Clean keto, dirty keto, Lazy keto, strict keto, modified keto, classic keto! What do they all mean? If all of this is a bit confusing, then this is the article for you.
Different Types of Keto | Dirty Keto vs. Clean Keto
12-Mar 2022, by Lee Sandwith
Clean Keto vs. Dirty Keto
Clean keto, dirty keto, Lazy keto, strict keto, modified keto, classic keto! What do they all mean? If all of this is a bit confusing, then this is the article for you as the different types of keto is what it’s all about.
Back To The Keto Basics
Before we get into the different types of keto, let’s start with a refresher on what keto is.
The word keto comes from the scientific term “ketogenesis". Ketogenesis is a "metabolic state” where the body starts to produce molecules called "ketone bodies" which are used for fuel instead of glucose.
The body does this by using fat as the main energy source instead of carbs, essentially by converting fat into ketone bodies.
Now, when we talk about fat, we’re talking about two things:
First, we’re talking about dietary fat, i.e. any fat that you consume in the diet
And Second, we’re talking about fat stored on your body in the form of what’s technically referred to as adipose tissue which is basically a fancy terms for “body fat”.
The keto diet, therefore, is one which encourages the body to switch its main fuel source from glucose to ketones through the process of ketogenesis.
The word keto comes from the scientific term ketogenesis which is a metabolic state where the body starts to produce molecules called ketone bodies which are used for fuel instead of glucose.
The Classical Ketogenic Diet
The first records of keto date back to the 1920s when Dr. Russell Wilder from the Mayo Clinic designed a diet for the treatment of drug resistant epilepsy in children.
This has become known as the Classical Ketogenic Diet and it’s one of the strictest variations of keto due to its 4:1 macronutrient ratio.
The 4:1 ratio means there are four parts fat for every one-part protein and carb.
Since fat has a higher caloric content versus protein and carbs, 90% of calories come from fat, 6% from protein, and 4% come from carbs.
There seems to be little info on what the diet comprised other than that the macronutrient goals were achieved by excluding high-carbohydrate foods such as starchy fruits and vegetables, bread, pasta, grains, and sugar, while increasing the consumption of foods high in fat such as nuts, cream, and butter.
The Atkins Diet
The next historical low-carb milestone of significant note is the Atkins Diet which was developed in the 1960s by cardiologist Robert C Atkins.
Atkins was a one of the first scientists to propose a link between carbohydrate consumption and metabolic health issues.
The main difference between the Classical Ketogenic diet and Atkins are twofold.
First, in Atkins, the emphasis is on very low-carb rather than a strict macronutrient ratio and the diet is specifically much more liberal with protein.
Second, Atkins follows a staged approach where you gradually introduce carbs once you’ve started to achieve your weight loss goals.
Although very effective for weight loss, the Atkins Diet ended up getting a really bad rap for the types of meat that could be consumed as it’s possible to meet your low-carb objectives by eating a lot of fried and processed meat.
So, you might lose a tonne of weight, but if you achieve that by eating unhealthy, processed junk then there would in all likelihood be negative health consequences to that.
Nevertheless, Atkins was onto something and his original diet has been adapted and improved, paving the way for a more modern approach to low-carb.
Enter Modified Atkins.
Modified Atkins, sometimes abbreviated to in the literature as MAD, goes back to the 2000s where families who were following Classic Keto to treat epilepsy noticed that you could get the same results by being slightly less strict on the macronutrient ratios.
Without getting to too much detail, it’s essentially a mix between Classic Keto and Atkins but where Atkins is liberal with protein, MAD discourages so much protein and encourages fat instead.
Modern day keto diets
Over the last few years, the interested in keto has exploded due to its high efficacy for weight loss. And this has resulted in a lot of the spin off keto diets that you are more likely more familiar with.
There are a number of different terms flying around such as Strict Keto, Lazy Keto and Dirty Keto, but I think that the major evolution in recent times which separates keto from Atkins is the emphasis on wholefoods and the exclusion of harmful ingredients.
