Lazy keto is having a moment. The lite version of carb-cutting keto, it’s gaining interest due to research connecting obesity, type 2 diabetes and increased covid-19 fatality.
However, the keto diet — lazy or otherwise — is a case of much unpleasant, overcomplicated, ado for nothing. It’s painful to start, extremely hard to stick to long-term and can come with some pretty serious health consequences.
Every few years, a new low carb diet fad enjoys its 15 minutes in the spotlight. Early on in the revolving door of dieting trends we had the Atkins Diet. That name alone has the power to transport you and your nostalgia to the early 2000s, when about 10% of Americans were on the low-carb diet.
More recently, we got the ketogenic — or keto diet. 100% a product of our frenzied, digital world, it caught the biohacking train out of Silicon Valley in the mid-2010s.
The principle behind keto seems fairly straightforward. Carbohydrates can account for only 5% of your daily calories, roughly 20 grams, or one large potato. The rest should come from 75-90% fats and just 5-20% protein.
This delicate balance of macronutrients puts your body in a state called ketosis, where your organism relies on body fat for energy instead of carbs. Keto’s supposed weight-loss and health benefits all hinge on this metabolic state.
The diet was initially developed by doctors in the 1920s trying to control seizures in children with epilepsy. They noted that, along with having improved symptoms, children on this treatment did not tend to become overweight.
“Doing keto” is a pretty complicated and calculation-heavy process. It involves carefully weighing and adjusting your macronutrient intake and timing meals just right. And even then, you won’t know for sure if you’re “in ketosis” until you take a urine (less reliable) or blood test (more reliable).
That’s a pretty hardcore way to go about merely losing weight. Not to mention, with an entire nutrient group off the table (pun intended), your social life might start to shrink before your midsection does.
Enter lazy keto — all the benefits of the traditional keto diet and none of the downsides.
What is lazy keto?
If you’re not a fan of micromanaging the pleasure out of your food, then peeing on a test strip to see if you got it right, lazy keto is the weight loss diet for you. Or so the fad would have you believe.
On lazy keto, you only need to monitor your net carb intake and make sure it stays consistently under 20g per day. (This refers to the amount of digestible carbohydrates in a given food, not including fiber content. Some veggies and even fruits are considered to be keto-friendly due to being high-fibre and otherwise low-carb.)
Sounds great, right?
Not so fast, ketosis
First of all, most people doing lazy keto aren’t even in ketosis. It takes careful monitoring of macronutrients — not just carbs — to reach this metabolic state. You can easily eat a bit too much protein and too little fat, tipping your body out of ketosis.
Your organism is fine-tuned to use all other energy sources before resorting to fat, in order to protect vital functions like immune and temperature regulation. In the absence of carbs, it will turn any available protein into glucose, through a process called gluconeogenesis.
You might be hungry all the time
Fat is very satiating, which can make it easier to eat less overall while on keto. Over time, this calorie deficit translates into the sought-after weight loss.
If you’re doing lazy keto, however, you never know for sure how much fat vs protein you’re eating. This can leave you feeling perpetually hungry, tired and irritable, because your body’s energy needs aren’t being met. Even if this causes you to lose a couple of pounds, it’s not pleasant or sustainable long-term. The effects of prolonged deprivation on the body are pretty grisly.
Not every diet that claims to help you lose weight is automatically healthy. On the contrary, because of its restrictive nature, lazy keto may turn out to be damaging to your health. Eliminating carbs from your diet cuts out important sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber found in healthy (but keto-unfriendly) foods such as fruits and starchy vegetables. Some of these include so-called superfoods, such as broccoli, chickpeas, grapes and bananas.
Lazy keto is simply insufficient for long-term, balanced health. Imagine having fatty meat in a too-rich sauce over boiled cauliflower every night for dinner.
Eating this much fat can even push your cholesterol levels into dangerous territory, as studies have shown.
If you really have your heart set on trying lazy keto, do yourself a favour and stick to healthy fats — like those found in nuts, avocado, olive oil, fish and seafood.
During the first weeks to a month of lazy keto most people experience the so-called a “keto flu”. This fun-sounding constellation of symptoms including headaches, constipation, nausea, vomiting and near-constant irritability happens while your body adjusts to the new balance of macronutrients. How glamorous!
Kidney stones and heart problems
Ketosis, if done right, tends to make you severely dehydrated. In the process of breaking down fat for energy, your body produces ketones. As a build-up of ketones can be dangerous, any excess gets flushed out through increased urination, leading to dehydration.
Along with possible electrolyte imbalances, dehydration has other nasty effects, such as dizziness and even kidney stones.
Also, an electrolyte imbalance (think sodium, magnesium and potassium) can lead to an irregular heartbeat, which is fatal in some cases.
The bottom line
Lazy keto might result in slightly faster weight loss in the beginning, but much of that is water weight. Over time, this effect evens out and keto becomes no more effective a weight loss tool than any other calorie-restricting diet.
I’m sorry, folks, it’s the unsexy truth. Chugging buttered coffee as part of a balanced lazy keto breakfast won’t turn your body into a fat-burning machine. For now, we’re stuck with the laws of thermodynamics. Energy in = energy out. Amen.
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