Originally developed in the 1920s, the ketogenic diet, or “keto,” has been used to treat epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders. More recently, research suggests its benefits for cancer, diabetes and weight loss. Weight loss is the #1 benefit that women in my programs are seeking.
The keto diet for women, is a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate diet used to shift the body’s metabolic state from primarily using sugar as fuel to using fat – a cleaner fuel. Being in ketosis is an extremely efficient metabolic state, and the body is able to use its own body fat as fuel between meals.
When you are following a keto meal plan and in ketosis
- You have higher energy
- You can easily go between meals without snacking
- Cravings diminish
- Mental performance (memory, cognition) improves
- Exercise performance increases
- Insulin sensitivity improves (this means less insulin resistance)
- Cardio-metabolic factors, such as blood sugar and blood pressure, improve
- It becomes easier to lose excess weight
Is the Keto Diet Safe for Women?
You might be wondering “is the keto diet is safe for women?” The short answer is yes, and it can be incredibly beneficial and metabolically healing. However, as a woman, we have unique needs, and therefore, it is important to proceed with the power of knowledge so if the keto diet isn’t working you can correct course quickly.
The main thing women need to watch out for is balancing the benefits of a ketogenic diet along with meeting their daily nutrient needs. This is especially true for women who adopt fasting practices or follow a vegetarian keto diet. As you get into ketosis or reduce the number of meals and snacks that you eat, it can be easy to under-eat or miss out on some key nutrients and over time, this can become an issue.
Some signs that keto isn’t working as it should, or your approach needs to be adjusted include:
- Hair loss
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Loss of menstrual cycles
- Negative changes in mood
- Food cravings
I am a big advocate of working smarter, not harder and when it comes to the keto diet for women, the smart approach is the best approach!
If your keto isn’t working for you, as outlined above, here are some tips to consider:
- Don’t undereat. It sounds simple, but it can take some practice. Tracking your diet using an app can be helpful to make sure you are eating enough. Have more questions? Seek out a keto-friendly Registered Dietitian for personalized guidance.
- Get over your fear of fat. Many of us have lingering fears about eating a diet high in fat or may still be recovering from a history of low-fat dieting. Continue working on the mental shift and educating yourself on the benefits of a high-fat diet. My upcoming keto docuseries is dedicated to this very topic!
- Look for your root cause. Some women don’t do so well at first with a keto diet, likely because there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed and keto simply adds the additional stress that might break the camel’s back. For these women, I recommend working with a naturopathic or functional doctor to assess hormone levels, infections, nutrient deficiencies or other areas for personalized support.
- Try keto cycling. Did you know that a woman’s body needs some insulin to ovulate? If keto seems to be affecting your hormones or cycle in a negative way, consider cycling in and out of ketosis. You can keto cycle daily with my Fat First, Carbs Last approach or weekly or monthly, depending on your needs.
- Consider this might not be your time for keto. If you are preparing your body for pregnancy, pregnant or nursing, these are special times in life when nutrient needs are high and where “is the keto diet safe” becomes an important question. You can still benefit from a high fat, whole-food diet, but the strict keto guidelines might be best saved for another phase of life.