Hey guys, today I want to talk about the keto flu, what it is, and how to overcome it really quickly.
What Is Keto Flu?
Keto flu is something you may experience in your first few weeks of starting a ketogenic diet. It can affect anyone no matter how “healthy” you are to begin with.
It’s not an actual flu, rather the symptoms you experience are flu like.
during the adaptation phase (when your body is transitioning to burning fat instead of glucose) is when you can experience keto flu.
Keto Flu Symptoms
If you have any of the following symptoms, you are likely suffering from keto flu:
- Brain fog
- Lethargy, fatigue, nausea and dizziness
- Muscle aches and cramping of legs
- Often thirsty
- Heart palpilations
- Joint pain
- Change in blood pressure
The above keto diet side effects are symptoms of an ELECTROLYTE IMBALANCE.
In other words, you feel like crap because you are not consuming enough electrolytes.
When you think of electrolytes, Gatorade might be the first thing that pops into your mind. But you want to stay away from that, because it has bad sugars and sweeteners which is not keto friendly.
You’ll want to get most, of not all of your electrolytes from food if possible. I’ll get into foods rich in electrolytes down below.
What is an electrolyte?
Electrolytes are minerals that your body needs to function. Every day things like moving your muscles and keeping your heart beating.
Getting proper amounts of electrolytes is ESSENTIAL.
The main essential minerals (electrolytes) your body needs are:
On a ketogenic diet, the main electrolytes you really need to pay attention to are sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
I’ll get into these minerals in detail later, and show you how much you need and the best mineral rich foods.
Why Does Keto Flu Happen?
So why do you get the keto flu in the first place?
This is basically how it works…
You stop eating carbs and your body goes into a state of LOW INSULIN. You probably already know that insulin is the fat storing or fat releasing hormone. When you keep insulin low, your body is in a fat burning state. And that’s why a ketogenic diet is such an amazing fat loss diet.
But insulin is also responsible for telling your kidneys to store or release sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
When you are eating low carb, your body is releasing glycogen stores (stored energy). And along with converting glycogen to glucose for energy, you will also lose a lot of WATER.
That’s the key.
On a ketogenic diet, you will also flush out a lot of your stored water. This is why a lot of people experience a large drop in weight in the first few days to weeks on this diet, because most of what they’ve lost is water weight.
When you lose that much water, you also lose a lot of minerals with it (sodium, potassium, magnesium). In other words, you flush out electrolytes as your body excretes water.
In a nutshell, when you are in a state of low insulin, your kidneys reduces the amount of sodium, potassium and magnesium it holds. In a high carb or high insulin state, your body holds on to sodium and other minerals. Which funny enough means you could gain a few pounds immediately once you “cheat” and break your keto diet (though most of this will be water weight only).
So the key to beating the keto flu is to replenish your electrolytes. I’ll get into that next.
How To Stop Keto Flu & Feel Awesome
Again, the 3 main minerals you need to pay attention to are:
You need the following amounts EACH DAY:
- Sodium: 500-700mg (about 2 teaspoons of salt)
- Potassium: 1000-3500mg
- Magnesium: 300-500mg
Sodium is SALT.
You need to get at least 2 teaspoons of salt every day. This might SEEM like a lot, but it’s not on a ketogenic diet.
You see, a traditional high carb diet makes your body retain salt. Which therefore means you don’t want to consume as much salt. But a keto diet flushes out a lot of salt, so you must replenish it.
Salt is an easy fix because it’s something we can easily buy and put on our foods, and make drinks with extra salt too.
What type of salt is the best?
There are a few main types of salt we use – table salt, sea salt, and pink Himalayan salt.
I STRONGLY recommend using pink Himalayan salt because it is the healthiest salt. It is the least processed salt and contains trace minerals that are good for your body (the other salts do not).
Sea salt is the second best salt but it comes from the sea and depending on which sea, it could contain contaminants and does not have any extra minerals your body can benefit from.
And conventional table salt is just awful so avoid it whenever you can.
