What is Dirty Keto (or the dirty keto diet vs clean keto)

The Dirty Keto Diet

TL;DR version: Dirty Keto can help you lose weight and with new supplements, you can lose even more.

Not everyone has a home chef ready to catch a wild salmon, cook it with grass-fed butter churned over the weekend and paired with asparagus from their greenhouse.  Some of us work multiple jobs and are lucky to make anything “fresh” for meals.  If you are in the first boat, go clean keto all the way.  If you are in the second, we understand why you are considering dirty keto.

Dirty Keto is a version of the ketosis diet that is easier to follow than a standard ketogenic diet (see “What are the types of ketogenic diets?“), but you don’t lose as much weight on it.  Why?  Because it is dirty, of course! The Dirty Keto diet uses the same macros as “clean” keto, but includes processed foods, fast foods, and other convenience foods that are easy to eat on the go.  It is sometimes called Lazy Keto, but that isn’t exactly true.  Lazy Keto just means you track and limit carbohydrates only and don’t worry about other macros. 

Most people think that Dirty Keto is bad, unhealthy and possibly dangerous.  However, if done correctly, it can come close to the standard keto diet in terms of the level of ketosis achieved and the amount of weight lost, assuming that is your goal. It may not be able to compete on a truly nutritional standpoint, but many people don’t eat a clean diet anyway, ketogenic or not. 

*Disclaimer* from a nutritionist standpoint, we recommend staying as close to clean as you can, but we also understand that there will be times when going dirty makes sense, we just want you to be educated about the issues.

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There are three main concerns with the doing a dirty ketogenic diet: micronutrient deficiency, additives/preservatives, and hidden carbs. 

Of these, micronutrient deficiency is the more detrimental and is the primary complaint of nutritionists when reviewing this type of keto diet.  Clean keto focuses on whole foods with a lot of variety to make sure you get all of the essential dietary nutrients you need. Dirty keto does not offer the same nutrient advantage as clean keto does.  However, a few selection choices can help in this regards. 

When you do cook, use good fat sources (like coconut, avocado and olive oils) instead of polyunsaturated fats, like vegetable oils (like soy or corn oils), “high linoleic” oils and margarine.  Not only do they increase inflammation in the body, which can make dieting and overall health worse, the body prefers to burn saturated fats anyway for ketogenesis. 

Other micronutrient deficiencies include vitamins, minerals and some essential fatty acids (like Omega-3).  If you are aware of these, it is possible to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of each, although you may have to resort to supplementation.  While not ideal, it is the same case for many Western non-ketogenic diets in general.  Many of these diets are sub-optimal from a nutritional standpoint in the same way and would benefit from whole foods as well.

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Additives and preservatives are also higher in processed foods, and thus in dirty keto diets.  While most of these chemicals added to the food have no nutritional value, some preservatives can be beneficial to ketosis dieters.  The main one of these is sodium from salt.  Although high sodium is bad for your body in multiple ways (blood pressure, water retention, etc.), it is something that needs to be supplemented on most ketosis diets. 

Although we would recommend 2 cups of bone broth as a good way to increase your sodium levels, getting it through processed foods is another avenue that works.  Once your body starts the ketosis process, your kidneys lose a lot more sodium than on a standard diet and it is one of the main causes of Keto Flu (see “What is keto flu?“). 

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Hidden carbs are a real issue with Dirty Keto and probably one of the biggest reasons dirty keto diets fail. Fast food, or any food not made from scratch for that matter, may contain ingredients not listed on the menu.  This is always one of the risks of eating out.  The burger may not contain carbs, but that secret sauce probably does.  Carbohydrates in general are cheap “filler” ingredients and used indiscriminately in food preparation.  Although the total carb count may be fairly low, when you are limiting carbs, adding any unplanned carbs can thoroughly mess up your diet. 

A great example of a carbohydrate as a filler is maltodextrin.  Look at sugar-free drink mixes and ranch seasoning packets.  Maltodextrin is the first or second ingredient listed, so by volume, the product is more carbohydrate than anything else. Not exactly carb friendly.  In fact, maltodextrin has a higher glycemic index than table sugar does (see “What are net carbs and why do they matter?“) and it affects your blood glucose and insulin levels dramatically.

One question we see often regarding dirty keto is how can you lose as much weight doing dirty keto as you can doing clean keto?  To be honest, it isn’t really easy.  Although both are ketogenic and both burn body fat for energy, the hidden sugars and fillers utilized in processed foods make it harder to stay in ketosis, at least to the same level you can obtain with clean keto.

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There is another option to enhance dirty keto though. Ketosis Enhancing Supplements.  Although these supplements were designed primarily to protect ketosis during cheat meals, they can be used to protect ketosis when the actual carbohydrate level in a dish is unknown.  This includes fast food options.  They work on multiple levels of ketosis enhancement (see Enhancing Ketosis), but can be used as “Carb Insurance” for people who are concerned they may be getting more carbs while eating out than they would like. 

In this way, ketosis enhancers like KetoSavior™, can be used prior to a non-cheat meal that is suspected of having higher carbohydrates, although we wouldn’t recommend a full-dose for this circumstance.  A half dose should be enough coverage to decrease the risk from added sugar and fillers like maltodextrin in order to maintain ketosis. By lessening the impact of any carbs ingested, you can be on dirty keto and still lose weight by not being kicked out of ketosis. 

Dirty keto may make a ketogenic diet easier to follow and definitely makes it easier to eat out on keto.  By adding something like KetoSavior™, you can also have the added piece of mind that comes with knowing you are doing everything you can to minimize the effects of hidden carbs on your diet.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.