What’s Lazy Keto & Should you do it?
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With the rise in popularity of the ketogenic diet, there seems to be a lot of variance in how it’s practiced. Tracking macros, just keeping carbs low, limiting calories, only eating animal foods — everyone seems to have their own version.
This has become termed ‘lazy keto’ — and if you’ve never heard of it before, you may want to keep it that way.
What is lazy keto?
Lazy keto is essentially the term used for a ‘loosely’ monitored ketogenic diet. Whereas some keto diet prescriptions restrict the number of calories you can consume, a lazy keto dies does not. Rather, there is no limit on calories consumed, only carbs; as long as net carb intake does not exceed 50g, the body will be able to remain in ketosis. That number will ‘work’ for the vast majority of people.
The premise behind the lazy keto diet is to not have to micromanage your food intake. Some people like to track calories while others don’t, so lazy keto is a way to be keto without having to track. If you’re eating only keto approved foods, which essentially will always be low-carb, your carbohydrate intake will be low enough to stay in ketosis. Alternatively, you can only track your total carb or net carb count to ensure you’re staying in ketosis.
It’s a more intuitive approach to keto — eat when you’re hungry and eat as much as you want until you’re full, but keep the foods you consume keto-compliant.
Lazy keto vs strict keto
While lazy keto is a still a form of the keto diet, it’s a little more lenient on the types of food you can consume in order to meet your macros when compared with a strict ketogenic diet. We’re using the term ‘strict keto’ instead of ‘standard keto’ simply to emphasize that paying closer attention to macros and grams of carbs will allow you to remain in ketosis. Otherwise, it’s just like a standard ketogenic diet.
For some, lazy keto may mean eating whatever you want as long as it fits within your carb count for the day. This may include things like added sugars, bad fats, and junk-foods more generally, most of which may be keto-compliant in terms of macros, but health wise are not the best choices. This style of eating is more commonly known as ‘dirty keto’ and it’s not something Nutrita recommends. Our basic advice is to avoid the triad of added sugars, high omega-6 seed oils, and flour. And of course, base your meals around lots of animal-sourced foods (e.g. shrimp, beef, raw full-fat dairy).
Strict keto, on the other hand, is the version of keto that’s by far the most popular. The majority of information available on the internet applies to the strict keto diet, which is as follows:
- Limit net carbs to 50 g per day or whichever quantity allows you to stay above 0.2 – 1.0 mmol/L of blood ketones
- Get in adequate amounts of protein and fat
- Net carbs should come mainly from lower carb vegetables (e.g. carrots) or low-sugar fruit (e.g. blueberries)
- Strongly limit high-carb foods (e.g. potatoes)
- Eliminate trans-fats and high omega-6 seed oils (canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil etc.)
- Eliminate added sugars
- Eliminate flours (e.g. wheat flour, soybean flour, corn flour, gluten-free flours etc.)
While these guidelines seem relatively straightforward, there’s room for debate on certain aspects. Some individuals will still follow a diet that is ketogenic, but can achieve that consuming 100 g of carbs! This is the exception and usually occurs in highly insulin sensitive athletes that have just worked out very hard and depleted the carbs stored in their body (glycogen). Others will consume dairy while others will exclude it; maybe due to their unusual sensitivity to even low amount of carbs kicking them out of ketosis, lactose intolerance, or because they find that it causes them to weight loss plateau.
Is lazy keto effective?
A strict keto diet has now been extensively studied in controlled trials as a highly effective method for combating several chronic health conditions and diseases. With respect to the efficacy of lazy keto, who knows… So while lazy keto may be effective for individuals not looking for serious health improvements, it’s probably much less effective or even useless for those needing to fix major health concerns like metabolic syndrome, obesity or diabetes.
With respect to the efficacy of the lazy keto diet, the name says it all; a ‘lazy’ approach isn’t smart if you’re looking to solve any sort of metabolic issue or chronic disease. it’s not going to do the trick. This is where you have to be honest with yourself and understand why you’re choosing to do a keto diet and how important it is to ‘get it right’.
