Oh, carbohydrates. Just like politics and religion, discussion on this macronutrient is not dinner table material. There are many strong opinions on just how many carbohydrates are “safe” to consume. Some advocate “high” carb, others prescribe a “moderate” amount, others “low” or even “very low”. And to mystify things further, what’s considered a low amount of carbohydrates to some, may be considered too high for others. Even the scientific literature doesn’t seem to agree on a common definition. See how it can get confusing?
The purpose of this post isn’t to tell you which way is better. In fact, that is a decision you may never make. What works for some people, won’t work for others. What works for you now, may not work for you next week. If something is working for you, great! Right now, I want to explore one piece on the topic of carbohydrates that isn’t discussed often in this community.
I bring up this topic because I personally struggled with finding the “right” amount of carbohydrates for my body. I want to make sure others don’t have to go through what I did. In the past, I’ve done damage to myself by going too low (almost on accident) and I want to stop you before it’s too late. If you’re in the same boat as I was, I’m hoping this will be an aha! moment for you.
When I first started with my Paleo lifestyle, I realized just how amazing I felt going lower carb (probably in the range of 100 grams a day). The problem was, I was also doing high intensity workouts (kickboxing, interval training) multiple times per week. At first, I felt great. I was recovering like a champ, my sleep was perfect, I had a very stable, positive mood, and even though I knew I would probably benefit from more carbohydrates, I stubbornly went on my way.
Then I switched my training to solely heavy lifting (3 x 5, 1 rep max. style) + a few sprints. I started hearing more about ketogenic diets and figured I’d give that a try, especially since I wasn’t doing all the high intensity stuff anymore. Sugar is toxic anyways, right?
After all was said and done, I lost my cycle and messed up my hormones up pretty badly. I began seeing this time after time in my consulting practice and started digging deep into the literature. After many hours of research (and still counting), I found more and more evidence regarding proper amounts of carbohydrates for females with specific conditions. We always talk about biochemical individuality and using Paleo as a template, but I think for the effect of carbohydrates on women, this is a big deal.
Once I made a few tweaks to my diet and lifestyle, including adding back more carbohydrates, my hormones rebalanced. I also recommended that some of my clients follow similar protocols and they saw very positive results as well. We didn’t have to start throwing back pounds of sweet potatoes and rice, we just needed to quit the chronic very low carb (<50ish grams) lifestyles that we were on and add in some root veggies and fruit.
Ladies – Your carbohydrate intake could be a missing piece of the equation when it comes to balancing your female hormones, losing weight, recovering from exercise, supporting your thyroid, boosting your energy, and so much more.
Very often, I see females dealing with cycle irregularity, weight lost resistance, and poor exercise recovery in my practice as a dietitian. I’ll hear stories about how a Paleo template was working wonders for them and then all of a sudden they lost their cycle. Sometimes these ladies were rocking their workouts and then started to crash. Chicken, broccoli, and olive oil were working in their favor for weight loss, but now “just looking at that food made them gain 10 pounds.” They immediately blame it on adrenal fatigue and start taking adrenal support supplements hoping that will do the trick.
Sound familiar? Read on.
Yes, of course some of the problems women experience with weight loss resistance, poor recovery, altered sleeping patterns, and cycle-related issues may be due to stress, thyroid problems, or their adrenals. There are always other reproductive problems, such as PCOS and endometriosis, that can also create hormonal havoc and weight gain. Those are very probable guesses and something to consider; however, what if there was something even easier to implement that could help get you back on track? Could the answer be as simple as adding back more carbs?
Maybe simple isn’t the right word. In fact, nothing about nutrition is ever simple. I’m not talking about going back to eating legumes and healthy whole grains to lose weight and regain hormonal balance.
There’s a catch with this. There’s always a catch. Remember when I said, “what works for some, won’t work for others?” Let’s elaborate on that, shall we?
- If you are active, especially with a focus on frequent, high-intensity based workouts
- If you start having trouble recovering from your workouts
- If your thyroid is underactive, even with a clean diet and support from medications
- If you have adrenal fatigue
- If you start to lose your period or have irregular cycles (pre-menopause)
- If you’ve been very low carb for an extended period of time
- During pregnancy and while breastfeeding
When you may need less:
- If you have a condition such as PCOS, fibroids or endometriosis
- If you are dealing with small intestine bacterial or yeast overgrowth
- If you are insulin resistant or have diabetes
- If you have a neurodegenerative disease
- If you have certain forms of cancer
Other blog posts on this site have discussed the low-carbohydrate approach for insulin resistance, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer, so I want to specifically discuss why going too low carbohydrate may be problematic for supporting a healthy female hormone environment.
When a female ventures to a Paleo diet, she will be, by default, significantly reducing the amount of carbohydrates in her diet. Sure, starchy vegetables and fruit will provide her with some carbohydrates, but compared to the standard American diet, this is a dramatic shift. She will do great on the diet and may notice weight loss. After awhile, the weight loss may stall and she may read about the benefits and weight loss seen with lower carbohydrate Paleo diets. The thought is intriguing and she says goodbye to starches and fruit in her diet. Maybe entirely, or maybe just scaled way back. This new low-carbohydrate venture may work well for awhile, until at some point it doesn’t.
Getting your hormones back on track requires you to convince your body that it’s not in danger. This may mean working on improving the quality of your sleep, cutting back on exercise, implementing stress reduction techniques, eating enough calories to maintain normal body functions (resting metabolic rate) and possibly eating more or less carbohydrates, if you’re dealing with some of the factors listed above.
The why deserves a lengthy discussion, so I’ll get into that in a future post. In the meantime, let’s talk about leptin for a second. This hormone may play a key role for women in balancing their hormones, so it’s worth mentioning in this blog.
Remember leptin? Leptin is the new insulin. Okay, stupid joke, but leptin is gaining popularity in the scientific literature. Leptin is a hormone that circulates through your body assessing your energy availability. Leptin receptors have been identified in human ovaries and pre-ovulatory follices. Your fat stores represent a vital component in your body’s energy balance and reproductive function is dependent on energy availability. Thus, it makes sense how leptin could play a role in menstrual cycle changes.
If you’re not consuming enough calories or are going too low in carbohydrates to support activity, you could be messing with leptin’s ability to regulate your reproductive hormones. By going too low in both carbs and calories, you can also send signals to your body indicating that it is under stress. Your body isn’t not prioritizing a baby if it’s worried about its next meal.
Insulin stimulates leptin synthesis, so if you are dramatically cutting your carbs, you are likely further dampening your body’s leptin levels. This is especially true if you are lean and are eating a low-carbohydrate diet. Since women who have low body fat stores also have lower leptin levels, this can cause trouble.
What we know from the research is that we have a critical leptin level that is needed to maintain proper female hormone levels and menstruation. Thus, leptin levels are a sensitive marker of nutritional status in women. Insulin and glucose are key components of a complex feedback loop between fat stores and the hypothalamic regulators of reproduction. Meaning, if we are cutting our carbohydrates too low we could be compromising our reproductive systems ability to function at its best.
Another interesting study focusing on the ketogenic diet in adolescents, found that while there was a significant reduction in the number of seizures experienced and a majority of participants lost weight, 45% of the girls reported menstrual problems. These included amenorrhea and delayed puberty. A majority of the girls experience return of normal menses after the diet was discontinued. Yes, this is just one study, but it’s a pretty eye-opening to me.
We’ve talked about the Female Athlete Triad in an earlier post. Part of the triad is menstrual disturbances (amenorrhea or irregular cycles) and another is low energy availability/intake. This second part needs some discussion. What we are seeing is that it low energy availability, rather than inadequate body fatness or exercise stress, being the mechanism by which exercise negatively affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis in females. Of course if you are super skinny, your chances of having your hormones be in balance is highly unlikely. What this is saying is that if you are suffering from a lack of calories, regardless of weight, you will face obstacles when it comes to reproducing, feeling your best, not biting someone’s head off during times of the month, and owning it at the gym.
What is so amazing about this point is that it suggests that you don’t have to be stick-skinny to be suffering from hormonal complications. You may even be overweight, but your body can think you’re starving due to a true caloric deficit or potentially going too low on carbohydrates. Maybe you think your cycle is fine because you are regularly menstruating every month. Unfortunately, that is wishful thinking. While the presence of menstrual bleeding is often used as an indicator of a functioning system, the length of the phases in your cycle and optimal LH/FSH/estrogen/progesterone levels could all be out of whack even WITH a regular period. If you’re on any kind of hormonal contraception, that regular “bleed” at the end of the month doesn’t even tell you a whole lot about what’s really going on with your hormones. It’s misleading.
So what’s a good amount of carbohydrates for females?
The answer varies significantly from person to person; however, if you are an active female that is having a poor time recovering for workouts, having issues with your thyroid, having a tough time leaning out even though you are doing “all the right things,” or are having an irregular cycle (pre-menopause), you may want to consider bumping them up to at least 100 grams and see how you do.
I usually recommend about 15-30% of your total calories as carbohydrates, unless you are highly active and/or are dealing with the conditions described above that would warrant going lower. For females, eating about 2,000 calories/day, this is about 75-150 grams of carbohydrates/day. 75-150 grams/day may seem like a high carbohydrate diet to some of you eating very low-carb, but when compared to a standard American diet of 225-325 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet, it’s really not.
For a clean Paleo diet, 100 grams of carbohydrates would be equivalent to eating approximately two large sweet potatoes and 1 cup of blueberries.
- Lower is not always better when it comes to carbohydrates for females.
- Experimentation and individualizing your diet to your specific needs is key!
- If you’re a female and you’ve been doing very low carb for an extended period of time, you may find benefit with the health of your thyroid, adrenals, liver, and ovaries by bumping them up a bit.
