Keto is supposed to make you feel fantastic, give you more energy, better focus and mental clarity, so why do you feel awful?
Whether you have just started your Keto Diet, or you’ve been following it for a while now, getting hit with Keto Flu is no fun for anyone.
In this article
The Answer to your Keto Flu Symptoms? Here’s why Adequate Fluid Levels are Crucial on the Ketogenic diet Taking Electrolyte Supplements on a Keto Diet The Takeaway - Electrolytes and water are essential for optimum health
Hang on, what’s Keto Flu?
A few days after starting your new way of eating, or after over indulging in extra carbs, you may find that you are suffering with Flu like symptoms.
This is known affectionately as ‘Keto Flu’ and happens with a high fat, low carb diet, because your body processes electrolytes differently.
The beneficial lower insulin levels from this new way of eating make your sodium levels drop, which upsets the balance of the other electrolytes in your body, such as magnesium and potassium, producing these flu like symptoms.
Other common signs of an electrolyte imbalance are:
Luckily, this is a temporary situation while your body adapts, and most people transition though this phase quickly. You might not even experience this at all - my husband didn’t.
However, there are quick and easy solutions available to get you through this, and boy, I wish I had known that when I started my Keto journey.
The Answer to your Keto Flu Symptoms?
Your body needs a proper balance of electrolytes to:
Detox you from Keto Flu symptoms
Help you feel better, faster
Help your body function properly
Aid in muscle and nerve function
Promote faster recovery after exercise
Oh, and WATER
It’s too easy to forget about water.
Too much water and you’ll be flushing those precious electrolytes out.
Too little water and you’ll be dehydrated, meaning your body can’t transport them effectively.
So how much water should you drink?
On a Keto Diet you’ll need more water. More than the recommended 8 glasses - or 2 litres - a day.
Here’s why Adequate Fluid Levels are Crucial on the Ketogenic Diet
Your body goes through major metabolic transitions as you become a fat burner, and you’re reducing the amount of carbs you eat - carbs which retain water in the body.
When your body enters ketosis, it switches from using glucose for fuel to using fats and fatty acids for energy. This process requires fluids in order for your cells to function efficiently and prevent dehydration during this time of change between metabolisms. The lack of fluids can result in dizziness, headaches, nausea - all symptoms of Keto Flu.
3 Key Electrolytes
An imbalance of 3 key electrolytes - sodium, magnesium and potassium - is the root of the problem, and therefore the simple answer is to make sure you are getting enough of them.
Without electrolytes, our bodies can't perform any of the basic functions. They're in charge of all electrical impulses and are so important for life.
Sodium is a mineral which plays a key role in your body, helping to maintain your body’s fluid balance as well as helping to:
Maintain normal blood pressure
Keep your muscles functioning properly
Support the work of your nerves
Following a Keto Diet tends to mean you cut out all processed food - food that typically contains higher levels of salt (and sugar). This can lead to a deficiency of sodium in the body (Hyponatremia).
Whilst we have learnt that eating salt is bad for us, and guidance from the NHS is that we should have no more than 6g of salt (1.4g of sodium) a day , a ketogenic diet causes your body to excrete more sodium, so you actually need more than the recommended daily amount.
Sodium can be found in many Keto friendly foods such as bacon, nuts and tinned fish, but this is typically added salt. You can find the highest amounts of natural sodium in meat, eggs and dairy products.
Few vegetables contain significant amounts, although celery is a good source with around 30mg per stalk. I’m a huge fan of artichokes, which have around 94mg per 100g serving.
Biona Organic Artichoke Hearts in brine have only 2g carbs per 100g and are packaged in brine, which you can also drink to top up your electrolytes as it has added salt. Drinking Pickle Brine is strangely popular in the Keto world.
The addition of sodium to your diet, in the form of Pink Himalayan Salt, can be a delicious way to top up those much needed sodium levels. Mineral-rich crystal salt mined from the foothills of the Himalayas. Formed over 250 million years ago from ancient unpolluted seas, Pro Fusion Rose Pink Crystal Salt, is unrefined and pure pink salt.
If you don’t like that salty taste so much, electrolyte supplements are an easy way to resolve your imbalance.
From generating energy, to sleeping, your body needs sufficient levels of this essential mineral on a steady basis.
Your body uses magnesium to:
Maintain normal muscle and nerve function
Maintain a healthy immune system
Maintain normal heart rhythm
Build strong bones
However, magnesium is inorganic, meaning you can’t make it in the body, so you have to either consume Magnesium rich foods or take Magnesium supplements.
