Fact Checked by

Randall Evans, MS, RDN, LD

Types of Keto & How to Choose The Best One For You

The ketogenic diet offers a variety of options suited to different goals, lifestyles and sensitivities. You can use your preferences to pick the approach that's best for you.


There are four main types of keto. Which one is best for you? It depends on your weight-loss goals and the types of foods you want to eat.

The keto diet has become the new hot diet for weight loss, greater energy, focus, performance and even sleep; yet, let’s be real, it’s pretty restrictive.

You’re increasing fat intake to make up about 80 percent of your daily calories and slashing carbs down to under 25 grams of net carbs or so.

Luckily, there are variations that can help you tailor the keto diet to your needs. By choosing the type of keto that’s right for you, you can bend the rules a bit to make it less restrictive while still taking advantage of the benefits of keto.

So, whether you’re just getting started and looking for some guidance or trying to figure out how to make keto work for you, we’ll walk you through and help you decide which type of keto is best for you. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents
4 Main Types of Keto
If You Want to Lose Weight, Go With Standard
If You’re Looking to Bulk Up, Go For High Protein or Cyclical
If You’re Looking to do HIIT Sessions, Do Targeted Keto or Well-Formulated Keto
If You Care About the Environment, Go With Vegan or Eco Keto
If You’re Kind of Lazy, Go With Dirty Keto (Not Recommended)
If You Favor Clean Eating, Go With Clean Keto
If You Want an Extra Brain Boost, Go With MCT Oil Keto
If You Are Really, Really Set on Weight Loss, Go for Calorie Restricted or Very Low Carb Keto

4 Main Types of Keto

There are four main versions of the ketogenic diet, all of which are backed by research for providing good, positive results like weight loss, greater energy, better workout performance, and increased muscle building:

  1. Standard
  2. Cyclical
  3. High-protein
  4. Targeted

Other Variations of the Keto Diet

  1. Lazy/dirty keto
  2. Clean keto
  3. Very low carb keto
  4. Well-formulated keto
  5. MCT oil keto
  6. Calorie-restricted keto
  7. Vegan keto
  8. Eco keto

Let’s dive a bit deeper into each type and for whom they might be best based on goals and lifestyle.

types of keto plate icons

If You Want to Lose Weight, Go With Standard

There’s nothing wrong with sticking to a simple, classic version.

Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple with the standard version that the average keto dieter follows, especially when research has backed up its positive results in terms of stabilizing blood sugar (great for those with diabetes) and weight loss.

How To Do It

For the Standard version, you’d keep fat intake high with 80 percent of calories coming from fat, and carbs low at under 25 grams of net carbs or less. 

What the heck is a net carb? Here are some keto basics to get you started.

What You Get To Eat

Fats will come from healthy sources, like grass-fed butter and meat, as well as nuts, avocado, fatty fish, and seeds. You’ll avoid sugar, added sugar, and high-carb foods, like beans, legumes, whole grains, and of course, junk food.

Instead of sugar, you’ll have sugar alcohols, which don’t spike blood sugar or lead to cravings.

Benefits of Standard Keto

And you’ll reap the same rewards like weight loss, less bloating, zero brain fog, better energy levels, sounder sleep, and a greater sense of wellbeing.

This version is great for those who need basic structure, with reputable, backed evidence to support their actions, as shown above.

If You’re Looking to Bulk Up, Go For High Protein or Cyclical

For those who are trying to lose weight on keto but also gain muscle, where you might be lifting weights 4-6x/week, these two variations might be best.

Let’s talk about high-protein keto.

High-Protein Keto

How It Works

True to its name, high-protein keto involves eating more protein, especially after a training session to help repair muscle damage and build strength. Instead of protein being 20 percent or so of calories, it’ll be higher at 30 percent of calories, with the other 65 percent for fat and a tiny 5 percent from carbs.

According to research, this small increase can do wonders for your training and muscles, though! And it makes it easier to bulk up in workouts.

On this variation, you’re using about 10 to 15 percent of standard keto’s fat intake and just using it for protein intake instead. A good way to think of it is adding in 2 or 3 oz. of a piece of protein like fish, steak, or chicken to your plate. So, instead of enjoying a 3 oz. piece of chicken, you might have 5 oz. or 6 oz. at that meal.

What You Get To Eat

In terms of what you get to eat, you’d eat the same foods as you would on standard keto, just larger servings of protein, with protein that’s scattered throughout the day in snacks and meals to help produce more muscle.

