Many people start a keto diet for the health benefits, which include weight loss as well as fighting diabetes, lowering heart disease risk factors, and reducing acne. But what is the point of losing weight and looking better when one’s libido suddenly disappears? What kind of effect does keto have on someone’s sex drive?
Keto often has an initial negative effect on someone’s sex drive. This effect is temporary for many people who report an increased sex drive once their bodies have adjusted to the diet. Some researchers and dieticians attribute the higher libido to increased fat consumption.
You certainly do not want to start a new diet only to discover it decreases your desire to have sex. We will explore why some people report an initial drop in libido and ways that a keto diet can increase it in the long run.
What Negative Effects Does Keto Have On Your Sex Drive?
There is much anecdotal reporting on the web that dieters experience a lower sex drive when they first start keto. This is often attributed to something users call the “keto flu.” The good news is that most dieters report that once their bodies adjust to the diet, their libido returns and, in some cases, increases.
Electrolyte imbalances that result from the sudden switch away from a low-carb diet can also cause a temporary loss of your sex drive. The temporary loss of the electrolyte magnesium affects your sex hormones (as well as your thyroid). Find ways to add magnesium to your diet. You can do that with supplements or foods such as avocado and mackerel.
What Is The Keto Flu?
The keto flu is the body’s reaction to a sudden switch to a low-carb diet. Typically these symptoms show up within the first few days of the diet as your body adjusts to a new way of generating fuel. The most common symptoms include:
- Mental issues. These include headaches, dizziness, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, and irritability.
- Digestive problems. Some people report diarrhea while others constipation. Nausea and vomiting are others. Some people also mention stomach pains.
- Physical symptoms. Muscle soreness and cramps are often reported. Some people feel weak and unenergetic.
These flu-like symptoms are often accompanied by sugar cravings and typically last around a week. People who are informed that these symptoms are common and will go away are less likely to abandon the diet after a few days.
What Causes These Effects?
Dieticians attribute these symptoms to how your body reacts when you reduce carbohydrates drastically while increasing the amount of fats you eat. Remember that a keto diet changes the way your body gets the energy necessary to function correctly.
With a carbohydrate-heavy diet, energy is derived from glucose. In a keto diet, the body relies on ketones—byproducts of the process of breaking down fat–for energy, or ketosis.
Typically, our bodies burn carbohydrates first and save fat as a back-up fuel source. Some compare the “keto flu” to colds that people get when the temperature changes. Another common comparison is to withdrawal symptoms, such as caffeine withdrawal headaches.
Essentially, the sudden drop in carbohydrate consumption shocks the system, and some people’s bodies respond with various flu-like symptoms. Once the body adjusts, most people find that they feel better than before they started. And this includes their sex drive.
Click here to learn more about the keto flu and other potential side effects.
How Does Diet Affect Your Sex Drive?
Since diet influences health, and the sex drive is a part of overall health, it stands to reason that diet influences your sex drive. Several studies have shown these:
- Low-calorie diet. This low-calorie study showed that weight loss improved sexual function in middle-aged men.
- Male sexual dysfunction. This review of 13 studies found that diet is related to men’s sexual health.
- Female sexual function. A 2018 study found that women on a keto diet had significant improvements in their sex drives.
Our population is aging, and birth rates are going down. People report losing interest in sex, and 1 in 4 Americans report being too tired to have sex. For those reasons, researchers continue to study the relationship between diet and sex.
Other Reasons A Keto Diet Can Increase Your Sex Drive
Although keto and libido research is still somewhat limited, it hasn’t stopped people from speculating on other reasons that a keto diet could improve someone’s sex life. Here are a few.
Some studies have shown that a keto diet can improve chemical imbalances related to mood issues, such as low serotonin levels, inflammation, and insulin resistance, among others. Your mood could also be boosted by success on the diet, and improved mood leads to an increased libido.
Americans have been told to shun facts, so our diets have become high carb and low fat. However, meals high in carbs cause your body’s blood sugar to peak before crashing again. Your body responds to this crash by having your adrenal glands release stress hormones to bring blood sugar levels back to normal.
One of those hormones that the adrenal glands release—cortisol—decreases sex drive.
Because a keto diet lowers blood glucose and insulin levels, it restores the hormones essential to a healthy sexual drive for men and women. Also, the increased fats are likely to raise levels of estrogen and testosterone.
Low levels of those hormones contribute to erectile dysfunction, low sex drives, and a lower sperm count in men. Even though we think of testosterone as the male hormone, low levels of it contribute to a lower sex drive in women. Excess body fat, especially as measured by a person’s BMI, lowers testosterone levels.
Many people attribute the increased energy to a higher sex drive. It’s harder to be in the mood when one is always tired. Also, the increased activity from weight loss can contribute to a boost in your sex drive.
Are There Specific Foods That Help Improve Your Libido?
Since the link between diet and sex drive have been established, are there foods that can improve your libido? Keto dieticians think some foods are aphrodisiacs.
One food often mentioned is oysters, which have a long tradition of getting people in the mood. That’s due to the high levels of the mineral zinc. This mineral helps your body regulate testosterone levels.
Per serving, oysters have among the highest levels of zinc. If you are not a big fan, consider crab, lobster, or red meat. Some foods high in zinc, like pine nuts, should be added sparingly, if at all, to a keto diet.
Several herbs and spices can improve sexual desire, including ginseng, fenugreek, Ginkgo Biloba, and saffron.
Maca, a root vegetable grown in Peru, has been shown to boost sexual desire in both animals and people. Although maca is not keto-friendly, it can be found in many recipes in both keto and paleo diets.
What Supplements Should I Consider Adding?
- Omega-3 fatty acids from fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies will decrease insulin levels.
- Digestive enzymes. Although not directly related to increased libido, digestive enzymes can reduce the adverse effects of the “keto flu.” And the faster you recover from the flu, the sooner you will regain your mojo.
- Electrolyte supplements and minerals. Again, adding electrolytes will help shorten that initial transition period. Lower levels of sodium, magnesium, and potassium result in headaches and fatigue.
- Athletic performance boosters. Supplements such as creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, HMB, and BCAAs are designed to boost athletic performance. Need we say more?
Once you get past the “keto flu,” you should find your desire to have sex to return. It returns to pre-keto levels for some people while other people find their sexual urges increase due to improved hormonal balances, less stress, and generally feeling better about themselves.
Does keto affect sperm? A ketogenic diet that contains plenty of fish, healthy fats, seeds, and nuts have been proven to have a positive impact on sperm count and fertility.
How Long Should I Leave My Body In Ketosis? You can keep your body in ketosis for as long as you can maintain a ketogenic diet. People looking to lose weight can stay in ketosis for as long as it takes to achieve the weight goal, while those strictly after the long-term benefits of a ketogenic diet can adopt permanent or cyclical ketosis.