- Carb cycling may be a great tool if you’re not ready for a daily increase in carbs.
- Changes in your cycle may not be related to exercise intensity or body fatness per se, but to inadequate energy intake (including carbohydrates levels) to meet the demands of the exercise.
- Sleep, toxins, stress levels (both physiologic and psychological), and the health of your thyroid (which can also be negatively affected by a lower carb approach), among a multitude of other factors also play a role in regulating your hormones, so make sure to work with a practitioner to get these things sorted out instead of covering the symptoms with medications and upping your carbohydrate intake alone.
Thong, F.S.L., and Graham, T.E. (1999). Leptin and reproduction: Is it a critical link between adipose tissue, nutrition, and reproduction? Can. J. Appl. Physiol. 24(4): 317-336.
Corr, M., De Souza, M. J., Toombs, R. J., & Williams, N. I. (2011). Circulating leptin concentrations do not distinguish menstrual status in exercising women. Human Reproduction, 26(3), 685-694.
Mady, M. A., Kossoff, E. H., McGregor, A. L., Wheless, J. W., Pyzik, P. L., & Freeman, J. M. (2003). The ketogenic diet: Adolescents can do it, too. Epilepsia, 44(6), 847-851.
Hum. Reprod. (2002) 17 (8): 2043-2048. doi: 10.1093/humrep/17.8.2043
Paige @ Your Trainer Paige says
I experienced this myself! I went paleo to try and correct some hormonal imbalances, but then didn’t see results until I upped my carbs (among other things.) I also find I sleep much better when I’m getting around 25-30% of my calories from carbs.
I’m so glad you found success with this! It’s awesome that you were open to trying a new approach! Congrats 🙂
Hello. I tried to go on the paleo diet for a little while and also tried cutting out many main sources of carbs like grains and legumes for a little while in regards to the assumption I need to cleanse my body of a candidiasis, but I was also working out with intermittent sessions of higher intensity than others, also not really realizing that I was cutting out my main source of energy necessary to maintain a sufficient and optimum performance. I was really strict with myself and best myself up trying to stick to a diet that obviously wasn’t right for my needs and throughout this process I believe i developed a binge eating disorder for junk foods. Can you tell me if you or anyone else you know has experienced this? And if I can ever bounce back from this? It’s uncontrollable and I’m worse than ever before, destroying my health.
Ashley Jeziorski says
Omg. I was browsing through articles and found your comment. I started paleo about 3 years ago. With so much information out there with Keto, low carb, no carb and omitting this and that became so nuts to me I became obsessed. Which in conclusion caused me to have a binge disorder. I would diet for a week or 2 straight, see no progress, feel guilty tired and binge. I just got over a 1 month cycle of eating great then weekend comes eating crap. I am now at my highest weight of my life. I just weighed myself last night and it shocked me. I feel paleo is the best diet but its how you handle your diet/stress. The stress of trying to be perfect and trying to go low carb on the paleo diet got me in a binging cycle. I now have a hormone imbalance because of all the stress and binging . I am currently working this out with my doctor by natural supplements, giving up all grains and limiting dairy. She also has me adding carbs in and limiting weight training to 2x a week. I am working on the stress part of it. I think the root of my issue is stress. This could be yours as well. Who knows. Many things cause binge eating. What is helping me so far is meditation. I meditate each night for 10min about my ideal body and telling my body I am happy safe and dont need my cravings etc etc. So far its helping and I am slowly learning to control cravings and eat less overall…. I thought I was the only one who began a binging cycle after strict paleo. If felt alone and out of place …
The only thing that worked for me to stop binge eating was to 100% commit to NEVER cutting any food groups out or restricting anything. Sounds counter productive, but whenever I say to myself ‘NO sugar allowed, ever!’ Or even restricting it to certain days or times, my brain immediately goes into overdrive craving and demanding huge amounts of sugar, like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. My one goal for last year was to remove all rules and restriction around my diet. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat healthily – I naturally do because I value my health and good quality food! But allowing myself the space to have a piece of chocolate or cake every now and then (or whenever I really feel like it) gets my brain to chill out and quit obsessing over what I ‘can’t’ have 🙂
Thank you so much for this post. I think this was made for me. I haven’t had a period in two years (and I’m even on the pill with hopes of getting one). I’m 5’3″, roughly 110lb, and do CrossFit/strength work 5x/week. I typically try to keep carbs in the 20% range, but perhaps I need to rethink my eating.
Hi Kim! I hear ya, I’ve personally been there myself and sometimes it takes more than just upping carbs to get your cycle back. It’s definitely a shot, but sometimes it’s the amount of total calories, getting your hormones back in balance, decreasing stress, etc that can make all the difference. I’m happy to help you figure this out if you want to set up a consult: http://robbwolf.com/about/team/stephanie-greunke/ Thanks for the comment!
Interesting balanced article Stephanie. I’d like to play devils advocate on a few points.
1. The “thyroid carb” connection has been recycled around the blogosphere for a while now without every convincingly showing PATHOLOGICAL decreases/increases in the various thyroid hormones to my knowledge – Jaminet & other have pointed to ‘changes’ in levels that were far from ‘established pathologies’. However, granted, it is a fair and open question to nonetheless.
— For example: when people eschew vegetable oils and include more mono and saturated fats in addition to a higher % of fats overall (compared to a SAD diet) their Total Cholesterol levels often go up (& sometimes not!): the Paleosphere is quick to suggest this is a ‘natural adjustment’ (which it most likely is). However, you can see here how we’re not applying to same ‘standard’ when talking about thyroid & cholesterol levels..
2. Changes in macronutrient ratios also incur a whole host of changes in other variables: micronutrient, salt & water just to name a few. There isn’t much of an argument to be made that total carbs is the factor trumping all others…
3. Women are unfortunately even more fat phobic than men & when lowering their carbs, often times fail to make up the difference with protein &/or fat (but especially fat)
This leads to:
4. Calories. High-fat, Low-Carb is very satiating and people aren’t used to this and are often tempted to reduce their calories to the point where their intake is insufficient for their activity levels or nutrient needs (as you pointed out)
5. The cortisol thing (directly being linked to carb levels) is sort of a myth. All cortisol is not equal and its use/recycling/isoforms is far more complex than conventionally suggested. A recent and well researched/referenced post discussing this can be found here: http://www.ketotic.org/2014/02/the-ketogenic-diets-effect-on-cortisol.html
Your point is well taken though, some people (women) definitely need to up their carbs. I would suggest they are in a minority though & that the “it’s not working –>ergo you should up your carbs” advice might not be the best FIRST line approach. I get it – it’s simpler to implement and to consider. But many other variables play in which shouldn’t be seen as 2nd or 3rd order priorities.
You have a point RS17, it may not be the first thing to do… But many times it should be. Females have different metabolism and many of us go into ketosis very easily. I was on below 50g of carbs for about 6 months (I ate my daily 2000 kcal and lots of fat). I thought it’s enough cause I’m short and slim. After half a year I started to feel worse so I bought urine sticks to check out my ketosis. It turned out I was on dark purple ketodiasticks all the time (2 weeks of measure multiple times a day), after work outs I felt like on amphetamine, couldn’t sleep, hands shaking… Glad I didn’t get any hormonal problems (that I noticed at least). Now I eat 85 g carbs for more than a month and slightly less protein than before and I still stay in ketosis without any problem, but in more healthy ranges. I feel much better also.
Ps. When it comes to cortisol the article you link does not prove it’s a myth, just speculates and tries to explain possibilities. There are people who experienced higher cortisol, higher sugar levels and insulin resistance as a result of ketogenic diet, I don’t know how many, maybe they’re minority but I know a couple examples. The issue needs further investigation. Many super optimistic keto reaserches consider obese people, clearly not doing well on high carb. The metabolic responce to keto of some slim and athletic to begin with (doing well on high carb) might be less favorable.
Thanks for this RS711.
While reading through the article, I thought: “what about a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb ketogenic diet? Wouldn’t high healthy fats take care of the hormonal issue of low carb?”
I think many make the mistake (as I did) when starting a paleo diet of eating excessive protein and not enough fat. A ketogenic diet can be upwards of 80% of your daily dietary calories from fat — a far cry from my fat intake on paleo.
so you say the purpose isn’t to say which method of carb intake is better and that each person is different, but then you proceed to say that vlc is inherently wrong/bad….
I think that there is no right/wrong way that can be stated as a perfect general guideline. For example, not EVERYONE should be low carb or high carb. I’m trying to make the point that carb intake is highly variable are requires some trial and error to get it right. Make sense?
I went very low carb and ended up eating too much protein, (lean meats, eggs, protein powder, nuts) and I believe that led me to have a kidney stone. With all the information out there it would be good if there was more information on how to balance the foods in the Paleo diet. I do realize everyone is different and needs to adjust accordingly. However, alot of Paleo websites suggest you can eat as much meat and protein as you want because your body will not let you over eat that type of food. I do not believe that to be true and would love to have more information about balancing Paleo foods. I find that I really do need more carbs to feel full along with the good fats!
Hi Michelle! Thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you about making sure your plate is balanced. As a general guideline, I typically recommend between 3-6 oz of protein per meal for women and 4-8 oz per meal for men. The amount is variable depending on the individual’s needs/goals, but if you’re having 3 meals a day, this is a good target. No need for 16 oz steaks at each meal (even if it tastes delicious) 🙂 I created a short post about this on my website, http://rockyourhormones.com/easily-create-balanced-meal-rockyourplate/.
“I typically recommend between 3-6 oz of protein per meal for women and 4-8 oz per meal for men”
That’s insane. If I were to eat 8 oz protein 3 times a day, that would be 2700 kcals. Even half that (your lower range) would be totally insane.
