Although there are amazing benefits to a low carb/keto diet, women need special considerations to keep hormone levels in balance, keep blood sugar regulated, and decrease perimenopausal symptoms. These considerations can be achieved through an approach known as “carb-cycling.” This approach can help with the hormone-related struggles many women experience with fasting and keto.
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is when you plan on limiting carbohydrate intake on certain days, and then “re-feeding” or “refueling” with carbs on other days. Many people utilize various carb cycling strategies as a way to help with weight loss plateau’s, hormone balancing, mood, energy, and recovery. Many athletes use carb cycling as part of their training and nutrition regiment.
There are many different ways in which you can cycle carbs. Some people follow very low carb/ketogenic diets during the week and choose to “re-feed” with carbs on the weekend. Others have a more strict schedule they adhere to, only re-feeding with carbs one day/week. Either way, in this piece, I will discuss how carb cycling can benefit female hormonal health.
Why is Carb Restriction Beneficial in The First Place?
Eating a low-carb diet, keto diet, or fasting are all ways in which we can limit our carbohydrate intake. But why limit carbs in the first place? There is a ton of misinformation regarding carbohydrates. Although I have mostly been in the carb-limiting school of thought, my belief is centered around the idea that culturally we eat too many processed forms of carbohydrates in the first place. In my opinion, the best approach to carb restriction is to avoid grains and refined/processed foods and stick to vegetable sources of carbs, focusing on more carb-dense vegetables during a re-feed.
Benefits of Limiting Carbohydrates on Most Days:
Here is a list of some of the many reasons I am a proponent of limiting carb intake (all references listed at the end):
- Weight loss
- Improved blood sugar regulation/insulin levels
- More nutrient-density in the diet (from fat and protein)
- Improved mental health
- Improved focus and concentration (brain health)
- Better hormone function/regulation (will talk about this further down)
- Improved Immune System-check out this fantastic study!
- Improved digestion
What Are The Benefits of Carb “Re-Feeding Days”?
Now that we know some of the many amazing benefits of limiting carbohydrates, what are the reasons for cycling in high carb days?
- Overcoming weight-loss plateaus
- Improved HPA axis functioning for women
- Improved thyroid function (especially for autoimmune thyroid)
- Better stress response
- Increased exercise performance
- Better sleep
- Improved mood
- Preserving muscle
What Are Some of The Hormone Benefits to Carb Cycling?
With long term carb restriction (aka starvation mode), the body may respond with a lowered metabolic rate, weight loss resistance, decreased levels of thyroid output, an impacted hormone system, reduced ability to withstand physical activity, and increased levels of cortisol. This is especially true for women, who seem to struggle more than men when it comes to a keto or low-carb lifestyle— especially those of us with pre-existing thyroid issues.
However—leptin, a fat-derived hormone that impacts energy balance, may up-regulate through repeated cycles of fasting and re-feeding. This improved leptin response from re-feed days also helps with the genetic expression of our delicate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function, keeping our hormones in a better balance!
So with a re-feed day, you are essentially telling your body it’s not starving. You can keep your delicate hormone system happy and balanced yet still reap the many benefits of a low carb lifestyle (whatever that looks like for YOU).
So—What Is The Best Approach?
If you are intermittent fasting (eating within a certain eating window), plan one or two days/week where you don’t fast, and you increase your carb intake. If you are on the keto diet, plan one or two days a week to re-feed with carbs. Come up with a schedule you can adhere to, that works best for you. There are many different ways you can tweak your approach to find what suits your lifestyle.
I always recommend working with a Functional Medicine provider or a Nutritional Therapist when determining the best approach for you. I prefer to re-feed on the weekends while adhering to intermittent fasting during the week. You do what works best for you and your individual needs!
Fasting and Immune Support
I plan to talk more about fasting in subsequent posts. But where most people struggle is feeling weak and hungry, and not having the desire to push through. Fastonic (molecular hydrogen) offers some unique support (help you feel better) for fasting and can help boost immunity as well.
Fastonic was formulated with the knowledge that deep hydration is critical to fasting and detox. It includes a powerful form of molecular hydrogen or H2. It’s the smallest and most bioavailable molecule in the Universe — and is formed when two hydrogen atoms combine. Molecular hydrogen doesn’t just boost hydration… it’s also one of nature’s most potent antioxidants!
The more you detoxify, the more potential exposure you have to free radicals as those toxins are eliminated from your body. Powerful antioxidants are required to help neutralize these free radicals—so that no more cellular damage is done. And so that your body has the building blocks needed to repair and rejuvenate.
That’s again where molecular hydrogen shines. The cellular molecular hydrogen in Fastonic is the ULTIMATE fasting and detoxification booster.
Hydrogen is the smallest existent gas molecule. Because of this unique property, molecular hydrogen has the ability to penetrate into virtually every organ and cell in the body (including the brain). Once inside, it can have powerful antioxidant-supporting, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, weight-loss, and healing properties.
Given that our bodies are 60% water (the brain and heart are composed of 73% water) — dehydration is not good. There’s no better way to hydrate each day than by flooding your body with natural, molecular hydrogen!
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Bolla, Andrea Mario et al. “Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.” Nutrients vol. 11,5 962. 26 Apr. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11050962
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