Diets can be ideal for shedding weight or kickstarting healthier habits. But, sometimes making significant changes can have a real impact on your body. Among the popular diets around today is a Ketogenic Diet (Keto Diet). A low-carb diet designed to help you lose weight, give you more energy and reduce the amount of acne you might be suffering from. If you’ve started a ketogenic diet recently, perhaps even for the first time, there’s a good chance that you might be feeling a bit tired and lethargic. If you’re curious as to what this is, these are symptoms of a collective experience known as the keto flu.
What is the Keto Flu?
Essentially, it’s your body’s reaction to dealing with a low-carbohydrate diet. When starting out on the Keto Diet, due to the minimal carbohydrate intake, your body is effectively adapting to burning ketones instead of glucose writes Lilja in a post on Lilja’s Low Carb Food List. Although not everyone will experience the Keto Flu, if you’re used to filling up on foods with carbohydrates it’s likely you will experience symptoms of the Keto Flu.
One of the main reasons for this is because carbohydrates (carbs) are like drugs. Besides, who hasn’t been a little addicted to bread and cake? The problem is, when you take them away, your body probably won’t be very happy for the first few days—or even weeks while you’re adapting to it. These carb withdrawal symptoms are not the actual ‘flu,’ but it will certainly feel like it. Just ask the people voicing their discomfort on Twitter.
Keto flu sucks ass 😷
— Anthony Savoca (@SAVokie_) January 15, 2017
Nobody warned me about keto flu. Nobody.
— Lucy (@LucyMuckyKnees) January 15, 2017
Keto flu is the worrrrst
— Doug Chipponeri (@dougigem) December 20, 2016
The keto flu phase can last from a few days to a week or even longer. But, rest assured, it will pass! The best way to get through it is to stay mentally strong while paying extra attention to your nutritional needs. Eventually, your body will adapt to your reduced carb intake, the symptoms will go away, and you should start to feel some of the benefits of the diet.
Symptoms of the Keto Flu
The transition phase for people starting the keto diet can be a real challenge. The host of symptoms associated with going onto the ketogenic diet are known as the keto flu for a reason—simply being that it feels exactly like having the flu. And just like the flu, you’ll likely want to lay down and rest to deal with the extra strain that’s placed on your body. To tell whether or not you might be experiencing the keto flu, here are some of the most common symptoms.
- Lack of Clarity
- Lack of Concentration
- Lack of Focus
- Low Energy
- Sugar Cravings
- Upset Stomach
How to Deal with the Keto Flu
#1 Counter with more Electrolytes
When going from carb dependency to focusing on fat, making the change can be hard on your system! It will be even harder if you don’t use the right supplements or replenish your body with all those must-have nutrients it needs. Therefore, help prevent the keto flu by supplementing your nutrition. For instance, to help prevent carb withdrawal symptoms, try consuming extra electrolytes. Those of which make up many of the Macrominerals group. You can do this by consuming the three types of electrolytes your body needs the most. These are; sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
A real must have when restricting your carbs as it can be severely depleted. When you’re on a ketogenic diet, you’re suppressing the insulin hormone, which allows your body to burn fat. However, insulin also signals to your kidneys to store sodium. As you burn calories and sweat during the day, your body is excreting all of that stored sodium. It’s, therefore, important to make sure you are replacing that sodium—while on the restrictive keto diet—to maintain your fluids and muscle contractions.
To replenish your sodium levels, try eating salty snacks and drinking canned soups. Himalayan salt is an excellent supplemental source of sodium that’s also noted for reversing adrenal fatigue. Most people experiencing the keto flu will take a teaspoon of Himalayan salt first thing in the morning. An alternative to taking it throughout the day could be to sprinkle it on top of your meals. That way you’re lightly replenishing your sodium levels throughout the day. While consuming Himalayan salt helps to bring back healthy sodium levels, it also adds some helpful trace minerals to your diet.
Foods: broth, food seasoning, cheese, olives, pickles, cured meat, deli meat.
Another important electrolyte to watch when you’re on a keto diet is Potassium. Potassium depletion can manifest as muscle cramps, skipped heartbeats, tiredness and brain fog. A good way to avoid these adverse effects is to consume green leafy vegetables. This is because are a great source of potassium, as are bananas and avocados. By eating a healthy amount of these types of foods, your body should be able to function and feel as it normally would.
It’s important to note that potassium supplements should be avoided since too much potassium can be fatal. Too much potassium in your blood puts you at risk of hyperkalemia. If you feel the symptoms of an abnormal heartbeat, slow heart rate, or the feeling of being weak—see your doctor immediately as you may be at risk of hyperkalemia.
