Sex and food are both essential parts of our lives. Have you ever wondered how they are connected and whether your diet can have an effect on your sex drive?
The answer? Yes, it definitely can.
In general, the effect of keto on your sex drive can be examined through the prism of two things. The first includes the fat adaptation process and where you stand in regards to it, and the next is the effect that keto has on your sex hormones.
Your Sex Drive During The Different Stages Of Keto
The Keto Flu
When you first go on a ketogenic diet, you’re likely to go through a phase commonly referred to as “the keto flu,” which is the beginning of the fat adaptation process.
During that time, your body is busy learning how to effectively utilise fat for energy instead of carbs, and you might experience a number of side effects, such as tiredness, headaches, insomnia, lack of motivation, and the like.
During this phase, you might not really feel in the mood for sex, as you might not feel great altogether, and you might not be in your best shape. Don’t despair, though – this phase will soon be over and you’ll feel much more energized and motivated for sex and for everything else.
Related: 7 Signs that You Are in Ketosis
The Fat Adaptation Phase
The keto flu is the first stage of a period of time that is often called “fat adaptation.” It’s a complex metabolic process that takes around 2 to 4 weeks, in which your body is getting used to your new diet and getting better and better at using fat for energy, instead of relying on glucose.
Once you go through the keto flu, you’re likely to experience a surge in energy and in performance, both physical and mental, which will definitely help in bed.
Emotions – which we all know are closely related to our desire for sex – also tend to be more balanced. This is related to the stabilization of blood sugar levels, which is one of the things the keto diet really helps with (1).
You’re no longer experiencing any spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels, and as a result, your mood and energy levels will also be more stable. This also means that, if you experienced a drop in your interest for sex during the keto flu, your sex drive will be back to normal, and even improve, resulting from feeling better.
Long-term Adherence to The Keto Diet
The longer you stay on the keto diet, the more health benefits you’ll be able to experience from it. The general boost in mental and physical performance, which you are likely to have started experiencing during the fat adaptation phase, will still be there, combined with the pleasant experience of being used to your new way of eating and having adapted to it successfully.
Losing weight and feeling healthier will help you feel more confident – if you were experiencing a decline in sexual activity because of feeling unattractive due to weight gain (which is the case for many people), you’ll be able to improve that significantly with the healthy weight loss that will result from doing keto.
Your libido is closely related to how you feel about yourself – feeling sexy and self-assured will also have a positive impact on your sex drive.
Additionally, the keto diet effects your sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, and can help increase the levels of both of these. This is what we’ll be discussing in the next part of the article.
Keto and Sex Hormones
Keto’s Effect on Estrogen
Despite being told for years that low-fat diets are good for us, research shows that low-fat diets have a negative effect on estrogen production (2, 3). This is important because estrogen, and other sex hormones, play a major role in your sex drive, among many other things.
Estrogen is the most important female hormone related to reproductive health, and, as such, it controls plenty of different aspects of it, including your desire for sex. Low estrogen levels can lead to a lowered interest in sex; moreover, during and after menopause your hormone levels will naturally decrease (4).
Making sure your estrogen levels stay stable will also positively influence your sex drive, and a diet that is higher in fat can be a very effective strategy for that. Especially if your previous diet was a low-fat one – if this is the case, the keto diet will have a very positive impact on your estrogen levels, and, consecutively, on your sex drive.
The keto diet also helps balance hormone levels by reducing inflammatory sugars. Research shows that a high-sugar diet impairs certain hormones before a woman ovulates, including progesterone, estradiol, and luteinizing hormone (5).
Keto’s Effect on Testosterone
Lower testosterone levels are associated with a number of negative effects, such as fatigue, increased body fat, loss of muscle mass, decreased bone density, insomnia, and also lower sex drive and infertility (8).
Of course, testosterone levels are influenced by a number of factors, but diet is definitely one of the important ones, and should not be overlooked.
As we age, testosterone levels naturally decrease, and while the keto diet cannot reverse that completely, helping our bodies maintain a long-term balance should be an important aspect of aiming for better health. As a result of the improved testosterone production, your sex drive will improve with getting adequate, healthy fat from your diet.
Additionally, a study has concluded that individuals with a high percentage of abdominal fat who lose about 10% of their weight get a boost in testosterone production (9).
While not directly related to keto, this study once more proves the relation between fat loss and reproductive and sexual health.
Do Trans Fats and Sugar Affect Sexual Health?
Now, we’ve discussed the importance of healthy fats in hormonal balance. What about trans fats, though. Do they play a role in sexual desire? Do they influence your testosterone levels?
The answer to both questions is “yes.” Trans fats have a negative impact on testicular function and on testosterone levels (10).
This means that you should stick to healthy fats for optimal results with keto, and stay away from anything deep fried. Examples for healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and more.
Sugar also negatively impacts your sex drive. According to one study, eating too much sugar turns off a gene called SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) that controls your sex hormones (11). Specifically, SHBG controls how much estrogen and testosterone is available to your body.
Adopting a keto diet that is low in sugar and carbs is a great way to support hormone health and ensure that proper amounts of estrogen and testosterone are readily available.
Keto’s Effect on Fertility
Fertility can also be improved on the keto diet. This is excellent news for those of you who are trying to conceive, especially if you have been struggling for a while. (For the rest of you – take note and use adequate protection!).
A review of a number of studies on low-carb diets and their effect on fertility published in 2017 has concluded that limiting carbohydrate intake can have a positive influence on hormonal balance, ovulation, and the regularity of menstrual cycles (12).
Additionally, the keto diet can be an excellent tool in managing PCOS and improving PCOS symptoms is one of the benefits of carb restriction (13).
This is why losing body fat and maintaining a healthy weight – for which the keto diet is an amazing solution – are extremely important for enjoying good reproductive health.
Male fertility is also positively influenced by a healthy fat intake, as well as by a number of other nutrients, which you can find in abundance in keto foods, such as vitamin B12 (found in meat, and especially in organ meat, seafood, eggs, poultry and dairy), zinc (meat, shellfish, seeds and nuts), carnitine (meat, poultry, seafood), selenium (seafood, eggs, lean meats, poultry) and arginine (turkey, pork loin, dairy, pumpkin seeds) (16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21).
The keto diet, which is moderate to high in fat, will be much more beneficial to the balance of your sexual hormones than a low-fat diet. Adequate amounts of fat play an important role in regulating both estrogen and testosterone production, and these are extremely important in regulating your sex drive. Anecdotal evidence from people who follow the keto diet suggests that many experience a noticeable surge in interest towards sex.
For those of you who are trying to conceive, keep in mind that the keto diet improves fertility, together with overall reproductive health. There are plenty of success stories of keto babies, conceived after their mothers or both parents have gone on keto.
Additionally, losing weight and feeling good about how your body looks like will have a tremendous effect on your self-esteem and confidence, and, as a consequence, on how attractive you feel, which is an essential component in a healthy sex life. This might help bring back the intimacy in a long term relationship and give you the spark to enjoy sex and physical contact more than before.
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