronutrient guidelines to the standard <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-101/" rel="noreferrer">ketogenic diet</a>—approximately 70 percent fat, 25 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup></p> <p>However, the difference is there's no emphasis placed on eating nutritious foods. Quality doesn't matter, so long as you stick to the macronutrient split of the diet (high fat, moderate protein, low carb).</p> <p>By doing this, you're still "technically" able to stay within the confines of the diet and in <i>theory</i>, lose weight.</p> <h3>How does it work?</h3> <p>Advocates of the "lazy keto" diet claim that it works pretty much the same as a regular keto diet.</p> <p>Here's the part of their story that's true: When the body is deprived of carbohydrates, it enters a state called ketosis. In this state, your liver releases chemicals called <i>ketones</i> (or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/ketone-bodies/" rel="noreferrer">ketone bodies</a>) into your bloodstream. </p> <p>Instead of using stored glucose (sugar) for energy, ketones use your body's own fat storages for energy. Your body essentially turns into a 24/7 fat burning machine, which is very effective for losing weight. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142028/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup></p> <p>To <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-into-ketosis/" rel="noreferrer">get into ketosis</a>, most people:</p> <ul> <li>Eat between 20 and 50 grams of net carbs per day</li> <li>Exercise</li> <li>Implement other tools like intermittent fasting (timing your meals into a 8-hour window, then not eating for the next 16)</li> </ul> <p>But 'technically' speaking, there are no required types of foods you have to eat to induce ketosis—so long as you don't eat more than 50 grams of carbs per day, limit protein, and eat lots of fat, your body will eventually start relying on ketones for fuel.</p> <h3>Sample of a dirty keto diet</h3> <p>On a dirty or lazy keto diet, your daily meal plan might look like this:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Breakfast</strong>: McDonald’s sausage egg McMuffin with no biscuit, slices of bacon</li> <li><strong>Lunch</strong>: 5 pieces of deli salami, 2 pieces of cheese, pork rinds or low-carb snack food</li> <li><strong>Dinner</strong>: 2 processed cheeseburger patties with no bun, a diet soda, some keto chocolate</li> </ul> <p>Compare this to a clean keto diet meal plan, where you might eat three meals consisting of unprocessed protein (beef, fish or chicken) with low-carb veggies, and maybe a handful of nuts for a snack.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/dirty-keto-diet-0190.jpg" alt="supported sit to stand"> <h2 id="section2">5 reasons dirty keto doesn't work</h2> <p>It's wishful thinking that our bodies could shed fat and stay healthy if we ate nothing but cheap, processed fast food. But unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.</p> <p>You might be able to get into ketosis on dirty keto, but there are several reasons a diet like this will do more harm than good. We'll look at 5 of those reasons below.</p> <p>(We'll use the terms '<i>dirty keto</i>' and '<i>clean keto</i>' to differentiate between the two diets.)</p> <h3>1. It doesn't focus on food quality</h3> <p>The first, and most important, difference between dirty and clean keto is the complete disregard for quality, nutritious foods.</p> <p>Here's a comparison of the types of foods you could expect to eat on both iterations of the diet:</p> <h4>Dirty keto food staples</h4> <ul> <li>Processed meats (salami, sausage, bacon)</li> <li>Fast food (i.e. bunless cheeseburgers)</li> <li>Low-carb processed snacks (pork rinds, keto "cheese chips")</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-sweeteners/" rel="noreferrer">Artificial sweeteners</a></li> <li>Vegetable oils</li> <li>Processed cheese</li> <li>Low-carb chocolate and other sweets</li> </ul> <h4>Clean keto diet food staples</h4> <ul> <li>Healthy fat sources (avocadoes, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/substitute-for-vegetable-oil/" rel="noreferrer">olive oil</a>, nuts)</li> <li>High quality proteins (wild caught fish, free range chicken, grass-fed beef, free range eggs)</li> <li>High quality dairy products (from grass-fed cows, goats and sheep)</li> <li>Low-carb vegetables (spinach, kale, cauliflower)</li> <li>Low-carb, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-fruit/" rel="noreferrer">high-fiber fruits</a> (berries)</li> </ul> <p>As you can see, the dirty keto diet is largely based on processed foods made with preservatives and artificial ingredients. </p> <p>These foods are also void of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/macronutrients-vs-micronutrients/" rel="noreferrer">vitamins and minerals</a>, which give your body energy and are necessary for proper function and disease prevention.</p> <p>Not to mention other nutrients, like <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-fiber/" rel="noreferrer">fiber</a>, can actually make it easier for you to lose weight (see #2 below).</p> <p>For these reasons, a focus on food quality is preferable because you'll be taking in actual nutrients in their whole-food, bioactive form that are essential for human health.</p> <p>And you'll be less likely to deal with the adverse side-effects that come from eating unhealthy foods all the time.</p> <h3>2. There could be undesirable side-effects</h3> <p>A diet based around processed meats and snack foods can have dire effects on your health and well-being. Consider that:</p> <ul> <li>A 2015 study found that eating lots of processed meats could have long-term health effects, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26780279" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup></li> <li>A lack of dietary fiber has been shown to increase one's risk of digestive problems, heart disease, and high blood pressure. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124841/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup></li> <li>Fiber is also a proven tool for weight-management and weight loss, as it keeps you full longer after meals. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11396693" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup></li> <li>Generally speaking, vitamin and mineral deficiencies of <i>any</i> kind (i.e. vitamin A, iron, calcium, etc.) can cause systemic health issues and increase your risk of certain diseases like cancer. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18201330" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12209158" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup></li> </ul> <p>Basically, the lack of nutrients on dirty keto will likely diminish your health, and the lack of fiber may stall your weight loss progress. <p>Since weight loss doesn't happen overnight, you'll be much better off focusing on nutrient-dense foods. This way, your body will have energy and you'll be protecting yourself from getting sick as you work towards your goals.</p> <h3>3. It could cause chronic inflammation</h3> <p>A poor diet (especially one largely based on processed foods) increases chronic inflammation throughout the body.</p> <p>Inflammation is a natural process necessary for healing. But <i>chronic inflammation</i> keeps your body in a perpetual state of repair, and is a breeding ground for diseases like metabolic syndrome and heart disease. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579563/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup></p> <p>It has also been linked to obesity, joint pain, impaired gut health, and many other diseases. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5905611/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872783/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup></p> <p>Conversely, whole-food based nutritional approaches (such as clean keto) have been shown to <i>reduce</i> inflammatory markers <i>and</i> your risk of disease. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5981249/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup></p> <p>A diet like clean keto can even help prevent mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124384/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup></p> <p>The same conclusions can be drawn here as in the previous section.</p> <p>You <i>might</i> be able to get away with eating unhealthy food and technically lose weight.</p> <p>However, by eating processed foods and eliminating nutrients from your diet, you increase your risk of several diseases. And you also may not have the energy or vitality to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/" rel="noreferrer">exercise</a> or do other things that can help you lose weight.</p> <h3>4. It doesn't help you develop confidence or resilience</h3> <p>The psychological consequences of the dirty keto diet are just as real as the physical ones.</p> <p>Let's call dirty keto what it actually is: <i>a shortcut</i>.</p> <p>There's also no sense masking the fact that following a "clean" nutrition plan can be challenging at times. </p> <p>It's not always easy to make the right food choices, especially when you find out there's an easier alternative out there that says eating junk is okay.</p> <p>But making the right choices and sticking to your plan <i>will</i> pay off long term. Consider:</p> <ul> <li>A 2018 study found that a healthy diet based around vegetables and whole food sources helped develop resilience (an important psychological tool for coping with stress and accomplishing goals) for its users. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28952609" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4114020/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a></sup></li> <li>A 2015 study called an effective nutritional plan one that "fosters a sense of control and self-efficacy [a belief in one's ability]". These mental tools have been shown to help people make better food choices that lead to weight loss more consistently over time. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632444/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">15</a></sup></li> </ul> <p>While a shortcut sounds nice in theory, you're actually doing a disservice to yourself (and your goals) by not developing these psychological tools. And the science shows that sticking to a nutrition plan like the clean keto diet will actually help you stick with it long-term.</p> <h3>5. It's not necessary</h3> <p>Perhaps the most important reason dirty keto doesn't work is because it's an extreme measure that isn't even that necessary to get results.</p> <p>After all, there's no "rule" in the standard variation of keto diet that states you can never eat processed meat or use <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-sweeteners/" rel="noreferrer">sugar-free sweeteners</a>.</p> <p>True, they aren't encouraged at every meal, but there's no reason you can't add some of these technically keto-friendly foods into your routine each week if you're eating clean most of the time.</p> <p>(For example, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/perfect-form-burpee-walkout/" rel="noreferrer">cheese</a> finds its way into lots of our recipes!)</p> <p>The truth is, people using the dirty keto diet are relying on a "crutch", or a technicality to lose weight. And in doing that, they're depriving themselves of the greatest result of all:</p> <blockquote style="display: block; margin-top: 1em; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 40px; margin-right: 40px;">The freedom to make <i>empowered</i> choices about what you put into your body. Not because they're "banned" and it's a cheat day, but because you enjoy them and have decided you've earned them. </blockquote> <p>Dirty keto simply can't offer that type of freedom—and that's just another reason it actually doesn't work.</p> <p>In the short-term, dirty keto isn't ideal because your body isn't going to feel healthy, and you're much more likely to get sick or experience side-effects from nutrient deficiencies. </p> <p>In the long-term, you won't develop the strong psychological framework that people who lose weight and keep it off earn from their hard work. In all likelihood, <i>the shortcut you took will just lead to you gaining back that weight.</i> </p> <p>But if you choose the harder path, you'll be rewarded with the body <i>and</i> brain that's capable of losing the weight and keeping it off.</p> </section> </article>

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