1. For weight loss or a weight plateau
Studies have shown the ketogenic diet to be incredibly beneficial for people who are overweight or obese. However, there are two sides to the argument for lazy keto as a weight loss tool. One on hand, removing carbohydrates from the diet will cause the body to burn glycogen stores, release water, and therefore drop weight quite significant, especially if there is a lot of weight to lose. On the other hand, with the ketogenic diet allowing only 5-10% of calories from carbohydrates, it means that if you go above that threshold, you won’t remain in ketosis and your body won’t be fuelling itself on fat and ketones as much. Therefore, weight loss may be harder to achieve.
Additionally, just because you’re not tracking your macros with lazy keto doesn’t mean that you can eat anything you want — food quality still matters on keto. If you’re trying to lose excess body fat, you have to eat in a way whereby fewer calories get diverted towards long-term fat storage, whether you’re following keto or not. If you’re eating keto-compliant foods but not paying attention to food quality or timing, it’s possible that you’re still directing too many calories towards long-term fat storage.
If you’ve already lost a significant amount of body fat and you’re not looking to lose more, lazy keto may be a viable option to maintain. When the body has already become fat-adapted, the body becomes metabolically flexible, which means that it can switch between burning carbohydrates or fat for energy, depending on what is available.
However, if you’ve been following the lazy keto approach and you have hit a fat-loss plateau, continuing on keto with a more health-conscious approach may be beneficial to get fat-loss kick-started.
2. For medical conditions
The ketogenic diet has been researched as a treatment for many medical conditions including diabetes and prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
However, in order for ketosis to be beneficial for treating chronic medical conditions, being in a state of nutritional ketosis at all times is crucial. With lazy keto, there is no tracking, or minimal tracking, of macros, which means the extent of ketosis may not be sufficient enough to be therapeutic. Studies show that elevated ketone levels are needed to manage the disease.
Many of the subjects in research studies conducted on the therapeutic effects of keto for chronic diseases are following strict keto, which implies that it may be necessary to be a beneficial treatment.
3. For overall well-being
As it stands, lazy keto may still be beneficial for overall health and well-being. This is because, following a ketogenic diet, you’re still cutting out the majority of foods that are part of the standard American diet. It includes things like candy, pizza, soda and the like. As keto, and even lazy keto, involves removing many unhealthy high carbohydrate foods drenched in high omega-6 seed oils, there’s likely to be a much higher intake of truly nutrient-dense foods (e.g. eggs), healthy fats (e.g. butter) and non-starchy carbohydrates (vegetables).
Is lazy keto healthy in the long-run?
When it comes to studies conducted on the efficacy of lazy keto, there isn’t any research to support it directly.
Indirectly though, depending on the type of lazy keto you participate in, it may be ‘good enough’. Good enough may be not tracking macros but eating healthy keto foods (i.e. red meat). Not good enough would be eating foods that have keto macros but are unhealthy (i.e. trans-fat foods, nutrient deplete keto snacks etc.). The results you achieve on keto will largely depend on how well you apply fundamental principles, such as avoiding junk-food and food timing.
It’s important to remember that your keto diet won’t necessarily be like everyone else’s. Some people will benefit more from the stress-free aspect of following a lazy keto diet, while others will find more benefit from a stricter adherence to it. While Nutrita recommends following a well-formulated ketogenic diet, every individual must experiment to really find what works for them.
Is lazy keto safe?
There are no precautionary measures needed for following a lazy keto diet and there is nothing involved that is deemed unsafe.
However, following a lazy keto diet may subject you to great risk of nutrient deficiencies and chronic inflammation if it includes high omega-6 seed oils and too little animal-sourced foods.
How to do a lazy keto diet?
If tracking macros really isn’t your thing and lazy keto sounds more appealing, there are a few things you need to know before getting started.
1. Get a general idea of your macros
Figuring out a rough count of much protein, fat, and carbs your body needs is the first step to developing a lazy keto meal plan. If you have a general idea of the amount you need to consume to stay in ketosis, you’re less likely to over-do it and bump yourself out – at least initially. For example, know that 100g of avocado has roughly 15g of carbs, which is X % of your daily carb limit. The easiest way to do this is to use our food search engine and look it up (it’s on our front page!).
