If you are a woman, sorry guys, not to leave you out but this article is more focused on women and factors that can stall us on our weight loss journey with a ketogenic diet.
Can you relate to Julie?
I can, as this is what happened to me. I was a fat burning machine for the first part of my journey but then my weight loss stopped in its track and just wouldn’t budge. I stayed on course and demonstrated patience but after 4 months of being at the same weight, I started to do some research because I knew that something wasn’t right.
I can understand if I was at a low body percentage and I was fighting for those last couple pounds to meet a number on the scale versus trying to burn the excess fat on my body. I still had about 20 additional pounds on my body that I was carrying around. So I knew that I needed to seek some answers.
This is what I found
It is quite common that woman on a ketogenic diet will lose at the beginning but their weight loss can stall after a long period of time being on a low carb diet and the reason for this can be that your hormones and metabolism get impacted and you stop burning. I also learned that our bodies are very smart vessels and if you do the same thing over and over, it will start to know what to do with what you are doing to it and just start to function in its new state, it gets comfortable is another way to put it.
To avoid these things happening to you, I have learned a couple practices that have worked for me and I was finally able to break that weight loss plateau after a couple weeks. These might not be for everyone but they are worth a shot if you experience a plateau. And by plateau I mean you are at the same weight for over a month, not a couple weeks.
The two things I am going to cover with you are:
- Carb-up’s for women, also known as cyclical ketosis
- Practicing eating at different times
I started to practice cyclical ketosis and mixing up my eating windows and what do you know, the weight dipped below my lowest number. I was ecstatic! And who knew? I can honestly tell you that I don’t enjoy “carb-ups”. It feels wrong to me to be munching on carbs and my head feels funny after and I’m exhausted but tricking my body was exactly what I needed.
Let’s dig in further about what exactly is a cyclical ketogenic diet and why it is good for women? And how can you learn more?
What is a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet?
A Cyclical Ketogenic Diet, or also referred to as CKD for short. CKD means that for the majority of the time you were eating a low-carb, high fat, moderate protein diet, however, there is a period of time in which you will carb-up or re-feed on carbs. On the day(s) that you decide to carb-up, you won’t eating high fat on those days, you will switch your diet macros to a higher carb, higher or same for protein and low-fat.
A meal you may choose to have is pasta, rice or sweet potatoes.
Benefits of it for Women
While on a ketogenic or a low-carb diet, if you are experiencing some following, this might indicate that you need to implement a carb-up:
- loss of your menstrual cycle
- losing hair
- lack of sleep
- dry skin
- brittle nails
- inability to lose weight on a ketogenic diet
These are just a few, not anywhere near an exhaustive list but if you experience any of these and or you just don’t “feel right” but can’t explain it while on a ketogenic diet you might need a carb-up.
This is not a free for all on what you eat, nor is it a day to eat junk food all day. What do you eat on carb-up’s? Natural carbohydrates like potatoes or rice, or maple syrup or honey if you want something sweet. You still remain grain free and white sugar-free while carbing-up.
For women, it can be beneficial to eat carbohydrates to help balance your hormones, an example of that is your leptin. Wikipedia defines Leptin as the “hormone of energy expenditure”, [it] is a hormone predominantly made by adipose cells that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger. Leptin is opposed by the actions of the hormone ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”.
Leptin is mainly produced by fat cells, so the more fat you have, the more leptin you produce, when you start to lose fat you will stop producing Leptin, and leptin is the responder that tells your brain you are hungry. But that’s not all, as you may know, your hormones can all work together to support their functioning, and Leptin is no exception. Leptin helps regulate the thyroid gland and the adrenals.
If Leptin is malfunctioning on your body, you can now understand why you might be at a weight loss plateau and by resetting your leptin levels might work in your favor. If you do try a carb-up, try to pay attention to how hungry you are the next morning and really listen to your body and if you are really hungry before you eat your meal one. You might find that you could fast all day long. This is the indicator that your leptin levels are restored.
Meal Plans that Support Carb Up’s
Leanne Vogel is an advocate of carbing up for balancing your hormones and resetting your leptin. You can visit her meal plan option on my page: Ketogenic Meal Plans.
Leanne is a keto enthusiast and bestselling author, her latest book The Keto Diet. Her website is packed with ketogenic information including Balanced Keto Weekly Meal Plans which include carb up meals.
Let’s see what Leanne says about carb-up’s:
Eating at different times:
Another way to help with a weight loss plateau is to change your eating window routine. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a common practice on the ketogenic diet, which means you are eating within an eating window always and then fasting the remainder of the time. A common IF time frame is 8 hours eating window and 16 hours of fasting.
When I first started to practice IF, I ate between 10AM – 6PM and I fasted from 6PM-10AM. This was easy to achieve and often I would get to noon and I wasn’t hungry to eat yet, so my eating window that day would change from 12-8, however, I would never extend my eating window passed 6PM unless it was a special event that I was attending.
IF is a great way to lose the weight while on a ketogenic diet because you give your blood sugar a break from peaking while eating foods and you are a fat burner for 16 hours including while you are sleeping. Brilliant right? Right! However, you might find that you are now in complacency. When your body learns and expects when you will be fueling it, then it knows exactly what to do with the fuel you are giving it, including holding on to it and not burning anything extra.
This could be another reason your weight has plateaued. I recommend continuing with your IF eating windows but change up your schedule. For example, some morning I will drink a fat burning milkshake at 8AM and I will finish eating that day by 4PM, or the next day I might fast until 12PM, which means I actually fasted 20 whole hours! By changing things up, you are shocking your body and it can kick it into fat burning mode because you are fueling it with the nutrients it needs, there is no risk that you will move into starvation mode. Remember if it needs fuel, it will just tap into your own reserves.
It’s worth a try
Carb-Up’s and changing your eating windows up can be two methods to try if you hit a weight loss plateau or experiencing some uncomfortable things I mentioned above in the Benefits of it for Women section. But as a reminder, only if you are fat adapted can you decide to reintroduce carbohydrates. If you are not fat adapted, your body still prefers to fuel by carbs, so you will struggle to get back into ketosis and you might experience the keto flu again. I also highly recommend following a plan like Leanne Vogels to ensure you are doing carb-ups effectively.