Btw, you say no need for 16 oz steaks. well, a 16 oz steak probably will have less than 4 oz protein. So I would say that under your regimen it would be 16 oz steaks all the way. And then some.
How would that be insane? I don’t see your argument? How do you figure a 16 oz steak would have less than 4 oz of protein??
Each protein source is going to have different amounts of calories and grams of protein. For example, a chicken breast vs a ribeye steak.
Father Nature says
“Beef, ribeye filet, boneless, separable lean only, trimmed to 0″ fat, select, cooked, grilled –
Serving: 16 oz.
Protein: 133.31 g.”
133.31 g is 4.7 oz.
Amy B. says
Michael, I think you’re misunderstanding what she means by the weight of protein. For example, a 6oz steak isn’t 6 ounces of pure protein. It’s 6 ounces of steak, by weight, not 6 ounces of isolated protein, where you would multiply the grams in 6 ounces by 4 to get the total calories. Doesn’t work that way. It’s got water, fat, and other “stuff” in it besides protein.
Kind of like a 3oz chicken breast is just a chicken breast that *weighs* 3oz. It’s not 3oz of straight-up protein.
No, I’m not misunderstanding and my calculations are spot on.
Father Nature above got it! Note that his calculation is based on 0-fat steak. Based on a normal fatty cut of steak that I would buy, a 16 oz steak is indeed less than 4 oz of protein. I stand by my assertions. Perhaps Michelle is using “protein” as shorthand for “meat/fish”.
“Perhaps Michelle is using “protein” as shorthand for “meat/fish”.”
Sorry, I meant Stephanie!
And read again what Stephanie says: “I typically recommend between 3-6 oz of protein PER MEAL for women and 4-8 oz per meal for men.”
At the upper end that is 3 x 8 oz protein per day = 24 oz of protein total. Not some cut of meat, no 24 oz of protein. (24 oz = 680 gm X 4 kcal = 2720 kcal.) Now where did I misunderstand?
See Michelle’s description of her VLC experience:
“I went very low carb and ended up eating too much protein, (lean meats, eggs, protein powder, nuts)” —> this is a good ‘real life’ example of my points 3 & 4 (fat phobia & concomitant likelihood of insufficient calories, respectively).
Why not lean & fatty meats?
Why the protein powder seeing as how the human body can only metabolize so much protein & (as per your description) you seemed to already be getting more than enough?
When figuring on the carbs one consumes, does this include green veggies or not, i.e., broccoli and spinach? I have heard conflicting reports as to whether those actually count as carbs or not. Thank you!
Such a great question! It depends on what your goals are and your individual carb tolerance. For high performing athletes, the green veggies or other non-starchy/high fiber veggies may not cut it for total carb intake. You may need to just focus on the starchier carbs to get you to your needs.
Thank you for the article! I thought I didn’t do my keto right (perhaps ate too much protein) which caused a total hormonal havoc. I’m still not sure what was the real reason. Thinking back my hormones were probably never balanced. After few wonderful first weeks of keto all sort of issues came, just as you listed above. All my existing hormonal troubles multipied. I increased the carbs a few months ago, but I am still not like before keto. I have to admit though that my leptin and insulin got fixed and I my brain worked brilliant on keto, also the killing lower back pain completely vanished and I had some other belefits as well, but the sex hormones and thyroid got out of controll. I do paleo, meditation, moderate amount of workouts, supplements, but I am strugling to lose weight.I keep blaming myself for all little cheats. I wonder sometimes if I will ever be in balance and lose that extra 40 pounds.
Please don’t blame yourself for all the little cheats! You can definitely get back in balance, just please be patient. It took me almost a year of dedication to get back on track. I did it all without taking any medications or hormone replacement therapy. I’m not saying that it will take you that long, but just understand that with time and effort, it will all pay off! Keep your head up! I’m happy to help develop a plan for you, if you’d like!
So what types of carbs should I add back in to my diet? What foods should I eat to try upping my carbs, thank you
Hi Kelli! Nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources such as sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash (butternut, buttercup, acorn), plantains, rutabaga, parsnips, beets, carrots, and pumpkin are great options to start with! Some individuals that are very active may find that they do well with rice in addition to these options, but it’s not for everyone.
Eating high amounts of carbs doesn’t work for women like me, who have extremely high stress levels alongside an autoimmune brain disease that causes seizures and can be life threatening. I can’t just go out and start eating a bunch of starches and let my night time seizures get out of control. Unfortunatly any meds I tried made them worse. I am the primary caretaker for two kids with special needs. If I am not able to care for them, nobody else will step up to the plate, unfortunatly.
Thank you so much for this post! It confirms what I was starting to think myself, I do Crossfit and I was finding that if I didn’t eat around 100g carbs then I was just dragging myself through the workout and feeling dreadful and then not sleeping properly at night to recover. It’s nice to hear it is a “thing” and not just my imagination!
Oh, one question I had, I know you mentioned carb cycling, what would your recommendation be for non-workout days? Is carb cycling better or just sticking to around 100g carbs all the time no matter if it is a workout day or not?
Glad you liked the article! Honestly, I’ve seen both ways work. I don’t know your specific situation, but if you’re active on consecutive days, multiple days a week (for example, you work out at a moderate level Monday-Friday, I’d try keeping the carbs up during the week and see how you do. If you following more of a 2-3 day a week protocol, you could try carb cycling.
Thanks! I do Crossfit 3 x a week, so might give carb cycling a go.
Rachel B says
Thank you so much for writing this article. Do you see many female patients with acne (particularly “female hormonal acne” that is along the jawline) and cystic acne who benefit from upping their carbs? If you have time, or if anyone else in the comments does, the following is background info for context:
I’m a 19-yr old female who has dealt with disordered eating years ago, overexercising for a period of time that was over a year ago, I ate vegetarian/vegan for two years until a year ago, eating a looot of soy protein, and I’ve been eating Paleo for a little over a year. I’ve been “Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting” 99% of the time until 12-4pm, eating pretty darn low carb most days, and generally under-eating a bit most days due to daily psychological stress from living at home / other psychological stress. I work out intensely without doing too many sets or reps or exercises for no more than an hour, and only every fourth day to allow for full recovery. And I need every one of those days between workouts to recover. Sometimes I’m not even fully recovered. My sleep most of the time is ok, 8-10h per night most of the time, but my sleep schedule changes frequently because of work.
I’m seeing an endocrinologist who is still trying to rule out if I have PCOS even though my bloodwork says all my hormones are normal except prolactin which is high (I’m not pregnant). She says it’s weird bc I’m lean, I don’t have facial hair, and I don’t have high levels of androgens so she really doesn’t know what’s going on with me.
I’ve also seen a dermatologist who says my acne is “severe”. I have a looooooooooot of cystic acne on my cheeks, temples, sides of my mouth, jawline, angles of my jaw, neck, and upper back. On top of that I have whiteheads every now and then, blackheads, and some other weird kind. He just wants to put me on antibiotics, Accutane, or he said I could try uv-phototherapy. The uv-phototherapy is the only one I’d consider.
If anyone has any ideas or similar experiences to share, I’d really appreciate any thoughts and stories. Thanks.
Amy B. says
For someone with a history of disordered eating, veganism, and overexercising, I would highly recommend you ditch the fasting and bulletproof coffee. On a cellular level, your body is probably screaming out for rest and proper nutrition.
Learn to *nourish* your body instead of starving and stressing it.
Amy Kubal says
SPOT ON, Amy. Having lived an eating disordered life for 23 years – I can testify that ANY type of restriction, fasting, etc. does nothing but feed the demons! Food is a GIFT. Rachel, PLEASE think about reaching out for help breaking this cycle. If you need to talk, I’m here!
Noelle @ Coconuts & Kettlebells says
I wish there was a way to “LIKE” this! 🙂
Megadoses of pantothenic acid internally for the acne…externally vitamin e oil
Cherie N says
Interesting, I also have high prolactin, and am taking cabergoline for it. I have a tiny tumor on my pituitary gland, this is a common cause of high prolactin. I also happened to have bad acne at your age (I’m 42 yo now), and took two rounds of Accutane to clear it up.
I also have Hashimotos hypothyroidism, diagnosed mid-thirties.
I used to do a lot of mid to long distance running and cycling, through high school all the way until my thirties. In my late thirties, I started Crossfit, and have had much better success in maintaining my weight and metabolism with Crossfit.
I was thin until college when I gained a few pounds, tried to lose it by eating low fat (and high in processed carbs, bread, sugar – terrible idea, especially for me!!!), and that was when my metabolic problems began.
I really struggled with my weight for over 10 years, but now I’m slim again with no struggle, unless and until I start eating like everyone else again (bread, pasta, sugar, all that crap). Eating paleo or mostly whole foods makes a big difference for me. I’m also gluten sensitive, which is common in people with Hashimotos.
I don’t know how it all connects, but thought my story might be interesting and possibly helpful to you. Good luck! 🙂
Laurie Schaeffer says
I was diagnosed years ago with PCOS. I didn’t understand it at all. I’m 45 now and I am just starting to figure it out. Cutting out diary and sugar have made the world of difference with respect to my hormones, moods, acne, excess hair, body temp. energy. Caffine not so nice either. Also, less intense exercise, like walking, kettlebells, heavy weights and body weight exercises(pull ups, chinups, pushups,). Avoid excess stress and sleep well. Hope this helps:)
ps.I naturally got pregnant with two amazing boys.
