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The Skinny on CarbsFor a long time, people have debated whether carbohydrates are good or bad for you. Some say a high-carb diet is the way to go, while others say a low-carb diet is best for your health. The debate shows no signs of stopping any time soon, but in order to understand how carbs affect your sex life – for better or worse – you have to understand how they’re used in the body.
To keep it simple, carbohydrates supply your body with glucose, which is then converted into the energy your body needs in order to function. If your body has enough glucose to fulfill its current energy needs, the excess glucose you consume will be stored for later use in the form of glycogen. However, according to Dr. Keith Pearson, “In circumstances in which you have all of the glucose your body needs and your glycogen stores are full, your body can convert excess carbohydrates into triglyceride molecules and store them as fat.”
Let’s Talk about SexSo what do carbs have to do with sex? In a nutshell, eating too much, or eating the wrong types, can have a negative impact on your sex life. It can affect your weight, your mood, and your energy level. But enough pillow talk… let’s take a look at three ways a low-carb diet can increase your libido.
More Energy Revs Up Your EnginesAccording to a New York Times article, a recent study found that 1 in 4 Americans don’t have enough energy to have sex. And it makes sense. People get to the end of a long day filled with job demands and demanding kids, and the last thing they want to do is hop into bed for anything other than sleep. And to make matters worse, the food many people eat isn’t supplying the energy they need. While carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, they can also work against your energy levels – especially if you aren’t consuming the proper types.
When you eat carbs, your digestive system breaks down the digestible carbs which enter your bloodstream. According to Livestrong, “As your blood sugar rises, your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that allows your cells to absorb the sugar. In response, your body produces the hormone glucagon, which helps keep your blood sugar and energy levels in check. Simple carbohydrates, such as cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, cause your blood sugar to spike up more rapidly than slower-moving complex carbohydrates, prevalent in starchy vegetables and whole grains.” The spike from eating simple carbs can cause your blood sugar to fall back down just as rapidly, which leads to a “groggy, crashing feeling” and a loss of energy.
To maximize energy and thus fuel your sex drive, Anna Cabeca, D.O., recommends a diet that is low in carbs. She says that a diet low in carbs but high in other macronutrients, such as proteins and fat, “steadies blood sugar levels, providing slow, sustained all-day energy so you're focused, energized, and fulfilled.” Your sex drive is very much determined by your energy levels. When your body doesn’t have the proper fuel, it can’t get itself ready for sexual activity.
Dropping Weight Boosts Testosterone LevelsLow levels of testosterone have been linked to low sex drives, erectile dysfunction, and even a low sperm count in men. And according to WebMD, testosterone (and the lack thereof) has also been linked to low sex drive in women. One major killer of testosterone is body fat. Dr. Cabeca states, “being overweight is a huge contributor to sex hormone imbalance; in particular, body mass index (BMI) is correlated to lower levels of total testosterone.” Obese men have been found to have lower total and free testosterone as well as low levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).
So, how do carbohydrates play into this? Simply eating carbs won’t cause a person to become obese or even overweight. There are other factors at play, including genetics and lifestyle. However, if you recall, when excess carbs aren’t used by the body as energy, they get stored as fat. So, if a person is consuming a high number of carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates, without burning them off, they will be stored as fat, which elevates BMI. The result? Lower testosterone which translates to lower sex drive. In addition, insulin resistance that results from diets high in refined carbohydrates also drives down testosterone.
According to an article in Diabetes Health Magazine, “To lose fat, your body must use that fat as fuel. It will only use its stored fat as fuel if you deprive it of its present supply of fuel: blood glucose. There are two ways to cut your body's glucose supply. You can starve, which is what low-calorie, low-fat dieting is. Alternatively, you can reduce the starches and sugars from which glucose is made and make up the difference with another fuel: fat. The latter approach has two advantages over the traditional calorie-controlled diet. First, you don’t have to go hungry. Second, by feeding your body on fats, your body will stop trying to find glucose and will naturally begin using its own stored fat.” As fat disappears, testosterone will rise. As testosterone rises, so does your sex drive.
Less Stress Gets You in the MoodWhen you eat meals that are high in carbs and low in fat, your body experiences a peak in blood sugar and then a crash. When that crash occurs, your adrenal glands kick in with stress hormones to raise blood sugar and stabilize your body. Dr. Cabeca states that a “high-carbohydrate diet means [an individual’s] adrenal glands crank out more stress hormones like norepinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol.” These stress responses, especially elevated levels of cortisol, have been shown to decrease sex drive and arousal.
In a National Institute of Health study, researchers explored individual differences in women’s cortisol response to sexual arousal in a laboratory setting. “The women who showed an increase in cortisol had lower scores on the Arousal, Desire, and Satisfaction domains of the Female Sexual Function Index.” In other words, when you’re on edge and your body’s stress levels are elevated, you can’t “get in the mood” because the body is dealing with perceived threats.
What you put in your body impacts what you get out of it. A low-carb diet that incorporates enough fat and protein is a healthy, natural, and effective way to increase your sex drive. Not only that, it will transform your body and give you the confidence to strip off your clothes and jump in bed.