A big part of the ketogenic diet is entering ketosis, where your body produces ketones. When this happens, you begin burning fat for energy, helping you to lose weight at a more rapid pace. It isn’t always easy to know when you have reached ketosis, but there are definitely some side effects you can keep an eye out for.
The keto flu is not a real medical condition, but rather a term people have used for experiencing a combination of symptoms. It occurs when you enter ketosis during the ketogenic diet, if you are low on electrolytes. This will often create some physical and mental symptoms that are similar to what you experience when you have the flu, which is where the name comes from. The keto flu does not last long and can be remedied simply by replenishing your electrolytes. However, it can be hard to get through especially in the beginning when you are adjusting to being on the keto diet.
How do you Know you Have it?
If you have ever had the flu, you know what the symptoms are like. They are not usually as severe as when you have the actual flu, more like the first symptoms you experience when you get ill. It is common to have lightheadedness and dizziness, fatigue in your body, headaches, and nausea. You might have trouble eating, find you have no appetite, or experience muscle aches and pains. You may also have some different mental or behavioral symptoms like irritability.
What Can you do About it?
The fastest way to get rid of the keto flu is to replenish your electrolytes, as this is most often the cause. Not only are you losing electrolytes from the frequent urination during keto, but you might not be getting the salt and potassium intake you once were due to the change in your diet. You need the three main electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Sodium is through salt, so salting your foods and having high-salt liquids like broth and pickle juice make you feel better quickly. For potassium, try veggies with this nutrient, like avocados. Magnesium supplements are also available.
Try making electrolyte water if you need to, by adding some pink salt and lite salt to a tall glass of water. This not only helps treat keto flu, but drinking it daily can keep you from experiencing these symptoms again in the future.
Thirst and Frequent Urination
Being in ketosis is a natural diuretic, which means food and water is going to move more quickly through your digestive system. You may notice that you are urinating and using the restroom much more often than you used to, sometimes getting up more than once in the middle of the night. It does subside a little bit, but having to urinate frequently while in ketosis is a good thing. Since you are urinating more often, expect to have more thirst as well.
Reduced Hunger and Cravings
A major benefit to ketosis is that your hunger and cravings are reduced, another reason you should stick to keto even if it is hard in the beginning. Once you reach the stage when you notice you aren’t as hungry as you used to be and your sugar cravings are gone, that is usually a good indication that you are in ketosis. The hunger can vary, from feeling like you are only hungry once a day, to just having slightly less cravings than on a normal day.
Decreased Energy for Some
While some people have more energy while on keto, others experience less. This fatigue is often just in the beginning of entering ketosis before your body adjusts to the changes. Don’t stress about getting in a lot of exercise during this time; just stick to your diet and make sure you are getting your electrolytes.
The Important Electrolytes
The three important electrolytes you need to make sure you get while on keto are sodium, potassium, and magnesium. With a traditional diet, the combination of food, particularly though higher in carbohydrates, give you enough of these electrolytes. However, when you start reducing your carbs dramatically, combined with keto being a natural diuretic, can cause the levels to be extremely low. You are going to aim for more sodium than you normally would, which you get from salt. Try to get at least 5000mg of sodium per day. With potassium, you want 1000 to 3000mg a day, and at least 300mg of magnesium a day.
Getting Enough Sodium
Sodium is the most important electrolyte to focus on when you are on the keto diet. If you feel faint and lightheaded, it is often from your sodium level being too low. The best way to cure this is by having more salt on a daily basis. Not only should you be salting your food, but you should try making an electrolyte drink. This will allow you to add more salt, while also getting your minimum water intake at the same time. You can use regular table salt, but pink Himalayan salt is often preferred since it has other benefits as well. You can also get more sodium from broth or bouillon cubes, and pickle juice.
Getting More Potassium
The next electrolyte you need more of is potassium. Mostly because you are no longer eating foods that would otherwise have increased the potassium level, like bananas. However, you can still get your potassium with low-carb foods while on the ketogenic diet. As long as you are following a balanced diet of meat and veggies, you’re probably getting enough. Some of the top foods with potassium are kale, mushrooms, meat like pork, and avocados.
There aren’t many foods you can eat on keto with enough magnesium, so the best option is to take a magnesium supplement. Get one that has at least 300mg per tablet, and all you need is one a day.