Lazy Keto: What It Is and Why You Should Avoid It
Lazy keto is a popular variation of the ketogenic diet. Designed to make the keto diet a little “easier,” lazy keto may include some delicious shortcuts like fast food, but it does come with some pitfalls.
If a healthier, more sustainable keto diet includes plenty of healthy protein and low-carb veggies, what does the lazy keto diet involve?
Read on for the details, including the benefits of lazy keto, some of the pitfalls, and what foods to include and avoid if this type of keto diet sounds appealing to you.
Put simply, lazy keto takes some of the “work” out of the keto diet.
The keto diet aims to get your body into a state of ketosis, where you burn fat as your primary source of fuel instead of relying on glucose from carbs.
To do this, you have to cut your carbohydrate intake drastically enough that your body gets the message that carbs are no longer a reliable source of fuel.
This initiates a metabolic change where your body starts preferentially burning dietary fat and stored fat in the form of ketones. Hence, the name “ketosis.”
If you’re a beginner to the keto diet, most experts will recommend that you calculate your macronutrient needs and adjust for a ratio that will help your body achieve ketosis. For most people that looks like[*]:
- 5-10% calories coming from carbs
- 30-35% calories coming from protein
- 55-60% calories coming from fat
With lazy keto, however, the only recommendation is that you keep grams of carbs between 20-50 grams per day. This keto diet hack has become popular as a way to reach ketosis without having to calculate other macros making it more doable if the idea of tracking is enough to turn you off.
While lazy keto may sound like a more approachable way to jump into the keto diet, it comes with some pretty significant drawbacks.
#1: You May Not Reach Ketosis
One of the major drawbacks of lazy keto is the fact that you may not actually reach a state of ketosis. Following your macros and testing your ketones, especially in the beginning, is a crucial step in getting into ketosis.
Since everyone’s body will respond differently to the ketogenic diet, you may never know if you even reach ketosis by following lazy keto.
As mentioned above, to switch your metabolism into fat-burning mode, you need to deprive your cells of carbohydrates enough to trigger ketosis. Unless you track your food intake, you may misjudge how many calories you’re getting from carbs.
#2: Keto Flu Without Breaking Through
Another potential drawback of lazy keto is the in-between state where you’re not fully in ketosis yet, but you’re also not getting the number of carbs you’re used to. This transition period is often associated with some uncomfortable symptoms and is referred to as “keto flu.”
During keto flu, you may feel tired, brain fog, digestive upset, insomnia, and muscle aches. This is due to the fact that your body is deprived of the carbs that it’s used to and doesn’t have the capacity yet to run on ketones entirely.
After a couple of weeks on strict keto, the keto flu passes, and the symptoms subside.
However, when you’re doing a diet like lazy keto, you may never reach full keto-adaptation, which leaves you in limbo. This could result in weeks on end of keto flu symptoms, without the reward of ketosis.
#3: No Scientific Studies
While there are many scientific studies that support the use of a ketogenic diet, none exist on “lazy keto.”
You could extrapolate studies that show that keto works for different health conditions, but again, there is no guarantee that you’ll actually reach a state of ketosis with lazy keto.
#4: No Focus On Quality
One of the most troublesome aspects of lazy keto is the general lack of focus on food quality. If you want to reap the health benefits that go along with the ketogenic diet, it’s crucial that the food you put in your body is health-promoting.
Being in a state of ketosis on its own may have benefits, but if you get there by fueling your body with junk calories and fast food, the detrimental effects may outweigh the benefits.
So why might you want to try a keto diet in the first place? Research continues to uncover the benefits of eating a low-carb, high-fat diet. Some of the most interesting developments include:
#1: Weight Loss
Weight loss is the number one reason most people are drawn to the keto diet.
Unlike fad diets or calorie restriction, keto doesn’t leave you hungry and riddled with cravings. In fact, being in a state of ketosis enhances the activity of your satiety hormones while quieting down your hunger hormones.
