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What is 'dirty keto' and does it work better than the keto diet?

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You’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet — the low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein trend people everywhere seem to be raving about. But how much do you know about the dirty keto diet?

The spin-off to keto follows the same big rules of the original, but with one big plus for fast food lovers: You can gorge on your junk food three times a day.

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The basics of the keto diet include a highly restrictive carb limit with a nearly unlimited intake of fats (as long as you’re within your calorie deficit). 

As the AJC previously reported, “For most people, that's a big adjustment, since the average American gets close to half of his or her calories from carbs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

These macronutrient ratios are intended to drive your body into ketosis, when your body turns to stored fat and protein instead of carbohydrates for energy.

Keto dieters typically gravitate toward organic, healthy low-carb foods like fish, eggs, vegetables, meat and natural fats (butter, olive oil, coconut oil). They’re encouraged to limit saturated fats.

>>Related: Considering the Paleo Diet? Here's what you need to know

How is dirty keto different?

Unlike keto dieters, those on the so-called dirty keto diet might use some ratio principles of keto to indulge on traditionally unhealthy snacks. Think processed foods like pork rinds, sliced cheese, an egg-and-sausage sandwich (sans biscuit) or bacon cheeseburger (without the bun).

Dirty keto dieters are also less prone to focus on the keto-friendly sources of fiber, like vegetables. Overall, they zone in on the low-carb part of keto and ignore the fat or protein aspects.

Dieters still getting less than about 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, but opting for foods most keto dieters would likely avoid.

“While there may be some foods you avoid because YOU react poorly to them, just because a food has added sugar or starch or wheat or whatever it is not off limits if it fits your macros,” according to admins of the Facebook group, “The Dirty Keto Life.”

So, which works better for weight loss?

Some followers of the dirty keto diet claim they’ve had more success with weight loss, but “it’s a temporary fix at best,” nutritionist Scott Keatley told Women’s Health.

“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 said. “This state can be achieved through both good and bad methods."

Dirty keto, he said, is “a really good way to lose lean body mass that is difficult to get back and aids in maintaining a high-functioning metabolism.” But it’s not a great idea in the long run.

>>Related: How to lose weight: Take a break from your diet for two weeks 

According to Insider, the main issue with the dirty keto diet is its lack of micronutrients: vitamins and minerals vital to human health and body function.

“Even though micronutrients aren't the star players in weight loss, when you're trying to lose weight it's important to focus on more than just calories in, calories out,” dietitian Trinh Le wrote in her blog. “It's the quality of those calories that matter, and that is determined by the foods you choose to put in your body.”

Additionally, as Women’s Health points out, those on the dirty keto diet are also more likely to get swept up in the infamous “keto flu,” which involves flu-like symptoms caused by the body adapting to a low-carb diet.

“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,” the magazine reported.

Before you choose to go on the ketogenic (or its spin-off), be sure to check with your doctor, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

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