What is Lazy Keto and Does It Work?

Lazy Keto Cover Image

Some people try the classic ketogenic diet and decide that it's just too much work. They'd rather continue the way they were eating and take their chances instead of constantly counting carbs, calories and protein and reading labels. So many labels.

In some ways, that's totally understandable.

Others are also put off by the amount of discipline it takes to adhere to the strict keto diet, but instead of throwing in the towel completely, they follow a less rigid path. One where they strive to consume less than 20 grams of carbs a day but don't spend time tracking calories and protein.

These folks practice what has become known as "lazy keto."

A Quick Refresher About the Diet

Before we get into an explanation of lazy keto, it's important that we're all on the same page when it comes to understanding exactly what is meant by a "ketogenic diet."

The ketogenic diet requires a person to eliminate all but a tiny amount of carbs from their meals. When they do this for several days in a row, their body, starved of its default fuel source (carbohydrates), shifts gears and falls back on its secondary fuel source (fats).

Keto diet sketch chart

In order to metabolize those fats, the liver begins producing what are called "ketone bodies." [1] When this happens, a person is said to be in "ketosis." Usually what happens in ketosis is that blood sugar levels become more stable, and because the person is burning fat instead of carbs for fuel, they lose weight.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the ketogenic diet is effective "as a tool to fight obesity, hyperlipidemia, and some cardiovascular risk factors…" [2]

diet recipes ingredients

The lifestyle was originally developed about a century ago as a way to help adolescents suffering from seizure disorders gain a bit of control over their lives. However, In the years following the Second World War, it was largely replaced as a treatment for seizure disorders by ever more effective anticonvulsant drugs.

Near the end of the 20th century, however, it found new life as a weight loss treatment, and since then it has been adopted by millions of people the world over, including those who practice the lifestyle in its "lazy" form.

Defining What "Lazy Keto" Means:

There are a number of different definitions for what constitutes lazy keto.

To some people, it means eating anything they want as long as they stay below 20 grams of carbs per day. That might even mean eating things somebody on the strict keto diet wouldn't touch, like packaged foods or foods that contain refined sugar or trans-fats.

But for most people lazy keto simply means no longer counting calories and protein.

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Why Count Calories and Protein in the First Place?

Nutrition facts

The habit of tracking calories and protein intake on the traditional keto diet came from the original formula developed a century ago.

The thinking was (and still is for a lot of keto traditionalists) that in order to achieve and maintain ketosis, you should get about 70 percent of your calories from fat, around 20 percent from protein and about 10 percent from carbohydrates.

Obviously, in order to determine exactly how much of each you should consume, you'd have to do a bunch of math based on how many calories you consumed every day.

For instance: if you consumed 1,000 calories then you'd have to make sure 700 of them came from fat, 200 came from protein, and the remaining 100 calories came from carbs. If you ate 1,400 calories the next day, you'd have to adjust those numbers again and if you ate 1,250 calories the day after, you'd have to have the calculator handy and adjust them... again.

And on and on and on… You'd also have to calculate exactly how many grams of carbohydrates the different calorie amounts equaled (for the record, each gram of carbs is approximately 4 calories).

The Eureka Moment

It's a lot of work, and you can understand why people might throw up their hands and say "There's got to be a better way!!"

That's where lazy keto comes in.

You see, the people who developed the idea of lazy keto did some research of their own and reached a startling conclusion. And that is: no matter how many calories you consume (within reason of course), if you eat less than 20 grams of carbs per day, you will lose weight.

idea moment

Doubters need look no further than this study by the NIH [3] which concluded there is a "clear benefit of a VLCK over LF diet for short-term body weight and fat loss." (In this case, VLCK means "very low-carbohydrate ketogenic" and LF mean "low fat.")

So you can see the lazy keto folks are definitely on to something.

But Does Lazy Keto Work Long-Term?

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Yes. How's that for a straight answer?

The fact is, if you restrict the amount of carbs you eat to 20 grams per day, you're going to lose weight and keep it off.

There are, however, a couple of things someone intent on going the lazy keto route needs to keep in mind.

First off, if a person is sort of cavalier about what kind of fats they consume they’re going to open themselves up to all sorts of health problems.

Trans-fats and processed polyunsaturated fats are known to increase your risk of:

  • ​Heart disease and stroke
  • ​Certain types of cancer
  • ​High blood cholesterol
  • ​Type II diabetes
  • ​GI conditions like acid reflux
tired lady

​​​​​These types of fat are commonly found in processed foods like cookies, margarine, fast food burgers, and fried chicken.

Certain types of processed vegetable oils including soybean oil, canola oil, and even sunflower oil are also known to be hotbeds for trans-fats and processed polyunsaturated fats. (Unprocessed polyunsaturated fats are actually good for you. Confusing, we know.)

Second, if your lazy keto is too lazy, you might not get the fiber your body needs.

Fiber is crucial in helping to maintain a healthy digestive system. Without it, things inside the stomach and intestines can grind to a halt with the result being:

man resting after working out

​​​​​​The problem arises because fiber is also a type of carbohydrate and so a lot of people who are only counting carbs eliminate fiber to make their 20 grams of carbs per day goal. They then wind up with all sorts of gastrointestinal issues. As the GI issues mount, some will stop losing weight and may even begin to gain some weight back.

The Bottom Line: Should You Do It?

foods for your keto diet

While you won't need to count calories or protein to lose weight on the lazy keto diet, you will need to be mindful of the kinds of food you're eating.

Sticking to 20 grams of carbohydrates per day will no doubt allow you to lose weight, but you can't eat a bunch of stuff that's no good for you and expect that you won't pay a price in the long run. Likewise, you can't ignore fiber and expect your gut to be happy about it.

If you've decided that a strict keto diet isn't for you, but you still want to enjoy most of the benefits, lazy keto is definitely an option you'll want to explore.

Just remember that while you won't have to do a bunch of calorie and protein-counting, you will need to be mindful of what you're eating. That said, good luck!

About the Author

Ryan is a personal trainer, athlete, health enthusiast, and entrepreneur. He is researching and expanding his knowledge about the ketogenic diet. He spends most of his time writing content about his new learnings of the ketogenic diet and shares it on Ketogenic Supplement Reviews. You can find me on: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.