How a Ketogenic Diet Really Affects Your Sex Drive
Fact-checked by Dr. Anthony Gustin, DC, MS.
Written by Devan Ciccarelli
Today’s not the day to be shy.
Today we’re going to answer the real question you have about a ketogenic diet:
How is your libido on keto?
Whether you’ve recently Googled it or you’re experiencing a shift personally from making the switch, you’re probably curious about what transitioning your diet from carbs to fat will do to your game.
Will a ketogenic diet cause your sex drive to take a hit or is it the ultimate secret to a better sex life?
To help you understand what’s going on and answer these questions, today’s guide will dive into:
First, you should understand how your fat intake makes a difference to your sex drive.
How Dietary Fat and Sex Hormones Are Connected
Most people are surprised to learn there’s even a connection between dietary fat intake and sex hormones.
Not only that, the connection is much stronger than people realize.
Here’s what I’m referring to:
High Fat Diets Lead to an Increase in Estrogen
One small study found women who ate a low fat diet (think: 20% of their calories from fat) had a significant reduction in estrogen levels, while high fat diets had just the opposite effect[ * ].
This is especially important for women right before menopause since estrogen levels are already plummeting during this time.
Low levels of this important female hormone can lead to a low sex drive and other unwanted symptoms such as vaginal dryness and disruptions in both your sleep and your mood[ * ].
These are definitely not helping your libido.
Another similar, small study also found that low fat diets lead to drops in two more key female sex hormones, as we’ll discuss next.
Low Fat Diets Lead to Decreases in Estradiol and Testosterone
Women in menopause also face another significant drop in hormones, this time with estradiol and testosterone.
While estradiol’s main job is to develop the female sex hormones, it also plays a key role in fat distribution in women and sexual desire, two things any woman, no matter her age, can be impacted by[ * ][ * ].
As for testosterone, although it’s considered more of a male hormone, it’s just as important in females.
Not only does it help a woman’s body produce estrogen, it also impacts her libido, among other functions like keeping muscle mass strong[ * ].
As you age, there’s a natural dip in these two important sex hormones so you don’t want your diet to add to fuel to the fire by going low-fat.
These drops in testosterone don’t just affect women either.
High Fat Diets Can Improve Testosterone Levels in Men Too
For men, drops in testosterone lead to low sex drive and erectile dysfunction, plus a drop in energy levels, muscle mass and hair loss too.
It can also cause men to gain weight specifically in their chest area, which can lead to gynecomastia, or “man boobs”.
Another relatively small study found that when male participants ate a higher fat diet (minimum of 40% of their calories from fat), they had higher amounts of testosterone and free testosterone.
Yet the opposite was true when participants consumed a low fat diet[ * ].
One study confirmed low fat diets could drop testosterone levels by as much as 12% , while another one found high fats diet may increase T levels by 13% [ * ][ * ].
So now that we’ve seen that low fat diets take a toll on your sex hormones and libido, it’s important to understand one more dietary fat connection here: the type of fat you eat makes a difference.
High Intake of Trans Fat Can Reduce Sex Drive in Both Men and Women
While monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can improve your sex drive, the fatty trans fat that’s found in fried foods does not work in your favor.
And this negative affect is shown in both men and women[ * ].
In men, trans fat can lead to abnormal sperm production. Women may have trouble with gestation anytime there’s an increase in trans fat intake.
The message is clear here: avoid harmful trans fat and stick with the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties instead. Your sex drive will thank you for it.
So since dietary fat can affect your libido, the logical next step is to understand how the fat you may be carrying around each day affects it too.
With Fat Loss Comes Hormonal Shifts
Consuming high fat diets comes with a natural perk of weight loss , but did you know that weight loss in general could also lead to a boost in your sex drive
In one study of over 275 overweight postmenopausal women, researchers discovered a 17 pound weight loss (on average) triggered decreases in free estradiol, estradiol and free testosterone[ * ].
Before I lose you, let’s clear something up:
Earlier I said lower levels of estradiol and testosterone lead to a low sex drive .
So why is this a good thing that researchers found a decrease in both?
The difference here is that the extra baggage of being overweight or obese causes the production of too much of these hormones, which can have the same effect as having too little of them: a low sex drive.
In this case, losing weight helped these women regulate their hormones to normal levels.
The key is finding a happy balance where your body has just the right amount of hormones and nothing more.
( Readers curious about how a keto diet affects a woman’s hormones should check out this guide when you’re done reading this one.)
There’s also one more added benefit to weight loss that can help your sex drive.
Improve Your Confidence and Sex Drive At Once
Sure, the extra weight you’re carrying around affects your hormones, and that’s a bummer. But it probably impacts your self-confidence way more.