Research shows that when you lose weight on a standard weight loss diet, your body compensates by enhancing hunger cues to bring that weight back. On the keto diet, however, this mechanism doesn’t get activated. This allows you to lose those unwanted pounds without the subsequent rebound[*].
#2: Cognitive Health
One of the most promising areas of research for the keto diet is in the arena of neurological disease.
In fact, the keto diet first came about in the 1920s as a treatment for children with epileptic seizures[*].
As cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease continue to rise, researchers have been looking at the keto diet as a potential way to treat and mitigate symptoms.
Research shows that one of the contributing factors to neurological disease is a lack of available fuel for your brain. Because your brain can use ketones as fuel, and in ketosis ketones are in abundant supply, ketosis offers a way to mitigate brain fuel shortage[*].
In addition, ketones have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, which serves to protect your brain cells and may help to ward off age-related cognitive decline[*].
#3: Insulin Resistance
Insulin is the hormone responsible for shuttling glucose into your cells so that it can be used for fuel. In the United States, more than 100 million people are living with diabetes or prediabetes — conditions marked by insulin resistance[*].
When your cells are insulin resistant, they don’t respond to insulin, resulting in high levels of glucose accumulating in your blood. This, in turn, can lead to a host of other issues.
Research into the ketogenic diet and diabetes shows that eating a low-carb, high-fat diet can improve your glycemic control, lowering your blood glucose[*]. What’s more, following a ketogenic diet long term may also reverse insulin resistance[*].
#4: Heart Health
Contrary to what many people believe about a high-fat diet, the ketogenic diet may be one of the best diets for heart health.
Cardiovascular disease shows up in a myriad of ways but is often correlated with high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, and inflammation. Risk factors for heart disease also include obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Research shows that the ketogenic diet can shift blood lipid markers by lowering triglycerides, reducing LDL cholesterol, and increasing HDL cholesterol. In addition, risk factors like diabetes and obesity may also be mitigated by a ketogenic diet[*][*].
If you’re still on the fence about full-fledged keto and are looking for a way to dip a toe into a low-carb diet, then lazy keto may be an option for you. Much like the standard keto diet, lazy keto will center around avoiding high-carb foods, with a focus on protein and fat.
Foods To Eat
- Meat: Chicken, pork, duck, beef, turkey, etc.
- Fish and shellfish
- Eggs: chicken, duck, etc.
- High-fat dairy: butter, cheese, cream
- Low-carb veggies: green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, chard), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), brussels sprouts, peppers, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: sunflower seeds, almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, etc.
- Healthy Fats: lard, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, sesame oil
- Low-carb fruits: avocado, berries (in moderation), lemon, lime
Foods To Avoid
The foods you’ll want to avoid are anything with a high carb count. This includes most grains and beans, and anything with added sugar. Remember, with lazy keto, you won’t necessarily be counting your carbs, so filling your cabinets and refrigerator with foods that you know are naturally low-carb is crucial if you want to experience the benefits.
Watch out for:
- Root vegetables: sweet potato, potato, carrots (moderation), beets, squash, corn
- Grains: all kinds including rice, quinoa, millet, teff, emmer, farro, amaranth, and wheat
- Baked goods: muffins, bread, donuts, cookies, cakes, pastries, and brownies
- Legumes and beans: lentils, navy beans, peanuts, kidney beans, pinto beans, etc.
- Sugary beverages: soda, sweetened iced teas, etc.
If you’re already in ketosis and know what works for your body to stay in ketosis, it’s fine to scale back on counting macros. You’ll eventually be able to tell when you’ve kicked yourself out of ketosis and how much carbs your body can handle.
However, if you’re new to keto and have the goal of reaching ketosis, then tracking your macros is an essential part of the process. Until you know how your body responds to carbs, you’ll be flying blind unless you keep track of your carb intake and ketone levels.
Also, although you can technically get into ketosis eating low-quality fat and protein, the goal of a keto diet should be centered around enhancing the health of your body. Therefore, any diet that glosses over quality should be a red flag.