For starters, I am not a doctor or nutritionist, so I am in no way telling you to go, or not to go Keto (hey, that kinda rhymed!). There, the disclaimer is outta the way!
What you and I are going to do is pull together research that gives us facts from those who claim that Keto raises testosterone, as well as those who say it’s damaging to hormone levels. I’ll include all of my sources as well!
Together, you and I will go through these facts and we can both make an educated decision on how Keto diet truly impacts our testosterone levels.
Are you ready?
Here’s what you’ll learn in this post:
- A detailed description of what Keto is (MANY think they know but are confused!)
- Does Keto raise testosterone?
- Does Keto lower testosterone?
- The true role of carbs and fats
- Keto vs a balanced diet
- Is Keto for you?
What is Keto?
If you were to ask 20 people ‘What is keto?’ you would probably hear one of two responses…
- ‘It’s a low carb diet!’
- ‘It’s a high-fat diet and you can eat all the fat you want!’
Where there’s some truth to both statements, it’s much deeper than that. And most people get it wrong.
In fact, I’d say 70% of people that have told me they’re on a keto diet after I ask a few questions, I find that they’re really doing a modified Atkins diet and are nowhere near ketosis (which we’ll talk more about below).
The purpose of going on a Keto diet is to force your body into what is called ketosis. In layman’s terms, this means forcing your body to use fats for energy instead of carbs.
The term ‘Keto’ is short for ketogenic. In the article ‘A Keto Diet for Beginners’ by Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD on dietdoctor.com, we learn that a ketogenic diet produces ketones which are used for energy when carbs are not readily available.
Your body actually produces ketones naturally through the liver, from fat. But the only way for your body to produce these ketones is if there are no carbs getting in the way. This doesn’t necessarily mean zero carbs but the amount has to be low enough so that ketones can form.
You also have to watch your protein intake on a keto diet. And this is where many get confused. They eat a substantial amount of fat while dropping their carbs, but they’re still eating the same amount of protein as they were before.
Protein intake should only be moderate on keto. If you eat too much protein, that excess is treated like carbohydrates, meaning it’s converted to blood sugar. That will prevent you from going into what is called ketosis.
What is Ketosis?
When your body is in ketosis, it has turned the switch, so to speak, to using fats for energy instead of carbs. And as you may have guessed, the state of ketosis is reached through the production and use of ketones.
Ketosis is a normal metabolic process. When the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead; this results in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body.James McIntosh, ‘Ketosis: What is Ketosis?’ medicalnewstoday.com
You know that your fats must be high, and protein moderate. You now may be wondering how many carbs can you eat to get your body into ketosis?
The rule of thumb is keep your carbs less than 50 grams per day to get into ketosis, according to webmd.com (also cross-checked with several other reliable sources).
Lastly in our introduction to keto, let’s talk about macros.
Keto macros may actually vary from person to person, but here are the most common rations:
- Fat: 75%
- Protein: 25%
- Carbs: 5%
Does Keto Diet Raise Testosterone?
You now have a pretty hefty education of what the keto diet is all about. So let’s get into the meat and potatoes…oops, potatoes are carbs! Let’s just get into the meat then!
Does getting your body into ketosis help boost your testosterone levels?
Well, we know that fats play a role in boosting testosterone. This is one of the reasons foods like steak and whole eggs are commonly found in a bodybuilder diet. So initially it might make sense that a high-fat diet would have a positive impact on your hormones.
But can fats alone increase your testosterone? Remember, on keto, your carbs are extremely low and protein intake is moderate.
One thing to keep in mind is that, when you drastically reduce carbs, you’re also drastically reducing calories. This will obviously cause you to lose weight, and possibly body fat. Having less body fat can play a role in supporting increased testosterone, per todaysdietician.com.
Let’s back up though because you don’t have to be on a keto diet to reduce calories or lose body fat. So let’s go a step further…
Some nutrition experts support the idea that going on a keto diet can increase testosterone through the cholesterol in fats. This is because testosterone is actually made from cholesterol.
In short, your Leydig cells are what convert cholesterol into testosterone. This is why certain dietary fats are important if we want to boost testosterone naturally (check out my 7 Testosterone Boosting Foods).
Thomas DeLauer provides some more information about this in his video below called ‘Ketosis & Testosterone’
So we know there’s adequate science behind keto diet raising your testosterone levels. It all comes down to eating the right types of fats for this to happen.
But what about the flip side…is there any research proving that going on a keto diet is damaging to testosterone?
Does Keto Diet Lower Testosterone?
Here’s 2 facts that you and I have learned:
- Fat is necessary for naturally and organically increasing testosterone
- The keto diet is based on high fat intake
In theory, it makes sense that if #1 is true, then #2 would lead to higher testosterone levels, right?
It’s not that simple, and here’s why. We’re missing some other important elements required for healthy testosterone, and overall hormone levels.
Marc Lobliner from tigerfitness.com explains the important role that carbohydrates have in supporting testosterone:
When carbs were reduced to 30% of one’s diet, even more, carbs than most ketogenic diets recommend, testosterone and the ratio of testosterone to cortisol was reduced significantly in subjects. This wasn’t just in normal people – this was also replicated in Olympic athletes.Mark Lobliner, Does the Keto Diet Lower Testosterone? tigerfitness.com
Cortisol levels skyrocketed as the athletes depleted glycogen and increased the cortisol to testosterone ratio in these highly-trained athletes. The effect was blunted and reversed with the inclusion of a carb-containing shake.
