When your body is transitioning from using glucose to ketones, there are a few side effects to be aware of collectively termed the "keto flu".
The keto diet has a lot of benefits, but you have to beat the first few days of the keto flu symptoms to get to them.
The good news is that if you are aware of these side effects before beginning the keto diet, you can use our tips to avoid feeling almost all of them.
The Keto Flu - Is it Real? Can I avoid it?
During the first few days of the keto diet your body is transitioning. Symptoms of the keto flu people may experience during this period are:
- food cravings and irritability
Some of these symptoms will depend on the person. It may depend on if a person was eating an extremely high sugar diet prior to starting keto, or if a person was already eating healthy and moderating their sugar.
An athlete that works out and sweats a lot may feel the effects of dehydration more than someone sitting at a desk all day. However, if the athlete is watching their fluids intake and supplementing with electrolytes, they may pass over the keto flu with relatively less symptoms than the person at the desk.
Symptom #1: Dehydration
The body will be depleting it's glycogen stores in order to transition to using ketones as energy. Glycogen just happens to hold on to water molecules, so as you deplete your glycogen stores, you also deplete water.
You will naturally be urinating more often, and losing more water. This will cause dehydration and symptoms associated with dehydration if you're not prepared.
Keto Flu Tip #1
Drink a lot of water. Like, a lot of water.
The recommendation of 8- 8 oz glasses of water a day doesn't begin to cover it.
Spread them out throughout the day. Your body can only absorb so much water at a time, so drinking it all in one sitting will actually do more harm than good.
Symptom #2: Headaches
This depletion of water can also cause loss of sodium and important electrolytes. Electrolytes are necessary for your body to function properly. The more water you excrete, the more electrolytes you excrete.
Keto Flu Tip #2
Watch your minerals. Supplement your water with pink Himalayan salt. If you are an athlete, I recommend adding pink Himalayan salt to your water bottle during exercise. I notice when I have headaches and general fatigue, it is usually the days I have not had much salt in my diet.
Eat foods high in potassium and magnesium. There are a lot of keto foods that are good sources of potassium and magnesium.
Normally we don't recommend the use of drugs, but for a few days keep ibuprofen or tylenol on hand to combat headaches as well.
Check out our list of recommendations of supplements to take on keto, and supplements that will waste your time.
Symptom #3: Fatigue
You will be eating barely any carbohydrates or sugar, therefore lowering your blood sugar levels.* Don't worry, the blood sugar levels should not drop to dangerous levels, only to levels low enough for ketosis to take over.
During this phase of low blood sugar and increasing ketone levels, you may feel fatigued. Your body is not used to making ketones and using them for energy. It will adapt, but it will take time. In the meantime...
Keto Flu Tip #3
Supplement with exogenous ketones for increased energy. Since your body is not yet efficient at making ketones, give it some help with supplements.
At Keto Domain we do prefer food naturally.
If you're like us, supplementing with coconut oil is a great way to get ketones in the body quickly instead of with an artificial supplement.
Coconut oil has a high amount of medium chain triglycerides (MCT's) which are rapidly made into ketones in the body. If eating a spoonful of coconut oil is not appealing to you, try out our keto vanilla tea instead. Just beware, coconut oil eaten by itself can have digestive effects like diarrhea.
Symptom #4: Food Cravings and Irritability
Changing food from high sugar to low sugar will certainly cause food cravings and irritability. Sugar has been proven to be more addictive than cocaine, so don't be surprised if these symptoms seems like withdrawal.
We don't recommend that you treat the keto diet like a typical low calorie diet for this first period. On most diets that are restrictive, a person drops out in the first few days because of hunger or difficulty.
In reality, with the increased satiety of more fat in your diet and regulation of insulin, you should begin to be less hungry. But in case you don't...
Keto Flu Tip #4
Eat to your heart's (or stomach's) content.
But if you are eating a lot, make sure they are not moderate carb foods. If you go over on carbs, you're not helping yourself during this period. Remember, there are a lot of tasty snacks that don't include carbs that you can eat.
Symptom #5: Constipation
The change in food will also cause a change to your digestive system. Many people just starting out have a difficult time getting enough fiber. We recommend following a beginning meal plan to ensure you get enough throughout the day when you are adjusting to a new way of eating. Not enough fiber and dehydration are a sure way to get constipated.
Keto Flu Tip #5
Supplement with fiber and eat a lot of low-carb vegetables. You can take a psyillium husk supplement in pill form, or there are drinks as well. Be careful, a lot of fiber supplement drinks have added sugar- avoid these.
Eating spinach and avocados will help you get in your fiber with barely any net carbs.
Keto Flu Tips
- Drink a lot of water
- Add electrolytes like pink Himalayan salt, potassium and magnesium. Use ibuprofen as a backup.
- Use exogenous ketones or coconut oil for quick energy.
- Eat until you're satisfied. Don't starve yourself like a typical weight loss diet.
- Get your fiber and vegetables.
* Disclaimer that keto is not recommended for type 1 diabetics without physicians approval.