This is where I find that the lines of common sense, logic and fundamental science become a little blurry and a lot frustrating (I’ll explain what I mean by this at the end).
Strict Keto applies the same macronutrients as Classic Keto which results in around 15-20g carbs per day, and a restriction on protein as well as carbs.
In addition, modern day advocates of Strict Keto follow a wholefoods-based diet and exclude harmful ingredients such as vegetable oils and artificial sweeteners.
Some people also believe that ingredients like gluten are “not keto” – more on this later.
With Lazy Keto, the rules on macronutrient ratios are a bit looser and there would be less emphasis on measuring and monitoring things.
The objective is still to get into ketosis but the understanding is that is can be done without being so strict so in that sense it’s similar to Modified Atkins.
Dirty Keto is even more relaxed than the others as practically any type of food goes as long as you keep your carbs low enough to stay in ketosis.
That means anything is on the table including vegetable oils, gluten, unhealthy sweeteners and keto friendly junk foods.
In my opinion, this is very similar to the If It Fits Your Macros Diet which was very popular a few years ago, but the macro of importance is carbs.
Now for a very unpopular opinion
Hopefully that provides some clarity on the different types of keto but I’m not quite finished yet.
Anyone who knows me well knows how much I hate all of these modern “spin off” types of keto.
Let me explain.
I think the keto diet that is popular today is what I would class as a modified ketogenic diet. That is, low enough carbs to drive the process of ketosis, but not as strict as the 4:1 ratio as Classic keto.
That makes sense as essentially people have discovered that they can still benefit from the therapeutic effects of keto but without being ridiculously strict.
But going beyond this, creating new diets such as “lazy keto” and “dirty keto” is going a step too far.
Personally, I honestly believe that all of these new categorisations make things much more complicated for people and the whole thing has become very frustrating.
There are two main reasons for this.
The “Keto Not Keto” debate is painful
We hear time and time again that products are “not keto” because they include certain ingredients, the most common villains being gluten and vegetable oil.
Let me be very clear on this.
Consuming gluten or vegetable oil does not have any impact on the metabolic state of ketosis.
This is not an opinion, it is scientific fact.
Therefore, the conversation about whether products including these ingredients are keto or not is just noise.
And scientifically and nutritionally incorrect noise at that.
And this applies to practically every ingredient including “banned” natural sweeteners like dates and honey.
From a purely ketogenic standpoint, the only thing that matters is the carb count in the context of your own carb tolerance.
Individual ingredients are practically irrelevant in this context.
Now, what I’m not saying is that ingredients don’t matter, of course they do. What is the point of following a ketogenic diet if you’re eating unhealthy foods? But, that is not the same conversation as to whether something is keto or not keto.
Health and wellness goals
Firstly, everyone’s goal should be broadly the same in that we should all be focussing on improving health span and lifespan. Weight loss is a great start, but ultimately we should be focussing on longevity.
So, if you’re following keto but consuming junk food and shitty ingredients such as vegetable oil and maltitol, then you are truly missing the point.
The means truly to not justify the ends.
So which diet is best for you?
I take on a small number of clients each year for health and nutritional coaching and my guidance is always the same.
Invariably, clients who have a lot of weight to lose are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes so my first nutritional hammer is keto.
The diet I prescribe is simple: a well formulated ketogenic based around wholefoods. That is, ingredients bought from the supermarket and prepared at home.
80-90% of the diet should be based around wholefoods, then with the remaining percentage, enjoy some keto friendly desserts and treats. But 80-90% real food.
No processed junk, no refined added sugar, no vegetable or seed oils. Just fresh (lower carb) vegetables, salad and protein.
That most likely falls into either the modified keto or clean keto buckets but who cares? It doesn’t need a label, it’s just proper food.
It’s important to note that whilst keto is very effective for a large percentage of people, keto is not for everyone. There are lots of side effects and although most are rare, some can be quite severe so should be taken seriously.
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