Keto Diet Plan for Women: The Ultimate 2023 Guide
The keto diet is helpful for losing weight and fat loss as it promotes more consistent blood sugar levels than other diet styles. However, some women find the keto diet very restrictive and battle to maintain the fat-burning state.
In this article, we explore the best keto plan for women, strategies for implementing the keto diet, and why you should consider trying this dietary strategy for improved health and weight loss.
Does the Keto Diet Work for Women?
Yes, keto works for women. Some research suggests that the low-carb, high-fat diet is more effective in the male population and men can lose weight faster on keto. However, other studies have proven it to be beneficial for fat-burning and weight loss in females.
A woman’s body can become fat adapted to burn fat in the form of ketones for energy. Switching from carbs to fat as an energy source requires a significant calorie deficit which is easily attained on the ketogenic diet.
Keto for women is complicated by the female hormones responsible for fertility, maintaining a healthy pregnancy, and breastfeeding a newborn. Therefore, while a very low-carb diet can help you lose weight and body fat and maintain lean muscle mass, you must consider your stage of life before embarking on the diet.
Best Keto Diet Plan for Women
The best keto diet for women is similar to the typical ketogenic diet and includes a moderate amount of protein, plenty of healthy fats, less than 50g of carbohydrates per day, and lots of leafy greens.
The recommended macronutrient percentages are:
- 5–10% carbohydrates
- 10–20% protein
- 70–80% fat
Eating fewer carbs and ensuring your net carbs (available carbohydrates) are low helps to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels and promotes fat-burning. Therefore, you must be aware of all sources of carbohydrates in your diet, including starchy foods, vegetables, and fruit.
To take away the guesswork out of planning your ketogenic diet, you can use apps such as Keto Cycle to plan the ideal diet for you.
How to Start the Keto Diet for Women: 5 Tips
#1 Reduce carb intake
The first step in a keto diet is to adjust your carbohydrate intake. You will only start using fat for energy when your cells no longer have access to glucose. Therefore, you must cut your carb intake to 5–10% (20–50g) of your total daily energy intake and omit most processed foods.
#2 Add coconut or MCT oil
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to induce ketosis and support the fat-burning state of ketogenic diets. Coconut oil is a source of MCTs, but you can purchase MCT oil separately. MCT oil can be consumed as part of a low-carb meal. Alternatively, it can be added to coffee which contains caffeine, known to enhance the ketogenic effect.
#3 Increase healthy fat intake
To enter and maintain the fat-burning state, you must include extra fat in your diet to 55–60% of your daily calories. Focus on healthy fats such as those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish.
#4 Practice intermittent fasting
Extending your overnight fast can make it easier to maintain ketosis and promote rapid weight loss. You can combine keto and intermittent fasting once you have established your low-carb, high-fat diet and started feeling comfortable with it.
#5 Eat enough protein
Satiety is one of the benefits of ketogenic diets, and protein is a key macronutrient that keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Therefore, ensure that you meet your body’s protein requirements by making 10–20% of your calorie intake protein.
10 Benefits of the Keto Diet for Women
Although weight loss is the primary reason most women consider the keto diet, it offers numerous other health benefits too. Below is a list of 10 of the benefits of going keto.
#1 Weight loss
Keto for women can help them lose weight, burn fat, and maintain muscle mass, thus improving body composition and metabolism.
Losing weight is the primary reason most women consider following the keto diet. Keto has been shown to result in more rapid weight loss than a low-fat diet within the first 6 months of following it. Your keto weight loss timeline will depend on many factors like your starting weight, genetics, activity level, and even stress levels.
A reduction in body fat stores, including belly fat, is observed in people who follow the ketogenic diet. The fat-burning process not only reduces body weight but also maintains lean muscle mass, especially when combined with physical activity.
#2 Improved blood sugar control
When carbohydrates are digested, they are released into the blood as glucose, and your blood sugar level rises. In response to the increase, insulin is released from the pancreas to help transport the glucose into the cells to be used for energy.
One of the defining characteristics of the ketogenic diet is a low intake of net carbs – carbs available for energy in the body. Therefore, your diet doesn’t result in a spike in blood sugar levels as it does when you eat a lot of carbs.
If you eat a low-carb diet that includes very few refined carbs and processed foods, it becomes easier to maintain healthy blood sugar levels because glucose and insulin levels remain more stable. The result is reduced insulin resistance and better metabolic health.
#3 Reduced appetite
One of the biggest challenges of losing weight using a calorie-restricted or low-fat diet is persistent hunger. Keto dieters routinely report better energy levels and less hunger, making it easier to eat fewer calories.
This may be due to more stable blood sugar levels on a keto diet. If your blood sugar level drops too low or suddenly, it triggers hunger. Researchers have also observed that the release of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is suppressed in people following a ketogenic diet.
#4 Fewer cravings
Food cravings are triggered by numerous factors, including low blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and stress. Most women crave foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats, which results in them eating more calories and gaining weight.
Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, has been implicated in an increased desire for energy-dense foods. Since ketogenic diets have been shown to reduce ghrelin levels, those on a keto diet frequently report fewer food cravings.
Improved insulin sensitivity due to lower glucose and insulin levels in the blood in people following a ketogenic diet also helps to reduce cravings for foods that impair weight loss.
#5 Consistent energy levels
The typical mid-afternoon slump experienced by many women when trying to lose weight is not a problem with the ketogenic diet. Blood sugar levels remain more stable, and a drop in glucose levels between lunch and dinner is avoided.
