Can Women Do Keto?
In this video, Sara Aguilar, MSc Anthropology, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, Supplement Advisor and founder of @ketosupplements and @thehealthanthropologist, discusses:
- Is the keto diet suitable for women?
- What is ketosis?
- Why do we go into ketosis?
- Should women do a ketogenic diet? For how long?
- How can you eat, move and supplement to feel your best for each phase of your menstrual cycle?
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Sara Aguilar is the founder of @ketosupplements and @thehealthanthropologist.
Can women do keto?
A cyclical ketogenic approach to optimise hormone levels and ease yourself into each phase of your cycle.
Is the keto diet suitable for women?
- Yes, however it is important to take into consideration factors such as the ancestry, lifestyle, the seasons, where you live, the climate and your hormones/biology.
(Ancestors from the northern hemisphere where carbohydrates are only available at the end of summer, beginning of autumn, rest of the year survived on animal fats and forest lead and vegetables you're probably genetically better on a lower fat diet. Alternatively, ancestors closer to equator plant based high carbs diet what you're suited to.)
What is ketosis?
- The body has two sources of energy glucose and ketones, glucose is primarily from carbohydrates and sugars. We also have ketones from body fat stores or from nutritional fat that you eat. Ketosis is the state when you burn body fat or fat you have eaten from food, when we have run out of our stores of carbohydrates which triggers us to burn ketones and use that extra energy.
Why do we go into ketosis?
- Ketosis comes from our hunter and gatherer ancestors. Hunting for a day and getting a kill and then not getting any food for 24-48hrs meant the body needed a source of energy which evolved into ketosis. This meant we could use body fat stores to optimise our hearing, sight, sense of taste, smell, and energy to be better hunters. Ketones as a source of energy fuel the brain faster in terms of glucose, which made us amazing hunters.
Should women do a ketogenic diet? For how long?
- Ketosis long term mimics a starvation diet for women which may be an issue as the brain may trigger stress due to the lack of food/ restriction of carbohydrates. This tells hormones the body is living through a famine creating detrimental hormonal impacts such as interfering with pregnancy, reduction of periods and stress hormones on the body long term.
- The benefits of fat loss, limitation of inflammation, reduction of PCOS symptoms and other hormonal issues can be achieved by introducing phases of ketosis and running on glucose into your lifestyle to optimise health and energy.
- Benefits on concentration and neurological issues such as anxiety and epilepsy as the body is supplied with a stable source of energy for the brain.
- (80% fat, 15% protein and 5% carbs, fat loss, reduction of joint pain, PCOS issues.)
How can you eat, move and supplement to feel your best for each phase of your menstrual cycle?
- Shorter term keto diet? Yes, for healthy flexing of cycle and hormone production. Loss of iron when menstruating means you should eat more red meat and leafy green vegetables and increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric an anti-inflammatory and raw dark chocolate which is full of magnesium.
- Follicular phase – which is when energy levels begin to increase slightly you can drop down the carbs, do more intense exercise such as weightlifting and running.
- Ovulation – third phase, at your peak of physical energy and feeling your best. More confident and have a high libido. Drop down carbs and increase healthy fats, this method will reduce cravings, and you can access the benefits of dipping in and out of ketosis.
- Luteal phase- which is when the unfertilised egg breaks down and the rupture of the follicle produces a lot of progesterone into the system. You may feel low energy levels, dulling of moods and more cravings. You should increase carbs and listen to your body to support hormonal production and feel better. (Increase vitamin c- anti-inflammatory and antioxidants such as blueberries.)
- Recommend luteal and menstrual phase have a higher carb diet to optimise your hormone production and then for follicular and ovulation phase you have a lower carb higher fat diet to optimise focus. Combining the best of both, 2 weeks on ketosis reducing inflammation and burning fat, 2 weeks on glucose replenishing the glycogen stores and telling the body no reason to be in stress, works well for women.
What’s Wrong with Carbohydrates?
Nothing is wrong however our body is not designed to cope with a lot of sugar in the bloodstream. The body is designed to have 1.5 teaspoons of sugar in our blood at any given time. The increase in processed carbs leads to the body producing a lot of insulin to reduce sugar levels as it is toxic and oxygenises in the system.
Is it Possible to be Keto on a Vegan Diet?
Yes, supplements on a keto diet are usually vegan such as MCT oil, coconut oil, protein from mushrooms, tempeh, pea-protein. It’s difficult to balance out the potential deficiencies and should importantly consider hyper-processed food.
Sweet Potato vs Normal Potato?
Sweet potato has a lower glucose index than normal which means it will increase blood sugar levels more slowly. A good hack is to cook a normal potato and let it cool down, then reheat. Each time you let it cool down the fibre starches get harder which means when you eat it, it slowly releases the sugar.
This depends on which hormones you need to balance. For more testosterone, red meat is great however to reduce testosterone then eat less red meat. Everyone’s individual as ancestry, where you live, lifestyle, how active you are, and age are important factors to consider.
Long Term Health Consequences of a Keto Diet for Women?
Strict keto for too long may have hormonal issues that stop your period as the diet mimics a fasting diet. This may impact pregnancy and you may become more sensitive to sugars.
When you crave carbs when menstruating and the luteal phase, your body needs them as you're burning 30% more calories than usual making you hungrier. It is important to listen to your body.
Don’t be dogmatic about diets as your relationship with food is more important.