How does being in ketosis affect women? It turns out that spending more time in ketosis helps the female body to heal itself. In a time when we’re facing more environmental stress than we’re used to, women especially can benefit from a ketogenic diet to help manage stress.
Let’s dive right in and look at some myths around the keto diet that may have immediately come up when you think of this topic.
MYTH #1: Keto is not good for your thyroid
Did your doctor tell you keto isn’t good for your thyroid? This is a common misunderstanding of how the thyroid works. Everybody is different with different energy needs. Your T3 hormone level is usually the indicator most doctors are looking for when judging if something is working or not for your thyroid.
If you’re in ketosis, your T3 goes down and to some doctors, this is bad. But the thyroid is an intelligent organ that interacts and communicates with your brain, so when you need more T3, your thyroid will make more and when you need less, your body will make less. Therefore it should not be cause for concern if your T3 levels are low while in ketosis. It just means your needs are lower at this time.
MYTH #2: Keto is a fad diet
Tracing the human diet all the way back to our ancestors, we’ve seen patterns of feasting and famine that caused us to naturally enter a state of ketosis when food was not readily available.
Just like how our ancestors ate, it is also best for our bodies to cycle in and out of ketosis, which we can do through eating high-fat, low-carb on some days, then adding in nutrient-dense carbohydrates periodically.
For most of us, we have been storing glycogen for years. We’ve been storing sugar in our bloodstream, in our liver, and in our fat cells, and so we have a lot of stores to burn through. We can stay in a ketogenic metabolic state for as long as we need to correct our health, but there’s no need to stay there indefinitely.
Once you focus on good quality food, your body will love the cycle of getting into ketosis and getting out as it learns to heal itself with the use of fat.
You can cycle in and out of ketosis in several ways. For women, it can be helpful to consume more carbs on the days leading up to a menstrual cycle to increase your energy at this time.
For women without a cycle, it can be beneficial to select a day or two each week to eat more carbs. There’s no need to limit carbs to only 20g per day to feel good and see the benefits of the ketogenic diet. You can hover around 50g and feel fine and select a couple of days each week when you might even go up to 100g of carbs.
MYTH #3: You'll gain all the weight back when you stop Keto
You can lose weight on the keto diet in a number of ways but like any other diet, once you stop eating just to lose weight, the weight will come back. This is what happens when lots of people do what’s called dirty keto, they gain a lot of weight back when they eat a cheat meal.
With a clean keto diet done properly, you’re doing more than just losing weight, you’re healing your body and your metabolism and giving your cells a reset. When you eat more high-quality foods, whether you’re in or out of ketosis, your body won’t store glycogen like it did before once you’ve healed and are focusing on eating good calories instead of just restricting overall calories.
MYTH #4: Keto is all about eggs and bacon
A typical keto diet day for us looks like skipping breakfast, then eating pasture-raised eggs with avocado and bacon with a collagen shake for lunch. Dinner might be grass-fed meat, whether bison, steak or lamb, with cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower with grass-fed butter and goat cheese, or a salad piled high with lots of greens and healthy fat.
The ketogenic diet is not so much about limiting calories but about swapping out one fuel source for another. Instead of eating carbs in high servings, you will rely on good fats and protein for the energy you need. The idea is to eat enough fat to feel full and have enough energy to power through your day.
Women focus so much on what we can’t have and put too many boundaries on our food. With the keto diet, you have so much more freedom to eat a wide variety of high quality, great-tasting food.
Restricting carbs is not restricting calories. You’re increasing your fat and nourishing your body, giving it a chance to change its metabolism. The quality of your calories is what matters.
Fatty acids, amino acids and protein are essential to your survival. Carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient. Your body can convert protein into glycogen if it needs to or you can use fat as your fuel source. So this reinforces that you need fat and protein to survive, but you can survive and thrive without carbohydrates in your diet.
Looking back at an ancestral diet, it mostly consisted of plants and animals with maybe some fruit depending on where they lived. The keto diet mimics this by focusing heavily on fat for fuel and very little carb.
MYTH #5: One cheat meal will kick you out of ketosis
I was working with a client who does Crossfit and she made a remark about craving sweet potatoes, but was afraid to have it because she thought it would kick her out of ketosis. I had her listen to her body and consume a sweet potato loaded up with butter, salt and MCT oil and then take her ketone levels after and shocking to her, it did not kick her out of ketosis.
This client was on her period and was consulting with me to get her moods balanced and her hormones under control and so when I heard her body was craving a sweet potato, which is only around 27 grams of carbs, I said let’s go ahead and add that in.
It’s important to be in tune with your body and listen to what it needs.
To wrap up, once you’re consuming high-quality fat from sources such as avocado, grass-fed beef and butter, pasture-raised eggs, small fish like salmon, sardines and wild tuna, good buffalo and goat milk cheeses, and cold-pressed oils, it is completely fine for a woman to be in ketosis as long as she needs to be to heal her body.