Soon after switching to a low-carb way of eating, like the ketogenic diet, many people experience a blast of flu-like symptoms. But don't fret! It doesn't happen to everyone and it is avoidable!
The name "keto flu" is a bit of a misconception as well. These symptoms of drowsiness, body aches, nausea, dizziness, carb cravings and irritability aren't related to ketones, being in ketosis or the actual flu at all. This is the body's natural reaction, sort of a withdrawal, to carbohydrate restriction.
This perturbing faux flu can be somewhat discouraging for those just starting the keto diet. Some tend to give up and give in to carbs again to curb the symptoms, which is the complete opposite reaction necessary to stay in ketosis.
Common Symptoms of Keto Flu
The keto flu generally hits within the first couple of days of ketosis. The body is adjusting to switching fuel types from sugar to fat, and it can very in length and intensity.
Some of the most common symptoms of the keto flu are:
- Muscle soreness
- Decreased focus
- Sleep disruption; difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep
- Stomach ache
- Bowel issues; diarrhea or constipation
- Sugar cravings
Some may have no symptoms at all, and others might experience the keto flu for a week or more. Don't give up! It does go away once the body is fully adapted to the new fuel source, but there are also methods to help decrease the severity of symptoms.
Ways to Reduce or Avoid Keto Flu Symptoms
Don't give the keto flu a fighting chance! The flu is awful in general, but we can help eradicate and even avoid the symptoms altogether with a few simple measures:
- Electrolytes - This is the best defense in circumventing the keto flu completely. Electrolytes are extremely important and should be tracked daily along with the macros (carbs, fat and protein).
- Sodium - The goal is 5,000-7,000 mg per day. The optimal source is bone broth, but if that's not available try supplementing with bullion or sole water.
- Magnesium - The goal 300-500 mg per day. The easiest way to get magnesium is from a supplement in pill form. Be careful taking magnesium citrate or magnesium stearate as they are used typically for constipation. Also, if gel caps are taken, add 1 carb to the diary.
- Potassium - The goal 1,000-3,500 mg per day. Try to achieve this with potassium rich foods like raw spinach, avocado, mushrooms, salmon, pork tenderloin or sirloin steak. Also, salt alternatives like Lite Salt/No Salt are acceptable.
- Water - In the beginning of any diet there is a substantial amount of water loss. Drink water regularly throughout the day and always drink to thirst to avoid dehydration. Helpful hint: Clear urine is a sign of being well-hydrated and yellow urine indicates the need for more water.
- Increase Fat Intake - Sounds crazy, but it's true. As the transition from sugar fuel to fat fuel is happening, assist by taking in more fats to accommodate. As always, stick with keto-approved fat sources.
- Exercise - Getting light exercise at least three times a week helps with keeping muscle soreness associated with keto flu at bay, the heart happy and increases energy and endurance.
- Sleep - To battle increased stress on the body and fatigue, make sure sleep is a priority. Good quality sleep is essential regardless, but even more so when the body is experiencing a change of this magnitude.
- Up the Carbs - Obviously this is a last resort, however in some bodies a drastic decrease in carbs all at once can be traumatic. If this is the case, try eating clean carbs and decrease gradually. This will help in warding off the keto flu symptoms and be less of a shock to the system.
After the Keto Flu
As far as dietary changes go, the keto flu can be somewhat tough to endure. It's important not to give up and try the remedies above to help eradicate the symptoms. It's quite possible to even avoid them altogether if these measures are closely monitored along with macros from the very beginning.
Luckily, the keto flu is the only downside to the ketogenic diet. From this point forward there should be results! And not just fat loss! The keto diet, when followed diligently, will deliver limitless energy, sugary food cravings virtually disappear, and mental sharpness increases.
Remember, shifting the body into ketosis is a different experience for everyone. The more sedentary the lifestyle prior to starting the keto diet, the more chances of developing keto flu. For those who have a higher metabolism and workout several times a week, their symptoms might be less or even nonexistent.
Either way, keep pushing forward and stay on plan. The results will be life-changing!
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