I can definitely see where Rachel is coming from and can understand her frustrations. I also come from a background of eating disorders, vegan diet, and am currently following a ketogenic diet. I got out of ketosis and am in the transition back into it so I’m going through the awful middle ground phase. When I was previously on it, I did notice weight loss much easier than any other “diet” I’ve been on before. However, the jawline acne is like I’ve never had. I’ve always had clear skin so now that I’m breaking out on my jaw and severely on my back tells me that my hormones are way out of whack. I don’t know if this is a sign that toxins are coming out, but I feel I’m passed the time frame that that should be occuring. I follow a ketogenic diet not just because I’m looking for weight loss, but it gives me structure and guidelines that give me simplicity to making food choices. Like I mentioned, coming from a disordered eating background, this kind of approach helps me with my recovery. Anyone know any answers to the jawline acne?
I wish you’d written this post 18 months ago… You would have saved me 6 months of misery! I am so happy someone is FINALLY addressing this.
Honestly, I think you can go much higher than 30% of kcals from carbs, especially as a lifter. Just my 2 cents!
I’m still struggling with finding the right balance of carbs for me. Typically, when I track my food, I eat roughly 30% carbs, 50% fat, 20% protein without even trying or thinking about it. I was diagnosed with celiac 4 years ago. And I have been on a steady gain ever since (30 lbs.). I am 51 and going through menopause. I try low carb, I gain. I up my carbs, I gain. The only time I was able to lose any weight was when I worked with a holistic nutrition coach. She had me on strict autoimmune paleo, no eggs, dairy, grains, nuts/seeds, nightshades, sugar (with the exception of fruit). I lost a whopping 3 lbs. in a month. Then it all went to hell after I broke my thumb and couldn’t hold a knife properly for food prep. I have an active job where I’m on my feet all day, lifting, walking, climbing ladders, squatting, etc. And I try to get to the gym 3 days a week. But I also find that my recovery takes longer. If I lift heavy on Monday, sometimes I’m shot until Thursday. So many weeks I can only manage 1-2 days. I know I will not see any strength gains at that rate. I’m at my wits end with this. I wish someone could tell me exactly what I need to do to see some weight (fat) loss.
Have been on pill for over a decade, without problems. After going very low carb, started getting spotting which would last for a couple of weeks. very weird. Then reintroduced rice, and eating more sweet potatoes and spotting has stopped. Yay! Thanks for the post, totally agree, from personal experience going higher carb has restored my hormonal balance. I don’t weigh the rice, just eat as much as I feel like. I love rice and rice products so what a bonus!
Thank you so much for this article. It really got me thinking. I have SIBO so naturally I keep my carb intake lowish but I do consume sweet potatoes and winter squashes post my weight and hiit workouts. I have been struggling with losing some stubborn body fat even after doing “everything right.” I am on birth control and have a regular “bleed” at the end of the month but just this past month I started spotting which has never happened in the 2 years I’ve been on birth control. Would increasing my carb intake help? Thanks again for this informative article.
Julianne Taylor says
Fantastic post, I see this problem regularly in female CrossFitters. Today I learned that males may be able to tolerate lower carb diets due to an increase in urate, when testosterone levels increase at puberty an don.
Anyone notice that very low carb diets were all designed and promoted by males?
YES, thank you for pointing that out, where are the female LCHF experts! I have regained a lot of the 4 sizes I lost when I first went paleo/low carb and the only way to recover it is to go very LCHF – after three tries in two years I know for sure, each time go LCHF (not even keto), my cycle and sleep get completely messed up and it takes months of going back to more carbs to get levelled out again. I’m soooo disappointed this is not addressed by any LCHF experts.
Maria Emmerich would be the perfect person to answer some of these questions.! Marianutrition.com
She only advocates a LCHF diet, and has since 2010.
So glad I found this article! My periods have been normal until I started Keto two months ago. We’ve been trying to get pregnant and it’s been a bust (never had an issue). I felt like I had lost weight and now I’m back up and just feel fat. Hoping this all goes away starting back to introduce carbs. Why is none of this ever talked about?!
And Stephanie Person is all about keto.
Lindsey Cash says
Amanda, that same thing happened to me!! My cycles began getting longer and longer when I switched to keto (not longer bleeding phases but longer luteal phases) and I definitely gained a little bit of weight. I will probably begin carb cycling or just go back to eating paleo because it’s been four months on keto and though I feel okay I don’t think my hormones or thyroid are necessarily doing better—it seems like it’s just confused my body!
Goodness, what great timing. I’m almost a year Paleo, and I’m three weeks into trying low carb (<50g/day) hoping to kick those last few stubborn pounds. I also Crossfit, rock climb, and dance salsa.
And this week I just experienced the worst PMS in my life. I have never had such bad cramps, for days, and the acne was as bad as when I was a HotPocket-addicted 14-year old. (And my skin's been clear since I started Paleo…) My calorie content has been pretty constant, so I was a little stumped.
Maybe I'll start by logging a few weeks of carb counts at my "normal" eating habit, and dial it back 10 or 15g a week…
I guess after starting Paleo with Whole30, my expectations of dietary changes are overly immediate and strict…
Thanks so much for the insight!
What a great article – thanks for venturing into this touchy topic. I’m continuing to experiment a correct amount of carbs for myself. So what if you are PCOS, insulin resistant, and don’t and haven’t had a natural period in a year? more or less?
Really, really good post. So refreshing reading articles that don’t use the one-size-fits-all approach. What works for me, might not work best for you – and vice versa. It takes some trial and error to find a permanent solution for each individual. But once you figure it out, no worries about too many carbs, too few carbs, counting calories, etc.
Thanks for the great info!
Amy B. says
This is a great article. It’s going to help a lot of people.
I’d like to share my personal experience because I think it so closely mirrors this, and I want to share how I started adding carbs back in because I think the thought of that can be very scary for those people who have been VLC for a long time.
Several years ago, I’d been pretty low carb for a long time. There came a point where I was unemployed, living at home (with parents), and other than applying for jobs, I had little else to do but work out. So I did. *A lot.* I was working out with high intensity *and* high frequency. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but I was definitely <50g/day of carbs and it was all from LC veggies (no grain, no potatoes, no starch etc.). I started feeling pretty awful…sluggish, tired, depressed, and was gaining body fat. I had to force myself to go to the gym…it was a chore and I felt like I was actually getting weaker/losing strength in addition to getting pudgier. I was at my wit's end. I asked someone whose sensibility and physique I'd long admired on a forum and trusted her to give me some advice. She told me to eat more carbs. I was downright terrified to add some back in because I’d been low-carb for so long and it was what had gotten me in the best shape of my life (so far). So I was very scared to rock that boat. But I was logical enough to acknowledge that it just wasn’t working so well anymore and maybe I could muster the courage to introduce a few more carbs.
So I did. And you know what? It was like someone flipped a switch. I felt better in about 2 days. Better physical energy and pep in my step, but even more, what was like night and day was my MOOD. My mental outlook. SO much better. At first, I just added more LC veggies because I was too scared to have something starchier. (So lots more red peppers, broccoli, bigger salads, etc.) But I gradually added in fruit (just 1/2 a piece at first…like half an apple with a protein shake post-workout, or a small plum) and even oatmeal once in a while, and not only did I not gain weight, but I started losing again and was doing well at the gym.
I think it helped that I limited the fruit and starchier items to just after a tough workout. In other words, I didn't wake up and have a pear or potatoes with breakfast. I had them within an hour of a good workout, when my body was best "metabolically primed" to handle the carbohydrate and not make me crave more all day long. (Glycogen depleted and muscles hungry for carbs and amino acids. So I think it helped to have the carbs and protein together as well.)
Over time, I’ve been able to add small amounts of carbs in at other times of day, but for people who are, like I was, “afraid” to add the starchier foods, maybe easing into it and keeping them (at first) to after a good workout is a gentle way to up the carbs. Probably wouldn’t hurt to just cram half a sweet potato down at *any* time for someone who’s overtraining and fatigued, but if someone’s genuinely too scared to hit the ground running that way, I think adding carbs back in timed strategically around certain metabolic windows can help.
And thank you, Stephanie, for emphasizing the need to *individualize* all this. More carbs can be a godsend for some people, but it’s not appropriate for everyone. People seem to miss this key, key point every time something new comes along. Fasting! Ketogenic diet! Safe starch! People want to jump head-first onto whatever bandwagon rolls down the road next without understanding whether or not it’s appropriate for *their* body, *their* health history, and their goals.
I’d like to recommend a book that I very seldom hear talked about in Paleo circles. It’s probably one of the BEST books I’ve read that talks about darn near everything – diet, sleep, stress, hormones, sunlight, overtraining, carb cycling – the author’s program for diet & carb cycling worked like friggin’ magic for me. Natural Hormonal Enhancement, by Rob Faigin. He was way ahead of his time. His book came out before almost all the popular Paleo-oriented books of the last few years.
Wish this was posted two years ago when I got myself into the hormonal nonsense.
How long does it take for a cycle to come back after increasing carbs?
Julianne Taylor says
FYI, I did a case study on this very topic, leanish female struggling to lose weight, recover properly from CrossFit workouts and sleep.
and second part:
I completely agree with your recommendations for female clients.
its not really “low carb” when she is gorging on “junk carbs” every 2-3 days now is it. and i dont see how you think that is a positive thing…
Julianne Taylor says
She was actually low carb for a long time, but started to crave and consequently eat carby foods. But being gluten sensitive that backfired too. but I get your point. I’ve seen a number of paleo low carbing women who just eat lots of nuts instead of crap carbs. As soon as root veg carbs are added back in and the nuts reduced the problems dissapear – both with cravings for crap carbs and food in general
This is interesting to me. What do you consider highly active though. Compared to some of the athletes that my trainer coaches I’m not super active, but am I comparing myself to the wrong group? I Dragon Boat 2 hours a week, indoor rowing 1 hour a week, lift 2-3 days a week(not Crossfit), and Duathlon training 3 days a week. I do take days off and have a non-athletic full time job (which involves some night shifts). My weight has been stagnant for months even though I know that I have more fat to lose. I gave up fruit over a year ago because it just feeds my desire for baked goods too much, but eat sweet potatoes and larabars occasionally.