For standard keto, if you’re sedentary, eat 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass at a minimum. If you are active, go for 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Since you are adding in more, add those extra grams, as explained above, but do not go over, as that is too much protein for ketosis.

Benefits of High-Protein Keto

Since they still include the same fat distribution as standard keto, you’ll be able to lose weight and get the same benefits in terms of energy and performance. Yet, you might change the protein and carb distribution to better fuel and recovery for and from those workout sessions.

Potential Drawbacks

Beyond the benefits, a drawback might be that you need to then be more vigilant for protein intake to make sure you’re getting more but not too much to offset ketosis. This version requires a bit more thinking in terms of the macronutrient breakdown.

cyclical high protein keto

Cyclical Keto

The other version you can choose for the same results but through carb manipulation rather than protein distribution is cyclical keto.

How It Works

Here, you are adding in more carbs on training days or using your net-carbs allowance around the workout, so you might eat them before and after, or just before to fuel your workout.

Here’s an easy way to do it: add in an extra 10 grams of net carbs before the workout and after the workout to fuel up and repair muscles. That is an extra 20 net grams of carbs a day.

Or you might just use an extra 10 grams of net carbs before the workout alone so you can have greater endurance to hit the weight room and then stick with more fats and protein post-workout for muscle recovery.

What You Get To Eat

In practice, this means adding in a protein bar or crackers with some nut butter pre-workout or post-workout. It could be as simple as just an extra snack that has some carbs to it. You’d eat the same foods as standard keto—just adding in a few extra carbs each day.

Consider a protein bar before or after. That bar might have 200 or so calories, along with perhaps 11-15 grams of protein for muscle building and fuel. Some examples are Perfect Keto Protein Bars, Atlas Protein Bars, and Love Good Fats protein bars. These are my three favorites. Or you can add in another serving of low-carb crackers to go with your 1-2 tbsp of nut butter pre-workout.

Potential Drawbacks

A drawback for this version might be that you’re adding in more carbs and cycling, so you need to make sure the extra carbs you’re eating don’t kick you out of ketosis. A good rule of thumb is to avoid going over those extra 10-20 grams of net carbs a day. If you do go for 20 extra grams, split it up so it’s 10 grams pre- and post- workout rather than all at once, which is overwhelming on the body.

If you notice that cyclical keto is getting in the way of your results, go back to standard keto or try a different version, like targeted keto.

If You’re Looking to do HIIT Sessions, Do Targeted Keto or Well-Formulated Keto

If you’re breaking a sweat often, you might need to target carbs.

This is pretty similar to cyclical keto, since you’re targeting carb intake at certain times to best use them for fuel and to not store them as fat or have them lead to spiked blood sugar levels. The only difference between this and cyclical is that this one is specifically targeted around workouts for that pre-workout grub to make high-intensity workouts easier.

Targeted Keto

How It Works

Targeted keto is using your carb bank for when that energy source is most needed—and if you’re a HIIT junkie who loves high-intensity training, running, and sprints, where that heart rate is sky high, then you’d use those carbs to provide energy for the workout.

What You Get To Eat

Again, you’d eat the same foods as you would on standard keto, but you would time your carb intake according to workouts. You might also increase carb budget, too, as you would with cyclical keto.

We suggest eating your carbs 30 minutes to an hour before your workout to optimize your energy. If you eat right before you might get a stomach ache and not give your body enough time to process those carbs for fuel.

Potential Drawbacks

A drawback might be that you’re using up more carbs from your bank in a pretty timely shot, rather than spreading it out throughout the day. Yet, research has shown it can spur weight loss and help with training, so it if you’re an athlete on keto this could be the way to go.

You also need to increase electrolytes, as you’re sweating at high volume.

targeted well formulated keto

Well-Formulated Keto

How It Works

Here’s where the well-formulated keto variation comes in. On this plan you are focused on increasing mineral balance and electrolytes, both of which are lost through sweating. If you’re doing HIIT work, you’re dripping. A lot. So on this keto vartiation, you’ll be fueling up with foods that will restore lost minerals and give you the energy you need to keep up your workout routine.

What You Get To Eat

On this version you are eating the same foods as standard keto, with the same macronutrient ratios, but you are also prioritizing foods rich in electrolytes, such as those with magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

That means eating more leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and plain full-fat dairy (think cottage cheese or Greek yogurt). And supplementing with electrolyte tablets, as well as making sure to drink ample fluids, like water and coconut water, in the day.

