The ketogenic diet can be a fantastic way to reduce inflammation, improve your energy, increase your focus and control your body fat but is the keto diet different for women than men? Not exactly.
As countless ketogenic diet articles have pointed out, the ketogenic diet is going to be more difficult for women than it is for men since females have different hormones and a hormone cycle. Women will naturally have more body fat and less muscle then men. This starts then out at a disadvantageous position.
Right now, at the start of keto, your body is running on carbohydrates for fuel. Once you become fat adapted and get into keto, you’re going to start using your stored body fat. Since women naturally have more body fat then men, once they hit their "stride" in keto they'll enjoy the results.
3 Ways That Keto For Women Can Work (And what to avoid)
Manage your hormones
There are multiple reasons why female hormones fluctuate from dietary changes to stress to menstrual cycles. As a result, I favor a more gradual approach to females when starting the ketogenic diet.
The two main issues women face on a keto diet is that they drastically cut their carbohydrates and they don’t eat enough food. Both of these negatively impact hormonal health. As a result, the keto diet needs to be adjusted for female hormones. Not the other way around. It's not some "this is how you do the diet" approach but rather linked to more hormonal varieties.
Cutting Carbohydrates Too Fast
Generally speaking, most people operate on a higher carbohydrate diet when they want to switch to keto. The drastic drops in carbohydrates combined with the weird internet theory that you can’t have any carbs on a keto diet typically sends women down the wrong path.
The need to drop carbohydrates, initially, is to put you in ketosis faster. Yes, this will cause weight loss and improvements in cholesterol and blood sugar biomarkers but your body is very preceptive and it understands what you’re doing. Women will suffer from “that time of month” and crave more sweets and sugars.
So why, as a diet coach or nutritionist, would you recommend that someone DOESN’T eat carbohydrates during that time of the month?
This is compounded when hard training women need energy to fuel their training. If you are training hard, make sure to read our keto pre workout, keto pre workout supplementation and keto post workout guides.
As a suggestion for women doing the keto diet, start the diet after your cycle. Slowly start to lower your carbohydrates during the first two weeks. Once week three hits, now you’re really going to scale down your carbohydrates so you’ll be fat adapted by the time your cycle hits. Eating carbs will NOT kick you out of ketosis.
I need you to establish a baseline in the first two weeks. What amounts of carbohydrates and fats are you able to effectively operate on? Energy dips are okay but if you are sluggish then you might want to consider adding extra fat in during the two initial weeks to assess how that helps you. If you are not losing weight on the keto diet then you need to continually tinker with the food you're eating.
Your hormones can take a beating during keto which is why I want to emphasize taking your time and slowly adjusting your carbohydrate intake.
Track your food intake at the start of keto. Make notes about how hungry you feel and hormonally what’s going on.
Keto snacks will help to manage your hormonal cravings so make use of keto protein bars to keto ice cream to keto cookies.These are by no means staples in your diet but they help ease the hormonal burden of the keto diet especially as cravings kick in.
And there’s no need to stress about maintaining strict keto when your hormones act up. Sometimes it’s just a matter of eating more fat or more nutrient dense protein sources.
You’re not eating enough
I touched upon this already but when the keto diet gets hard, I want you to eat MORE food. Don’t scale back, don’t go for the unhealthy oil laden potato chips.
Listen, it’s okay to add sea salt to your potatoes or in your water, if anything it’ll help you hormonally but controlling your cravings is the goal here.
Women on the ketogenic diet struggle as a result of their hormonal fluctuations, I think I beat that drum enough. But the lack of results and the issues there are compounded with trying to do too much. Slow and steady.
It’s okay to eat carbohydrates on a ketogenic diet. This obsession with low carb keto is likely the cause of a lot of diet pain. Eat carbohydrates when you need to, eat the piece of dark chocolate and when all else fails, eat more fat. The keto diet can be effective for women if you go slow.