I’d just like to add to those ladies seeing ‘spotting’ please also go & get a smear test or see your gynae. Not to scare you but this is a possible symptom of cervical cancer& better safe than sorry, I’ve had it and a smear test saved my life. Thanks ladies!
I am finding this all very fascinating, I have a problem I have not seen addressed yet. I have been Paleo for about 9 months now. I have gradually being going more low carb as most people do without realizing it, but I have not had any symptoms of going too low carb. I’ve recently begun tacking them and I get somewhere between 25 – 35g per day on a regular basis. I went in for a physical a few weeks ago and my labs showed that my glucose and insulin reactivity were in the danger zone! My doctor tested my body fat% which is 14.1. I am a classical Pilates instructor so I am quite toned, but I do not do regular cardio. (Although my treadmill test came back perfect) So my question is could this be related to a hormonal imbalance caused by low carbs even though I do not experience any other symptoms?
What specific markers are you referring to for glucose and insulin reactivity?
Have you read any of Dr Bernardot’s work? (Advance Sports Nutrition 2nd Edition is his main one).
As an active male (70kg, fat percentage at ~7-10%), I expect my carb levels to be quite higher than a female. Going on Dr Bernardot’s recommendations for carbohydrate consumption – for a 3100 calorie plan to support my level of activity (as a enthusiast gymnist who is in the military) the recommendation is for 350g – 490g of carbohydrate with 105 – 120g protein and the remainder of calories in fat. This is significantly higher than what you advocate above (noting the gender difference) – I was just wondering your thoughts (however brief 😀 )?
This crashed on me like a load of bricks. I’ve been eating keto and a lot of health benefits came with it. Better skin, my period that was missing for five months due to stress finally came back, Im getting in better shape etc. However, something was just not right. I got down to pretty much zero carb, under 20 every day if that even. Part of it was Im struggling with money so I was buying the bare basics to survive: i.e meat, eggs, butter and living on that. I’ve noticed lately that I am not sleeping well, feel irritable and stressed. Also pretty sure I have adrenal problems so I was really doing myself in with the zero carb. So glad I found this!
I’m glad I stumbled on this. I’ve been paleo for about a year and a half, but noticed some changes back in October. I’ve had changes in my period, and I haven’t had a “real” one in three months. It’s just been some spotting here and there every 30 days or so. I’ve also had some terrible acne appear out of nowhere, consistently on my chin in painful lumps. I’ve tried a Paleo-AIP diet, which turned out to be very very low carb, and the past few months I’ve been under a lot of stress at work and in school. I started CrossFit back in October, and I’m wondering now if my body is starving a little. I eat a ton of fat and protein, so I don’t often feel very hungry. I was thin when I started paleo, and at 5’6″ I hover around 115 pounds. I’ve had painful ovarian cysts in the past, but I have never been diagnosed with PCOS. I have taken birth control in the past for the cysts, but haven’t been on it for about three years, as it seemed to help the cysts but make me feel bad in general. I have my annual exam coming up next month, and I am nervous to explain about my nonexistent periods, thinking the doc will again recommend the Pill. I’m going to up my carb intake to see if that helps.
Emily I beg you to do anything you can to avoid being put back on the pill. I was on it for 20 years and it has completely screwed my hormones and libido. Avoid it at all costs. Doctors often use it as an easy solution. (In my case, painful periods.) If I had known at 18 what I do now, I would NEVER go on it.
Emma and Carla aka The Merrymaker Sisters says
Thanks so a great article Stephanie!! We have both been eating paleo for 2 years. We have gone through high carb to low carb and now back to introducing more carbs!! It’s crazy once you cut all the other crap out how you are so much more aware of what your body needs. Eating to nourish based on paleo principals is how we roll now!! Thanks again.
Tracy Lynn says
So weird that this was sent to me just now. I have been doing ketogenic for about 3 months now to help heal my gut. The first month I felt amazing. I was smashing it at the gym and my appetite was completely satiated due to the heavy fat loading. But my eczema not only didn’t get better,not got worse. And to add to that my thyroid meds just got bumped up. I love the paleo lifestyle. I prefer gluten and grain free and I love my fats. But in ketogenic dieting your carbs no higher than 10%. Truly it’s impractical. Also I started to gain weight, I’m cranky, my skin is out of whack, and I skipped my cycle….which was something that happened years ago when I used to run. Put simply, I feel awful. Drained.
I started this so I could heal my adrenals, thyroid, and gut. But I’m seeing now that once again I’ve gone into the direction of imbalance. Im grateful for this article as it proves to me that I am an individual with individual needs that need more laying attention to. Even before going keto I followed a very low carb diet….generally no more than 75 grams a day…and I workout a lot. I think adding in the sweet lots toes and berries is where it’s at for me….but it’s interesting how all of the sudden there is a fear behind that.
Jane Wallace says
I like how you emphasize “what works for some, won’t work for others?”. I have friends who went Paleo all of a sudden without even consulting a nutritionist or a dietician. Thank you for this article, this will serve as my guideline. I’ll share this with my friends.
Rachel E says
Interesting article and definitely something I’ll have to give some thought to.
I’ve been keto/paleo for 9 years. Successfully lost 185lbs but I hit a wall and have been unable to lose my last 50lbs for well over a year now. I might occasionally drop 5lbs but it comes right back. I had such an easy time losing the 185 that even the thought of upping my carbs almost sent me into a full blown anxiety attack. Where does one begin with trying to increase carbohydrate intake when you’ve programmed to exist on less that 20g net per day? I keep tracking and counting and blaming my failure on that 5th bite of broccoli or the tomatoes I grabbed on my lunch break. I used to work out daily and for the last 16 months it’s all I can do to function. I’m exhausted and weak and no longer have a fraction of the energy that I had the previous 8 years.
Hi, I’m hoping this post is still active and you may be able to give me some guidance. I’ve been out of training for 2 months letting a broken rib heal. In that time I’ve just been running and eating low carb (20-30g) high protein to lose weight. I have been doing well with this but now am starting back into training (9 sessions over 6 days a week (high intensity dragon boating, free weights, running) and want to find a way to keep losing weight (I have another 5-7kg to drop) whilst keeping energy up for workouts. My conflicts come in that I have PCOS so even looking at carbs adds a couple of kg to me, and it’s not all about measurements – the kgs have to drop to keep our boats balanced. How can I start adding carbs without piling on weight…is there a best time to eat them to fuel a workout? Or a minimum amount I should be having to fuel the 1.5hr water or weights sessions? I need to find a way to be able to lose fat, build muscle, and lose kgs….
Robb Wolf says
post workout is a very good time but have you looked at thyroid, cortisol etc to get to the bottom of the PCOS?
This is not my original post either but I’m suffering from pcos as well and need to lose but can’t. No matter where I put my calories, the weight will not come off. Thyroid is normal. Any suggestions?? I need to lose 35lbs… Exercise seems to put more weight on me for some reason so I am stuck…
Noelle @ Coconuts & Kettlebells says
I can’t help but recommend focusing on healing your PCOS and hormonal imbalances, and nourishing your body first, and then working on things like taking off the weight. Subsequently, working on the former will resolve the later. A good starting point is Stefani Ruper’s ebook here: http://www.paleoforwomen.com/pcos-unlocked-the-manual/
I was wondering if whenever the carb count came up, you meant carbs – fiber or just total carbs consumed? I’m 15, approx. 108lbs, female, right now I crossfit 6x per week, olympic lift 2x, yoga 2x, with one day of total rest. My carbs are around 100-115 per day, but minus fiber they come out to around 30-55 net. Performance is great, soreness isn’t an issue, strength is constantly increasing, but sleep could be a lot better. I’ve been 80/20 paleo for more or less a year now, and lost my cycle a couple of months before that. Would adding in white rice/more sweet potatoes/yuca/taro etc.. be a good idea for both hormonal health and performance? Thanks in advance!
I wouldn’t really count carbohydrate from non-starchy vegetables.
You could definitely add in more starchy carbs and try it out and see if it helps. I would definitely figure out why you lost your cycle and work on getting it back.
IF you’re doing crossfit 6x per week, make sure you’re not overdoing it and not constantly beating the piss out of yourself. I don’t know what you’re doing, but just say that because I see people do it all the time and run into trouble.
I had really bad cystic acne my entire life…I even did 2 rounds of accutane…all my dr.”s said it wasn’t diet related…my jawline and my cheeks were especially bad. I was able to completely clear my skin by giving up ALL CHEESE, I still eat grass fed butter and eggs, and also by taking a higher dose probiotic. My skin is great now! and once in a blue moon I can have some cheese but only if its imported from Europe ..NOT any cheese made in the states even if its organic I immediately will get a cyst on my face. Good Luck.
excellent post. I feel like this article was written about me. I started Paleo about 3 years ago at the same time I started CrossFit and found immediate success (lost weight, body fat, ran faster, lifted more, etc.). I of course attributed my success to the low carb aspect of eating paleo. About 1.5 years in I found myself wrought with sleep issues, hormone problems and very bad anxiety. I chose to up my workouts and go even lower carb to try to lost more body fat. After being sick for 5 months straight with sinus issues I finally decided to up my carbs. By only upping slightly (from <50 to about 75g) showed incredible results. Ove the past year I have gradually accepted that my body just needs more carbs to function and as I've (very hesitantly) added them back in my sleep, hormonal and anxiety issues have all but disappeared. I still eat about 85% paleo w/ added ezekiel bread, real potatoes, and oats a few times a week and have never felt better. I hope this post reaches people like me so they can save themselves from the scare that I had. Thank you and keep up the good work!
