Avoiding “Keto Flu” on a Low-Carb Diet

When you are on a low-carb diet, “keto flu” symptoms can strike any time–not just during the first week or two! But, you may not have to suffer! Avoiding “keto flu” on a low-carb diet is easy when you learn what foods and supplements to add to your diet to alleviate electrolyte deficiency symptoms.

What is the “Keto Flu”?

Overall, I love the low-carb diet! It doesn’t involve buying specialty products or prepackaged food. When eating a low-carb diet, my appetite dramatically decreases, I no longer have intense sugar cravings, and my afternoon energy slumps are practically non-existent. Additionally, this is the healthiest and most consistent way I’ve found to lose weight without feeling deprived.

If you have started a low-carb diet, you know how rough the first several days can be while your body is adjusting from being a sugar-burner to being a fat-burner!

Dog Wrapped in a blanket with "keto flu" or "electrolyte imbalance"
Avoid “Keto flu” symptoms! Balance your electrolytes through your diet!

“Keto flu” is a term used to describe flu-like symptoms associated with beginning, or during, a very low-carb ketogenic diet. However, it is not a “flu” at all; the “keto flu” should really be called electrolyte imbalance.

Electrolytes are minerals found within bodily fluids. Some of their essential functions include helping our bodies regulate water movement within cells and helping regulate nerve signaling within the brain and heart. On a regular basis, we lose electrolytes via sweat, urination, and breathing.

In some people, a low-carb diet can increase urination, and because of the more frequent urination, electrolytes are also lost within the urine at a higher rate.

Increased loss of water and electrolytes can cause our bodies to function improperly. Additionally, our bodies can start to experience the unwanted symptoms associated with “keto flu” or electrolyte imbalance.

Below, I describe the most common electrolyte deficiencies, their common symptoms, and what foods or supplements can be taken to alleviate the symptoms.

Avoiding “Keto Flu” – Step 1: Stay Hydrated

Water

To avoid dehydration, this may go without saying, DRINK MORE WATER! For the average human, about 60% of our body is made from water. Water is continually used by our bodies to perform daily essential functions. Consequently, it’s almost impossible to drink too much water.

If you want to read about some of the amazing benefits of drinking water, check out this article by Push Doctor describing 7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Drinking Enough Water.

Water Deficiency Symptoms [1]:
  • headache
  • thirst
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • confusion
Daily Recommended Allowance:

Variable depending on age, gender, weight; a good recommendation is to drink until your urine is clear. You will know when you are drinking enough water per day because your urine will not be yellow.

To estimate how much water you should drink, per day, you can use this formula:

Water (oz. ) = Your weight (lbs) / 2

For example: if you weigh 200 pounds, you should start drinking 100 ounces of water per day. Increase or decrease the amount of water you drink, per day, until your urine is clear.

Avoiding “Keto Flu” – Step 2: Replenish Electrolytes

Electrolytes

On a low-carb diet, electrolytes can be lost at a higher rate due to increased urination. The main electrolytes affected by electrolyte imbalance are sodium, potassium and magnesium.

To prevent unwanted symptoms of electrolyte imbalance, it’s best to increase these electrolytes by eating a variety of foods with naturally higher quantities of the electrolytes within them. If you are unable to obtain high enough quantities through food alone, you may also need additional supplementation.

Sodium

If you are worried about eating too much sodium, read food nutrition labels and track the sodium content of your food. Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed food, so if you are eating unprocessed food, you probably do not need to worry about adding too much salt to your food.

Daily Recommended Allowance [2] :

2,300mg

Sodium Deficiency Symptoms [3]:
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
Examples of Replenishment Sources:
  • Sea salt
  • Chicken bouillon
  • Salty snacks (like pickles or pork rinds)

Potassium

To easily replenish my potassium deficiency, I like to make a mixture of equal parts sea salt (for sodium) and No Salt salt (for potassium) that I add to my food when cooking. Another option is to add this mixture to a glass of water, add a water enhancer (like Crystal Light or Mio), and drink.

Daily Recommended Allowance [2] :

4,700 mg

Potassium Deficiency Symptoms [4]:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle twitching
  • Constipation
Examples of Replenishment Sources:

Magnesium

Magnesium is the electrolyte I have the hardest time getting enough of through food. I prefer to take a magnesium supplement with my first meal of the day to ensure I get enough magnesium throughout the day.

Daily Recommended Allowance [2]:

300 – 400 mg

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms [5]:
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
Replenishment Sources:
  • Magnesium supplement,
  • salmon,
  • Dark chocolate or cocoa powder,
  • Spinach,
  • Nuts and seeds (pumpkin, poppy seeds, almonds)

Conclusion:

Supplementing my diet with these electrolytes and drinking more water has made such a positive difference in the way I feel when eating a low-carb diet. Whenever I start a low-carb diet, I can prevent many of these symptoms from happening. If I do experience them, I know how to alleviate them quickly.

Let me know if this makes a difference in the way you feel, and if you have any recommendations for your favorite replenishment sources.

Sources:

[1] Mayo Clinic. Dehydration. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086

[2] Daily Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-7/

[3] Mayo Clinic. Hyponatremia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyponatremia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373711

[4] National Institutes of Health. Potassium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/

[5] National Institutes of Health. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/


All information and tools presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only. Before starting any new diet and exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise and/or diet changes with them before beginning. I am NOT a doctor, nutritionist or registered dietitian. I do not claim to cure any condition or disease. CleanFingersLaynie is not responsible for any adverse effects from following this advice provided.

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