Keto for men and women looks very similar as far as carb intake and weight loss goes, but the diet has slightly different hormonal and physiological effects between these two genders.
Studies show that the keto diet may help increase testosterone which comes along with a whole myriad of health benefits such as enhanced cognitive function, higher energy levels, better sleep, an improvement in mood and androgenic benefits such as an increase in lean muscle mass, strength and higher labido.1
To be clear, while the keto diet has shown to boost testosterone in some studies, the research isn’t 100% conclusive and there are many other factors to consider when it comes to testosterone production.
That being said, the guide below details everything you need to know about trying out keto as a man — from beginner tips, keto’s potential effects on testosterone, the full benefits of testosterone in males, a sample meal plan that emphasizes healthy fats, potential side effects, to before and after pictures for inspiration.
Note, if you have low testosterone and are hoping keto is a quick fix, think twice because while it’s worth experimenting with, it’s not a substitution for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) or other holistic methods and therefore, should only be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional — preferably an endocrinologist paired with a dietitian or nutritionist.
How Keto May Increase Testosterone in Men & the Benefits of Higher Testosterone Levels
A keto diet which has some components of a weight loss solution has a direct impact on the production of testosterone in the body and does so in two ways: the reduction of carbs that leads to weight loss and the higher fat content in the diet that is a catalyst for hormone production.
Weight Loss Due to Reduction in Carbs—Weight loss that occurs due the reduction in carbs will cause an increase in testosterone levels. With every point drop in the body mass index (BMI), the testosterone level will increase roughly 1 point.2
The management of weight levels will also have an additional benefit of preventing a decrease in testosterone as male’s age.
Keto Diet Is a Catalyst for Hormone Production—Testosterone is a type of steroidal hormone that is synthesized from cholesterol which is manufactured by the body and present in the bloodstream.
A keto that is high in fat increases the amount of cholesterol which theoretically and potentially increases the amount of cholesterol the body produces.
A study that was conducted in 2020 showed college students who are placed on a keto diet and strength training program had significant elevated levels of testosterone levels when compared to those on a typical ‘Western diet’.3
There is a caveat to staying on a keto diet and its impact on testosterone levels in men due to other components of the keto diet.
A keto diet should primarily and typically consist of high fats, very low carbohydrates and moderate proteins—in ranges of 30%-35% protein, 55%-60% fat and 5%-10% carbohydrates equivalent to consuming 20-50 grams of carbs per day (based on a 2000 kcal diet).6
It is a common misconception and often practiced by those on a keto diet to have an impression that they can consume fairly high amounts of protein.
A recent study conducted in 2022 showed that moderate protein intake (<35%) and low carb diet had no effect on resting total testosterone—nevertheless, high protein intake (>=35%) significantly reduced testosterone levels.7
Therefore, men on a keto diet must remain confined within the protein intake guidelines of a keto diet by consuming between 30% and 35% protein of their total meal component.
This ensures that they do not only erase the gains they have made in testosterone levels, but also potentially reduce the amount of fat that is used to supply energy thus preventing fat burning and defeating the purpose of the keto diet.
It should be stated that there are other factors that can affect testosterone levels including genetics, environment and age. Some others are lifestyle related such as stress, sleep, diet and exercise activity.
While going on a keto diet will help boost testosterone levels, it is not the only factor at play.
Benefits of Increased Testosterone
Testosterone is a male hormone produced by the testes but is also produced in smaller quantities in women—it has a number of benefits when in sufficient levels in the blood, including increased muscle mass and athletic performance, increased energy sex drive and improved mood and cognitive function.
Improved Athletic Performance and Muscle Mass
Human testosterone hormone is a key factor in ensuring the maintenance of muscle mass, strength, bone density and fat. It is produced 30 times as much in the testis after male puberty resulting in 15-20 times greater circulating testosterone levels than children or women regardless of age.
The clear dose-response connections between circulating testosterone and muscle mass and strength and hemoglobin levels results in physical advantages in strength, speed, and endurance seen in men—hence the need for separate male and female sporting events.8
Lower testosterone levels lead to changes such as reduced muscle strength, decreased bone density and increased body fat which are not desirable traits for athletes.
In addition, higher testosterone levels will boost athletic performance through anabolic (bodybuilding tissue) actions in the long term and have profound effects on behaviors since low levels can lead to loss of self-confidence and motivation.10 These qualities are damaging to athletes who need to be ahead of their ‘game’ in training.
Increased Energy and Sex Drive
While testosterone isn’t the only hormone that powers men’s energy and sex drive, low levels of it can certainly have an impact on the ability of having sex that is satisfying.