Just wondering how long it took you to get your sleep back? I’ve been consciously getting 150 + carbs every day (doing the adrenal reset diet) for the past week and still haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve noticed many other improvements like better skin and more energy even despite the no sleep! But I have been waking up hungry for 2-3 years now and only just figured out why. Was anyone else able to get their sleep back to normal after eating more carbs and if so, how long did it take you? Thanks for this article! It been a life saver!
I know this article is a few months old, but I just wanted to point out that monthly menstruation in humans is NOT normal, nor is it a marker of hormonal stability or physical health. It’s amazing what modern, Western women believe is “normal functionality” for their bodies. If not for my obsession with research, I too would still believe the CW view on female fertility, my own included. I personally follow a ketogenic diet with 10% carbohydrate, and I have gone from very heavy, painful, two week long monthly periods starting at age 10 (yes, ten years old – that’s not a typo, and I am currently 29) to extremely light, painless, three day long bloat-free periods about every eight to nine weeks. I have been examined by an endocrinologist as well as two different gynecologists and it is of their opinions that I am in good health.
Here is a Newsweek article that mentions how modern women have FOUR TIMES AS MANY CYCLES as hunter-gatherer women (with source):
This article describes in detail the development of artificial hormone regulation for contraceptives, and how a young anthropologist studied a semi-agricultural African tribe (the Dogon) and revealed how incredibly different their menstrual cycles were compared to American women’s cycles, ultimately questioning the need for – and indeed the safety of – such medications:
And how about menstruation and rates of disease? Well those Dogon women who only have 100 cycles in their entire lifetimes only have 10% of the risk of breast cancer as American women AND their average life span is similar to
North American women:
This excellent contemporary textbook on reproduction talks about the “Estrogen Epidemic” in first world societies and how detrimental it has been to women’s health, especially since Western women are fertile for so much longer that they should be:
http://books.google.com/books?id=M4kEdSnS-pkC&pg=PR11&dq=Human+Reproductive+Biology+By+Richard+E.+Jones,+Kristin+H.+Lopez&hl=en&sa=X&ei=P4XJU_utO8mHyAS104Bo&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false [See pg. 44]
I also found this small study on fertility rates in different types of subsistence societies, comparing hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists. Their results are very interesting, showing that agrarian woman are 1.0 points higher in fertility cycles than hunter gatherer women…and the fact that population growth for homo Sapiens was nearly zero until the advent of agriculture.
While better fertility might seem like a good thing, let’s not forget that now there are 7 billion of us, and it’s getting harder to feed the populous with each new generation. Starvation, pollution, overcrowding, elimination of natural resources…the imbalance of having so many of us on Earth is apparent.
So ladies, don’t use regularity as evidence of bad or good health. Get examined by an endocrinologist if you’re concerned about hormone balance and non-monthly cycles. The results might surprise you. But most importantly is the n=1 factor: some women DO need more carbs to feel their best. For me that is not the case, but for others it certainly is. Do what makes you feel good!
R. Meibaum says
Very informative article, and just what I needed to read at this point in time. I am just starting on a Paleo/low carb adventure, in an effort to get rid of psoriasis and it’s accompanying myriad of symptoms, as well as candida overgrowth. I originally researched the GAPS diet and thought it the best cure for me, but decided against it when I learned that all focus is on drastically reducing carb intake, which would be impossible once I start working out again. Paleo seems the healthier route. I’m so glad to have come across this article before making any detrimental diet mistakes.
Thank you so much for the article! Very informative.
I have missed my cycle for the last 9 months and have had trouble recovering from workouts. However, the ‘low carb’ diet referenced in the article is considered consuming under 100 carbs daily. On average, I consume about 150 carbs. I also limit my caloric intake to ~1,450 calories and try to at least consume 140 g of protein.
I exercise (what I like to think is strenuous) 5-6 days per week, alternating between cardio and weights.
I’m curious as to what your thoughts are as to what the issue could be. I have been on the diet for almost a year now and had my hormone level tested recently in a blood test (all was normal). Would a blood test pick up on low leptin levels?
I am concerned with my cycle and would love your input!
I am experiencing this right now! I have been eating very low carb (~15g) until recently and at first I felt great because I had candida overgrowth and allergies… The ketogenic diet did wonders for me (occasionally I did refeeds)! But about 3 month ago I started feeling worse – poor sleep, fatigue, I was not recovering from training, low progesterone, irregular periods… So I have increased my carb intake to 50g on non training days and 120g on training days and I started recovering better immediately and progesterone is back to normal (which is great) but on some days I feel dizzy and lightheaded – I just cannot figure out what it is…I was expecting to feel dizzy when I started the ketogenic diet but I actually felt great immediately… Now I am confused and not sure if I am doing the right thing… Maybe someone could give me some advice :)? Thanx and great article!
Keri Badach says
All I can say is THANK YOU! This insight for me is heaven-sent. I am so grateful.
I’ve been able to find info about breastfeeding and Paleo and PCOS and paleo. Generally breastfeeding = eat more carbs and pcos symptom management = eat less carbs. What about breastfeeding with PCOS? I want to eat enough carbs that I’m not compromising milk supply in any way and giving my baby as much as he needs, but I don’t want the extra carbs to affect my pcos in a negative way. Eating low carb is how I got pregnant with pcos. But the main pcos symptoms that affect me apart from infertility are depression and insomnia, not things I want to try and deal with while taking care of a newborn. Can anyone point me in the right direction for figuring this one out? Thanks!
Holy crap, could starch really cure me? I’ve been low carb for over 11 years and for the last 5 I’ve been struggling with thyroid and adrenal issues. I have had ammenoreah this whole time and also suffer depression and severe anxiety. After switching to Paleo 4 years ago I felt so much better for a few months but the adrenal symptoms returned. I’ve overused stimulants to give me “energy” and keep the weight off and often overeat on large amounts of non-starchy veggies just to keep my from not being hypoglycemic. I’ve slowly added starch in the last 2 years but still only about 30g on workout days only. I can’t believe this whole time I thought starch was enemy. After reading numerous blog posts I can see the light. Can I really be “normal” and feel good again? I hope so. While the news that I may actually get my life back is relieving, it is scary at the same time. I thought I had this whole food thing figured out. Back to the drawing board I suppose. Thanks for sharing this blog post. I’d love to hear more on your show about other women’s experiences.
Robb Wolf says
check out the “carb reloading” post by Sarah Strange…that might tie some things together also.
I think it’s important to point out that the number of carbs that women need to consume is not really a wavy line. That is, hormones thrive at about 120g daily. I think it’s misleading to target a % of calories when one doesn’t know how many calories we’re talking about and what that calculation of carb will result in. It may be a little high for some gals and a little low for others. But going below that amount is decreasing hormone(s) production, in some way. Now having said that, those of us that are overweight and/or insulin resistant, etc. need to make a decision. What will I be jeopardizing by allowing my carbs to go to say 60-75g? I don’t think it’s wise to be doing marathons, lifting weights 7d a wk., etc. on a low-carb diet. Carbs can also be manipulated and still hit your target (as suggested) but proper hormone balance is not negotiable. It takes a certain amount eaten daily, during child-bearing years, no matter how big/small/fat/skinny you are. Same with calories but ah, I digress. That discussion would be for another post.
Hello . . can spotting in between my period be a bad sign ? . . I’m taking a new protein shake, I’ve been taking it for a month already and this had never happened to me, and i was wondering if it was because of my new weight gainer shake i am 23 years old and 5’3 tall n i weight 108 I’m kind of scared please help
I know this is an older post… but i would suggest a pregnancy test. This could have easily been “implantation spotting”… the spotting that occurs when a fertilized ovum implants on the uterine wall.
No shake is going to make you spot mid-cycle.
I began the Paleo diet three years ago (January 2012). November of 2013 I started having problems I’ve never had in my life. I developed fibroids, massive ovarian cysts, and irregular cycles. I truly attribute these changes to relinquishing foods that a females body needs. I’ve since then started incorporating carbs into my diet and my cycles seem “more” normal than before. I don’t think Paleo is great for females AT ALL!!
Keep in mind that paleo isn’t necessarily low carb. There are lots of paleo friendly carbs: sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, taro, cassava/yucca, plantain, fruit, etc.
I’m not sure what to think of this. I’ve been on the Keto WOE for 4 or 5 weeks, and while it intuitively seems to ‘fit’, I’ve noticed strange mood issues within the past several days. Not to mention, I seem to be gaining fat, even though my macros are in check and I’m not overfeeding. I began intermittent fasting a couple of days ago in a desperate effort to shift these stubborn 10 pounds.
What concerns me is how few success stories I can find of women on keto. I define success as achieving one’s weight loss goals, in addition to the nebulous “feeling better”. (So to me, if someone remains 20-40 lbs from a realistic goal weight, something’s not working.) I came to this way of eating to cure my carb addiction and get to my goal weight and remain there. But it feels like my body is fighting me. I don’t even know how it’s hanging on to extra weight when I’m supposedly in “fat-burning mode”. 5′ 5″, 129 lbs, 1200-1800 calories/day, <20 carbs/day, moderate protein, high fat. I never cheat. Ever. I eat eggs, cheese, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, ground beef, fatty cuts of chicken, coconut oil, spinach, and truvia. Mainly eggs, (cream) cheese, spinach and truvia. I've tried heavy cream a few times, but it seems to stall me even more.
I feel happiest and look best at around 122, and I'll do whatever it takes to get there. My research led me to believe that once in "fat-burning mode", the body will chow down on body fat with gusto, but that's just not happening.
Like other commenters, I'm terrified at the thought of adding back carbs, however healthy, with the subsequent weight gain and being thrown out of ketosis. But this doesn't seem to be working, and I feel frustration setting in. I'm going for a run tomorrow morning, hoping to kick-start my metabolism again.