2. Build a list of staple foods
Create a list of staple foods that you know you can consume and stay in ketosis. This includes sources of high-quality protein (chicken, beef, eggs, seafood, etc.), fats (butter, olive oil, lard, coconut oil) and carbohydrates (berries, green leafy vegetables). While consuming protein won’t likely kick you out of ketosis, and Nutrita doesn’t recommend limiting animal-sourced foods, it is important to be mindful of the amounts you’re consuming when targeting a specific level of blood ketones. In that case, don’t do lazy keto, do a proper ketogenic diet.
Carbohydrates, on the other hand, will kick you out of ketosis quick if you overdo them. For your staple list, be sure to include lots of leafy green vegetables (chard, spinach, kale, arugula, dandelion), water-rich vegetables (asparagus, cucumber, celery), and most other vegetables that are grown above ground.
While you may think all fats will keep you in ketosis, remember that even fat-heavy foods have carbs. For example, nuts are rich in healthy fats but they also contain carbs, which varies based on the type of nut. Macadamia nuts, pecans, brazil nuts, and walnuts are options that contain fewer carbs than nuts like cashews or pistachios.
3. Figure out which keto friendly foods may still lead you to binge on (if any)
For example, it may seem okay to eat a handful of nuts, but depending on how many you grab, the calorie count could be upwards of 400 calories (2 oz. of macadamia nuts). We’re not saying to count calories, we’re saying to be mindful of your eating behavior around certain foods – especially if you’re trying to lose excess body fat or break through a fat-loss plateau. Cheese and nuts are the common ‘healthy’ keto foods that, for whatever reason, may still lead people to snack unnecessarily.
Is this food keto?
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Example of a lazy keto meal
Here’s what a ‘lazy keto’ day may look like for you:
Breakfast: Chorizo omelette (eggs + butter + chorizo + cheese)
Lunch: Chicken salad lettuce wraps (chicken + mayo/avocado + celery + green onions)
Dinner: Frozen shrimp + frozen veggies + cauliflower rice (shrimp stir fry)
If you snack or have a picnic: Hard boiled eggs / mixed nuts / beef jerky / pemmican / salami
Remember, you don’t need to plan for 3 meals, 2 meals are just fine. The 3 meals a day is a modern phenomenon invented by the food industry. The vast majority of people, most of the time, will be fine without snacks and a 3rd meal.
With this type of meal plan, you can prep everything ahead so it’s easy to grab when you’re in a rush and there’s no weighing, measuring, or counting involved.
Why we do not recommend lazy keto?
While lazy keto may be a suitable option for some people, Nutrita does not recommend it for a couple of reasons:
- It doesn’t help combat health issues. If you’re trying to improve any serious metabolic condition like high blood sugar, metabolic syndrome, or diabetes, we do not recommend following lazy keto as it can be difficult to track improvements. In order to improve or reverse your diagnosis, it’s imperative to be able to determine a baseline and be able to track progress. When you’re not tracking your food at all, at any point, and instead are following lenient rules for keto, it becomes challenging to get the results you’re looking for. Instead, we recommend tracking your food consumption so if something isn’t working for you, you can look at what you’re eating (e.g. sources of fat, food timing, grams of carbs) and tweak accordingly.
- It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole. A lazy keto diet is relatively lax on what you consume as long as it fits within your macro count. But food quality and timing matters, always. Lazy keto may be more challenging for some but if you’re looking to solve any sort of metabolic or other health condition, avoid following a lazy keto diet.
If you’re new to keto, we suggest you follow our Keto beginner’s guide. Once you’re well on your way to reaching your goals – and you can get away with it – lazy keto may be a viable option for you. However, if you’re looking to solve or improve any sort of chronic health condition or metabolic disease, we don’t recommend following lazy keto because it limits the ability to see metabolic improvements and you wouldn’t be giving it a fair shot. Instead, we advise following the basic diet principles we talked about so that your diet, whatever it turns out to be, is a healthy and enjoyable one.
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Written by Raphael Sirtoli, PhD
Raphael Sirtoli has an MSc in Molecular Biology and is a PhD candidate in Neuroscience at the Behavioral n’ Molecular Lab in Portugal. His understanding of metabolism, nutrition and clinical medicine is the base upon which Nutrita’s knowledge derives from. He loves open scientific debate, Crossfit, football, hiking and cold water immersion.