is the keto diet good for menopause

How Do Ketones and the Menopause React with Running or Exercise?

If you’re going through the menopause, you know all the not-so-fun side effects that come along with it—hot flashes, weight gain, messed up blood sugar levels, even heart palpitations—not to mention not feeling like yourself, becoming easily irritated or giving up your sex life.

One way many women try to cut back on the frustration behind menopause is with various diet and lifestyle changes. For example, a diet that’s high in sugar (and let’s not forget that carbs break down into sugar), causes increases and crashes in insulin levels and changes blood sugar levels, which can contribute to a hormonal imbalance.

Recently, there’s been a lot of attention on the ketodiet for menopausal women. So, how does this type of diet work with menopause, and where does exercise come into play?

The basics

If you’re following a ketogenic diet, you know how it goes—it’s a low-carb diet lifestyle that transforms your body into a fat-burning incinerator. You’ll enjoy natural fats, fish and seafood, meat, eggs, vegetables, cheese, and more. Things to avoid include starch-based foods, like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and anything with a lot of sugar/starch.

So, why do so many menopausal women choose a keto diet? A keto-focused diet improves your hormone and insulin levels, which means all the awful symptoms like hot flashes are cut back. And, the best news: when it does happen, it is a lot shorter and a lot less painful!

A ketogenic diet can help cut back on hunger pains and cravings, which means you’ll lose weight faster and have an easier time keeping it off.

So, the next question is, where does exercise and a running routine fall into play? It’s no secret that, when you’re on a ketogenic diet, you’re likely going to burn more fat during your cardio routine. But you have to make sure you’re giving your body everything it needs before you get started exercising.

Don’t start right away

Not only is your body going through menopause, but if you’re making a lifestyle change, you need to give your body some time to adjust. Stick to what you’re doing. If you’ve been running, stick with your usual routine. If you've been hitting the gym, stay with that. Don’t try anything new during this time.

Why? Because as your body is adjusting to a ketogenic diet, you may not feel your best. A lot of people starting off on the ketogenic diet go through the “keto flu,” which consists of an upset stomach and other flu-like symptoms. If you want to make yourself more comfortable, you may opt to take some new running shoes, but you shouldn’t increase the intensity of your exercise regiments, or let the momentary discomfort prevent you from working out.

Eat enough

Eat enough

Here’s the thing with a keto diet. Because it has an appetite-suppressing effect, you may not feel hungry. However, it’s essential to give your body the energy it needs for a killer workout or run!

There’s nothing worse than cutting back on calories (or carbs, in this case) and coupling that with a long run. You’re going to feel awful, which may hinder your results, and it will definitely negatively impact your performance and overall results.

Burn more fat

A lot of reasons why people, especially women going through menopause, decide to go with keto is because of the weight loss. There’s no doubt about it—it absolutely does work. But how does that new fatloss affect your exercise and physical activity?

The good news is that you’ll burn more fat. The bad news is that it probably won’t do much when it comes to increasing your performance.

Here’s why. When you’re in ketosis, your body isn’t counting on glycogen as your main energy source anymore. Instead, it’s using fat and ketone. So, when you go for a run or hit the gym, you’ll find your keto diet can help increase fat oxidation while using less oxygen. That means more fat is going to get burned during your run or exercise. However, this doesn’t do much in terms of increasing your performance—that’s all about consistency and keeping up with your routine.

HIIT may not be a hit

The last few years have been all about high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This works for a lot of people because they can give it their all for short bursts of exercise or cardio. But this may not be the case for women in menopause on the ketogenic diet.

During HIIT, your body counts on that glycogen stored up as your fuel to get through your workout. The problem: glycogen is fueled by carbs. So, if you aren’t eating carbs, your HIIT workout may not be effective.

Therefore, if you’re going to do exercise or go running, moderate-intensity workouts are the way to go.

A deadly duo

“Studies have shown that ketogenic diets coupled with moderate-intensity exercise can positively affect one’s body composition,” says fitness expert at DrAxe.com Chelsea Axe, D.C., C.S.C.S. “They have shown that ketogenic diets enhance the body’s ability to burn fat, both at rest and during low to moderate exercise intensities, so your weight loss efforts may be maximized while training in these zones.”

Need more evidence? Journal of Endocrinology published a study in 2011 showed that a ketogenic diet was found to increase hepatic growth hormone (HGH). This helps women going through menopause because HGH plays a role in strength and youthfulness—both things that will help menopause symptoms.

Safe exercises for you

When you’re ready to mix exercise into your keto diet, start with aerobic exercise. This is cardio, which is low-intensity but lasts for longer periods of time. This could be running or biking. This is ideal for the ketodieter because it’s a steady state of cardio and focused on fat burning.

Anaerobic exercise isn’t a great choice, as HIIT falls under this category. This is any exercise that focuses on shorter bursts of energy, much like HIIT or weight training. Carbs are the fuel behind this exercise so just fat and protein won’t be enough to give you the energy you need.

Flexibility and stability exercises are a decent choice as well. Flexibility exercises are exactly what they sound like: they stretch out your muscles, support your joints and help your range of motion. Yoga and other stretches would fall under this category. Stability exercises are core training and other balance exercises, which will help with your muscle strength, too.

 At the end of the day, what matters most is how you feel and what works for you. Listen to your body and decide what the best route is for you. Between keto, menopause, and exercise, you may need some time to work out the kinks. As usual, consistency is key!

About the Author Andrea Argenio