Thanks for reading; hopefully someone's got some answers. 🙂
P.S.: On a side point, keto gave me the least-problematic period ever. For that alone, I'd hate to go back to carbs.
1800 calories seems pretty high to be trying to lose weight, but maybe not. Even if you’re eating Keto, you can still consume too many calories for your body to consume.
I had been on strict 1100 calories or less, tracking everything by MyFitnessPal. For 3 weeks, I wasn’t really losing much, and couldn’t figure it out. I did lose a little, about 3 pounds in 3 weeks. Good, but not what I was looking for.
I’m 5’1, 150 when I started. I ranted on FB about how this was possible, to be eating 1200 calories/day of whole healthy food, and not losing weight, and out of 43 responses, i found gold: My carbs were too high.
I was eating around 105-110 carbs/day, protein was about 65 and fat was about 50g.
I did a lot of research, and switched to 20% carbs, 50-60% fat, 25-30% protein, and that did the trick!
In about 5 days, I lost over 2 pounds of fat once I switched to that. Measuring inches, I lost over 6 inches – waist, calves, butt, bust, arms, and clothes are fitting better.
the % breaks down to 60g. fat, 55 g. carbs, and 85-90g protein. In MyFitnessPal, in the Goals section, you can customize the % for the macros and it will tell you how many grams. I drink about 8-10 glasses of water/day.
My husband (triathlete) told me that sometimes the body just holds on to fat then suddenly lets it go. the key is to get our body to burn the fat instead of the carbs, AND not eating too many calories. You might try these percentages, and reduce your caloric intake to 1300 and see how you feel. Be sure and use a tape measure to measure calves, individual thighs, butt, bellybutton, true waist, bust, and upper arms, and weight. I put them in a vertical column, and measure weekly so it’s easy to compare.
I also use a good probiotic to help aid digestion in the gut, and take Mannatech Omega 3 with Vitamin D3. If you would like to see my food journal for recipe ideas, let me know.
Honestly, I am really, really full with this method of eating. Sometimes I can’t get 1100 calories/day!
Everything I eat is real, whole food. I haven’t had a problem with my periods/cycles at this point, and I do 20-30 minutes workouts 3 times/week.
There are some ideas out there of carb cycling, but I’m not sure it would totally work with keto, but you might look into it. Look up Shaun Hadsall online. If I plateau with Keto, I will probably follow that plan, he has a great video on balancing hormones, keeping metabolism balanced, and burning fat.
One other thing I learned – stubborn fat cells have more alpha receptors than beta receptors, and the alpha ones are related to stubborn fat….it’s all about blood flow. The more blood flow that we can generate in the area of stubborn fat, the more easily our body can begin to utilize that more stubborn fat. Look up info on that, too.
For me, I find that if I go over 20% carbs in a meal, my ketone levels drop, so for now, I’m sticking with Keto.
BTW, have you bought Ketone sticks from the pharmacy? I got 50 for $10 at RiteAid. Instant gratification to see the stick turning purple! That might help you see if you’re even IN ketosis for sure.
Still learning about all this, but I am really happy to be losing fat I’ve never been able to lose before.
This article doesn’t address a ketogenic diet, which I think allows for more carbs than Paleo, and it also doesn’t talk about ketosis.
Make minor adjustments, drink 8-10 glasses 8oz water/day, and reduce your calories a little. You will get there!!!!!! This is a lifestyle change, not just fat loss.
At 1200 calories a day, you were downregulating your metabolism and also not eating enough protein. That’s why it was hard to lose the weight. I am actually cringing that you recommend someone ELSE be in that huge of a caloric deficit, too. Dangerous.
I have been on atkins for just over a month and taking 20g of carbs a day. My periods are every week at the moment. Ive been to my gp and im having a scan just to make sure. How many grams a day would settle this down and I will still loose weight. Also what kind of carbs should I add. Please help im at my wits end
Actually, I just realized that the author was advocating keto at 50g or less/day, so I totally agree, it’s been the magic formula for me!
Thank you so much for this article. This happened to me. I was low-carb for a long period while hitting the weights at high intensity regularly. My weight and performance stalled so I went keto for an extended time which worked in the beginning but then I started gaining weight, my energy level plummeted and my skin completely dried out. I was so scared and did not know where to go. I researched and saw that I may need to up my carbs. You would not believe the trepidation and fear I experienced the first time I went back to eating a banana – all the carbs! I have to say I do feel better after adding back all the carbs but haven’t found the ratios that work for me yet so haven’t experience the weight loss. I still feel great eating real food though… Hopefully I will find my happy micronutrient ratio and heal whatever metabolic damage I may have done. I’m 26% BF and need help!
My significant other is female, 21, fairly sedentary, and needs to lose weight. She’s been doing ketogenic stuff for several months, and has solved a lot of problems for herself: mood swings, she’s getting leaner (lost about 20lbs of fat), and she doesn’t have insane sugar cravings anymore. However, she’s semi-plateau-ing weight wise. I know this doesn’t mean she isn’t burning fat, but her progress definitely seems to be slowing down. Not to mention, she has all of the classic ketogenic associated hormonal issues: no sex drive, completely RANDOM menstrual cycle, bleeding while not menstruating etc.
If she still needs to lose maybe 20 more pounds to be at her target weight, should she still take this advice and go above the 20 carb keto limit?
Rachel Rouillard says
Sometimes it’s about coming to terms with the fact your body may need to be ‘bigger’ than you would like. I have had one period in 18 months, since coming off the pill. My hormones were apparently normal levels from my bloods (although I do not trust UK GP’s one bit – I don’t know what they actually look at) and my ultrasounds came back clear. The only advice I was given was to start taking the pill again. When I increase my carbs I do gain weight, and I have to get my head around the fact this needs to happen. I have a very active job which also needs to be considered. That said, I have definitely been eating around the 100g+ mark for a while now and still am not seeing anything. And my sex drive is non-existent, to add insult to injury. How long do I wait before I seek advice elsewhere? What else could it be?
Really interesting article, thank you. I’ve been on a low carb routine for the last 6 months, it started as a diet to lose a few pounds but as it progressed I enjoyed eating lighter foods and stuck to it. I wasn’t eliminating all carbs, but I was probably only eating small amounts once a day if that. Not enough. And I started exercising more, for the pleasure of it. All of a sudden, within a couple of weeks I had pretty bad anxiety and low mood, low energy and I started to feel ill. I can’t handle alcohol anymore either! Not even one beer. And then my hormone cycle just went crazy, three periods in a month, and I felt just terrible. Well, yesterday I’d had enough, I bought good quality carbs like dark rye bread. Since yesterday I’ve been feeding myself up with plenty of it, I feel much better today! I’m shocked at how bad it had become. I hope my hormones and cycle return to normal after rebalancing my diet, if they don’t I’ll go to the doctor. It’s made me realise how important carbs are, the right kind, in moderation…
Michael Tran says
Wow, you’re really smart and I admire your prose. It’s great to see someone make great use of the English language! (Sorry about the weird fetish—I’m an English Major.)
Thank you so much for diving into that scientific literature and babble. I was wondering, did you find anything on men? I guess the same fight or flight stimulation/sympathetic response could be potiential for men but estradiols and progesterones are more fat dependent hormones. I was a triathlete and took a year off of training due to the dreaded and common “life” and I’ve reintroduced a ketogenic diet into my life once again. Everything’s great! Tons of energy, super recovery, great sleep and if I need to wake up early and cut the sleep short, then I don’t feel so bad or cranky. (I get to stay up really late and write the night away—Keto has helped me bleed my soul into these pages.) But I want to be prepared if things go awry; I’m a one of those “planner” types, you know, a doomsday prepper :p
Thank you and hope to hear from you soon!
. I’m 35, female, started out weight lifting(3x a week, 2hrs per session) and a carb restricted diet (100gm protein, 20gm carb, 40gm fat) 2 yrs ago at 130lbs bf 25%..
Results were astonishing and within 1 year, I stand at 110lbs, bf 16% which was my perfect shape. But, I stopped having my periods and I felt weaker in gym. So I suppose I should let my hormones recover and i took a 1.5 month period of deload and added in more carbs and calories into my diet.
My weight slowly gained… I expected that. I regained 10lbs within a month and my period came back normal. Yeah.
Done with my breaks….I reset my diet back to how it initially began and adding back more intensity at gym. But, this time round it didn’t work for me. 1 month after i restarted my regime, I continued to gain weight (another 10lbs) back to 130lbs now looking fluffy and bloated. Ahhh im getting frustrated but not giving up. But why is it so different and difficult on 2nd attempt?
Any advice will be deeply appreciated.
Try adding in some HIIT 2-3x a week if you haven’t already (HIIT can be good for jump starting hormones and metabolism).
I’m glad I stumbled across this post. I’ve been eating a low-carb diet on and off since 2000 when I was first diagnosed with PCOS. I started eating a Paleo diet for heath reason 5-6 years ago and then lower my carb intake to net 20 grams per day in an effort to lose the last 15-20 lbs. I lift heavy 4 days a week and had an session or HIIT once a week. I was never successful with losing the weight and now I know why.
I have PCOS, SIBO AND chronic Lyme, hypothyroid and I work out hard and frequently. How do you balance the carb intake with health issues and activity?
I am experiencing amenorrhoea right now. I have lost period over 2 years already, with low carb diet, and I have blood sugar issue. What should I do? more or less carbs? I really need help.
Fascinating as ive only seen a return of regular menstrual cycles when eating very low carb diet, but i only lose weight the 3 days following my menstual cycle. If i add carbs over the ketogenic level my blood sugar elevate to a level i find physically unacceptable maybe as time goes on ill find my menstrual cycles waining or maybe every women is different.
