If you’re a woman that’s considering starting the keto diet, you may have quite a few questions regarding how the particular dietary program can work for you. After all, people of both sexes are currently singing the praises of keto – which can offer enormous benefits for weight loss and even improving overall health.
However, it’s important to know that the keto diet for women looks a lot different than the keto diet for men; And in order to have success for the long-term, you have to know the key differences. This is because many women who start off with major success on keto end up hitting a weight loss plateau or gaining the weight back – so you need to know how to rise above these hurdles.
In this article, we’ll explain the unique differences between keto for women and keto for men, and how you can use the information to overcome any challenges that females can sometimes have on this diet. Follow along for our top tips on how to rock keto as a woman!
Unique Differences of a Keto Diet for Women
First off, if you’re a newcomer to the ketogenic diet in general, we want to direct you to our Keto for Beginners guide. This will catch you up on all the important details about what the keto diet is, and how the dietary program works. In addition, you may want to check out this Benefits and Downsides of Keto article as well.
Once you’re up to speed, this article will take a look at the major contrasts between keto for women vs. keto for men. Up until recently, differences in sex for those on the keto diet weren’t investigated since only male mice were used in studies. However, a new study by researchers from the University of Iowa looked at sex-based variations in response to the keto diet…
In the study, male or female mice were fed either a ketogenic or standard diet. The keto diet consisted of 75 percent fat, 3 percent carbs and 8 percent protein, while the control groups ate a diet consisting of 7 percent fat, 47 percent carbohydrates and 19 percent protein.
At the end of the study, (15 weeks), the results showed that while the male mice on the keto diet plan lost weight and maintained blood glucose control, the female mice eating the keto diet gained weight and had impaired glucose tolerance – therefore, having a higher risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
What this study shows us is that there is an absolute difference in how the keto diet works for women vs. men. Now, let’s find out why…
The Effect of Hormones: Keto for Women
There are many ways in which men and women differ, but one of the main ways is in their hormonal makeup. Women naturally contain more estrogen in their bodies than men do – something that could actually make it harder for women to succeed on keto, (as shown in the study we just discussed, above).
In the next step of the same study, the researchers removed the ovaries of some of the female mice and ran a similar experiment to the first one. But this time, the results were much different! In comparison, the female mice without ovaries on the keto diet showed similar results to men on keto: they lost body fat and had better glucose control.
So, what does this tell us?
- Women’s bodies are much different than men’s bodies in that they have unique female hormones intricately involved in everything from reproduction to stress to metabolism. These hormones are much more sensitive than male hormones, so reducing carbs quickly can have a drastic effect on how the body reacts.
- In order to succeed with a keto diet for women (especially for keto beginners), you need to approach the diet differently than men, and make adjustments that complement your body and hormones. In addition, you need to address other challenges specific to women, such as handling intense cravings around your menstrual cycle, along with other uncomfortable side effects of your period.
Let’s talk about our top tips for succeeding with keto for women…
How to Rock Keto As a Woman!
Don’t let what we’ve just told you about the keto diet for women discourage you… Though you may have to do things differently, you can absolutely still move forward on a keto diet – and get the results you want. Whether you’re a keto beginner or you’ve been following the dietary plan for a while successfully, (and then suddenly hit a wall with your progress), the following tips will benefit you. Read on to learn more about putting a keto diet for women into place that can work for the long-term…
- Reduce your carbs slowly (then monitor them)
Whereas men can go ahead and drop their carbs from what they typically eat to a very low-carb diet very quickly, women should ideally do it more gradually. This can help reduce the shock to the body, since carbohydrates are typically essential to hormonal health and balance for women. A female body can become fat-adapted on keto, but it will react better if it’s a gradual transition instead of abrupt.
In addition, this will help prevent a spike in cortisol – the stress hormone that may increase if you drastically reduce carbs. Suddenly being more stressed is not an optimal state for your body, and can potentially lead to health problems, over-eating and weight gain.
Instead, gradually reduce your carbs over a 3-week period, first examining how many carbs a day you typically eat. In the first week, reduce your carb amount by a fourth, going down to half of what you normally eat the second week, and then finally dipping to the amount appropriate to get into ketosis the third week.
But also, listen to your body. If at any point, you start to experience very uncomfortable side effects, you may want to slow the process down even more… (Check out this article on the Keto Flu, here). In addition to this, as you continue with keto, adjust your carbs to fit your lifestyle… If you’re working out intensely, trying to build muscle, or recovering from an illness, you may need more carbs in your daily schedule. If this is the case, Keto Cycling may work for you.
- Try intermittent fasting
Next, another tactic that can be particularly helpful for women doing keto, (to help increase weight loss results), is intermittent fasting. Many people are now doing intermittent fasting along with keto to get even greater results – since the practice has been shown to help increase your metabolism and burn even more calories. In addition, fasting may offer some health benefits, such as reducing overall inflammation in your body, lowering cholesterol levels and reducing your risk of heart disease.
Just like with the keto diet, however, you’ll want to approach intermittent fasting as a woman differently than a male. Basically, you want to give yourself more time to adjust, and approach it less aggressively.
More on intermittent fasting coming soon...
- Eat clean (and smart)
When it comes to cravings, it’s not just good enough for a woman to say, “I’m going to eat clean and healthy while on the keto diet.” While that may be your intention, if you’re premenopausal, during two weeks of the month (PMS and menstruation), you’ll be intensely craving unhealthy foods such as chocolate, carbs, and high-calorie junk foods.
Even women who have completed menopause still have the challenge of emotional eating to overcome – as they are much more prone to eating their way through negative feelings than men due to their hormonal structure.
To combat this, you want to make sure you’re prepared with clean, healthy foods that will satisfy your cravings for unhealthy ones! The good news is, keto is a high-fat diet, so you have some great, indulgent food choices that will help you stay in ketosis, while satisfying your desire for extra calories.
When you’re in the mood for more decadence in your meals, snacks and desserts, check out the following recipes – which provide your body with quality nutrition while containing the perfect macros to stay in ketosis…
- Keto Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
- Thin Mint Keto Shake
- Double Chocolate Keto Shake
- Keto “Chaffle” (Healthy Waffle) Recipes
- Strawberries & Cream Keto Shake
- Classic Vanilla Keto Smoothie
- Chocolate Coconut Protein Balls
- Salted Caramel Keto Shake
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Keto Shake
We hope this article helps you feel more confident about successfully moving forward with a keto diet for women. For more articles and recipes for a healthy keto lifestyle, check out the Ketogenic Diet section of the 310 Nutrition Blog.