There are many, many diet fads appearing these days – too many to count really. They often make some pretty appealing claims, but it’s important to check if there’s actually any science to back it up. One such claim: a link between the keto diet and testosterone.
The keto diet is supposed to help people burn fat directly instead of having to go the ‘long way’ by starting with carbohydrates. On top of that people are claiming there’s a direct link between keto and testosterone, but is it true? Let’s find out…
The ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular in recent years, in part due to the huge number of claims that have been made in regard to this diet.
Some of the reasons that people begin following the keto diet include hoping to shred their body fat quickly, boost their cognition and mental health, or manage their hunger levels.
Related article: Reasons to LOVE boosting your testosterone
The keto diet focuses on allowing a minimal intake of carbohydrates and providing higher levels of protein and fat.
The idea behind this is that when your body doesn’t have a surplus of carbohydrates, which it normally uses for energy, it will begin to use stores of fat to provide the energy that we need to live out our days.
During the first few days of starving yourself from carbs, you’ll probably be rather uncomfortable. This is the period before ketosis begins. During ketosis, your body becomes much more efficient at using fat as a fuel source.
When your body doesn’t have any stored carbohydrates, it won’t be able to use its standard source of energy: glucose.
Instead of using glucose, your body will be forced to produce ketones. Some believe that ketones work more efficiently and can provide a ‘cleaner’ source of fuel for your body.
What is certain is that using ketones allows your body to utilize fat easier – so yes, you will burn more fat. However, some of the more interesting claims – such as whether or not ketosis causes an increase in testosterone levels – should be addressed in more detail.
There are a lot of associations between a person’s diet and hormonal health. Low-calorie diets, for example, are known to suppress the body’s production of hormones such as testosterone.
The ketogenic diet, however, is not considered a low-calorie diet and functions quite differently.
That said, it’s also important to consider a person’s health prior to looking at what benefits might arise from a change of diet.
Overweight people, for example, are more likely to experience an improvement in their hormonal health by restricting calories or losing fat. This is one of the things that has led to the belief that the keto diet can boost testosterone levels.
However, the opposite can also occur: rapid weight loss in otherwise healthy individuals can actually lead to a decrease in the total amount of serum testosterone.
In fact, there is some evidence that glucose is actually required for the body to produce testosterone. This means that the ketogenic diet may actually have the opposite effect for people hoping to improve testosterone levels. It depends on how far you take the diet.
For one, cholesterol is necessary for the synthesis of testosterone. Most people who switch to the keto diet experience an increase in cholesterol levels, and this can lead to higher levels of testosterone.
Unfortunately, when taken to the extremes – as mentioned above – low levels of fat over a prolonged period can actually decrease the amount of testosterone available.
If you’re hoping to improve something with the keto diet and testosterone, you should also identify why you’re actually hoping to increase testosterone levels.
Many of the benefits that one can actually accrue from switching to the keto diet may mimic increased levels of testosterone regardless of whether or not it’s actually a result of the interaction between keto and testosterone.
For example, people who are hoping to improve their sex lives may find that the ketogenic diet can help them. In addition to helping them shed body fat, which may make them feel more comfortable and confident in attracting a partner, the keto diet can help enhance energy levels and thus be important for boosting sexual performance.
There are a number of benefits attributed to the keto diet. Even though it might not directly increase your testosterone levels, many of the benefits that are associated with the keto diet could be similar in effect to benefits that you might experience as a result of improved testosterone levels.
The first and foremost reason that people switch to the ketogenic diet is that it’s a good way to help them lose weight.
By cutting the number of carbohydrates that you consume and increasing the amount of fat and protein intake, your body will become better able to burn fat directly.
What this means is that you’ll lose your body fat quicker, leading to a more toned appearance.
This can be similar in effect to increasing your testosterone levels. One of the main reasons that people use testosterone replacement therapy (steroids and the like) is to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass for a better physical appearance.
The keto diet might not boost your lean muscle mass development as much as testosterone therapy, but it can certainly slim you down quite well.
There are a number of reasons that you could want more energy, and some people jump to testosterone supplementation to help increase their energy levels.
Higher energy means that you can do more things during the day, you can be more motivated, and – the kicker for many people – you will be more energized to perform sexually.
While this might not be a direct keto effect on testosterone, it could provide you with sustainable energy. Energy sourced from fat tends to deplete slower, unlikely energy from carbs, which is used up quickly.
People who are obese are much more likely to experience improved energy levels as a result of switching to the keto diet.
Concentration and focus
Many people have reported that the ketogenic diet is able to help them focus better and concentrate for longer.
This could make sense when you consider that the keto diet basically changes your fuel source from carbs to fat.
Fat is a longer-lasting source of energy that can supply your brain with a consistent source of fuel for a longer period of time – say, the amount of time needed to write a test or an essay.
While there aren’t a lot of studies that have been done on the ability of the keto diet to improve concentration, there is some evidence that it can help people prevent the development of cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a problem that can lead to a lack of focus and memory problems, so this indicates that the keto diet could be useful for such.
The keto diet is extremely low-carb, high in fat and high in protein. This can put a limit on things that you eat: a restriction of about 20-50 grams of carbohydrates daily means that you won’t be able to eat things like white bread or processed sugars and pasta. Good. These things are terrible for you anyways.
Regardless, there are lots of things that you can fit easily into a ketogenic diet that will help you maximize your health and performance. Some of the foods you can have on keto are great testosterone boosting foods.
- Seafood. Lots of seafoods are great for the keto diet. They’re high in fat and protein and come with a low carbohydrate count. Things like clams and mussels are great options, and oily fish like salmon are a great source of many different nutrients.
- Non-starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, are high in carbs and should be avoided. Fortunately, other vegetables are full of fiber which is absorbed slowly and can help keep you full over a long period of time.
- Cheese. Cheese is high in fat and protein and contains very few carbs. It’s very high in saturated fat – if you’re looking to link the keto diet and testosterone, then you’ll need lots of saturated fat, as this nutrient is important for the synthesis of testosterone.
- Eggs. Eggs are also a great source of protein and cholesterol – both of which are important for the production of cholesterol. They also contain less than a gram of carbs each, making them a great choice for people on the keto diet.
- Nuts and seeds. Vegans and vegetarians should stock up on nuts and seeds, as they are one of the most nutritionally dense non-animal sources of food that can be eaten on the keto diet. Nuts and seeds are full of minerals and contain very few carbs.
As we mentioned earlier, there are a number of issues that can emerge from taking the ketogenic diet too far.
One of the most obvious risks, which we have discussed earlier, is that you can actually decrease the amount of testosterone available to your body. This is obviously not what you’d want. The risk of this happening is more likely if you take the ketogenic diet to the extremes, especially if you deprive yourself of calories.
There are also a number of issues that can emerge as a result of the keto diet regardless of testosterone. Some of these may occur during the initial few days of ‘keto fever’ that some people experience when transitioning into the diet, but some may persist. If these issues persist, talk to a doctor and return to a normal diet.
- Muscle cramps and pain
- Bad breath
- Changes to your bowel movements – diarrhea or constipation
- Decreases in energy levels
There are some who suggest that the ketogenic diet can be useful for boosting testosterone levels, and in some cases, this may be true. However, the link between keto and testosterone is found more easily in obese people, and healthy people may not see much improvement.
Average individuals might not experience as much improvement in their T levels, and in fact some may find that there is a negative link between keto and testosterone.
The keto diet has a lot of benefits, for sure, but those who are solely looking to boost their testosterone levels may want to choose another alternative.