Keto for women is a special topic. Learn with us how it affects your body and the ways you can use it to your advantage.
Keto is a hot topic. It really is, especially that many people have become more conscious about their health. While you’re reading this article, you might be wondering why we’ve created a separate topic on keto for women.
But first, picture this scenario:
Shiela, a woman in her late 20’s, has started a low-carb, high-fat diet with her boyfriend. At first, they made the same progress. They’re doing awesome. But after 3 months, she notices stalling:
“I’m no longer losing weight. Sometimes I also feel like I’ve gained a little weight.”
Women are more likely to encounter stumbling blocks than men when following a keto diet. Yes, the diet offers tremendous benefits for both genders. But a woman’s body undergoes changes that need special precautions.
How the Keto Diet is Different for Women
Before we dive deeper, here’s what you should know. There aren’t many studies about women on keto yet. For us to understand this subject matter, we need to:
- Break down the factors that affect a female’s body.
- Discuss what we know so far.
Alright, so let’s dive in.
The ovaries produce two important hormones namely, estrogen and progesterone. Your hormones do not only regulate your menstrual cycle, but they also play a role in pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
Did you also know that your hormones regulate your appetite and weight?
Estrogen inhibits food intake, while progesterone boosts your appetite 1.
Testosterone is another hormone produced by your ovaries in small amounts. But when your testosterone levels are high because of PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome, your appetite increases 1.
Not to mention, high testosterone can cause obesity and infertility in women.
A big reason why a keto diet for women helps is that it balances their hormones. For example, in a pilot study, eleven women who followed a ketogenic diet had a reduction in weight and percent free testosterone 2.
Keto can balance out hormones in women.
Males don’t get periods and women do. So, what’s the big deal?
Each month, women experience that dreaded PMS (premenstrual syndrome). PMS symptoms make it challenging to stay in ketosis. What’s difficult about it?
Consider the following scenarios:
Two weeks before your period, you’ll have intense cravings for carbohydrates. You can’t seem to take your mind off those pastries you saw on TV! But at the same time, you know that too many carbs kick you out of ketosis.
Premenstrual headaches make keto flu even worse. Because when you’re trying to get used to fewer carbs, you can experience headaches.
Bottom line: Men skip these awful symptoms! That explains why they have an easier journey on keto.
Some women on keto ask: “Will this diet help boost my fertility?” The good news is that it addresses health issues that contribute to infertility. It increases your chances of getting pregnant!
But what if you are already pregnant? Going low-carb during pregnancy may not be the best option for you. No studies have been conducted on this yet. The studies that are available were done on mice – and we are not mice 3.
Moreover, your baby needs nutrients to support its growth. Glucose is the principal energy source for the placenta and fetus.
In conclusion, pregnant women should not aim to lose weight, reduce carbs, and cut calories.
Carbs help increase milk production.
Breastfeeding women should not start a restrictive diet such as keto.
Going low-carb can cause insomnia. Stress and a lack of sleep will dramatically reduce your milk supply 4.
Lactating moms need superfoods like whole grain products and fruits. These carb-rich foods are important sources of nutrients. They provide energy and increase milk production 5, 6.
How to Make the Keto Diet Work for Women
Are you ready to use the keto diet to your advantage? Whether you’re new to it or have stalled along the way, follow these tips.
Do not under eat fat
Many women limit their fat intake because they’re scared to overeat calories.
The truth is, there is no need to stress over calories on keto. However, you also need to be careful not to overeat and ignore physical activity. A calorie deficit is still a part of weight loss – though it isn’t everything.
Here’s an interesting study:
Overweight adults with type 2 diabetes ate a high-fat diet and yet were satisfied at a lower calorie intake 10.
Healthy fats also stimulate the production of hormones. Eat more healthy fats such as avocados, MCT oil, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds!
Outsmart those PMS cravings
Even when following a low-carb lifestyle, you’re not 100% immune to cravings. PMS, remember? Unfortunately, hormonal changes in our body strongly influence our appetite.
