Keto Diet and Testosterone: What’s the Connection Between the Two?

On: March 16, 2020
diet, low testosterone

If you’re in the market for a new diet that helps you lose weight and get healthy, you won’t get far without hearing about the keto diet.

Originally adopted as a diet for kids with epilepsy, this high-fat nutritional approach has helped thousands of people shed weight and get results faster than they ever thought possible.

Are you one of the many men out there feeling discouraged because of your lack of results? While you might just be dealing with low testosterone, you also simply may just need a better option.

In this article, we’ll look at how the keto diet works, how the keto diet and testosterone connect with one another, and how you can get started using this nutritional approach.

What Is The Keto Diet?

The keto diet, or ketogenic diet, is a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet. It’s been proven by science to help you lose weight, improve your metabolic health, and even enhance brain function.

The original diet’s roots go back all the way to 1919 when a scientist developed a low-carb nutrition plan for kids with epilepsy. More recently, it resurfaced as an option for effective weight loss. Because it’s been so effective, it hasn’t gone away!

You can break the number of calories you eat each day on the ketogenic diet down into three categories based on percentages:

  • 70 percent of your calories come from fat (avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, meat)
  • 25 percent of your calories come from lean protein sources (chicken, beef, eggs, steak, seafood)
  • 5 percent of your calories come from carbs (fibrous fruits, low-carb veggies, and the occasional piece of dark chocolate.

On this plan, you’ll only eat about 50 grams of net carbs (this is the number of total carbs that also takes into account fiber and sugar alcohols) to induce a fat-burning state called ketosis.

What Is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a state brought on by periods of starvation, fasting or abstinence from glucose (sugar, usually eaten in the form of carbs). When you deplete your body of its stored glucose, it’s forced to create something called ketone bodies, or ketones.

Ketones use fat, not sugar, as your body’s primary fuel source.

Yes, you read that right—ketones burn up your stored body fat for energy instead of sugar. This is why it’s such an effective weight-loss tool. You burn fat not only by exercising or counting calories, but by walking around, completing your work, and even while you’re sleeping.

It’s also been shown to have positive effects on things like your mood, metabolic health, and blood markers like blood glucose and cholesterol.

Benefits of the Keto Diet and Ketosis

Here are all the benefits just in case you’re wondering.

  • Weight loss (often faster than traditional diets)
  • Enhanced cognitive performance
  • Sustained levels of energy
  • Better sleep quality
  • Less hunger pangs (fat and protein both help keep you full longer after meals, and you’re eating lots of both)

Now, the million-dollar question: can eating this way boost a man’s natural testosterone levels?

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone produced by both men and women, though men produce lots more of it. Not only does testosterone affect things like your mood and how much muscle you can add from workouts, it determines your appearance (especially how much hair you have and where) and sexual development, too.

As men age, their testosterone levels naturally begin to decline. In fact, by age 40, your natural T levels may be half what they were in your teens and twenties.

And that’s when things like diet really start to matter. Low T is no joke, and the side effects of it aren’t fun for men regardless of age.

The Keto Diet and Testosterone

When a man has low testosterone, he’s more likely to gain weight, get depressed, have mood swings, and simply not feel his best. Diet has been linked in the past to low T levels, so naturally, you’re probably wondering if this wonderful weight loss protocol can also help regulate your hormones.

While there aren’t any direct links between the keto diet and testosterone, there are at least three reasons you might have higher T levels by going keto.

By the way: here are some frequently asked questions about low T.

Protein and Testosterone

25 percent of your daily calories come from protein on the keto diet, which means more than 100 grams per day if you eat at least 2,000 calories (and you likely need to, even if you’re overweight).

Eating adequate amounts of protein can help elevate many of your body’s natural hormone levels, including testosterone. So for this reason, keto might be a good option.

Weight Loss and Testosterone

There is perhaps no diet more known for weight loss in the health and fitness world right now. Simply put, keto gets results—some people have lost over one hundred pounds in just six months on the diet.

This is good news if you’re suffering from low testosterone. Losing weight has been shown to help elevate your body’s T levels. Further, you’re going to have more energy and feel more like exercising when you start to lose the weight (that’s another benefit).

So not only will you start to look better in the mirror, but the energy improvements can also help regulate this important male hormone.

Intermittent Fasting and Testosterone

If there’s a second tool that’s notorious for helping with weight loss out there right now, it’s intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting means timing your meals into a window. So instead of eating three meals a day, you eat all your food in 8 hours (say from noon to 8 pm) then abstain from having anything besides water, coffee, or tea until noon the next day.