The brand of pink Himalayan salt I use is called Sherpa. It’s super high quality and I love it. I get the extra fine version and it’s the same grain consistency as typical table salt to give you a reference.
To get more salt in your diet, eat a lot of salty foods. Salt everything. It’s actually quite easy! I know it will feel strange after being taught to reduce salt intake, but we aren’t eating a conventional high carb diet where we retain a lot of salt anymore! We need to replenish this mineral so we can beat keto flu!
Potassium is the second important mineral to stop keto flu.
You need anywhere from 1000-3500mg per day. You want to try and get all of your daily potassium needs from food alone. So focus on eating potassium rich keto foods.
A few potassium powerhouse foods are:
- leafy greens (especially spinach)
- nuts (almonds have the most potassium)
- cocoa (dark chocolate – get 90%+ dark cocoa)
I eat a ton of spinach and avocados, and salmon every few days as well. Almonds are a great snack too. I also have bacon virtually daily. Basically, I can hit my potassium needs every day by eating those main food I listed. So start with that!
Magnesium is a little harder to get through your diet. But getting enough magnesium is easy through a supplement. A lot of the same foods high in potassium are also high in magnesium!
- dark leafy greens (spinach!)
just to name a few.
There are several varieties of magnesium supplements. You’ll maybe want to talk to your doctor to find out which is the best one for you. Or do some research online.
If you get cramping in your muscles (often in the legs), it could be because of a magnesium deficiency. If you do sports or similar things, you definitely want to be on top of your magnesium levels.
Really try and eat clean. Keto is high fat, moderate protein, and low carb… and technically, you can hit the right amount of macronutrients with crappy foods… but don’t fight your body by going “healthy” with a keto diet and then fill your body with crap foods. I do a paleo keto diet and I highly recommend this to you.
Don’t Forget About Water!
Remember, on a keto diet, your body is releasing a lot of minerals and along with that goes a lot of body fluid. So you need to be drinking a lot of water to replenish. You’ve heard it over and over again. But it’s especially important to stay hydrated in a keto diet.
Troubleshooting Keto Flu Symptoms
If you have any keto flu symptoms (keto side effects), the first thing you should probably do is get more salt in your diet.
This is something you can do immediately with whatever salt you have in your house. Get at least 2 teaspoons daily. I do recommend getting high quality Himalayan salt because it’s the healthiest kind PLUS it contains other trace minerals your body will benefit from.
Start looking into incorporating high quality (and organic if you can) potassium rich foods in your diet. I’m a huge fan of avocados and spinach.
It may be tough to get your daily dose of magnesium through diet alone, so I’d check on Amazon for magnesium supplements and read some reviews. Or ask your doctor for a recommendation.
How Long Does Keto Flu Last?
The keto flu only happens during your adaptation phase – when your body is adapting to burning fat for fuel instead of glucose. The fat adaptation phase is different for everyone, but can take a few weeks and sometimes a month or more.
But the ket flu happens typically within a few days of starting a ketogenic diet and can last for around a couple weeks.
If you’re reading this, you are probably already suffering from keto flu. But know that if you get the proper electrolytes from the beginning, you can completely avoid the keto flu.
How To Feel Awesome ALL THE TIME
I’ve talked about the keto flu and managing the side effects of it.
But actually, you need to be getting the right amount of electrolytes EVERY DAY no matter how long you’ve been keto for.
Your body is still going to be flushing out water and minerals as long as you keep insulin levels low on a ketogenic diet, so you ALWAYS need to be replenishing your minerals. Keeping your electrolytes balanced will keep you thriving and feeling alive.
The keto flu is essentially an imbalance of electrolytes – in other words, you aren’t getting enough electrolytes.
The 3 main electrolytes you need to worry about are the minerals sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Always try your best to get these minerals through your diet. If you are unable to, supplementing is likely a good idea.
And it’s always good to get advice from your doctor whenever you are thinking about supplementing.
Have any questions about the keto flu or the keto diet in general? I’d love to help. Hit me up with a comment below and I’ll get back to you!