Food Freedom Friday Edition 99 - Ketosis - The Battle Of The Sexes

I have lost count of the number of times women have told me that they are doing everything right, following all the 'rules' and protocols they are supposed to and yet feel they are barely getting into ketosis. Their male counterpart, on the other hand, is rocking it, losing pounds and feeling awesome without being close to as strict or vigilant. What gives??   

This is, to say the least, a vexing problem. Add it to the list of gender imbalances that nature has built into your body - always with good reason (who are we to second guess Mother Nature?) but sometimes with a result that is at odds with your goals and desires. In this case, we have women who have read about the Ketogenic Diet & Lifestyle, have successfully roped their partners into doing it with them for 'support' and encouragement, only to get left behind (at least on fat loss which is unfortunately the marker of success most people measure). Assuming the woman is in ketosis, it is not that the ketones themselves are not providing a myriad of other benefits including better focus, brain health, inflammation, oxidative status, gene signaling and more, but when it comes to outward physical changes it seems that the guys see them faster and more consistently than most women. There are a few good reasons this could happen.  

  • You are doing exactly what your male counterpart is doing, and I mean exactly, right down to portion size. If he is bigger than you and/or more active than you then right there you have a problem. There are those who insist that portions 9and thus calories) have nothing to do with success. I disagree. After seeing evidence, client after client that it does. If you are 5'3" and he is 6" you are not the same. 

  • You are doing the 'dairy version' of the Keto Diet and are unaware that you are sensitive to dairy (and he is not) - oops. Dairy can also be viewed as a growth stimulator (it is, after all, the food that supports the growth of baby animals) and thus may, in some, inhibit fat loss. 

  • He sleeps like a log before his head even hits the pillow. You, on the other hand, got tired of watching him sleep years ago and now lie awake worrying about how tired you are going to be in the morning. Lack of sleep drives up cortisol, cortisol drives up blood sugar which is not conducive to the production or utilization of ketones. 

  • Hormones. Wait. What? Yes. It would appear that androgenic hormones (testosterone) are more ketogenic than estrogen. Go figure! Women who are estrogen dominant (that would be the majority of the female population) may have a harder time getting into and staying in ketosis. This does not mean it is not possible, it is just a little more challenging. If it happens that you are one of those women who seems to pack on muscle without even trying (and you likely know who you are) then you are likely gifted with higher levels of testosterone. This means you will have an easier time with a ketogenic lifestyle than your naturally curvy friend. This may also be part of the reason why a Ketogenic Diet can be useful for women who have been diagnosed with PCOS. 

  • You think you are eating a Keto Diet but have failed to track your food, I would encourage you to track your intake at least some of the time to know that you really are eating low carb, moderate protein and high fat. Use a food tracking app. Trust me, it works. 

A further consideration to ponder is how important is it really to be in ketosis. Please don't misunderstand me, I am a huge fan of the many benefits we are learning about but ask yourself, do you really need to be in ketosis all the time or for extended periods? How important is getting over 1 mmol really? Increasingly, I would say that for most of us the answer is no. Unless you have certain types of brain cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, certain epileptic seizure disorders or have suffered a concussion lately (the brain is particularly fond of ketones) then probably not. It is far more viable and important to eat a nutrient dense whole food and low carb (for most of us most of the time) diet that is in tune with what your body needs. 

As I have written about previously, one of the reasons I would support the use of exogenous ketones is that the products can, when used wisely, provide access to ketones without necessarily strictly following the diet which may or may not be right for you and may or may not be sustainable for your lifestyle.   Using these types of products does not get you off the hook. You still have to eat the right diet, exercise (or at least be active), manage your stress and sleep. They can, however, help you reach your goals with less effort due to increased energy, focus, better sleep, fewer cravings and better appetite control. 

 There is truth to what you may be experiencing and it is not a figment of your imagination. If you are a woman it is possible that it may be harder for you to get and stay in ketosis than your male friends/counterparts.

Michal Ofer