If you’ve ever wondered if there are special considerations that women on the keto diet should be aware of – keep on reading! Let’s dive into cyclical keto for women and discuss the benefits.
I’ve talked about the cyclical keto diet before and I’ll continue talking about it forever. The topic of cyclical keto is really misunderstood. In this article, howerver, I’m going to specifically talk about cyclical keto for women since most of my audience is female.
There is so much confusion around keto to begin with and then add in cyclic keto and all bets are off, right? Well, not anymore. I’m going to arm you with all the information you need to make an informed decision for what is best for you and your body.
Let’s recap a bit!
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet is a way of eating that involves eating high fat, moderate protein and low carbs. Super simple!
Keto is not just bacon and butter. It should be filled with lots of healthy veggies too!
The goal of the keto diet is to reach a state of ketosis and also to restore our bodies. BONUS – along with this generally comes weight loss and many other health benefits!
What is Cyclical Keto?
The cyclical ketogenic diet is a way of doing keto such that you introduce a higher carb day on some pre-defined interval. And to be honest, it doesn’t have to be pre-defined, but you should have a general idea. Meaning you don’t want to go down that slippery slope to where you are having so many that you are barely eating keto anymore.
I implement a higher carb day once a week, usually on a weekend. Not always though. If I am feeling particularly rough during the week, I might move it around.
The higher carb days replenish your bodily stores of glycogen. This is a temporary thing as you will eat up those stores starting the day after the higher carb day. But just that one day of replenishment does wonders.
Are Keto Carb Up Days a Cheat Day?
No, they are not meant to be. Some people use them as such.
But here’s the thing. I hear all the time about people saying they cheated and feel horrible and will never do a carb up day again and how the cyclical keto diet doesn’t work.
This doesn’t make any sense, though. They are blaming the higher carbs for what they should be blaming the gluten and sugar for.
Of course they feel like crap if they cheated. They worked so hard to detox their body and then went and reversed it all by adding the inflammatory foods back in there. Once is all it takes!
If I eat gluten, which is rare, but on occasion, I will – my stomach hurts for days. So, trust me, when I do have a planned cheat day, it better be worth it because I’m going to pay the price for days.
A cyclical keto diet does not equate to cheat days. The carb up days are meant to be higher healthy carb days.
Root vegetables are a perfect choice for healthy, higher carb foods.
Different Types of Cyclical Keto
The most common routine associated with the cyclical keto diet is a higher carb day once per week. That is what I do and have done for 2 years.
Some people will do keto Monday through Friday and then have 2 higher carb days on the weekend.
Others will do a higher carb day once a month.
It truly is a personal choice and there is no gold standard. Although I’ve tried them all and once a week works best for my body.
How Many Carbs Should I Eat on a Keto Carb Up Day
This is different for everyone. I had to do some experiments before I found the sweet spot. It has to be enough carbs to knock me out of ketosis, but not enough to keep me out for an extended period of time. I like to be back in ketosis within 24 hours.
For me, the sweet spot was definitely over 50, usually closer to 75.
I was surprised at how many carbs I could eat and still stay in ketosis.
My best advice is to experiment and see what feels good to you.
Top 4 Benefits of a Keto Carb Up Day
#1 Your metabolism stays revved up
As I’m sure you know, there are 2 main fuel sources – glycogen (from glucose) and ketones (from fat).
So your body is either a sugar burning machine or a fat burning machine. It cannot be both at the same time.
Do you recall going into ketosis for the first time? It was probably pretty rough. The body is a bit clunky going from one to the other IF it is not efficient at it.
One of the great things about cyclic keto eating is that it makes your body EFFICIENT at going in and out of ketosis. No more keto flu!
Sometimes the metabolism can get in a rut and simply get sluggish. Too long in ketosis. Too long out of ketosis. Too long anywhere. Too old, whatever.
Going in and out of ketosis really keeps it guessing and can keep it from stalling out.
#2 It can help with weight loss plateaus
So I just touched on the reason for this. Sometimes we hit plateaus when our bodies get used to a pattern and we need a little shocker to jump start it again. Cyclical keto does just that on a continual basis.
#3 It is helpful for building muscle
Yep! If you are trying to build muscle, they do need glycogen. Now, you can still build muscle on strict, full time keto, but cyclical keto makes it a bit easier by replenishing the glycogen stores periodically. Check out this article on working out on keto.
#4 It can decrease stress on the thyroid
Our thyroid is rather important as are all our body parts. But did you know that the thyroid is responsible for things like digestion, menstrual cycles, breathing, mood, metabolic rate and more.
I want to quote a study. But first I want to mention that T3 is a hormone that the thyroid produces.
“To evaluate the effect of caloric restriction and dietary composition on circulating T3 and rT3 obese subjects were studied after 7-18 days of total fasting and while on randomized hypocaloric diets (800 kcal) in which carbohydrate content was varied to provide from 0 to 100% calories. As anticipated, total fasting resulted in a 53% reduction in serum T3 in association with reciprocal 58% increase in rT3. Subjects receiving the no-carbohydrate hypocaloric diets for two weeks demonstrated a similar 47% decline in serum T3 but there was no significant change in rT3 with time. In contrast, the same subjects receiving isocaloric diets containing at least 50 g of carbohydrate showed no significant changes in either T3 or rT3 concentration. The decline in serum T3 during the no-carbohydrate diet correlated significantly with blood glucose and ketones but there was no correlation with insulin or glucagon. We conclude that dietary carbohydrate is an important regulatory factor in T3 production” .
So this is not specific for women, but it says that keto can affect the thyroid of anyone.
I say can instead of will, which is an important thing to distinguish.
I happen to have an already sluggish thyroid. Thank you Hashimoto’s.
So, given that my thyroid is already slow, keto has the potential to stress it out even more and make it worse.
What does this have to do with women specifically? Well, thyroid issues can cause issues with menstruation and fertility .
How Keto Affects Women Differently
If you didn’t know, insulin stimulate the synthesis of leptin. Leptin signals the brain that we are full and don’t need food.
With the reduced carbs from a keto diet, insulin levels are also much lower. The result is lower leptin.
A study back in 1997 (1) found that “the leptin receptor is expressed in the human ovary, that leptin is present in follicular fluid, and that leptin can induce a biological response in ovarian cells. These results suggest that leptin may have a direct effect on the human ovary.” SO basically this means that leptin has an effect on our reproductive organs, as women.
Low leptin levels = stress response from the body which is worried about starving = our reproductive functions being demoted. Irregular periods anyone? I don’t know about you, but my periods went from every 28 days to every 6 weeks with lots of spotting for a few months. They are relatively normal now, although they come close to every 24 days, but I think that is because I am moving into peri-menopausal space.
We’ve already discussed how keto can affect the thyroid which can then, in turn, affect menstruation and fertility.
Cyclic Keto Eating and Women
Hormones are the biggest consideration for women on keto. Lucky us, right?
Given this, I do feel that cyclical keto can be the right choice for women, specifically. Men too, but especially for women.
We have amazing, beautiful, and yes, hormonal bodies that do need special considerations.
I know that I, personally, feel a LOT better when I practice cyclical keto with a single carb up day per week.
My Favorite Keto Carb Up Meals
My all-time favorite Keto Carb Up Meal is Keto Sweet Potato Hash. Basically, it is ground sausage, sweet potatoes and a variety of root vegetables. Not quite the cheat meal that people think carb up days are, right?
Let me know if you have cyclical keto diet questions!