Testosterone levels that are low are one of the causes of low libido (energy of sex drive) and when levels are critically lowered, almost all men will have a decrease in sex drive—overall, testosterone therapy has consistently been shown to improve libido in men with low testosterone levels.11
Improved Mood and Cognitive Function
Testosterone plays a significant role in the cognitive health and function of men and it has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and as it is an androgen (male sex hormone), it is able to activate certain androgen receptors within the brain. It can therefore have an effect on brain function and thought processes.
Studies have shown that lower testosterone levels are associated with depression and cognitive impairment.12
Testosterone is a major factor in determining bone mineral density and bone density typically decreases as men age as testosterone levels simultaneously drop. Bone density in the spines and hips considerably increases with the advent of testosterone therapy as long the doses are high.13
Denser bones are less prone to fracturing and osteoporosis.
Healthy Cardiovascular System
A healthy heart is needed to pump blood around the body with efficiency to ensure that muscles and organs receive nutrients and oxygen and work in peak performance. Testosterone is a factor in the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.
It also reduces the incidence of heart disease, with men who have their testosterone levels returned to baseline 24% less likely to have a heart attack and 36% less likely to have a stroke.14
Keto Before and After Results for Men (Keto Diet Results: Men)
The keto diet is one of the nation’s most popular trending diets and is an effective weight loss program for men to partake in the short term — and these before and after results are a testament of the results some men experienced when trying out keto.
Tom started the current keto diet when he was 232.2 lbs. and went on the keto diet for 88 days. He ended up dropping down to 204.2 lbs.
He has been on an off the keto diet for 2 years and the photo below shows the total transformation he’s had on the keto diet so far, which is a staggering 120 lbs. from when he first started the keto diet. How much weight can you lose on keto?
Typically, 10 lbs. a month, which corresponds with the results that Tom has shown here losing almost 30 lbs. in 3 months.
YouTube user A.D. Keto has been on a keto diet for a year with impressive results. He has struggled with weight for a better part of 25 years, oscillating between overweight and a manageable weight.
The user started the diet when he was 274 lbs. and ended losing 62 lbs. His waist size went from 42 inches down to 34 inches.
Fit Men Cook
YouTube user Fit Men Cook did the keto diet for 8 weeks after having been diagnosed with hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and had been putting on weight.
Due to his work, he would go for long periods without eating and would eat plenty of bread and pasta rationalizing and justifying the lack of eating, but the scales started adding up.
He ended up dropping to 194 lbs. During the keto diet, he would have a cheat meal once a week.
What To Eat on the Keto Diet for Men
There are certain foods that men who are looking to maintain a keto diet should eat, and they should follow these beginner tips and reap keto benefits by including foods such as eggs, fatty fish and oils that are rich in healthy fats.
- Poultry— Turkey and chicken.
- Eggs— Organic and pastured eggs are preferred, but conventional eggs will work.
- Meat—Venison, beef, bison and pork (all grass fed).
- Fatty Fish—Mackerel, salmon and herring.
- Full-Fat Cheese Products—Cream, butter and yogurt (unsweetened).
- Full-Fat Dairy Products—Cream cheese, goat cheese, mozzarella, cheddar and grie.
- Seeds & Nuts—Peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts.
- Nut Butter—Almond, cashew and peanut butters (all unsweetened)
- Oils That Are Rich in Healthy Fats—Olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and avocado oil. Is olive oil keto? It certainly is, containing 0 carbs and one of the healthiest oils available.
- Vegetables (Non Starchy)—Tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, kale, spinach and broccoli.
- Condiments—Spices, herbs, vinegar, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
In addition to these foods, it is important to stay hydrated, with water being the first choice:
- Water—This is the best choice to hydrate and should be drunk throughout the day.
- Sparkling Water—Sparkling water can serve as a good soda substitute. Men may wonder, Is diet Dr Pepper keto? Sometimes, the craving for soda may be intense, and the good news is that diet Dr. Pepper is keto friendly containing 0 carbs.
- Coffee (Unsweetened)—Heavy cream can add flavor to offset the lack of sugar.
- Green Tea (Unsweetened)—Green tea has many excellent benefits such as providing antioxidants and improving brain function.
Sample Meal Plan for Men on a Keto Diet (Keto Diet Plan for Men)
A sample menu for men on keto appears below—this plan limits the carb intake to 50 grams per day and is for 3 days.
Men wanting to occasionally break off the traditional keto diet and perhaps have a craving for their favorite foods such as pizza may opt for brands such as Marco’s pizza bowls keto which cater to keto dieters. Are quest cookies keto? They certainly are, and these tasty treats can also be included in a keto diet to bring some flavor in and prevent any blandness to the diet.
The Importance of Eating the Right Fats (Healthy Fats vs Bad Fats)
Fats are an important component of the keto diet and the main reason for the production of more testosterone, but it is important to include the right fats in the diet as there are healthy fats and bad fats that have negative health consequences.