Here’s the video version of the article from Mark Lobliner…
Another potential issue with the lack of fiber due to the extremely lower carbs in keto. This may or may not have a direct impact on testosterone. However, not eating enough fiber could lead to issues that do impact your testosterone.
There are more studies showing how reducing carbohydrates to an extreme can lead to health problems, low testosterone being one of them.
Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS further explains this in an article on precisionnutrition.com. In short, the drastic reduction of carbs can lead to higher cortisol levels. When cortisol is increased, testosterone is decreased.
With these potential issues in mind (cortisol up, testosterone down), your performance can be affected. This means your workouts might be crappy, if you have the energy to work out at all!
Now, what happens when you don’t work out? You’re not building lean muscle or burning fat, which can also have a negative impact on your testosterone.
So you see how everything works together here. From what we’ve learned, yes, fats are good (necessary), but so are carbohydrates.
And without the presence of carbs, you can indeed lower your testosterone…and I think that answers our keto question for this section.
The True Role of Carbs and Fats
Let’s take a step back from the argument of ‘keto raises testosterone vs keto lowers testosterone.’
Instead, let’s simply look at the role that carbs and fats have in the body.
Here are some benefits of carbohydrates, per reidhealth.org (note that we’re talking about healthy carb sources, not junk food or refined sugars):
- Serve as your body’s main source of energy
- Essential for brain function
- The fiber in carbohydrates can improve digestion
- Crucial for kidney and liver health
- Reasonable amounts of carbs can keep blood cholesterol levels in check
- Carbs can be stored in the muscle for a period of time when you’re not getting enough glucose
- Contains essential vitamins and minerals
- Deficiency in the above vitamins and minerals can lead to headaches, low energy, and some health implications
Here are some excellent sources of carbs you can eat:
- Sweet potatoes
- Fruits (bananas, berries, apples, oranges)
- Whole grains
Here are the benefits of healthy fats, sourced from heart.org:
- Supports balanced hormones and increases testosterone
- Necessary for heart health
- Lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises good cholesterol (HDL)
- Supports cell growth
- Protects your organs
- Absorbs nutrients (this is why most multivitamins are labeled ‘fat-soluble‘ and should be taken with fats)
Some healthy sources of fats you can include in your diet are:
- Steak/beef (in moderation)
- Whole eggs
- Olive oil
Keto Vs Balanced Diet
Now you know that a ketogenic diet has both the potential to raising and lowering your testosterone. And boosting testosterone is what this site is all about it!
So how does keto compare to a balanced diet? I know the term ‘balanced’ is not sexy and may sound a little bland. But here’s what you need to know about a balanced diet…
The benefits of a (healthy) balanced diet that you’re not getting with keto…
- Essential vitamins and minerals your body needs
- Enough protein to build lean muscle
- Hormonal balance
- A feasible and sustainable nutrition plan you can stick to
However, remember that keto does offer some benefits that you may not get with a balanced diet, such as…
- Faster weight loss
- Better brain function
- Issues that come with eating too much sugar from carbs
Is Keto Worth It?
Here’s the problem with diet trends…
It’s difficult to know if the keto diet is ‘the best diet’ because anyone who promotes keto is usually trying to sell you something. And this is almost always the case with any diet trend. So their opinion is extremely biased.
This does not mean that keto doesn’t work. For some people, it works great, especially for weight loss. And there are people with certain diseases and health issues that have been able to recover, or at least better sustain from going on a ketogenic diet.
However, this does not mean that keto is perfect for everyone. It does not mean that everyone should be on a ketogenic diet.
You see, not everyone responds the same to certain diets. There are numerous factors like age, weight, height, genetics, family medical background…and also your body type.
**If you look back at my post 3-Day Testosterone Boosting Meal Plan, I show you the breakdown of body types and what type of macronutrient ratio each typically responds best to.
Another question you must ask yourself is this…
Is a Ketogenic Diet Sustainable For You?
Many want to jump on the newest bandwagon of fitness trends because it sounds appealing at first. The problem is that keto isn’t something you can go back and forth on (if you do, then you’re not on a true keto plan).
You have to go all-in if you truly wish to get your body into ketosis. Not to mention that if you introduce moderate to high carbs after your body has ‘flipped the switch’ to use fats as fuel, it can be detrimental to your metabolism.
In fact, Courtney Sperlazza, MPH explains the pitfalls of the keto diet and why carb cycling works better in her blog on bulletproof.com. Hormonal imbalances from reducing carbs is an important topic she talks about that’s relevant to this post.
Going back to keto and testosterone, there’s scientific data that supports both sides. Keto will provide you with plenty of fats to boost hormones, and you’ll get the benefits to quick weight loss (this is what attracts many to keto).
However, there are also implications when reducing carbs to such extremes that could have an adverse effect on testosterone. Not to mention the vitamins and minerals lacking from low carbs.
At the end of the day, you have to choose. Have you tried a true keto diet? What were your results?
Do you currently eat a balanced diet? How strict are you with that?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works best for you, so please comment below.