Benefits of Well-Formulated Keto

A positive is that you are getting in more hydrating elements to better your body and performance. And you are fighting fatigue and bloating that can come with dehydration. This can boost weight loss, too.

Potential Drawbacks 

A drawback is you’re paying for extra electrolytes through supplementation, so perhaps it isn’t right for someone with a thin budget for products. Apart from that there aren’t other drawbacks, since you’re just getting in more vitamins, minerals, and fluids, which is good for you.

If You Care About the Environment, Go With Vegan or Eco Keto

Sustainability and plant-based eating might require a different version than standard keto.

Since most sources of fat and protein on standard keto do contain animal protein (think grass-fed butter, beef, eggs, and dairy, as well as fish, pork, and poultry), it might be hard to make sure you’re getting enough fat and protein from non-animal sources. Plus, the production of animal proteins can tax the environment, increasing your carbon footprint.

That’s why if you’re a conscious-consumer, following a vegan or eco keto version might be right for you.

How It Works

Eco keto and vegan are very similar—vegan keto is about cutting out ALL animal meat and dairy while eco keto is a variation that focuses on plant-based and sustainable eating. Either version will have the same macronutrient ratios as standard keto, help you stay in ketosis and lose weight, while still sticking to your dietary needs and lifestyle preferences.

What You Get To Eat

On both of these diets, you’d fill your plate with avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, tofu and soy-based protein, leafy greens and veggies.

Benefits of Vegan and Eco Keto

A positive is that you’re eating in a wholesome manner that’s aligned with your values and lifestyle. On top of that, the fat and protein you’re eating is healthy. high quality, and sourced from sustainable practices.

Potential Drawbacks

A potential drawback of this variation is that the cost of higher quality ingredients could add up quickly. This variation is also more limiting in what you can and cannot eat (on a diet that is already pretty restrictive!) Nutrients, like iron and protein, are less readily absorbed by the body from non-animal sources, and they come in smaller amounts per serving that’s equivalent to a serving of animal protein.

So, you need to be extra vigilant to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients to fuel the body—and if you’re not then supplementation might be helpful! It can be hard if you do not know how to pair foods appropriately, so chat with your RD if worried!

types of keto that are environmentally friendly

FYI—this is NOT the best keto variation to go with for fat loss and health.

How It Works

With lazy keto, the focus is solely on hitting your net carb goals instead of priotizing healthy food sources. By the lazy keto philosophy, as long as you’re staying under the 25g of net carbs per day then you’ll be in ketosis and be able to lose weight. The problem with this approach is it usually endorses eating a ton of junk food that takes it toll on your body and can be extremely detrimental to your health.

What You Get To Eat

On this version of keto, your diet consists of eating fried, processed and fattening foods that aren’t so good for your heart, body and energy levels. (who feels great after a double bacon cheeseburger??).

I mean, we get the appeal, who doesn’t love bacon, right? Yet, this version is all about throwing the rules out the window and just focusing on macros. With lazy keto, you can eat many things that are restricted on other diets, like these high-fat meats and dairy, but this variation is not healthy.

Potential Drawbacks

Since you’re mostly eating junk and processed foods, this usually results in high cholesterol, less fat loss and lower energy levels.

We don’t recommend this diet, as the drawbacks are clear, and the one positive is that you get to “cheat” and be lazy. And you might not get the results you’re looking for, which makes it not a great diet to follow at the end of the day.

dirty keto

If You Favor Clean Eating, Go With Clean Keto

That means whole foods all the way.

How It Works

Think the opposite of “dirty keto.” With clean keto, you are eating the same foods you would eat on standard keto, in the same proportions, but you’re choosing healthier and leaner proteins, using healthier cooking techniques, and choosing mostly unsaturated fats.

What You Get To Eat 

What does this look like? That means you’d choose olive oil over ghee or grass-fed butter for your broccoli. You would use lean turkey meat to go with eggs, rather than bacon or sausage. You’d favor avocado, nuts, seeds, and salmon, which have unsaturated, healthy fats, and keep saturated fats, from pork, steak, and coconuts, more so in moderation.

