You know a diet is a Pretty Big Deal when it starts getting spin-off diets.
Seriously: The keto diet is still relatively new (at least, popularity-wise), yet it’s already been paired with apple cider vinegar and intermittent fasting, and it’s been modified through keto cycling.
Now, there’s a new offshoot called “dirty keto,” and it’s, uh, interesting to say the least.
What is “dirty keto” and where did it come from?
So apparently, dirty keto follows the same principles as OG keto but focuses mainly on those macronutrients you need (60-75% of your calories from fat, 15-30% of your calories from protein, and 5-10% of your calories from carbs), and not much else (like where exactly those macros come from).
For example, instead of going all in on avocado and olive oil, you opt for more processed foods, like sliced cheese and pork rinds (two items seen in a Facebook community dedicated to dirty keto).
And while it’s kind of hard to tell where dirty keto originated, it’s definitely popular: Quite a few Facebook communities are devoted to living that dirty keto life (including one actually called The Dirty Keto Life).
How is dirty keto different from the regular keto diet?
At its core, keto is all about minimizing your carbs and increasing the fats you eat to get your body to use of fat as a form of energy (a.k.a. ketosis), says Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy. You’re also encouraged to get your macronutrients from healthy foods like organic means, limit saturated fats, and focus on healthy fats.
But dirty keto seems to not care as much about where your fat sources come from, says Keatley. So, if you want to have a fast-food egg-and-sausage sandwich (no biscuit, though!) followed by a bun-less bacon cheeseburger for lunch and ice cream for dinner, you’re golden…on this diet, at least. Dirty keto dieters also don’t pay as much attention to vegetables and other keto-friendly sources of fiber.
As you can guess, this really isn’t great for your overall health. For starters, there’s all the processed foods you’re eating. But dirty keto could also increase your risk of having a bad case of the “keto flu,” which is having IBS-like symptoms and feeling wiped out in general, says Keatley.
That’s likely because you’re choosing those super-processed foods, which don’t add much to your diet overall, over ones that can actually supplement your health, like healthy fats and vegetables. Cue the feelings of total crap.
Well, will it work like the keto diet? A.k.a., can it help me lose weight?
Sure—even if you’re in ketosis by following dirty keto, well, you’re still in ketosis.
“The goal of a keto diet is to place your body into a physiological state of ketosis, where your body uses fat instead of sugar because there is limited available sugar,” Keatley says. “This state can be achieved through both good and bad methods.”
Though, keep in mind that calories still matter. The healthy range for women is 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day—but that’s for maintaining your current weight; subtract 500 calories from your caloric needs to figure out how many calories you need to consume to lose about a pound a week.
As for whether or not dirty keto is healthy—even in comparison to the original keto diet—that’s another story. Dirty keto doesn’t necessarily promote health (or healthy weight loss), thanks to processed foods that are typically eaten in place of other foods that contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, fats, and fiber, says Keatley.
So what’s the verdict? Should I try the dirty keto diet?
Yeah, probably not. “It’s a temporary fix at best,” says Keatley. At worst, it’s “a really good way to lose lean body mass that is difficult to get back and aids in maintaining a high functioning metabolism,” he adds.
If I’m being honest, though, the keto diet in general isn’t great for people in the long-term, says Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., a non-diet dietitian based in New York City. “While you may lose weight in the short term, 90-95% of people who lose weight with diets will gain it back and two-thirds of people gain back more than they lost,” she says.
“This type of yo-yo dieting—or weight cycling—can be more detrimental to your health than just staying at a higher weight.” And if you throw a nutrient-poor diet into the mix, like with dirty keto, you’re not doing yourself any favors either, she says. Sounds like a definite hard pass for dirty keto.
The bottom line: Dirty keto might seem like an easier version of the keto diet, but it’s decidedly less healthy—and likely even less sustainable.
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