Eating a low-carb, higher fat diet is beneficial to both sexes when it comes to weight loss and overall fitness and health goals, but that doesn’t mean it’s equal. Women have a unique physiology and needs that men simply don’t have to deal with, which leads to low-carb dieting having different effects on women than men (1, 2). For example, I’m sure most women have noticed that, initially, men tend to lose weight, specifically in the belly, faster (3). Low-carb dieting might not always be fair but, ladies, here is how to tip the scales in your favor based on your bodies specific needs.
These are niKETO’s tips to help women overcome the challenges of low-carb dieting.
1. CRAVINGS ARE HARDER FOR WOMEN TO SUPPRESS
A woman’s brain has a higher response to her food favorites than a man’s brain (4). It relates back to the estrogen hormone and the sense or reward it gives to a woman as opposed to a man’s prevalent hormone testosterone. Meaning, women receive more pleasure from eating their favorite foods and therefore get deeper cravings to reward their pleasure centers by indulging those cravings. And during a period those hormone levels and cravings can go through the roof (5) which can lead to overeating and bingeing on the sweets we know we can’t have on a low-carb diet.
The Fix: Dark Chocolate can knock those cravings down and calm the reward center or the brain that’s making you crave what you can’t have on a low-carb diet (6). Dark Chocolate is lower in carbs yet still sweet. If you can find DHA enhanced Dark chocolate so much the better.
2. VAJAYJAY HEALTH
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the good bacteria found in yogurts that promote good vaginal health while helping to prevent UTIs and yeast infections (7). The problem is that most yogurt is a no-no on a low carb diet.
The Fix: There are low-carb yogurts out there. Dannon makes a 3 carb yogurt full of Lactobacillus acidophilus. But you can also find good probiotics in fermented foods like pickles and miso (8). Just be sure to use your tracker to keep the carb count low while getting the Lactobacillus acidophilus your vajayjay needs. And if nothing else, you can get the good bacteria you need in supplement form.
3. WOMEN BURN LESS PROTEIN
Low-carb diets call for a lower intake of carbs than fat no matter the sex in order to prevent the proteins from being processed as glucose in a process called glycogenesis (9). Women especially need to cut the protein intake and keep the percentage low because they burn less protein than men when working out and when at rest (10). It all goes back to the hormonal difference between estrogen and testosterone. Men simply use up protein faster.
The Fix: Be diligent in tracking everything you eat. Know how much protein you are eating and cut it back if your totals start to get too high.
4. IRREGULAR MENSTRUATION CYCLES
Some women can experience irregular periods while on low-carb diets (11). Irregular can mean longer periods, delayed periods, heavier flows, or missed cycles altogether. But period symptoms can also be affected: more cramping, heavier bloating, headaches and exhaustion.
The Fix: When women experience an irregularity in the cycle on a low-carb diet, it might simply be the body responding to change and your physiology will course correct itself and you’ll be back to normal by your next period. But if the symptoms persist, first talk to your doctor and see if there are other issues playing a factor, but many times adding an Omega 3 fatty acid like those found in fish or fish oil supplements can alleviate the cramps and bloating (12). Additionally, putting more vitamin E and fiber into your diet can help to correct your system and give it the tools it needs to get back on the right path.
5. BREAST FIRMNESS
Low-carb diets are known for rapid weight loss which is great for shedding those extra pounds, but many women report that dropping so much weight so quickly has left their breast saggy or feeling deflated.
The Fix: It makes sense that breast will reduce in size on a successful diet since a good portion of breast composition is fat. To keep the breast from sagging as the weight drops it is recommended you add some strength exercise to keep the underlying muscle toned so it can act as a support to perk up the breast on top. Many women promote the idea of push-ups and weighted chest exercises to stop the droop in its tracks.
6. STAVING OFF URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS
UTIs happen and they are monstrously uncomfortable; one of the main corrections and preventative options in the battle against UTIs has been the cranberry (13). The only problem with cranberries on a low-carb diet is that 1 serving of cranberries is enough to demolish all of your hard work counting carbs; the cranberry juice, besides having very little effect on UTIs, is mostly sugar.
The Fix: You can take cranberry supplements to alleviate symptoms of UTIs and help in their prevention. But additionally, following the recommended guidelines for preventing UTIs is your best bet in stopping them from even happening in the first place.
7. DIGESTION IS MORE DIFFICULT
Constantly changing hormonal levels, some from natural cycle and some as a result of the low-carb diet, lead to women having a tougher time digesting what they eat (14). This can lead to IBS, GERD or constipation.
The Fix: If digestion becomes irregular or uncomfortable, extra gas or bloating, you can ease up the load on your digestive tract by cutting out the red meats and dairy (15). Red meats and dairy give your stomach more work to do which can cause feelings of bloat and discomfort. Cut them in favor of fish or poultry to ease the pain. Additionally, cutting dairy can have benefits on your skin.
1. Sheel, A. W. (2016). Sex differences in the physiology of exercise: an integrative perspective. Experimental Physiology, 101(2), 211–212. https://doi.org/10.1113/EP085371.
2. Volek, J., Sharman, M., Gómez, A., Judelson, D., Rubin, M., Watson, G., … Kraemer, W. (2004). Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutrition & Metabolism, 1, 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-1-13.
3. WebMD. Do men lose weight faster than women? (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/do-men-lose-weight-faster-than-women.
4. Welland, D. (2010). Men suppress food cravings better than women. Scientific American Mind, 21. https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamericanmind0510-12b.
5. How do hormones affect hunger? (2015, August 28). Retrieved August 29, 2018, from https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/blog/hormones/how-do-hormones-affect-hunger/.
6. Massolt, E. T., van Haard, P. M., Rehfeld, J. F., Posthuma, E. F., van der Veer, E., & Schweitzer, D. H. (2010). Appetite suppression through smelling of dark chocolate correlates with changes in ghrelin in young women. Regulatory Peptides, 161(1–3), 81–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.regpep.2010.01.005.
7. Cribby, S., Taylor, M., & Reid, G. (2008). Vaginal microbiota and the use of probiotics. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1155/2008/256490.
8. Bilodeau, K. (2018, May 16). Fermented foods for better gut health. Retrieved August 29, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fermented-foods-for-better-gut-health-2018051613841.
9. Pogozelski, W., Arpaia, N., & Priore, S. (2005). The metabolic effects of low-carbohydrate diets and incorporation into a biochemistry course. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 33(2), 91–100. https://doi.org/10.1002/bmb.2005.494033022445.
10. Wismann, J., & Willoughby, D. (2006). Gender differences in carbohydrate metabolism and carbohydrate loading. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 3(1), 28–34. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-3-1-28.
11. Payne, N. E., Cross, J. H., Sander, J. W., & Sisodiya, S. M. (2011). The ketogenic and related diets in adolescents and adults--a review. Epilepsia, 52(11), 1941–1948. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.03287.x.
12. Fish oil, vitamin b-12 may offer relief during that time of the month. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/women/news/20000620/fish-oil-b-12-period-relief.
13. Cranberries help urinary tract infections, but not as juice. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2018, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306498.php.
14. Digestion: How long does it take? (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2018, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/digestive-system/expert-answers/faq-20058340.
15. Doucleff, M. (2011, December 13). Chowing down on meat, dairy alters gut bacteria a lot, and quickly. Retrieved August 29, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/12/10/250007042/chowing-down-on-meat-and-dairy-alters-gut-bacteria-a-lot-and-quickly.