If you are one to keep up with the latest and greatest surrounding the health and wellness industry, then we are sure you have heard the buzz surrounding the keto diet. However, if you ask us, we like to look at it as more of a positive lifestyle change than labeling it as a “diet” due to the incredible benefits it has to offer. People all around the world have been making the switch to ditch the carbs with healthy fats, but why?
Today, the typical American diet is very unbalanced. It lacks the important nutrients your body needs like electrolytes to support optimal health and is loaded with carbs, processed sugars, and artificial fillers which can be found in almost every meal. With that being said, it’s no surprise that America is facing an obesity crisis! When you consume this type of food, your body will convert the carbohydrates into glucose and use what it can for energy. The rest is stored as stubborn fat – and who wants to deal with that!?
Keto is a low-carb, high-fat diet that forces your body to rely on fat for fuel instead of glucose. This metabolic state is known as ketosis and can turn your body into a fat-burning machine! Some of the other remarkable benefits that people experience following a ketogenic lifestyle are:
- Healthy weight loss
- Improved cognitive function
- Mental clarity
- Improved heart health
- Reduced inflammation
- Lower blood sugar levels
It may sound too good to be true, but keto has helped thousands of people to transform their lives for the better and is continuously a trending topic. However, just like any lifestyle change, switching gears can be tough while your body is adapting. If you are just starting your journey or have been following the low-carb lifestyle for years, we are sure you have heard about the notorious keto-flu.
What is the Keto-Flu?
When you starve your body of carbs, it goes through an adjustment period to adapt to the new lifestyle. This adaptation tends to come with some temporary side effects that are similar to that of the flu such as:
To be clear, the keto flu is not the actual flu and you are not contagious by any means. Many people experience symptoms related to the keto flu due to:
Fuel Source Change
Your primary source of fuel comes from glucose when you consume carbs. When you restrict carbs, your body is then forced to switch from using glucose for fuel to ketones. These are two completely different metabolic processes. Your body is capable of handling both fat and carbs as its main source of energy, but if you have been following a high carb diet for quite some time, your body is more than likely used to glycolysis (breaking down glucose to release energy). So, this means that when you start a ketogenic lifestyle, you are changing the metabolic process in which your body is accustomed to. This tends to come with some of the unwanted side effects such as headache and fatigue until your body adapts to the change.
Many people do not realize this, but carbohydrates are responsible for retaining water in the body. When you eat carbs, your body will store the extra glycogen in your liver where it sticks to water molecules. When you follow a ketogenic lifestyle, you immensely restrict your carbohydrate intake, depleting glycogen which means you are depleting water as well. In addition, when ketones are produced, your kidneys will naturally flush out excess water and sodium, thus leaving you very dehydrated.
The primary cause of the keto flu is due to an electrolyte imbalance. Like we mentioned, when you restrict carbohydrates, your body will naturally produce less insulin which will cause your kidneys to flush out excess water and sodium. To maintain a healthy balance between sodium and the other electrolytes in your body, your kidneys will also release extra calcium, magnesium, and potassium – just to name a few. When you are electrolyte deficient, you will surely experience some of the telltale side effects of the infamous keto flu.
The good news is that you can ease most of these symptoms simply by replenishing your body with electrolytes!
What Are Electrolytes?
Many people believe that they only need to supplement electrolytes to help get them through the keto-flu, but this is not the case! Did you know that over 92% of the population suffers from at least one vitamin or mineral deficiency based on the Dietary Reference Intakes? Electrolytes are extremely important and play a critical role to your overall health, but what exactly are they?
Electrolytes are essential minerals found in the body that are important for just about every function, such as:
- Heart health
- Bladder regulation
- Energy production
- Neurological functioning
- Muscle contractions
The best way to think about electrolytes are to think of them like a car battery. They may not make your body run, but they will help to make it run smoothly! These healthy minerals in your blood stimulate voltages that carry electrical impulses throughout your cells. This powerful electrical energy keeps your organs running properly to support optimal health.
Like we mentioned, when you switch to a ketogenic lifestyle and drastically decrease your carb intake, you will naturally reduce your sodium intake as well. Since your body is always aiming for balance, it will try to compensate for the loss of sodium by flushing out the other important electrolytes such as:
Sodium – Sodium is a critical mineral that helps to retain water in your body and is the most important electrolyte to monitor when starting your keto journey! When you restrict carbohydrates from your diet, your body will naturally produce less insulin which will cause your kidneys to flush out excess sodium and water. If sodium is not replaced, you may experience symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
The good news is that sodium is an easy electrolyte to supplement! If you find yourself falling short, just pop a high quality salt tablet like these from Adapted Nutrition and you will feel better in no time!