Dietary fat known as fatty acids is present in foods from both plants and animals—the surplus calories from eating fats leads to weight gain.
There are two main kinds of fats that have been categorized: bad fats that are not healthy (saturated and trans fats) and two that are deemed as healthy (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats).
Saturated Fats & Trans Fats (Bad Fats)
Saturated fats are mostly obtained from animal sources and include:
- Fatty cuts of beef, lamb and pork.
- Poultry skin and dark chicken meat.
- Dairy foods that are high fat such as butter, whole milk and ice cream.
- Coconut and palm oil.
Eating too much saturated fats can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. A Harvard University study has hypothesized that the effects may be overstated, but nevertheless, they should be consumed sparingly.19
Trans fats are yielded from foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and should be avoided as much as possible, they are are found in:
- Vegetable shortening.
- Fried foods such as French fries.
- Baked products such as cookies and cakes.
- Processed foods such as crackers, chips and microwave popcorn.
Similarly to saturated fats, these can also raise LDL cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated Fats (Healthy Fats)
Men on a keto diet should instead opt for foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Studies have shown foods containing monounsaturated fats can improve your blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases.20
- Nuts such as peanuts, cashews, pecans and almonds
- Vegetable oils such as olive and peanut oil
- Peanut and almond butter
Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats because the body cannot make them and need to source them from foods. They have the same benefits as monounsaturated fats and can be obtained from foods such as:
- Canola oil
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
Potential Risks & Side Effects for Men on a Keto Diet
There are some risks and side effects that are inherent for men on a keto diet and they include low blood sugar, deficiencies in nutrients and elevated risk of heart disease.
- Keto Flu—This arises from the body being initially shocked by the diet leading to symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, constipation, nausea, keto night sweats, lack of energy and generally being sluggish. Staying hydrated and consuming foods laden with sodium, potassium and other electrolytes should minimize these effects.
- Nutrient Deficiencies—Some vitamins and minerals may be deficient to the restrictive diet. Healthy low carbs foods such as avocado, nuts and starchy vegetables should be consumed rather than keto treats and processed meats.
- Low Blood Sugar Levels—Keto diets may reduce red blood cell count which also decreases blood sugar levels. Men with diabetes are particularly prone to this when not consuming enough carbs and taking too much insulin.
- Damage to Bone Health—A lower carb diet is associated with diminished bone health.
- Increased Risk of Premature Death & Chronic Diseases—Even though studies are hotly debated on these side effects, there may be poor health outcomes such as heart disease and early death.
- Potential Digestive Issues—Daily fiber needs may be challenging to meet on a keto diet leading to constipation and overall digestive discomfort. High fiber keto foods should be eaten; these include cauliflower, chia seeds, leafy greens, coconut and broccoli.
- Potential Impairment of the Kidneys—There is a higher risk of kidney stones by consuming a high intake of animal feeds such as meat and cheese due to them making urine more acidic. Therefore, those with kidney disease should avoid a keto diet.
How Keto Affects Men vs Women on the Keto Diet
Since men and women have marked differences in their physiology and primarily due to the female sex hormone estrogen, there are several differences that become apparent when they are on a keto diet—these include leptin sensitivity and women’s loss of menstrual cycle.
- Leptin Sensitivity—Leptin is a satiety hormone which decreases appetite after becoming satiated (full). Since the keto diet restricts carb intake, the body turns to ketones and fat for energy which results in a reduction of leptin hormone.
Women’s ovaries have leptin receptors making them more susceptible to the fluctuations and thus are more sensitive than men to leptin levels. Low leptin levels will lead to insomnia, anxiety and hunger.
Women’s menstrual cycles could also be thrown off as well as hormone suppression.
- Loss of Menstrual Cycle—When women are determined to follow through a keto diet especially when they don’t have much weight to lose, may suffer from severe leptin depletion which cause the body to respond by stopping menstrual cycles since a mechanism triggers due the bodies not feeling safe enough to carry a child.
- Blood Glucose Control—Estrogen may also cause women on a keto diet to be unable to effectively control their blood glucose (sugar). Postmenopausal women may have better outcomes in regards to weight loss than their younger counterparts.
Beginner Tips for Incorporating Keto for Men
One of the biggest hurdles beginners face when starting a low carb diet such as keto is keeping tabs of their calories and macronutrient requirements to ensure they remain in ketosis (burning ketones and fats for energy due to a keto diet) and maintain optimal testosterone production.
They will need to ensure that the carb intake is not exceeding 50 grams a day. Often, nutrition labels will give accurate information on the net carb content.
But what of men who want to enjoy their favorite fruit like a pineapple and ask themselves is pineapple keto friendly?
