Men occupy an interesting
place in the health sphere. While there’s a disparity—albeit
one that’s approaching parity—between men and women in the
conventional medical literature, in the alternative health world,
it’s flipped. Women are a “special interest” group, and their
specific health issues and special considerations related to diet
and exercise receive a lot of attention, often as a way to
counteract the conventional imbalance—and because women tend to
be higher consumers of health information. I have far more posts
(including a post on Keto For
Women) explicitly directed toward women and women’s issues
(and the same can be said across many ancestral health sites).
Men are assumed to be “the default,” requiring no special
consideration, but is that actually true?
Today, I’ll be talking about any special considerations men
should make when following a Keto Reset plan.
Play At the Margins
Historically, anthropologically, and biologically speaking, men
can tolerate great variations in environmental intensity. They’re
usually (not always of course) the ones going to war, performing
great feats of physical endurance and strength, willingly
subjecting themselves to misery and pain, as well as being more
violent and getting into the most trouble. (On the whole) carrying
more muscle mass, secreting more testosterone, and being physically
larger than the opposite sex will tend to make all that possible.
We see this kind of sexual dimorphism play out across most mammals,
and there’s no reason to think humans are any different.
Most of us don’t have these extreme situations foisted on us
any more, but we still thrive doing them. Try a 2-day fast. Do one
meal a day. Eat a 3-pound steak, then no meat at all the next day.
Eat a dozen eggs for breakfast (whenever that happens). Try lots of
seemingly extreme experiments to see what works. It may be that you
thrive doing the occasional intense bout of keto bravado. Only one
way to find out.
Whereas women tend to have a lower tolerance for perturbations
in caloric intake for their potential impact on fertility status,
men have far more leeway. Take advantage of that.
Be As Strict As Possible Early On
I’m not going to mince words. Get strict. Most of the men I
encounter who are having problems with keto do better the stricter
they are. For women, it’s often the opposite—they need to relax
their keto adherence and just eat.
Don’t mess around with carb refeeds, pre-workout carbs, or
“just one donut hole” until you have a good thing going. Get
those fat-burning mitochondria built. Stay strong and stay
Manage Your Stress Levels
This is good general advice for everyone on any diet, but it’s
especially so for men eating keto.
A big part of traditional masculinity (for better and worse) is
stoicism—the ability to soldier on through a difficult situation.
This is, on balance, often a good yet misunderstood trait that gets
a bad rap that it doesn’t always deserve. Stoicism isn’t
unfeeling. At its healthiest, it’s the ability to address the
feelings without being ruled by them. It’s feeling grief without
letting your life fall to pieces. These are positive ways to
respond to life’s slings and arrows. But this can lead to a
denial of the physiological ramifications of stress and a failure
to manage them with anti-stress
Keto does not make you impervious to stress. Being a man does
not make you impervious to stress. There are still limits to the
amount of stress we can tolerate, physiological ones that no one
should try to transcend. At those levels, “mind over matter”
stops working. Stress will spike cortisol, blunt testosterone, and
make all that decidedly non-keto junk food all the more attractive
Monitor Your Testosterone Levels
For the most part, going keto tends to improve testosterone
It reduces body fat. Researchers have known for decades that
carrying extra body fat depresses testosterone levels, and that
losing the extra fat restores them. In fact, a recent study found that
a man’s body weight is such a fantastic predictor of low
testosterone and poor sexual function that the authors recommend it
should be used as a standard biomarker for evaluating testosterone
levels. If keto is helping you lose body fat, it’s probably
improving your T levels.
It increases saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Both
nutrients (yes, nutrients) are important building blocks for the
production of testosterone. Studies show
that low-fat, high-fiber diets lower testosterone in men, while
diets higher in saturated fat increase it.
Once the initial exodus of body fat is over, though, you have to
be more vigilant. Calories can dip too low. Deficiencies of
micronutrients you haven’t been thinking about may start to
surface. And this can all impact your testosterone levels.
Make sure you’re not starving yourself. Men are built to
handle and even prosper from acute boluses of extreme caloric
restriction or expenditure (fasts, heavy training), but extended
bouts can destroy our hormonal profile. Just look at what happens to
a seasoned bodybuilder preparing for competition with caloric
restriction and intense training—their testosterone tanks and
their cortisol shoots up.
Make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of the
pro-testosterone micronutrients. Zinc, vitamin D (either through
sun exposure, vitamin D-rich foods like wild salmon, eggs, cod
liver oil, or supplementation), saturated fat, cholesterol,
magnesium. Using a tool like
Cronometer can help you track them and get your diet in
Don’t Let Keto Take Over
Men tend to obsess over things that interest them. We scour the
literature, try to optimize everything, spend every waking moment
thinking about how to do something—in this case, keto—better.
We can get a little iron-willed and myopic if we don’t watch
Focus is all well and good, but not if it starts impeding your
ability to handle other aspects of health that are no less
Don’t stay up ’til 2 A.M. arguing on keto forums and reading
PubMed abstracts. Get your sleep.
Don’t become a recluse because none of your friends understand
your “weird keto thing.” Maintain your social relationships,
Don’t stop sprinting because you measured your blood glucose
once after a hill session and it spiked. Exercise is equally
Make Sure You’re Lifting
Keto does not replace strength training.
I’m a firm proponent of weight lifting for everyone—man,
woman, elderly, and sometimes child (depending on the child). The
benefits are unassailable and vast. Carrying lean muscle mass is a
wholly beneficial trait for everyone.
But you have to admit, it’s especially crucial for a man.
There’s nothing more indicative of poor metabolic health than the
male skinny fat look. I see far too many men on keto diets who
carry around the skinny fat look, and it’s usually because they
aren’t lifting anything heavy. Yeah, you’re burning a lot of
fat. Yeah, you’ve got some nice-looking mitochondria. Yeah, keto
is protein-sparing. But are you using those mitochondria? Are you
taking advantage of that lost dead weight to do some extra
pull-ups? Are you content with merely limiting the number of amino
acids your ketogenic metabolic state extracts from your muscle
tissue, or are you going to build brand new muscle tissue?
Get to it.
That’s what I’ve got. What about you? Can you folks
recommend any special tips, tricks, or tactics for men doing a keto
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.
Masterson JM, Soodana-prakash N, Patel AS, Kargi AY, Ramasamy R.
Body Mass Index Is Associated with Secondary Hypogonadism Among Men
Presenting to a Tertiary Academic Medical Center. World J Mens
Wang C, Catlin DH, Starcevic B, et al. Low-fat
high-fiber diet decreased serum and urine androgens in men. J
Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005;90(6):3550-9.
Pardue A, Trexler ET, Sprod LK. Case Study: Unfavorable But
Transient Physiological Changes During Contest Preparation in a
Drug-Free Male Bodybuilder. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.