Dealing with the Keto Flu

So last week at the end of the post, What is Keto?, I said that I would share how to deal with the few days of discomfort you may experience while your body transitions to running on ketones, commonly referred to as the “keto flu.” If that doesn’t make any sense, be sure to check out that post first. You should also check out My Keto Manifesto to learn the why behind adopting a ketogenic diet/lifestyle.

The keto flu normally starts a few days after changing your diet to cut out all incidental carbs and excess protein. You’ve started off great, you may have seen some pounds start dropping off after only the first few days. You’re thinking that this might work and then you start to feel sick.

So what symptoms might I expect?

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Brain Fog
  • Sugar Cravings
  • Muscle Soreness
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Constipation
  • possibly more…

I experienced many of the ones at the top of the list. Many people will think, “if my body is reacting like this I must be doing something wrong, maybe I’m one of those people whose bodies are designed to run off pizza and pound cake.” (If you’ve got no body fat and low blood sugar levels you might be right, but I’m betting that’s not the case.)

So why do people get the keto flu? Some people speculate that your body is going through sugar withdrawals. They have heard of the effects of sugar being drug-like in how our bodies respond to it. There may be some truth to that but what is more likely happening is that your body is doing two things.

  1. It is adjusting to running off of ketones. When you are eating carbs and/or excess protein, your body is primarily running on glucose. All those foods are being converted to glucose and are being used, converted to fat (most likely) or stored as glycogen. Glycogen is stored glucose and your body can hold about a day’s worth of energy this way. That is why you’ll likely see the keto flu start up on the third day or after.
  2. Your body is also likely dealing with an electrolyte imbalance. You are likely drinking more water (good to keep from getting dehydrated) and urinating more. This has the effect of flushing out your electrolytes.

So what are electrolytes anyway? The minerals sodium, potassium and magnesium are commonly referred to as electrolytes. They are added to some bottled waters to enhance taste and they are key in processing many of your body’s functions.

Sodium can be found in a number of sources (even simple table salt). Many have said that you should up your sodium when doing a ketogenic diet and that 5000 mg is about right. Some push that up to 7000 mg but I find that 5k is normal when eating keto.

Potassium used to be easy to find in bananas and potatoes. Assuming you’ve cut these out, spinach, avocado & beets are probably your best bets for foods high in potassium. Vitamin supplements are not a good source as they are limited in their amounts due to the fact that potassium can be toxic in high amounts. Instead you can use a salt substitute like Nu Salt a few times a day. It is straight potassium, just don’t replace all your salt with it. You can see above that sodium’s important too. Shoot for about 1000-3500 mg daily.

Magnesium is an essential supplement and is hard to source through foods these days. I would highly recommend seeking out a good multivitamin or supplement that will provide 300 – 500 mg per day.

If you’ve handled the above but are still feeling a little funky, you might try some light exercise. See yesterday’s post, Walk it Out! for some inspiration.

I hope this helps you and will get you feeling better soon. Take heart! For most the keto flu only lasts a few days to a week after which you’ll be filled up, burning fat and feeling great!

Please share, like and comment below. I’d love to hear any tips you have for dealing with the keto flu. Have a good one!

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