For some reason I am just now finding this article and it’s crazy how much it spoke to me!!!! This is my exact situation. My question is, if incorporating helshth carbs back into my diet, what do you suggest?
I agree that very low carb might not be the way to go for everyone. When I was under 20g I got the keto rash despite eating very high fat and feeling full all the time. Some people assume it’s because toxins are leaving your body but I think they’re fooling themselves, that rash is NOT healthy at all (anorexic and under fed people often have that rash too, which is saying a lot IMO). Anyway, I had to up my carbs to about 50/70g for it to go away. I was a bit sad about it at first, because that probably means no full blown ketosis for me, but at least at 50g I don’t feel “scared” of veggies anymore. I still think moderate/low carb is the way to go in general considering it’s positive impact on blood sugar and insulin levels, and if very low carb works for you, and you get no weird side effects, that’s amazing. However, if it doesn’t, don’t feel bad, and have fun experimenting with your own carb limit 🙂
I find that I look and feel my best when I follow a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet, especially for ADHD symptoms, but I hear over and over again that women don’t do well on low carb diets. My workouts don’t suffer, my energy is sky-high and sleep so well! I guess I’m just worried that although I feel great, I’m messing my body up in some way.
I would definitely say there is some variance in this. If you’re doing well like that, then it sounds like you’re probably on the right track. If that changes in the future just don’t be afraid to modify things, but otherwise just keep rocking.
Noelle has to be the cutest Paleo chick I’ve ever laid my eyes on.
J Taylor is from the paleofeminist school. LOL.
Menstrual problems are due to adrenal stress and cortisol dumps brought about by all this Xfit nonsense. Most of you here are low carb, but completely neglect high fat. REALLY HIGH fat. So you end up underconsuming on an aggregate calories basis, but cutting fat. Most of you make it up by slurping down protein shakes (NOT REAL FOOD!), which are full of sugar. Protein overload activates gluconeogenesis!
Become a fat-trained natty instead of griping about irregular menses. Use tissue-sparing workouts (bet most here have never heard of Maxalding). And quite with the feminist advertising.
OMG the whole time I was going through the comments THIS was what had been playing on my mind. IMHO the reason low carbing caused hormonal issues for some women is because they were lowering their carb intake AND fat intake at the same time while keeping protein high.
The effective low carb practice should be low carb AND HIGH fat and MODERATE protein.
Great post, thank you!
I thank you, thank you and thank you again for this great article. I have been musing back and forth on all the info for and against paleo diet, and have tried so many kinds of diets. I’ve been back to paleo since it appears to be the best way to get and sat heathy, but I was have been misguided by professionals who still stick to a low carb agenda aggressively. One natural health women I spoke to yesterday said she wouldn’t even agree to help me if I did not agree to follow her protocol and give up the carbs, including the root vegetables. I’ve been there and done that and got even more ill and had was so depressed, cold, fatigued etc. Thank you for bringing balance to this subject, as I needed it so bad. This is a great article and written so very well it was easy to keep reading, easy to understand and didn’t jump all over the place like other articles I’ve read or tried to read. Thanks again sincerely.
Here is a girl who tells it like it really is. Women ought to pay attention to her advice. Go to YouTube and type in user/fitsk8chick. You’ll find the answers for nearly all the skeptics on this comment thread.
Hi, I would like to say thanks for the good article. I see keto results after a few weeks, it works pretty good for me. See you soon!
Cintia Martins says
Thank you for such post. Im a personal trainer and still battle this diet issue with myself.
Im very active, train usually 2x a day and for the past 5 months, after doing a DNA intolerance test- I kinda shifted to a Keto diet… With ups and downs I believe and saw from the DNA exams that Im highly sensitive to carbs (Insulin resistant) and saturated fats… which makes it supper challenging. I was balancing well the diet, drop the body fat maintaining muscle, but cycle keeps being supper irregular… There was a time that I did the whole30 and my cycle came back….
What are your thoughts for insulin and sat.Fat sensitive athletes? thank you!
This post has been a really great find! I stopped having my period at around 13-14, and was then diagnosed with PCOS. it cured my acne, but I gained weight that I still never really lost (Went from 112 to 122 super quick). And while I’m nowhere near “fat” (Was always around 125-128 on an unrestricted diet, now 123 during paleo)my weight accumulates in my lower stomach, thighs and face. I was on BC for 5 years, and decided to go off it for health reasons (I hated taking it!). And once more, stopped having my period. Went one year without a period, then took progesterone to stimulate it. Took one dose(10 days) and got my period naturally, for about 6mo. As soon as I took it, I had the break out from hell. Serious cystic acne EVERYWHERE on my face. In September, I started low-carb paleo, but not strictly. Then, all of a sudden my period stopped coming. My skin really has shown improvements, though not 100% better. Did notice my sleep cycle take a turn for the worse, but it’s been getting better.
Anyways, while on a looser paleo diet, consuming more carbs than I originally allowed, I’ve finally gotten my period, after 2 months without it (when I started paleo). As far as weight loss, i’ve kind of flatlined, but I don’t work out at all, so we’ll see what happens then. I am going back to the obgyn in a couple months to check my hormone, leptin, insulin, FSH and LH, and other levels, but I wanted to say thanks for the great advice!
If anyone has comments, please feel free, I always want to learn more about what could make me feel better! Thank you!!
Denys Picard says
Very good article. I would point that one of the problems with ketonic diets is that one must be aware that intensive exercize is somewhat restricted. Per se, the Keto diet won’t necessarily create Reproductive metabolism irregularities, but two concerns must be adressed. 1. The degree of thin-ness as it relates to Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) White Adipose Tissue (WAT) ratio and 2. the Anaerobic fuel metabolism of high intensity exercize. There is a degree of self regeneration of BAT, but people doing intense exercizing often lower their White Adipose Tissue (WAT) so much, that the body starts to use BAT as a main fat fuel, and BAT mass lowers to a critical level. BAT is tighltly tied to Endocrine metabolism in multitude of mechanism, when the Body starts using BAT as principal fat fuel, the hyppothalmus enters into sparing modes which will disrupt and transfer certain metabolism. But, if you take The Inuit People for example, which spent thousands of years on Keto Diets made of only Meat and Blubber (animal WAT) diets, they were still able to carry healthy babies to term. The reason is that they always maintained a net Balance of White Adipose Tissue and did not get involved in intensive activites, but used force and endurance consistantly and moderatly. When one enters into high intensity, glycogen reserves are depleted quickly, and the body goes into Anaerobic Glucose metabolism to fuel muscles within 5 to 10 minutes. On a Keto Diet, your body will have to change Glycerol to Glucose, which is to slow a process to allow for intensive exercize. If you intend to pursue a high intensity exercize routine, you effectively need to maintain Carbohydrates close to what a Diabetic Diet suggests which is 135 grams of net carbohydrates a day. If your intense exercize routines are long, you may need more. Further, if you have been out of shape for a while, then attention must be given to exercize induced hypoglycemic bouts. Anyway, for anyone considering a very low or keto Diet, much knowledge aquiring and supervision should be considered.
(PS: as to not create ambiguity, I state I a not a medical, health or training professional, I am self-read).
Kate Berkeley says
Hi, I’ve followed a paleo diet for years now (prob 4/5 yrs) and love it. I’m also studying nutritional therapy. I’ve felt fabulous on it and my body was lean, toned and full of energy. Having said that I was noticing progressive increase in hypothyroid symptoms but my TSH last year was within the reference range. I was eating less and less and reducing my carbs tighter and tighter to keep myself lean but found myself getting more and more tired and yet unable to sleep. I had a big life shock last autumn and it brought about a depression that just wouldn’t lift. Having always been light-hearted and naturally positive, I felt like I was caged in someone else’s gloomy outlook. I opted to get my adrenals and thyroid tested again and they came back yesterday. My TSH and T4 are comfortably in mid range but my TT3, rT3 and fT3 are all very low and well below the reference range. I have interpreted this to be the sign of a healthy thyroid but poor conversion, possibly brought about by the physiological stress of very low carbs and very low calories (I was gaining weight despite eating 600kcal a day). So I am now upping my carbs and my calories but I desperately don’t want to gain weight. I’m 5’6 and currently weigh 9st 10 but like to be under 9stone, although I was previously at about 8 stone 4. How quickly will my metabolism build back up and can I realistically get sub 9 stone again without carb and calorie cutting?
why are you commenting on the female experience? what a dick.
Sophie, MD says
“Another interesting study focusing on the ketogenic diet in adolescents, found that while there was a significant reduction in the number of seizures experienced and a majority of participants lost weight, 45% of the girls reported menstrual problems. These included amenorrhea and delayed puberty. A majority of the girls experience return of normal menses after the diet was discontinued. Yes, this is just one study, but it’s a pretty eye-opening to me.”
Really??? You’re comparing pop-culture keto diet to a medical epilepsy-specific ketogenic diet? As a dietician, you really should know the difference, especially as it relates to the fat to carbs+protein ratios. These diets are completely different and are practically unrelated.
I didn’t read the rest. And if you can’t tell the difference between the two “keto” diets, then I am leary of the rest of the “claims”.
Who would have known the great effect the intake of carbohydrates has on women!
“The only thing that worked for me to stop binge eating was to 100% commit to NEVER cutting any food groups out or restricting anything. Sounds counter productive, but whenever I say to myself ‘NO sugar allowed, ever!’ Or even restricting it to certain days or times, my brain immediately goes into overdrive craving and demanding huge amounts of sugar, like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.”
Ana commentor above.
Exactly what I noticed about myself a week ago. You put into words what I couldn’t thanks so much.
75-150 grams of net carbs or total carbs? 😊