And when this is low, you can almost bet your sex drive will be too.
When you look good, you feel good. When your clothes fit a little snugger than you’d like, this can affect how you feel both inside and out.
Studies have shown this exact situation can lead to insecurities, especially ones that surface in the bedroom, which makes you less likely to be in the mood to bare all[ * ].
Researchers from another study learned men with a waist size of 40 or above increased their chances of having erectile dysfunction, another major mood killer[ * ].
Lucky for you, a high (healthy) fat, moderate protein and low carb diet like keto can help you tackle all of these issues at the same time.
You’ll be able to improve your hormone’s natural balance , while also losing weight and increasing your sex drive. That will definitely increase your confidence in and out of the bedroom.
Even still, aside from your dietary fat intake and weight loss efforts, there a few more reasons your libido could be less than active.
3 More Reasons for a Low Sex Drive
If your sex drive is still not-so-hot and you’re already adding healthy fats to your diet and you’ve managed to lose a few pounds, one of these issues could be to blame:
#1: You’re Still Transitioning Into Ketosis
For readers who have already started transitioning to a ketogenic diet, you may not be feeling your best.
As your body switches from using carbs and glucose for energy to fat and ketones, you may experience unwanted and uncomfortable symptoms .
Most noticeable is the keto flu , but for a small handful, it’s a low libido.
One of the reasons your sex drive may be low during this time is simply because the transition can affect your energy and mood levels.
When these are down, you won’t feel like doing anything — especially having sex.
So if you’re experiencing this, it’s important to stay patient and stick with it. This won’t last forever.
And once you reach ketosis , you’ll reap all the positive benefits I mentioned earlier.
The same will happen with this next issue.
#2: You’re Not Eating Enough Calories
Keto or not, it’s crucial you eat enough calories each day.
This ensures your body has an adequate supply of fuel to run all your important bodily functions efficiently.
It’s also essential for reaching ketosis.
See, without enough calories, your body goes into starvation mode . This is actually a really bad thing for your health, weight and sex drive.
When this happens, your body holds on to your extra fat since it’s unsure of when it will get enough energy again to perform optimally.
This can also disrupt your hormones.
That’s why it’s so important to determine how many calories you need each day and then ensure you’re hitting them every single time.
For help determining your calorie needs and macro breakdown, check out this guide when you’re finished here.
Our final libido-lowering mistake may be one you haven’t thought of.
#3: Alcohol Decreases Your Sex Drive
While certain alcohols are safe to drink on keto , they’re a total buzzkill when it comes to your keto sex drive.
See, while alcohol may give you that initial feeling of liquid courage — you know, the kind that disregards shyness and isn’t concerned about how you look in the bedroom — it won’t help you climax.
Some research even shows alcohol can lead to erectile dysfunction and less stimulation, which means your orgasms will certainly suffer if you can even get to that point[ * ].
And men aren’t the only ones affected by the bottle.
Women also experience fewer sensations down there and can impact their chances of fertility long-term[ * ].
So just because your favorite tequila drink has virtually no carbs and fits into your macros doesn’t mean you should go overboard here.
Not only will doing so cause you to gain weight, it will also cause your sex drive to take a big hit too.
If you plan to enjoy a cocktail, cap it at two and be smart about it.
Remember, drinking adds unnecessary calories to your daily budget and can slow your fat burning potential.
Plus, being on keto means there’s a good chance your tolerance is no longer where it used to be. So watch out because it’s going to take fewer drinks to feel their effects.
While you’re avoiding or cutting back on your alcohol, it won’t hurt to add in a few libido-boosting foods to your diet either.
11 Foods for a Better Sex Drive (And 4 to Avoid)
These keto-friendly foods may give you the natural lift your sex drive needs to kick back into gear:
- Dark chocolate (get as close to 100% cacao to be low carb)
- Pumpkin seeds
Dairy , processed foods, sugary drinks and high carb (especially fried) meals can cause your sex drive to decline. Your best bet is avoiding these foods altogether or limiting your consumption as with dairy.
Improve Your Sex Drive with Keto Today
Now you have a better understanding of how dietary fat and weight loss can impact your sex drive. So you’re ready to improve your situation starting today.
It’s easy to begin by lowering your alcohol consumption and increasing your healthy fat intake by adding those 11 libido-boosting foods I just mentioned to your menu planning.
And if you’re just transitioning to keto, give your sex drive some time.
Once you pass the initial stages, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the positive benefits I touched on today.
Just remember to always meet your calorie and macronutrient goals.
If you don’t hit those targets each day, you’ll kiss both ketosis and your sex drive goodbye.