Tips & Advice

What is the lazy keto diet and should you do it?

You may have come across the idea of the “lazy keto diet” (aka lazy keto). What is lazy keto? And is it the same as “dirty keto”?

Let’s get the second question out of the way first. Lazy keto is not the same as dirty keto. Dirty keto simply refers to doing the keto diet on low-quality food, e.g. eating patties from fast food places, highly-processed meats, pork rinds and such. We don’t recommend doing dirty keto (not because it doesn’t work – it does) as, with just a little more effort, you could benefit from a much better regimen. However, all versions of keto – standard, lazy or dirty – they all work.

Lazy keto, i.e. not tracking macros

Lazy keto essentially means not tracking your macros (fat, protein, carb) ratios but keeping daily net carbs below 20g. That’s basically it. You’re still following the principles of eating ketogenically – low carbs, no sugar, lots of healthy fats – but you’re just not obsessing over tracking macros.

For many people, the standard keto diet can be difficult to maintain. Specifically, people can find measuring their macros time-consuming and a real pain. With the lazy version, as long as your carb intake is less than 20g a day, there’s no need to track anything else. So, it’s lazy keto is much simpler and fits into many people’s busy lifestyle. 

Why do the lazy keto diet?

Basically, lazy keto is far simpler and far less strict – it’s much easier to follow and maintain.

Many people hate being a slave to their diet – tracking macros, reading every label, sourcing the “right food” and so on. Once a diet becomes too “fussy”, it gets abandoned. So, for people like this, the lazy keto diet is perfect. They’re not punching numbers into calculators, not trying to figure out percentages or calories. They just keep their carbs below 20g and forget about tracking calories, protein or fat.

You can still succeed on lazy keto – and many people do. One of its huge benefits is that simplifies everything: you keep your carbs low, avoid sugar, consume plenty of healthy fats and eat as good quality food as you can. That’s pretty much it.

However, it’s important to note that there are no cheat days on the lazy keto diet. You still need to eat less than 20g net carbs every day. It’s still the keto diet – just without tracking macros.

“Today’s macros are based on irrelevant historical data”

Those on the keto diet argue that the macros ratios recommended by the standard keto diet are outdated and, in fact, no one really knows what the macro ratios should be. The macros we use today are based on the past when a keto diet was prescribed as an epilepsy treatment. It could be argued that the macros set then – to treat medical patients – bear little relevance to what we should be eating today on a daily basis. (Indeed, the original, medical keto diet bears very little resemblance to what we mean when we talk about keto now.)

Advocates of lazy keto therefore say there is leeway and flexibility in how an individual sets their macro levels. What is agreed is the diet should be very low in carbs and very high in healthy fat but the exact proportions are open to some interpretation. No two people are the same and what works for one person may need tweaking for another, and vice versa.

Lazy keto is not for everyone

If you don’t deal well with uncertainty, if you’re someone who needs to know exactly where you stand with something, lazy keto may not be for you. Why’s that? Because it’s really just “keto by gut instinct”. Bear in mind that any keto diet only works because you’re body is in ketosis (its fat-burning state) and the only way to know if you truly are in ketosis is by tracking your macros. 

Some argue that unless you’re tracking your protein intake (one of the main macros), you may not trigger ketosis. This is because protein can be converted into glucose through a process of gluconeogenesis. (And this is why the keto diet is a moderate-protein diet, unlike, say the paleo diet). Eating too much protein can prevent ketosis.

So, if you’re not tracking your macros, you run the risk of never being in ketosis and not realising it.

Standard/Strict, Lazy and Dirty keto overview

So in summary, here are the main differences between the different versions of the keto diet. Remember, they all work.

Standard keto diet

  • Stay under 20g net carbs a day
  • Most carbs (if not all) should come from low-carb vegetables
  • Eating nutrient-dense food. No junk food.
  • No added sugars, no diet drinks
  • Avoiding gluten and wheat products
  • Eating quality foods: whole, organic, grass-fed, minimally processed foods and oils
  • Strictly monitor macros/calories to ensure you stay in the advised ratios
  • Requires more planning and tracking
  • Best for determined individuals who are serious about losing weight rapidly

Lazy keto diet

  • Stay under 20g net carbs a day
  • No tracking of macros or calories. You’re basically estimating most foods you eat by instinct. The only thing that matters is limiting carb intake.
  • Very easy to implement.
  • Best for people who want to keep keto simple or who want to make keto realistic long-term
  • Still works!

Dirty keto diet

  • Stay under 20g net carbs a day
  • Not focused on nutrient-dense or high-quality food. You can eat processed and unhealthy foods as long as the macros work out
  • Diet drinks, low-carb alternatives, fast-food, sugar-free alternatives, wheat/gluten are all permissible as long as macro ratios are respected.(Note, eating these may impair your health in other ways – so, your choice.)
  • Best for those who want maximum flexibility or whose circumstances make standard keto difficult (e.g. financial constraints)
  • Still works for weight-loss but it’s not the healthiest diet.

Give standard keto a fair shot first

Keep yourself honest. Lazy keto should not be used as an excuse to just relax all the rules to the point that you’re not actually doing keto any longer. We would always recommend that people give the standard keto diet a try first, before resorting to the lazy version. Why? Because it’s the diet version from which you stand to gain most benefit. And, who knows, you may find the standard keto very easy to follow.

Give the standard version a try so that you can get a feel for how your body reacts and to get into a rhythm that’s right for you. Once you feel you have a good grasp of the standard keto diet, you can start experimenting, if you feel the need. If you’re experimenting just remember to keep carbs low, no sugar, plenty of healthy fats – it’s still the keto diet, after all. You don’t want to experiment so much that it’s no longer a keto diet. Experimentation is OK but don’t keep moving the goal posts to make it easier.

So, if you’re OK with living with some uncertainty surrounding whether you’re truly in ketosis and you’re more than happy to go with “gut feeling”, then try lazy keto. Lazy keto is the only long-term keto for many people and, of course, given the option of people quitting keto entirely or choosing the lazy version, lazy wins every time.

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