Posted by Nicole on February 5, 2020
A ketogenic diet has numerous benefits. It can help to prevent diabetes and heart disease, can promote weight loss, and may have advantages for other aspects of your health as well. But getting started with keto can lead to an uncomfortable experience known as “low-carb flu” connected with electrolyte depletion.
Still, low-carb flu is at least partly preventable if you take care to replenish your electrolytes. Let’s talk a little bit more about why electrolyte depletion happens when starting a keto diet and what you can do to prevent it.
Why You Lose Electrolytes When Starting a Keto Diet
A reduction in insulin levels when you begin a ketogenic diet causes your kidneys to excrete sodium.
As a result, you shed excess water weight. Not only do you lose water rapidly during your initial days on a low carb diet, but you also lose electrolytes more rapidly at the same time.
That means that if you are not proactively taking steps to keep your electrolyte levels high, you can end up losing lots of sodium, potassium and magnesium that you need to function at your best.
The loss of these electrolytes can give you what feels like low-grade flu symptoms—thus the experience of “low carb flu.”
What Can You Do to Avoid Electrolyte Depletion on a Keto Diet?
Here are some tips to help you stave off low carb flu and avoid electrolyte depletion:
- Drink lots of water. It is vital to keep yourself hydrated. You can also consume beverages which contain extra electrolytes.
- Increase dietary electrolyte intake. Consider using more table salt than you normally would to season your food. Eat foods which are rich in magnesium such as salmon, pumpkin seeds, leafy green vegetables and dark chocolate. Likewise, eat foods which are rich in potassium such as avocados, potatoes, almonds and mushrooms. Salmon and leafy green vegetables also are a good source of potassium.
- Supplement to replace your lost electrolytes. While you can purchase individual supplements to replace each type of electrolyte separately, you can save money and keep things simple by purchasing a product which contains a healthy formulation of multiple electrolytes. Best is a supplement which contains not just magnesium, potassium and sodium, but also calcium, zinc, copper, chromium and chloride.
Low-carb flu can be hard to get through, which stops some people from making the leap to a low carb diet. But now you understand that the flu-like symptoms are a result of electrolyte depletion. You have some recommendations on your side for avoiding that depletion. If you plan your approach carefully, you may be able to minimize or avoid low carb flu altogether and transition comfortably into a healthier diet and lifestyle.