I use Solgar Magnesium Citrate Tablets every day. Magnesium Citrate is the most highly absorbable form of magnesium and I find this formulation gentle on my stomach - magnesium can have a laxative effect in high doses.
2 tablets provides 100% of the RDA for magnesium.
Love them or hate them, Avocados are a fantastic natural source of dietary magnesium, as well as beneficial fats and fibre, so it’s not surprising that they are so popular in Keto recipes and meal plans. You’d have to eat a crazy amount - more than a dozen every day - to reach the RDA of magnesium though, as they contain just 29mg of magnesium per 100g.
Other natural sources, such as spinach, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds and even dark chocolate, present the same problem. The amount you would need to eat every day to reach the RDA is just not possible on a Keto Diet, or really on any diet.
As it is another mineral that cannot be made in the body, close attention should always be paid to your potassium levels.
Too much potassium can affect the way your heart works, making it beat irregularly, or in extreme cases, cause a heart attack. Your kidneys are responsible for maintaining normal levels, and remove excess potassium through urine.
However, if you don’t get enough potassium in your diet, it can lead to serious health consequences like high blood pressure or kidney failure.
It’s important to consume a balance of potassium, through the inclusion of potassium rich foods, and the right amount of salt in your diet.
Bananas are commonly know to be a great source of potassium, but they are not Keto friendly. The trusty white knight of the Keto world, the Avocado, can beat the banana with a whopping 485mg per 100g, to help you reach your daily potassium target of 3500mg.
Spinach and Swiss chard are also tasty choices for plenty of potassium on your plate.
I use Solgar Vegan Potassium Tablets to top up, especially when I have been working out, as low potassium levels can reduce your energy and affect endurance.
You lose significantly more sodium and potassium after working out, as these precious electrolytes are flushed out of your body via sweat.
With 99mg per tablet, it’s easy to cautiously dose according to your needs.
Taking Electrolyte Supplements on a Keto Diet
The Keto Diet is becoming increasingly popular, and more widely accepted, as a healthy, nutritionally complete way of eating. Rich in the nutrients your body needs everyday to function at its best, and providing not only an efficient energy source, but also mental clarity.
A well balanced diet of meat, fish, dairy, plant based protein, nuts seeds and Keto friendly vegetables should give you everything you need to succeed on your Keto journey, but there can be times when supplementing that diet can be beneficial.
Taking electrolytes will help to banish Keto Flu and help your body work better.
After much trial and error, I have found the right balance of electrolytes for my body, based on my diet and exercise. Remembering that each body is different, it may take you a little time to work out your exact dosage, but here’s mine as a starting point.
Sodium - I use Fusion Rose Pink Himalayan Crystal Salt in a grinder. I have found the crystal salt to have a more pleasant taste than the pre-ground version, which I found left a little burnt aftertaste. Over the years I have tried other brands, but this one suits my taste buds the best.
I grind prolifically over my breakfast eggs, or indeed any eggs, and also add to all my cooked vegetables and bone broth. I have not found the need to take it dissolved in water as a drink, but I have known people to do that too. Just a word of caution, salt water can have a rapid laxative effect.
Magnesium - Solgar Magnesium Citrate Tablets - I take the recommended dose of 2 a day. I find that they do make my stomach rumble - magnesium stimulate peristalsis, the wavelike contractions of the digestive tract - so I tend to take them after dinner so I growl away when I’m asleep. My husband finds this endearing - not!
Potassium - Solgar Vegan Potassium Tablets - The recommended dose is 3 a day, but I have found I only need 2.
The Takeaway - Electrolytes and water are essential for optimum health...
and to prevent, or treat the symptoms of Keto Flu.
• Help your body stay healthy and happy
• Hydrate and recover from Keto flu in a healthier way
• Restore balanced hydration with potassium, magnesium, sodium chloride
• Support electrolyte balance to take care of the symptoms of Keto flu
• Essential for anyone using a low carb or Ketogenic diet
Note: I do recommend Solgar supplements a lot of the time, but not necessarily all the time. Why? I have had over 30 years experience with this brand, both as a health food retailer and as a consumer. I trust their formulations to consistently deliver, and love that, where possible, their supplements are vegan.
I join Professional golfer Mat Wallace and broadcaster Gabby Logan in my support for this brand, which has demonstrated over 70 years of commitment to product quality, health and well-being. Bearing the hallmark gold label, Solgar distribute over 300 products in more than 60 countries across the globe, and is trusted by millions of consumers worldwide.