In the case of fruits, vegetables, grains and meats, the USDA provides a helpful food data search tool to know the macronutrients of food based on the weight.22 This will help them make a determination on what foods they may or may not include, and/or what quantities to limit themselves to.
Ensure that protein intake does not exceed the recommended amounts by eating unlimited amounts of meat as this not only decreases ketone levels, but also reduces testosterone levels. Can you be in ketosis and still not lose weight? Yes, it is possible and one of the reasons is that often men want to have cheat days where they don’t want to be bound by the keto diet.
Even if these are rare, they can quickly and easily throw off the ketosis which may cause weight gain.
It is essential to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated during the day to prevent constipation due to a decrease of fiber in the diet. Adding salt to meals and having bone broth will help restore electrolyte (magnesium, potassium and sodium) imbalances.
The keto diet allows for calories to be drastically cut without having intense hunger pangs— however many beginners to the plan may have carb and sugar cravings.
This could cause ‘withdrawal symptoms’, but men new to the keto diet should understand these are merely emotional, rather than physical symptoms. They should therefore be patient and soldier on and ensure they consume enough calories, until the bodies adapt to the new lifestyle and they feel better.
There are some tests that are available to check if ketosis is still being maintained using urine samples, but these may not entirely be accurate due to factors such as hydration levels. The best thing would be for men to make informed decisions, stick to the macro guidelines as best they can in an attempt to lose weight and set for themselves and adhere to weight loss rules.
Is Keto Sustainable Long-Term?
While the keto diet has been touted in the media and can produce incredible results in the short term in the form of weight loss, it is not feasible and sustainable to be on the diet for an extended period of time. The keto diet provides long term health risks that outweigh the benefits in the short term.23
- Research has shown that the diet is unsafe for pregnant women and those with kidney disease. It has long term health effects such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Individuals with type 1 diabetes, who are in a long period of ketosis may develop resistance to insulin.
- Additionally, a keto diet may exponentially increase levels of cholesterol including the bad cholesterol—this could be harmful and dangerous for those with cardiac diseases.
- Athletic performance is also compromised in the long term for those that are on a keto diet since it raises the body’s acidic state, limiting the ability to perform at top levels.24
- Many men may go into a ‘lazy keto mode’ which is lax on monitoring, allowing for more carbs. While the diet can jump start weight loss, many individuals will simply not adhere to the diet for long periods which means they will regain the weight they lost.
They end up going into a cycle of gaining and losing weight which is counterproductive.
- Cheat days in the short term could also have detrimental effects in the long term—for example, having a high sugar treat like a soda could damage the blood vessels.25
- It leads to nutritional deficiencies in the long term with the diet lacking in many vitamins, fiber and minerals since many fruits and grains are excluded from the diet. Many keto dieters tend to eat too much meat and processed foods even if they are meeting keto criteria.
While the keto diet is a good way to lose weight, it is recommended to stay on the diet for 6 months before adding some carbs back into the diet; select an ideal carb range and increase lean proteins such as chicken, lean cuts of meat and beans to help prevent the long term negative outcomes.
Men have a number of dieting options when looking to shed some pounds, and the keto diet is excellent at jump starting a weight loss program—these beginner tips of eating low carb foods, healthy fats and staying hydrated can help elevate testosterone levels and while keto for men will not entirely fix these levels, it could serve as a an experimentation to boost testosterone levels and improve a man’s overall health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Supplements Necessary for Men on the Keto Diet?
Supplements are not necessary, but are beneficial to be included in the keto diet to fill any nutritional gaps due to a curtailing of certain foods— typically these supplements may be included:
- Medium chain triglyceride oil (MCT oil)
- Vitamin D
- Electrolyte and
- Fiber supplements
MCT oil will increase cholesterol that will lead to increased testosterone production. However, men need to be aware of some side effects of these supplements such as:
- Stomach pains
When choosing supplements, be sure to check the ingredients and ensure sugars, artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are absent. Reviews usually give some idea of the quality of the product based on people who have consumed them.
Does Keto Affect Sex Drive in Men?
Initially, there may be a decrease in libido but this is likely due to a drop in energy due to low carbs. Nevertheless, this quickly turns into a surge in sex drive as testosterone levels begin to increase.
While there are other factors that are linked to libido, having very low testosterone levels almost always diminishes libido.
Is Keto the Best Way To Lose Weight for Men?
Typically, men have an easier time losing weight since they are less prone to fat storage, unlike women who need fat reserves for child bearing. With that said, men do respond well to the keto diet in the short term and research shows that men can achieve higher rates of weight loss when compared with a diet that is focused on reducing calorie intake.
Does Keto Increase Testosterone for Men?
Yes, a keto diet can increase testosterone levels for men as it raises cholesterol levels which is used in the production of testosterone by the testes.
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