Potassium – Everybody knows that bananas are one of the best ways to get a healthy dose of potassium. However, when you are on a low-carb diet, this is not the case. If you are following a ketogenic lifestyle, you will want to stay far away from bananas because they are high in carbs which will immediately kick you out of ketosis – not good! Some of the side effects of having low potassium are:
- Muscle twitching
- Muscle cramps
- Heart palpitations
Potassium is one of the most difficult nutrients to get on a keto. 1,000mg of potassium is equivalent to approximately 10 servings of vegetables, with the average person needing roughly 5,000mg of potassium per day! You would have to eat a ton of veggies to meet this recommendation which can be pretty challenging to say the least. Thank goodness for supplements!
For those who are falling short on their potassium intake, which is most Americans, we recommend a top-notch, high quality, potassium focused electrolyte powder like Keto K1000 to help you feeling your best!
Calcium – Calcium is another essential electrolyte that plays many different roles in your body like blood clotting, regulating healthy nerve function, building strong bones and much more. If calcium is not replaced, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Confusion or memory loss
- Weak and brittle nails
- Muscle spasms
Keto dieters should look for this powerful electrolyte in broccoli, leafy greens, fish and even non-dairy milks like coconut or almond milk – just make sure they are unsweetened, so it does not kick you out of ketosis!
Magnesium – Magnesium helps your body maintain a healthy immune system, proper muscle and nerve function, normal heart rhythm, and many other biochemical reactions that are important to your health. Just like calcium, you need magnesium for building strong bones! Some of the side effects found from having low magnesium levels are:
- Muscle twitching
- Brain fog
- Aches and pains
Magnesium can be found in leafy greens, Swiss chard, and some seeds and nuts.
Chloride – Chloride is commonly paired with sodium and can be found in table salt. This powerful electrolyte is needed to maintain fluid balance, blood volume, blood pressure. And body pH levels. Just like sodium, chloride is lost in high concentrations throughout the day via sweat. Some of the side effects if chloride is not replaced are:
- Muscle weakness
Chloride can be found in healthy snacks like olives, lettuce, and tomatoes.
Phosphate – Similar to calcium, phosphate plays a crucial role in strengthening bones and teeth! Your body needs this electrolyte to help build and repair bones, support healthy nerve function and promote muscle contraction. If phosphate is not replaced, you may experience some of the following side effects:
- Bone or joint pain
- Increased thirst
What About an Electrolyte Overdose?
Too much of anything is not always a good thing! Although not particularly common, an electrolyte overdose can happen which can be dangerous. The three electrolytes to keep an eye on are: magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
Your body can only handle so much magnesium, but it is also pretty efficient at getting rid of the excess. Unfortunately, this means that when you orally ingest more magnesium than what you truly need, you just might end up with diarrhea or digestive issues while your body attempts to expel it – yikes! It is a good idea to keep your magnesium intake below 400mg per day to save yourself from a stomach ache or two.
Although eating too much magnesium might be unpleasant, consuming too much potassium, especially in patients with kidney disease or heart issues, can be quite dangerous. If you have serious medical issues, please make sure to speak with your doctor before taking electrolyte supplements, particularly those with high levels of potassium. It’s important to follow instructions when taking supplements with high potassium and best to test them by taking a half serving to ensure they’re well-tolerated before moving onto a full serving. Signs that you may have taken an unhealthy level of potassium for your body include:
- Heart palpitations
- Racing or abnormal heart rate
A sodium overdose is incredibly rare, even for those who have increased their salt intake since following a ketogenic lifestyle. This is because sodium’s strong, salty taste means it is much more difficult to overconsume. In addition, sodium is also flushed out from the body in ketosis due to reduced water retention making it a difficult electrolyte to overdose. Some of the signs that you could have consumed a little too much salt are:
- Persistent thirst
- Frequent urination
- Swollen hands and feet
How to Get Enough Electrolytes on Keto
There are two ways that you can get the electrolytes needed to support optimal health: from supplements or from food.
Getting all the nutrients your body needs through food is ideal, but it does require you to pay a little bit more attention to your diet. This is why electrolyte supplements make such a great option!
Electrolyte supplements can be a complete gamechanger to your keto journey, but they are not created equal. If you are familiar with reading nutrition labels, then you’re likely aware that sugar is hiding in just about everything these days. Unfortunately, this can make it rather difficult when finding supplements to support your healthy lifestyle. Whether it is an electrolyte sports drink or a powder, sugar always tends to be the first ingredient listed. It can be challenging to find an electrolyte supplement that is not only sugar free but tastes good too.
Luckily, there are great companies out there like Adapted Nutrition that only uses keto friendly and pure ingredients to keep your body burning fat for fuel all day long. They do not use any fillers like maltodextrin or artificial flavoring that can kick you out of ketosis, setting the standard to what keto supplementation should look like across the board!
A Final Word
We now know how important electrolytes are to support a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if you are on keto or not, everybody needs electrolytes to keep their body running at its best. If you are thinking about taking your health to the next level by supplementing electrolytes, it is a good idea to purchase from an honest and reputable company like Adapted Nutrition to make sure you are fueling your body with nutrients of the highest quality!