Is there a difference between men and women when it comes to keto? Yes there is!
Women tend to hit a plateau quicker than men while on the keto diet. Why is this? It all comes down to Estrogen, progesterone and other hormones levels at different times of the menstrual cycle.
Just to clarify: there are not many studies that take a look at womens hormones while on a keto diet in the long term.
This being said, I have dealt with many men and women that have been on the keto diet. It does seem that women often do take longer to get in ketosis and, also see a delayed effect on their weight loss in the early stages of the keto diet. I did some research on the internet to see what I could find. I did find some compelling information that I am going to share with you.
Hormones in women have more effect on the process of weight loss than men. But why? let’s take a look shall we?
PCOS and how to improve it.
What is PCOS? Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal disorder common among women of the reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent, prolonged menstrual periods or excess male (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.
A lot of the time this has to do with high insulin levels. It has even been named ovarian diabetes due to the fact that high insulin tend to correlate with PCOS.
So if levels of insulin are the main cause for PCOS and keto being a low carb low insulin diet, it should prove to be very effective to reduce the symptoms or even reverse PCOS.
The AACE Cinical Care reports did a study on 4 women who had PCOS and went on a keto diet. What the study found after 6 months is that all 4 got regular periods and 2 of the 4 got pregnant without even trying.
In my keto group there were 3 women whom have been trying to get pregnant for years with no result. After about 3 to 6 months on keto, both of them got pregnant. The third one got pregnant without even wanting another one, but the little one is a blessing.
In another study done by Nutrition and Metabolism they also looked at 5 women with PCOS who also went on the keto diet. All 5 reversed their PCOS and improved their symptoms and again 2 of the 5 became pregnant.
Studies and my won experience do show that keto has overwhelming evidence that the keto diet will help any female that is struggling with PCOS.
Women tend to eat less fat than men.
Due to various environmental and other reasons, women tend to eat less fat.
When it comes to the keto diet, it can very easy to under eat the fat’s. My wife dislikes anything that resembles fat, so it kind of tricky to make her eat her fat’s.
Under eating fat’s can cause your metabolism and thyroid function (T3) to slow down.
Although lower T3 hormone does not slow your metabolism on keto like on other diets. Lower and slower thyroid is actually good for longevity and ourselves.
To prevent your metabolism from slowing down too much it is recommended that women re-feed on carbs every 2 weeks. Eating a small amount of healthy carbs (sweet potatoes, plantain etc) or eating a surplus in calories can also do the trick.
Birth control can have an effect on you’re thyroid levels.
Birth control depletes folic acid, zink and selenium which all play an important role in converting T4 into T3.
What is T3 and T4? Together these hormones regulate you body’s temperature, metabolism and heart rate. If both are low it can slow down your heart rate give you constipation and gain weight. T4 converts into T3 so it is more important to watch you T4 levels.
The higher your body fat, the higher your estrogen levels are going to be. Higher estrogen levels will slow down any absorption of hormones needed in certain places. As you reduce your body fat, your estrogen levels will also reduce, making your body absorb more hormones that is needed in the right places.
Reduction in cramps and pain.
Women that go on the ketogenic diet usually see a decrease in their menstrual cramps and pains.
This has to do with the anti-inflammatory effects of beta hydroxybutyrate (keto bodies). When you are in ketosis you have reduced inflammation within the body which can cause to have less pain.
Timing is key.
The first two weeks of you’re menstrual cycle you have more estrogen. This is not bad and can actually help with recovery. If you are one that workout regularly in the gym, this can be a benefit to go harder as you have a more recovery effect at this stage. Estrogen also reduces cravings. My wife always craves more food especially sweets as she get’s closer to having her period (especially chocolate).
In the second half of your cycle you’re are going to have an increase in progesterone. This is going to make you feel hungry and cranky if you do not get the food you want (there you go guys, mystery explained).
So, workout harder in the first half (weight lifting, HIT) and take it easy in the second half (yoga, Pilates). Have you’re healthy snacks ready on the second half to avoid yelling at your husband and kids around each corner.
Weight loss plateau hypothesis.
It is believed that what I am going to explain now is the reason for most weight loss plateau when first starting keto.
When you first start keto, it is stressful on your body. Your body is now going through a phase of using fat as fuel instead of glucose. This is very stressful on the body.
The effect of this is that it will raise cortisone levels in the body (stress hormone). Cortisone can trigger fat accumulation which in turn leads to more estrogen. Estrogen also releases cortisone and this cycle is what is causing you to stall until you get fat/ adapted.
In theory women will have a tougher time getting into ketosis than men because of this cycle in the beginning stages.
Even though it may take a while longer to start losing weight, rest assure that the positive effects are happening on the inside of your body.
You may see you’re male counterpart lose way more weight than you do, but do not get discouraged. It will come eventually.
I have a female friend that is close to 50 years old. It took her 3 months to see any kind of weight loss. She also wanted to give up. We kept motivating her and after that 3 months the fat just rolled of her. She is now 25 pounds lighter and feeling great.
I hope that this article can help you on your weight loss and overall health improvement journey.