Benefits of Clean Keto

A positive is that it benefits your heart health and offers great nutrition. A drawback might be that it’s extra limiting on an already limiting plan. Yet, this version is pretty similar to standard keto in nature, and you’ll get some great weight loss, energy, and cognitive benefits, too, since you’re eating “clean” healthy foods.

clean keto

If You Want an Extra Brain Boost, Go With MCT Oil Keto

MCTs help improve cognitive thinking and brain health.

How It Works

This version looks just like standard keto but with more MCTs when possible. The idea behind MCT Oil Keto is to maximize brain performance as well as the benefits of keto by consuming ultra-healthy fats.

What You Get To Eat

What does that look like? It means you’ll eat the same foods as standard keto but you’ll add MCT oil to your morning cup of coffee, and you might include it in a fat bomb recipe, choose a protein bar that has infused MCT oil inside, or add it to a smoothie or post-workout shake.

Benefits of MCT Oil Keto

You’re not impairing ketosis at all, as MCTs have no carbs. You’re only increasing your fat intake, which is helpful for ketone production and you’ll reap those brain benefits to think clearer throughout the day.

Who might benefit? Anyone really! Who is it not for? Perhaps someone who doesn’t want extra calories, as MCTs do add in some calories to basic things, such as a coffee.

MCT oil

If You Are Really, Really Set on Weight Loss, Go for Calorie Restricted or Very Low Carb Keto

Be warned—these two are tough.

Very Low Carb Keto

How It Works

For Very Low Carb keto, you’re keeping your carb count very, very low. Instead of the already highly restrictive 25g of net carbs, low carb keto limits net carbs to under 20 grams each day. That’s not much! A single english muffin has about 24 net carbs. Of course, this will lower calories, but the focus on this variation is making carb count even smaller.

What You Get To Eat

You’d follow the same plan as standard keto—the same foods, the same ratios—but you’re decreasing the carb bank.

Benefits of Very Low Carb Keto

A positive is that you’re consuming fewer carbs for those weight loss, ketosis benefits, and it’ll be easier to stay in ketosis, since you’re not eating as many carbs.

Potential Drawbacks

Yet a huge drawback is that you’re restricting precious carbs even further! For those who LOVE carbs and are already struggling to get to 25 net grams a day, this diet is not ideal.

very low carb foods

Calorie Restricted Keto

How It Works

The purpose of calorie restricted keto is to accelerate weight loss by counting calories to make sure you have a caloric deficit. The problem with this variation is that it can be highly restrictive and challenging to meet all your daily nutrient requirements.

What You Get To Eat

For this version, you’re eating the same foods on standard keto, and you have the same nutrient breakdown, but you’re more focused on calorie counting. For this variation you’d want a journal or a calorie counter app to help you track.

And you might work with a dietitian who can help you figure out how many calories you need to function each day, and to help you make sure you’re getting enough fuel. A huge drawback and fear on this variation is malnourishment, so you need to be careful to not go too low in numbers.

Potential Downsides 

This diet is not appropriate for those who have struggled with disordered eating in the past or who are trying to gain muscle or increase their fitness training, as there’s a deficit in nutrients to fuel the body and strengthen muscles.


What is the best keto diet type?

That is hard to answer since it depends on the person. One version might be great for one person (like a vegan) while another is best for someone else (like a carnivore). The same goes for athletes versus non-athletes, where athletes might need targeted, high-protein, or cyclical. Listen to your body and choose one for yourself.

How can I reduce stomach fat?

The best way is to do standard keto or a high-protein or cyclical keto, since those allow you to workout more and exercise the “core,” or abdominal region. Plus, work on increasing electrolytes on one of these versions too, since hydration reduces bloating, making the stomach trimmer.

Is it good for your body to be in ketosis?

Yes, it is, as you are producing ketones and burning more fat, which is how you lose weight and gain energy. This is the whole outcome that people desire from the diet. So, you want to be in ketosis as much as possible.

Is it safe to use a variation of keto long-term?

More research needs to be known before giving a definite answer, but it appears likely. Since staying on standard keto forever is also doable, these variations should be too—if not easier, as some allow for more carbs and more flexibility over others.

Can you switch from one variation to another?

Yes you can. If one isn’t working, consult with a doctor and discuss a different one. Consider it trial and error until you find a version suitable with your lifestyle.

If I am eco or vegan keto, should I supplement?

You might want to supplement with iron and omega 3s, as you might not be getting enough from plant-based foods alone. Your dietitian or doctor can better advise if you should take additional nutrients or not.

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