The differences between men and women on keto are not often discussed. What are your thoughts on the topic?
There are differences, and it’s important for women to be aware of them so that they go into a ketogenic or low-carb diet with the proper expectation and the proper mindset.
There’s a lot of debate and controversy over keto in general and whether it needs to be very different for men and women. I think there’s a little bit of difference there. With regards specifically to fat loss, men just tend to lose body fat much faster and more easily than women do, and there are a lot of reasons for that. This is mostly to do with testosterone and men just having more muscle mass, which increases your metabolic rate. Having muscle mass on you increases your metabolic rate, which is the energy your body needs or the calories you burn through doing nothing, while just sitting around, and while being alive.
Women just have to understand that it’s going to take longer for them, it’s going to be a slower process. You cannot compare yourself to any of the men in your life, even if the man is older than you are. Do not compare yourself to any man who is doing a ketogenic diet if you are losing fat or losing weight more slowly. That is to be expected, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.
Is this true for all women?
There are always exceptions, every rule seems to have exceptions. There may be women whose bodies readily let go of excess fat, and then there are men who will struggle and have a harder time. So, there’s always going to be a little bit here and there, but if you’re a female, go into this expecting that your weight loss will be a little slower than your husband’s or your brother’s or your father’s, whoever the man in your life that you’re comparing yourself to may be.
What would you expect in terms of fat loss or weight loss for men versus women?
I can’t quantify it. I can’t put a number on it because there will be differences. The more weight you’re looking to lose, meaning the heavier you are when you start, the more quickly the weight will come off, at least for the first few weeks and sometimes the first few months. Then it will slow down, and you’ll still lose, but the rate of loss will be slower. In that scenario, if you’re comparing a man that is trying to only lose eight or ten pounds just to lean up a little, compare him to a woman who’s trying to lose a hundred or two hundred pounds. She might lose more weight than him at that time because she has more to lose. It really is an individual thing. I can’t quantify it. I always make the point to emphasize that even if your fat loss is slow or the scale isn’t moving at all, as long as you are keeping your carbs very low, good things are happening metabolically and for your health on the inside. I know that that is not that comforting. It doesn’t help the ladies feel that much better when all they want to see is that scale move or even to feel their clothes getting larger on them. But rest assured, at least, that even when that scale isn’t moving, there are other ways to confirm that keto is still doing something effective for you.
Would you say that one of the biggest contributing factors as to why it’s different for men versus women is because of the different hormones?
Absolutely. I mentioned testosterone earlier, that’s a big one. In women, not even talking about menopause yet, but just during the menstrual cycle, women know that their weight fluctuates a lot and their size, just from water retention, can fluctuate, and that’s normal. It’s not body fat gain or loss, it’s just shifts in water, mostly. After menopause, it does get harder. It is harder to lose weight after menopause. It’s not impossible, it’s just harder. Women struggle also for some reasons that are somewhat related to hormones but somewhat related to our past behaviors. Women, and this is a generalization, are more likely to come from a history, in some cases a very long history, decades, of calorie restriction, and lots and lots of cardio exercise. Basically what that does over the long run is you jettison muscle mass. You lose your lean muscle. As I said before, lean muscle is one of the big determinants of your metabolic rate. Apart from the thyroid, which is a whole separate issue, the more muscle mass you carry, the higher your metabolic rate, meaning the more food, the more energy your body requires, and also the more energy your body burns through, the easier it is for you to lose excess fat. And so, not only do we tend to lose muscle over the course of years when we’re not eating enough total food especially protein (most women do not eat enough protein) we have become so conditioned to either do cardio exercise or so many people, they’re moms, they’re working, they’re wives, they have a lot of commitments and obligations, they’re not doing any exercise at all. I say this hesitantly because I don’t enjoy weight lifting, but it is true that resistance training, building muscle, is critical for metabolism, critical for the physique. Forget even the number on the scale, but your physique, your size, and shape, which is really what most people are concerned with, men and women. Building muscle is what’s going to help you with that. Keto will help you lose fat. Keto isn’t automatically going to put lean, sculpted muscle on you. I think women are very hesitant to enter the intimidating, scary free weight room of a gym or even to buy a set of dumbbells or barbells and do it in their own homes. Culturally, at least in the US, it’s not something we tend to do. But we can get over that little fear and just do it.
Some say that women are more sensitive to leptin. What is your experience?
Are there differences between men and women when it comes to non-scale victories?
Yes. For some reason, it seems to be a little more common for women, for their shape and size to get smaller with either no change on the scale or very little change. The men tend to see the scale go down. That may be because they’re already starting from a point of more muscle mass, so the fat just comes off more easily. I’m not really sure. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference there, but I would say I see it more commonly in women that their shape will change even when the weight hasn’t moved. That’s why it’s so important to either take measurements with a tape measure once or twice a month – do your waist and your hips, some people do their neck or their wrists, just depending on where you’re starting from. Or, find an article of clothing that is very tight or that doesn’t fit at all and try it on once a month. There are other ways to see how things are going besides the scale, for sure.
Are there differences between men and women when it comes to the benefits of keto like reversing type 2 diabetes or other chronic illnesses?
In that regard, no. I think finally there’s one area where keto is an equal opportunity benefit. I’m glad you said that because look at the huge list of things that low-carb and ketogenic diets do that have nothing to do with weight. There’s even published research now that you can reverse metabolic syndrome with no weight loss. You can have lower triglycerides, higher HDL, lower glucose, lower blood pressure, and higher energy levels. Dr. Westman is constantly saying acid reflux goes away, usually just within a few days. Migraines, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and brain fog can go away. Some people’s skin will start to clear up. It’s amazing what this does. So, even if you don’t want to think about the scale or your size and shape, think about the little everyday nagging things that affect you and realize, “Oh, I haven’t taken an aspirin in a month, and I used to have to take five a week.” There are all kinds of other things that tell you that this is doing something for you. Watch the full video here.