Here’s how the keto diet really affects your sex drive

Could the keto diet change your sex life? Maybe.
Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock/HBO
  • The high-carb, low-fat ketogenic diet has become popular over the past few years.
  • The popularity of the diet has led many to wonder how it impacts various things beyond weight loss — including one’s sex drive.
  • Many people on the keto diet experience a dip in libido upon starting it, followed by a surge in their sex drive.
  • Though research isn’t conclusive, high-fat diets are usually linked to higher sex hormones, which can increase sexual desire.

The ketogenic diet, which involves eating high quantities of fat and low quantities of carbs to achieve maximum fat-burning, has become increasingly popular over the past few years. And, as the diet has become more visible, so have questions about its long-term efficacy and side effects on the body.

One common question about the keto diet is how it affects the libido.

INSIDER spoke with registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of “Read it Before You Eat It — Taking You From Label To Table,” to find out if the keto diet can actually impact your sex drive.

To understand how the keto diet affects the body, it’s important to understand what the diet actually entails.

“Low-carb diets, this being one of them, have been around for ages,” Taub-Dix told INSIDER. “But this ketogenic diet refers to foods that are supposed to orient your body to burning fat for energy, so you literally lose fat. It’s popular for many reasons, one because it’s a strict plan — and it works quickly.”

So, save for a few technicalities, the keto diet really isn’t anything new. But in terms of numbers, this plan shakes out as being more regimented than some other low-carb diets. For a person who follows the keto diet, around 60 to 80% of their calories would come from fat, 15 to 30% from protein, and less than 5 to 10% from carbohydrates.

keto plate
Is this a keto plate or a selection of aphrodisiacs?

Some people on the keto diet experience a drop in libido, followed by a surge in their sex drive.

If you do some research, you’ll see a lot of anecdotal evidence from people describing an initial dip in sexual desire once they start keto, followed by a noticeable improvement in libido.

The dip can be attributed to a temporary period of discomfort the body goes through when starting a diet that severely limits carbs, often referred to as the “keto flu.” The subsequent increase in sex drive once the body grows accustomed to the lack of carbs is most likely due to the increase of fat, which, according to Taub-Dix, some people may not consume enough of before starting the keto diet.

Additionally, l imited fat consumption is linked to lower levels of estrogen and testosterone, both of which can have a negative effect on one’s sex drive.

“Low estrogen levels could have an impact on sex drive in many levels,” Taub-Dix told INSIDER. “One is that it could lead to vaginal dryness, it could lead to mood swings, and fatigue. In some cases, low sex hormone levels could lead to infertility, so it depends on where you are in your life.”

That said, there is a big difference between adding a little more fat into your diet and going full keto.

“The Institute of Medicine usually recommends that about 25 to 35% of your daily intake is from fat,” Taub-Dix told INSIDER. “And we have been a nation that has been fat-phobic for years, so if there have been issues to sexual function because of a low fat intake, I wouldn’t be surprised about that. But that doesn’t mean that the 20 to 35% of calories of fat should become 80% of your calories from fat to rectify that issue.”

There are many factors to consider when thinking about how the keto diet can improve your sex drive.

Simply feeling good about your body, for example, might increase your libido. It is also likely that someone following the keto diet may be increasing their general activity level, which has been shown to increase the quality of one’s sex life.

“Sometimes when someone stops eating certain foods that really aren’t great for them and starts to be more active and starts to feel better about themselves, this could be a formula for a better sex life and sex drive,” Taub-Dix told INSIDER. “But is the diet creating that, or is it simply paying more attention to your diet? And could you accomplish the same with a diet that is better balanced for you and creating the same results?”

gay couple in bed
Increased confidence could improve your sex life more than anything else.

Starting the keto diet probably won’t hurt your sex life (well, once you get over your keto flu, that is). But it’s important to remember that there’s no conclusive evidence that proves that your sex life will be improved by keto, and there’s also no telling how your body will handle the low-carb, high-fat diet.

Taub-Dix told INSIDER that the long-term effects of the diet are more or less unknown, and mentioned that increased sex hormones, which can increase the sex drive, have also been linked to some forms of cancer.

“What we’re talking about is extreme dieting,” Taub-Dix said. “And when you do an extreme diet, you don’t know how your body is going to react to it in the long run. Does [the keto diet] have some benefits for certain people? It might. But there isn’t enough research on it now.”

So, if you’re having some serious issues with your sex drive, you should definitely visit a doctor. And, as is the case with any big lifestyle choice, you should also try and talk to a doctor or nutritionist if you’re thinking about trying the keto diet. If going on it ends up benefitting your sex life, just chalk that up as an added bonus.