Do women need to take a different approach to the ketogenic diet?
The Keto Diet for Women
I’ve just returned from a whirlwind of ketogenic knowledge and inspiration at the wonderful Keto Ladies Low Carb Universe Conference in Palma, Mallorca.
The speakers and attendees were incredible and included: Martina Slajerova (Keto Diet App), Shawn Mynar (Keto Diet for Women Show), Martina Johansson (author of Keto Guidebook) as well as many others. We explored a diverse range of subjects from fertility and PCOS on the ketogenic (Ximena de la Serna), Sugar Addiction (Bitten Johnsson) and debunking the energy balance theory (Dr Trudi Deakin).
There really are some formidable women leading the ketogenic revolution!
Keto Femme Revolution
Over the next few blog posts I am going to highlight a speaker and topic and share what I’ve learned.
There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that women actually do better on a less strict version of the ketogenic diet and need to transition more slowly than men. So, let’s start by focussing on the Keto Diet specifically for women – taking into consideration hormonal differences, how to approach the ketogenic diet as a woman and whether to include fasting into your health regime.
Shawn Mynar hosts the Keto Diet for Women podcast and I loved her seminars on how women may need to approach the ketogenic diet differently to men.
Shawn Mynar: The Keto Diet for Women Show
Shawn Mynar, is a holistic nutritionist based out of Boulder, CO. After struggling for years with chronic health issues including two autoimmune diseases, she was able to regain complete health by changing the food she ate, the lifestyle choices she made, and the mind-set she brings to daily life. Shawn specialises in using food as medicine for women’s health and in treating autoimmune disease, hormonal imbalances, and gut health.
Shawn runs The Fat Burning Female Project, that takes women through the process of becoming keto-adapted with a safe, effective approach. She has two podcasts, The Keto for Women Show and The Nourished Podcast, and you can find out more at shawnmynar.com.
Here are some great guidelines for women commencing a ketogenic or low carb, high fat diet:
Take it Slow
Spend a few weeks adjusting your macros, decreasing carbs and increasing your fat intake gradually. This way you won’t shock your body and are less likely to increase your cortisol levels (stress) and you can figure out the right fat – carb-protein ratios for you. Don’t feel that you have to dive straight into a ketogenic diet.
End the Diet Mentality
Many women are trapped in the idea that they need to be on a diet at all times and that they need to look a certain way. If you are thinking of the ketogenic or low carb diet, consider your why. The focus should be on creating a healthy you – inside and out.
If you have dieted for many years then you may be used to the nutrient and calorie restriction and constant guilty feeling, as well as being on a sugar rollercoaster resulting in mood swings and hormonal imbalances.
Keto isn’t just a diet
Keto isn’t just a diet—it’s a lifestyle. That does sound like a cliché but a ketogenic or low carb diet has tremendous benefits due to the anti-inflammatory nature of eliminating sugar from your diet. If you temporarily go ketogenic and then back to sugar than many of the benefits will be reversed.
Cycling the diet and occasionally having carbs and sugars is definitely recommended for women but ideally this should be weekly and/or seasonal so that we can replicate how our ancestors ate.
Get Over your Fat Fear
Yes. Even when we think we have transitioned to the ketogenic diet sometimes we fear eating fat. Without enough dietary fat—and with restricted carbs—you can starve your brain of adequate energy leading to brain fog, headaches and even unexplained binging and cravings.
At the start of transitioning to a low carb diet you do need to consume plenty of healthy fats (find out about which fats are healthy here) so that you can adequately produce ketones and encourage your metabolism to switch from sugar burning to fat burning.
Test your ketones and blood glucose levels
Find out if you are in ketosis, check your blood sugar levels so that you know which foods work for you.
There is no one diet or meal plan that works for everyone. We are all different and we all have varying sugar tolerances: some people can eat fruit and stay in ketosis, others can just eat a small handful of blueberries and they’ll be kicked out of ketosis (like me).
Sugar and insulin responses also depend on your physical activity—if you’re very physically active you can eat more carbs without elevating blood sugar levels as you’ll be using the energy to fuel your workouts.
Figure out your own personal carb tolerance and find out how to test your ketone levels here. And to learn more, read Robb Wolf’s book Wired to Eat to fully test your blood sugar response to a whole range of foods.
To Fast or not to fast?
Shawn Mynar recommends that you should only fast if you don’t feel like eating rather than forcing yourself to fast. Starving yourself can cause stress on the body, you’ll release cortisol,which then increases insulin levels and makes you hungrier—as well as suppressing progesterone which you need for ovulation.
Be Patient & Intuitive
There’s no need to rush, work out what works for you and this will require tracking, experimenting, measuring and adjusting in the initial stages. Listen to your body – what are you craving? What makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad? It may well be tricky at the beginning but persist and stay inquisitive and when you do find out what works for you, you’ll never look back.
Find out more about the keto diet for women and listen to Shawn Mynar’s podcast here.
Find out how to lose weight on the ketogenic diet here.
I’d love to hear your experiences of transitioning to the ketogenic diet here—let me know how it’s going and what challenges you’re facing and what successes you’ve had.
Want to find out where we’ll be next?
London Biohacker Meet Up – next date 8th April 2018
Paleo FX in Austin – 26th April 2018
Biohacker Conference in Stockholm – 18th May 2018
Keto Con in Austin – 15th June 2018
Low Carb Universe Conference in Mallorca — 13th-18th November 2018