A ketogenic diet can be beneficial no matter your gender. But that doesn’t mean it works the same way for men and women. There are just some special considerations when considering keto for women.
Women’s bodies are naturally different from men’s, which is an amazing thing in many ways. From the incredible ability to grow new life to the monthly rhythms of a menstrual cycle, a woman’s body is capable of incredible things.
When it comes to keto, however, there are a few unique considerations. Because women may respond differently to ketosis, sometimes they report more struggles getting started.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! No keto diet is a one-size-fits-all deal. There are endless ways to individualize this way (or any way!) of eating. To make keto work for women, we have to address a few of the women-specific challenges that may come along.
Keto For Women
A woman’s body naturally carries a higher percentage of fat. The healthy range of body fat for women is 10-31%—it’s 2-24% for men. Those extra fat stores are essential for hormone balance, regular menstruation, and reproductive health.
This means that a woman’s body may need more individualized support to ensure a keto diet provides the benefits you are hoping for.
Here at ShiftSetGo, we recommend a nutritional ketogenic diet of 55% protein, 30% fat, and 15% carbs. This macronutrient breakdown taps into fat stores while preserving lean muscle mass. When it comes to keto for women, we believe this style is the perfect keto approach as it addresses some of the concerns women have when starting this way of eating.
Hormonal balance is a key marker of a woman’s health. Many of those hormones are linked with body fat. Changes in body fat may create changes in hormones, and women tend to be especially sensitive to this.
Some evidence suggests keto may be beneficial for women experiencing hormone disruption. One study found women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) who started a keto diet experienced an improvement in almost every marker of the condition.
One easy way to make sure keto doesn’t cause too much disruption to your hormones is to be sure you eat the amount of carbohydrates recommended. If low carbohydrate is good, it may seem that no carbohydrate is better. But, that’s simply not the case when it comes to your hormones.
The 15% of carbohydrates we recommend provides enough to support your hormone cycle while promoting healthy weight loss.
Bone loss is a critical concern for women as they age. Currently, there is minimal evidence supporting either negative or positive effects of keto on women’s bone health. But, it’s natural to be concerned about whether keto may unintentionally decrease bone mass.
Anytime you change your way of eating, it’s a good idea to examine whether your diet provides enough calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, and vitamin D. These are all essential nutrients for bone health. Your doctor can check your vitamin D level and may recommend a supplement if it is low. (You can also order your own vitamin D test here!)
To help ensure you’re getting enough calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K, eat plenty of dark leafy greens and other vegetables.
Women naturally have less lean muscle than men. Due to differences in hormones and muscle cell anatomy, women just don’t tend to develop as much muscle. With this in mind, preserving lean muscle mass during weight loss is critical.
Two strategies can help preserve muscle. The first is to eat enough protein. Your muscles are your largest reservoir of protein storage. If you’re low on protein, your body will begin to break down all that lean tissue. Eating lean protein at every meal and choosing high-protein snacks can help ensure you get enough.
Thyroid dysfunction is a common side effect of overweight and obesity. With that in mind, a nutritional keto approach for women may be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing a thyroid disorder.
Anyone undergoing treatment for a thyroid disorder, however, should talk to their doctor before starting keto. There is some evidence that a keto diet may lower certain thyroid hormones. The long-term effects of these changes are unknown, but it’s essential to be aware of the possibility and keep your doctor in the loop.
Working with a weight loss coach is an excellent choice for anyone worried about how their thyroid may respond to keto. A skilled coach can help you troubleshoot your diet and monitor how you are feeling. While they aren’t a substitute for regular check-ins with your medical doctor, a weight loss coach can help ensure you’re following a healthy keto diet with all the micronutrients you need for optimal function.
While a keto diet can be incredible for weight loss, some women may experience menstrual irregularity. One study found up to 45% of participants had changes in their menstrual cycle after six months on keto.
Changes in your menstrual cycle are most likely due to hormonal changes associated with weight loss. In some cases, amenorrhea, or the absence of a monthly period, can develop.
Rapid or extreme weight loss may be to blame for menstrual cycle disruptions on keto. Insufficient food intake may also be a problem for some people as a keto diet naturally reduces hunger and cravings.
To prevent this, you want to lose weight at a healthy rate. We find women on nutritional keto lose weight at a gradual, sustainable rate while also meeting their body’s nutrient needs. Following a clear diet plan and tracking your food intake may help you stay balanced.
Protecting and potentially even improving fertility is one possible benefit of keto for women. One large review found a keto diet may improve fertility for some women by improving insulin levels and addressing hormonal imbalances.
In addition, weight loss itself may enhance fertility for some women.
We highly recommend nutritional keto for women hoping to improve fertility. Healthy weight loss combined with better lifestyle habits can prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond.
Just keep in mind that anytime you are trying to become pregnant, you should take a daily prenatal vitamin as recommended by your doctor.
Keto can be a healthy choice for women and has many potential benefits. But there are a lot of different keto diets out there, and women, in particular, benefit from a keto diet that addresses their unique health needs.
If you’re concerned about how your body will respond to keto, enrolling in a high-quality program may increase your chance of success. Yes, keto is for women! Done right, this nutritional approach is safe, effective, and can greatly improve your well-being.