It's thought that one of the main reasons people experience ill-effects from the Ketogenic diet is that they aren’t replenishing their electrolytes after carb restriction.
There are several processes and changes that occur as your body adapts to Keto which alter the way you handle electrolytes and water.
With that said, having electrolyte imbalances can make your Ketogenic efforts a struggle.
Fortunately, knowing this can is half the battle and can help you to prevent it.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll talk about the importance of electrolytes and why you need more than you think.
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals found in the body that are important for just about every function, including heart health, bladder regulation, allowing your muscles to contract properly, energy and brain functioning, and more.
When you don’t have enough electrolytes, you may become victim to the dreaded “Keto flu.” Many beginners on Keto will feel flu-like symptoms if they are electrolyte deficient.
Some of the symptoms of the Keto flu include:
- Brain fog
- Sugar cravings
- Difficulty sleeping
Why You Need to Pay Close Attention to Your Electrolytes on Keto
When you’re on the Ketogenic diet, you’re removing carbs almost entirely from your diet, which means your body will produce less insulin, and glycogen stores (from carbs) are emptied.
As these carb stores are emptied, your body will shift from retaining water [*] to excreting it through your urine, sweat, and breath. That’s why you’ll find that when you first start entering ketosis, you’ll have to use the bathroom more frequently.
You’ll also notice that you’re losing a lot of water weight and feeling less bloated.
While this may seem like a good thing, your body is also excreting essential vitamins and minerals known as electrolytes along with the water.
The 4 Main Electrolytes to Track on the Ketogenic Diet
Electrolytes are abundant in certain low-carb foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, and dark chocolate.
To prevent the “Keto-flu” from ruining your low carb, high-fat efforts, make sure you consume ample amounts of the following electrolytes:
Sodium is the most important electrolyte to monitor when you first go on the Ketogenic diet. While in the past we’ve been taught to keep sodium low, this is only sound advice for people who are on a standard American diet filled with processed carbohydrates and sugar.
When your body excretes water after restricting carbs, sodium goes with it.
To ensure sufficient sodium, you can add pink Himalayan sea salt to your food.
When they think of potassium, most people will refer to bananas as a great source (which should be completely avoided on Keto). But what most people don't realize is that there are several low-carb foods with even more potassium than bananas.
You can get ample amounts of it from avocados, nuts, dark chocolate, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, and even meat.
Potassium is crucial for many vital bodily functions, such as regulating blood pressure levels.
But be careful because having too much potassium may have a negative effect on your body. It's best to get all of your potassium from whole food sources, rather than supplements.
Everyone knows that calcium is vital for building strong bones. It’s also essential for maintaining proper muscle and nerve functioning.
Low-carb, Keto-friendly food sources with abundant calcium include; dark leafy greens, broccoli, hard cheese, salmon, and sardines.
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 reactions in the body.
It helps with muscle function, hormone regulation, aids in the production of energy and protein, and helps keep bones strong. It’s also been shown to help with cramping, food cravings, sleep, and constipation.[*]
Natural food sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens like kale and spinach, nuts, and seeds.
Many Keto-ers use a magnesium supplement at bedtime, as it may be difficult to get enough magnesium through your diet alone.
If you're unable to get enough electrolytes through dietary sources, check out this article for supplement recommendations.
The Importance of Increased Water Intake
While electrolyte intake is crucial, drinking plenty of water is just as important.
As we mentioned previously, water is excreted when you restrict carbs, so you need to replenish your body for it to perform at its best.
A good way to determine whether you’re getting enough water or not is by looking at the color of your urine. If it’s a light yellow or almost clear, then you’re most likely hydrated. The darker yellow your urine is, the more dehydrated you are. In this case, you should consider increasing your water intake.
Prevent the Ill-Effects of Keto By Amping Up Your Electrolyte Intake
The flu-like symptoms you may experience as a beginner are likely due to an electrolyte deficiency.
Make it one of your priorities to keep your electrolyte levels in the right place, as it could mean the difference between a day of lethargy, brain fog, and headaches, or an energetic, focused, rejuvenated one.
Note: The content in this article is not medical advice and is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Always talk to your doctor before changing your diet.