Foods: mushroom, avocado, spinach, fish, yogurt; lite salt.
Magnesium is used for almost every single metabolic activity inside your body. If you’re feeling the effects of the keto flu, ensure your body is getting enough magnesium as it’s easy to supplement. Not getting enough magnesium? 500 milligrams (approximately 1/8th of a teaspoon) of magnesium per day in powdered form is a good starting point to stave off magnesium depletion.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, magnesium has a bonus effect of helping promote sleep as well! Magnesium’s relaxing and de-stressing properties are perfect for helping you get a good night’s rest. If you’ve got an extra half-hour to spare, try taking an Epsom salt bath or a magnesium bath as well.
Foods: meat, cocoa, nuts; chelated supplement like magnesium citrate.
#2 Replenish with Trace Minerals
It doesn’t stop at electrolytes either. As part of the initial ketogenic diet induction phase, your body will typically flush out key minerals in addition to electrolytes. To top up your body with those trace nutrients, try taking supplemental trace minerals. Also referred to as Micronutrients. These are normally used to make up for the nutrients missing in our food, which can be depleted due to over-farmed soil grounds.
#3 Hydrate Regularly
When transitioning to a ketogenic diet, take note to keep hydrated! Many of us already experience dehydration. So the extra demands of eating keto will only exacerbate the situation. Keep a water bottle by all the time and make a conscious effort to drink a glass of water regularly. After all, drinking plenty of water is the preferred way to help keep your body hydrated.
#4 Eat a Majority of Your Calories as Fat
Suffering from the keto flu isn’t any more enjoyable than the common cold. You’ve learned here of some of the best and quickest ways for keto flu relief, so now, we’ll talk a little bit about keto flu prevention. In addition to the relief solutions above, here are a few ways to help prevent you from getting the keto flu. By now we know that a keto diet is a low-carb diet but it’s also important to remember it’s also inherently a high-fat diet. This is because fat is necessary for keto dieters to get their required energy. As the keto diet is based around the idea that when your body switches on ketogenesis, it’s going to start running on fat. As such, most keto dieters, therefore, tend to aim for around 75% of their daily calories from fat.
Getting this high ratio of fats, has the beneficial side effect of limiting your protein consumption to about 20% of your total intake of calories. Too much protein and your body will start converting the excess into glucose. Just like it does with carbohydrates. This will keep your body out of ketosis and it will stop burning fat for energy.
#5 Too Much Protein?
If you are getting too much protein while on the keto diet, try limiting your chicken and tuna intake. Plus, stay away from lean cuts of meat and fish. This will also help to keep your body balanced avoiding the effects of the keto flu. Why stay away from these types of protein sources? Simply because, although though these are high-quality protein sources, they aren’t fatty enough to make the necessary fat/protein ratio work.
Track your net carbs throughout the day. If you’re tracking your macronutrients, remember to subtract fiber from your total amount of carbohydrates. In addition to keeping carbs to an absolute minimum, your increasing consumption of fat will hasten your body’s adaptation to the keto restrictive diet. Eating lots of fats is, therefore, a great way to transition out of and to prevent keto flu symptoms.
#6 Take a Break!
Another important factor when trying to beat the keto flu is to make sure you’re getting enough rest. Many people on the keto diet tend to perform weight training and engage in physical exercise. If you fall into this category, make sure you’re allowing your body enough time to recuperate. While exercising will help you burn glycogen and nudge your body towards switching over into ketosis, during the keto flu stage, it’s vital you step back from the gym and physical activities. This will give your body increased recovery time, so you can get back to normal faster.
A keto diet is hard on the body during the transition phase. Your body will experience metabolic changes galore during a keto diet. Repairing muscle tissue you’re breaking down at the gym is just another source of stress your body doesn’t need. Having the keto flu isn’t the end of the world, but it might feel like it. Even if perhaps for a week or two! One of the best and quickest ways to get yourself feeling back to normal is to make sure you get enough rest. This is particularly important while continuing to focus on meeting your body’s increased nutritional needs. Do this and you’ll get through the keto flu phase much quicker. Plus, your body will feel great after it finally switches over to ketosis.
#7 Get Professional Advice
Most importantly, don’t underestimate the importance of to talking to a health professional. It’s always a good idea to speak to them about the diet beforehand, and during. Getting their advice will help to make sure it’s the right diet for you. Finally, if you already have some challenging health issues, perhaps look at a less extreme lifestyle change.
See also: Fad Diets: Risky or Rewarding?