While not required on the keto diet, intermittent fasting is a popular tool used in conjunction with the low-carb, high-fat nutritional approach. And like eating enough protein and losing weight, timing your meals has been shown to boost your body’s testosterone levels.

For most newbies, combining intermittent fasting and the keto diet is a bit much. You may want to try going keto for at least thirty days first, then add in IF down the road.

Keto Diet and Exercise

It’s simply a truth that you’ll reach any fitness or weight loss goals you set faster if you exercise on a regular basis. Exercise elevates mood, burns calories, and strengthens your muscles and cardiovascular system.

Exercise, especially strength training, helps to keep your natural T levels elevated as you age. If you’re trying to get back to where you once were, working out should be a top priority.

But on the keto diet, exercise, especially weightlifting may be more difficult at first. This is because your body takes time to adapt to eating such few carbs, and most people wind up feeling tired for the first week or two they are on the diet.

If you notice your strength or endurance is missing at first, this is completely normal. In fact, it’s so common that this is known as the “keto flu“.

Other symptoms of the keto flu include dizziness, nausea, headaches, and dehydration.

Low Carb Diets Can Mean Less Testosterone

While the benefits of a keto diet are profound, it’s important to keep in mind that some people experience dips in their testosterone levels from making the switch.

When your body isn’t in ketosis, it packs your muscles, liver, and fat cells with glucose to be used for energy. The body undergoes a specific metabolic process to use this fuel, and hormones such as testosterone play a role in this.

When you switch to ketones for energy, your body must get energy from an entirely different source. This can throw your body out of whack, especially it’s hormones.

While your T levels can go back to normal after you adjust, this is something to keep in mind if you’re already experiencing low levels of testosterone.

The flip side of this is that all the healthy lifestyle choices you make and the results you get after going keto can actually boost T levels. So if you’re consistent, this probably won’t be an issue.

Getting Started

If you’re considering going keto to lose weight or boost your testosterone, here are a few models you may follow when getting started with the diet.

Lower Carbs To Adjust

50 grams of carbs per day is pretty low, especially when you consider that one medium-sized apple contains about half your daily carbohydrates in it.

If you’re not ready to go whole-hog into the keto diet, you might start with a more reasonable goal of eating 100 or 150 grams of carbs per day. This is still about half of what most people eat on a given day, so you’ll probably get some positive results from cutting your carbs in half.

Keep in mind that you won’t achieve ketosis until you restrict carbs further—studies show that 50 grams per day seem to be about the magic number. But you can do a more intense workout with two or three times that number of carbs, which can help your body adjust to the low-carb diet.

Cold Turkey

For some people, the easiest approach is to jump right into the diet. They’d rather get the initial adjustments over with and deal with the keto flu symptoms right away so that their body adjusts.

If this is you, there are still ways you can be smart about going cold turkey. For example, many of the symptoms of the keto flu are the result of dehydration or at least get worse because your body doesn’t have enough water in it.

So while you’re adjusting (the first one to two weeks) be sure to drink plenty of water. Also, be sure to do a few light workouts and get as much sleep as you can to help mitigate your symptoms.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet

If you’re an athlete that occasionally needs more carbs (or want to be), or you like the occasional “cheat” day, the cyclical ketogenic diet might be a good option for you.

Cyclical keto means you follow the keto diet for between 3 and 6 days, then deviate. On your “off” days, you can eat as many carbs as you like, though it’ll probably benefit you to eat the cleanest sources possible). This can be a good mental reprieve from the diet and make it feel less restrictive.

Something to keep in mind is that you won’t necessarily jump back into ketosis after a day off. If you eat 300 grams of carbs on your off day, it could take 2 to 3 days before you’re back in ketosis. So it’s best not to go completely of the wagon on off days.

You can speed up the process by hitting an extremely challenging workout the day after an off day. This has the added benefit of boosting T levels, too.

Final Thoughts

The link between the keto diet and testosterone is still new, and some of the science is still out on whether a low carb diet hurts or helps your ability to boost this hormone.

On the one hand, you’ll benefit from the keto diet by losing weight and having more energy. Plus, you can adopt hormone-boosting tools like intermittent fasting which have been sown to elevate testosterone.

On the other, some studies have shown a decrease, at least temporarily, in testosterone levels when switching to a low-carb diet. The symptoms of the keto flu can crop up too, so just be prepared for an unpleasant adjustment phase when you first start (and drink lots of water).

For more on how testosterone replacement therapy can help you, read some of these testimonials written by men that got results. Good luck!

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