I’ve had a bunch of people ask me about Ketogenic diets and low-carb diets and how they affect your hormone levels. More specifically:
- Growth hormone
- Metabolism and thyroid hormones
- Cortisol and stress hormones
And today I’m going to cover cortisol and stress hormones.
In future articles, I’ll be speaking about each of the other hormones — testosterone, growth, and thyroid.
And this is very important for anyone who wants to lose weight since this is a major reason people go on low-carb and keto diets.
But more importantly, if you’re:
- an athlete and exercise
- Weight lifter and want to maximize muscle growth and strength
- And even more specifically, older people and women – since keto and low-carb diets affect them even more
What Is A Ketogenic Diet?
Just a reminder, a keto or ketogenic diet is when the majority of the foods and calories you eat, come from FAT.
It’s technically very low in protein and almost no carbohydrates.
Many people think that a keto diet just means little or no carbs and you can eat as much protein as possible.
For example, have a big steak and fry it up in butter.
But this is false because protein converts to glucose through “gluconeogenesis”.
Thus, the more protein you eat, the harder it is to get into ketosis. It’s like you’re still eating carbs because of the higher protein intake.
This is why a true keto diet is really hard to follow and a bit disgusting because it’s almost all fat.
For marketing reasons, people tried to make a keto diet more palatable and tasty by adding lots of protein.
But later they discovered that it was really hard to get into ketosis because the protein was basically converted to glucose and sugar through gluconeogenesis.
Ketogenic Diet & Cortisol Levels
So, in regards to keto and very low-carb diets and how it affects your cortisol levels…
Even more so, for people who exercise regularly – cardiovascular and especially weight lifting – a keto and even a very low-carb diet has been shown to increase cortisol levels, while simultaneously lowering testosterone levels.
Remember, cortisol opposes testosterone. As cortisol goes up, testosterone comes down.
This means a decrease in muscle, strength, and stamina, while an increase in body fat over time.
Obviously, this is the opposite of what you want.
And this is even more pronounced and negative in older men and women because they don’t have much testosterone to protect themselves during times of stress and higher cortisol levels.
As a side note: at the end of this article, I’ve listed 2 great ways to lower cortisol levels – naturally.
Just make sure you take a look when you finish reading this article to the end.
Why Cortisol Goes Up On Keto Diets?
There are lots of reasons why cortisol goes up when carbs are very low. One primary reason is your body is trying to increase energy levels since there’s a lack of glucose.
Just remember, in some ways, a ketogenic diet mimics starvation, which is stressful.
After a few days or weeks of a keto diet, your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis, again – stressful.
Your body will then use an alternative fuel source called Ketones to survive since no glucose is available.
Ketones for brain energy and fuel might be fine and even preferred by some people, temporarily.
But not long-term for many months and years.
And definitely NOT for muscle and anyone who exercises!
And before you start to debate me on this – there are some people who do well on keto diets and can stay healthy long-term.
However, these are more of the exceptions than the rule. For most of us regular people, long-term keto diets will have negative effects.
So, What’s The Solution?
So you may be thinking, what’s the solution? What are your options?
I think a keto diet can be helpful for people who have epilepsy and seizures.
For people who have neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
For very sedentary people who are very overweight and you can slowly cycle into a keto diet and then cycle off it, back and forth throughout the year.
But if you have a stressful lifestyle… emotionally and/or physically… If you exercise, then you may reconsider keto or very low-carb diets.
Or just make sure you cycle it. Maybe 2 months on, 2-4 weeks off.
And if you do, make sure you manage your cortisol levels by taking specific supplements.
Two of the best would be Stress & Cortisol Relief and also Vitamin C.
I take at least 1000 mgs of Vitamin C, 3x daily.
I also suggest taking Stress & Cortisol Relief after exercise and before bed.