When the keto diet is implemented correctly, your cells become fat-burning machines, and if you have weight to lose, your stored body fat becomes fuel for your body. Therefore, you have a consistent energy supply throughout the day because you are not relying entirely on your diet.
#6 Optimized cognitive function
Healthy fats such as those found in oily fish and olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties and offer health benefits for the brain. Therefore, including such omega-3-rich fats in your keto diet is encouraged.
Studies also show that burning ketones for energy, such as eating a ketogenic diet, improves cognitive function and memory.
#7 Hormonal balance
Hormones control almost all functions in the body, including metabolism, sexual function, fertility, and mood. They include insulin, estrogen, progesterone, thyroid hormones, serotonin, and the primary stress hormone – cortisol.
Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) experience hormonal imbalance that results in weight gain, insulin resistance, and infertility. When they follow a ketogenic diet, hormone levels are corrected.
The results of a study published in 2022 suggest that low-carb diets, such as ketogenic diets, may also be beneficial for managing thyroid disorders. The keto diet resulted in an increase in T3, a crucial thyroid hormone.
#8 Heart health
There is evidence to support using the ketogenic diet to manage heart disease risk factors. However, not all studies agree. The high-fat diet has been shown to elevate both LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides.
Longer-term studies suggest that cholesterol levels are only raised in the initial stages of the diet but return to normal after a period of time. However, the type of fat you choose to eat is important. Including more omega-3-rich fats in your keto diet will have a more positive effect on your lipid profile.
Research suggests that the keto diet is most beneficial in people who are overweight or obese and for those at risk of heart failure and high blood pressure.
#9 Cancer treatment support
Cancer cells can only use glucose for energy. Therefore, when you become fat-adapted and your healthy cells use ketones as their primary energy source, the cancer cells become starved of energy.
Most research on the effect of the ketogenic diet on cancer has been conducted in animal models. There is compelling evidence that suggests that ketogenic diets can slow down the growth of tumors and increase survival time. It can also make cancer cells more susceptible to the effects of conventional cancer treatment.
However, scientists caution that too little is known at this point to confidently prescribe a keto diet to cancer patients as a cancer treatment or as an additional treatment along with chemotherapy and radiation.
The keto lifestyle has been shown to be an effective anti-aging strategy. The ketogenic diet promotes the use of ketones in numerous metabolic pathways, which has a positive impact on overall health and aging.
Keto for women who are mindful of the effects of aging on the body and brain can help prevent conditions such as cognitive decline commonly associated with the aging human body.
Keto Diet for Women: Risks and Who Should Avoid It
The keto diet has many proven benefits for both men and women. Improved blood sugar and insulin levels, weight loss, reduced hunger, and better overall health are experienced by many who embrace the keto lifestyle.
However, it is not a suitable style of eating for everyone. Keto for women is not always recommended as female hormones influence metabolism. As a result, some women experience weight gain on a keto diet, and others should not adopt the diet at all.
A woman has 4 distinct life stages determined by their reproductive hormones, namely childhood, puberty, fertile years, and menopause. Although the ketogenic diet can improve hormonal balance for women with PCOS and improve fertility, the low-calorie intake on such a diet can also negatively influence a woman’s ability to conceive.
Therefore, keto is not recommended for women who are trying to conceive, pregnant women, or breastfeeding mothers.
The keto diet should also be avoided by women with the following risk factors:
- Raised LDL cholesterol levels
- Familial hypercholesterolemia
- An existing or past eating disorder
- Difficulties digesting fat associated with disorders of the pancreas, gallbladder, and liver
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the keto diet affect women?
Keto for women has numerous benefits. It may result in rapid weight loss, reduced belly fat, fewer food cravings, better blood sugar control, hormonal balance, and improved overall health. However, the effects are not the same for all women.
Some women gain weight instead of losing it when following a ketogenic diet. Their metabolism cannot switch to using dietary and body fat for energy.
Does keto work the same for men and women?
In general, keto works the same for men and women. However, not all women’s bodies respond the same way to the ketogenic diet. Women must take into consideration their personal circumstances and life stage, and a personalized plan will be more beneficial than a generic one.
Ketosis alters the level of hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Women are more sensitive to the effects of leptin, the hormone that influences feelings of satiety. When leptin levels drop too low, it can cause hunger, difficulty sleeping, and mood issues in women.
Keto flu, characterized by fatigue, brain fog, headaches, muscle cramps, nausea, constipation, and low mood, is a common side effect for anyone wanting to lose body weight with a keto diet, affecting both men and women.
How long should women do keto?
It takes 2–6 weeks for your body to become adapted to burn dietary and body fat for energy. However, the weight loss benefits are usually experienced from the early stages of the diet.
Studies show that weight loss is initially quicker on a ketogenic diet than on most other diets. However, after 5–6 months, weight loss equalizes.
Women seem to be more sensitive to the adverse effects of the ketogenic diet, and many benefit from eating fewer carbs on a more conventional diet plan than maintaining a strict carbohydrate restriction as is necessary on a keto diet.
Can a pregnant woman be on a keto diet?
Pregnant women are advised against adopting any weight loss diets during pregnancy. Although pregnant women are very seldom the focus of weight loss diet research studies for ethical reasons, some studies suggest that the ketogenic diet may have adverse effects on the growing fetus.