What to do when those hormonal cravings strike? Don’t fight them!
Here’s the key:
Choose yummy treats that are keto-friendly. You have tons of options. Desserts such as fat bombs and keto bars will make you a happy kiddo. If you have time, you can prepare your own desserts. Just make sure to use stevia as a sweetener and almond flour for baking.
Take vitamin and mineral supplements
Nutrient deficiencies may happen on keto if you’re not careful! You can lose micronutrients such as:
- Vitamin D
- B vitamins
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
The list goes on. Keep in mind that micronutrients are important for balancing your hormones. B vitamins, for example, help create and activate estrogen 11.
Vary your workouts
No woman wants to experience a weight loss plateau – yet it happens. An effective way to beat it is to do something new. If you’re following the same exercise routine and you’re not seeing progress, change it.
A fasted cardio exercise allows for more fat loss. Why not give a high-intensity interval workout a try? Strength training exercises using lighter weights and more reps work as well.
Combining different workouts help you get the best results.
Reduce your stress
Stress affects a woman’s health in many ways. While your energy temporarily increases to handle stress, different parts and functions of your body suffer.
Here are some of the effects of stress 12:
- Worsens PMS symptoms
- Irregular periods
- Problems with getting pregnant
- Headaches and migraines
Lowering your stress will not only help you ease into keto, but it will also make the diet work even better for you.
Benefits of the Keto Diet for Women
The ketogenic diet for women has many advantages. Except for pregnant and lactating women, keto helps you in the following ways:
Lowers your blood glucose levels
Women who want to conceive should maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Blood glucose control is important for many reasons. It also protects you from health problems like diabetes and obesity.
If you already have type 2 diabetes, it can reverse your condition. Virta Health published its two-year clinical trial which showed the safe and sustainable reversal of this condition 7.
Reduces inflammation throughout your body
You’ll have fewer aches and pains after going low-carb.
Chances are, you already know what inflammation does to your body. Signs of inflammation include:
- Skin outbreaks
- Weight gain
- Low energy levels
- Body aches
The keto diet prohibits eating high-sugar foods that trigger inflammatory pathways like NFkB and COX-2 8.
Relieves menopausal symptoms
Estrogen levels drop in women approaching menopause. What are some effects of this decrease in estrogen? They include hot flashes, mood swings, depression, and weight gain.
A low-carb, high-fat diet includes foods that increase estrogen. Examples are cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower), flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and walnuts.
Helps you reach your weight loss goals faster
The keto diet can make weight loss happen without calorie restriction.
To help you understand its mechanism, here’s a simple explanation:
When you reduce carbs in your diet, your blood glucose drops. As a result, your body looks for an alternative fuel source. In this case – fat. It breaks down your stored fat to produce ketones which now serve as your fuel 9.
This is good news for women who struggle with weight issues and diets that leave them famished. But as a woman on keto, you must also learn to eat smart, especially when PMS strikes.
A keto diet for female health is always a good idea as long as it is done the right way. Women’s bodies undergo changes more often, and that’s what makes things challenging. But the knowledge we shared should help clear up some misconceptions – especially with pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you believe this diet can change your life for the better, get started right now!
- A keto diet helps restore hormonal balance.
- When deciding to follow the diet, women should consider possible setbacks like PMS symptoms and her plans on conceiving.
- Ketosis brings benefits like weight loss, blood glucose control, and more!
- Stay on top of your diet by always meeting your body’s needs and making adjustments when necessary.
Regarding breastfeeding, once you have established your supply, I think you can try keto and monitor your supply. I have been doing keto for 3 months and have had no negative impact to my breastmilk. BUT, my baby is 18 months old and my supply was very well established. I would not have tried this prior to 6 months postpartum.
That’s a good point! Thank you for sharing your experience. I think every mom who’s eager to start or re-start keto would love to read this!