The ketogenic diet is exploding in popularity. It is no longer simply reserved for treating children with intractable epilepsy or solely the province of cutting edge bodybuilders. The ketogenic diet has become so popular that you’ll hear about it in grocery stores, coffee shops, spin classes, business meetings and youtube channels. The ketogenic diet does have some special concerns for women. Most women may take special precautions when implementing a ketogenic diet.
The greatest benefit of the ketogenic diet can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for women. With an increase of satiety, there can often be an inadvertent reduction in caloric intake. You have higher quality nutrition and foods and they are very filling. You may end up eating fewer calories because all the food is so nourishing.
However, premenopausal women can have an increased sensitivity to reduced calories than others. Biology is concerned with your fertility and your ability to reproduce. Many women on the ketogenic diet report an increase in fertility due to the ketogenic diet. This may not be the case if you are restricting your calories. So, it is important to pay attention to your menstrual cycle and any changes that may occur as you embark on the ketogenic diet.
With that in mind, how can women avoid the common pitfalls that occur on the ketogenic diet?
1. Eat Some Extra Fat Initially
Eating extra fat has three effects. First, it will up regulate the construction of your fat burning machinery. It will hasten the adaption of your mitochondria to the new fuel source by boosting AMPK. Second, it will help to ensure that you don’t have a caloric deficit. It sends your body a signal of abundance, which means that it won’t dive into metabolic conservation mode and hang onto its fat stores. Finally, you’ll get a psychological boost. You’ll realize that you can eat more fat than you thought and still experience weight loss and health benefits.
You don’t need this big increase in fat. As you get better at generating and burning ketones, you’ll be able to listen to your body’s needs and determine if you need to eat more.
2. Take a Long-Term Approach
Many people decide they want to start the ketogenic diet and test it out for a week or two. This approach can fail. It is important to understand that the ketogenic diet takes time to work its magic. Additionally, by drastically cutting off carbs, your body can have a shock of an adjustment period, especially when it comes to hormones. Instead of cutting your carbs to 20 carbs per day, you may want to start by transitioning to a low-carb Paleo diet where you consume 100 carbs per day one week and then drop to 50 the next and then the following week drop them again to 25 carbs. This gives your body an adjustment period. You may not feel the negative effects of the dreaded “keto flu” as badly if you transition gradually.
This slower, long-term approach does not mean that you are failing at it or won’t lose weight. It could take about 3 months to achieve ketosis, but you are ushering in a dramatic change to your body’s fuel source gently. This allows your hormones to compensate.
3. Be Flexible with Your Macros
After you achieve ketosis, your carb needs may change based on hormone fluctuation, age or activity level. For example, menopause may throw things into chaos for a brief amount of time and may signal a need fore more or fewer carbs to feel energetic and great. That’s fine. Listen to your body’s signals.
It is important to remember that your macros (the ratio of macronutrients of fats, carbs and proteins) are not set in stone. In fact, as you lose weight, you will need to adjust these ranges to fit your body’s changing needs. As your activity level changes or your stress level changes, you could require different ratios of macronutrients.
The ketogenic diet is not a one size fits all or “set it and forget it” diet plan. You need to get in touch with how you’re feeling, what you’re eating and become focused on more than the number on the scale as a defining factor of success.
4. Track Changes with A Wellness Journal
For some people the changes that occur with your body during the ketogenic diet happen slowly. Other people will see rapid results. It is helpful to get a ketogenic journal and track your own personal changes. This improves your ability to listen to your body as you make dietary changes. It is also the very best way to determine if this diet is working for you.
Use your ketogenic diet journal to keep track of your foods and macros as well as any other bodily changes. You will want to also write down any food reactions that you may be experiencing and fluctuations in energy levels. You may not notice much in your day to day entries, but if you look over weeks or months, you’ll start to see patterns emerge and it will help you identify what is working and what doesn’t. Nutrition professionals always have their clients use food journals to gather this valuable information.
As you keep your journal, it is essential that you are honest with yourself. Write down both the good and the bad. Don’t be more committed to the dietary program than you are to discovering what makes your body function at its best. It is okay if you need a few more or few fewer carbohydrates than someone else.
5. Stay Hydrated
One of the most common problems with the ketogenic diet is that it eliminates a lot of foods that are filled with electrolytes and fluids, such as potatoes, citrus fruits, and raw honey. It also eliminates a lot of processed foods that have loads of salt, which causes your body to retain water. For this reason, dehydration in the initial phases of the ketogenic diet can be a problem for many people. Keeping track of your water intake and other fluid balance is essential.
There is no hard and fast rule for how much water you should consume per day. Everyone has a different activity level and body type. A good starting point is to aim to drink half your body weight (measured in pounds) in water (in ounces). For example, a 150 pound woman will start with drinking 75 ounces of water per day. She will then use her thirst as a guide to adjust the amount of water that she drinks.
Some people notice that they have leg cramps. This can be a sign that you are dehydrated or need additional electrolytes. Many people who are on the ketogenic diet will make sure that they consume electrolytes in addition to their daily water consumption. Pickle juice is often recommended, but some also make sure they salt their foods with unprocessed sea salt to get minerals.
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