The ketogenic diet, discussed in the Body Reboot book, restricts carbohydrates and the majority of calories consumed come from fats. Dieters consume fatty cuts of meat, avocados, coconut oil, and other plants that have fats. The goal is for a body to burn fat as opposed to glucose and thus help a person lose weight as well as experience several other benefits.
When you start the keto diet, you may experience what’s known as the keto flu, which is when your body goes through a period of adapting to switching to burning fat as opposed to glucose. You may feel weak, shaky, and experience other symptoms that are just like experiencing a “real” flu. Luckily there are ways to counteract the keto flu such as upping your electrolytes and sodium intake. It turns out salt is not only helpful to take while experiencing the keto flu but also while you continue to be on the diet.
It may seem foreign to incorporate more salt into your diet, but since the kidneys excrete sodium at a higher rate on the keto diet, it’s up to you to replace the sodium. If you don’t, you could experience the keto flu all over again, regardless of whether you are keto-adapted or not. Anytime your body is lacking electrolytes and salt it will likely make you feel like you have the flu, and that isn’t a great feeling when you’re supposed to be feeling your best. Kelvin Ducray, an ultramarathon runner from Medium, explains more about what causes dehydration on the keto diet:
When insulin levels are kept low (in the case of following a LCHF lifestyle), the kidneys excrete sodium at a higher rate. This combined with adequate sodium consumption, lots of water consumption and coffee (which is a natural diuretic) can cause a slight case of hyponatremia (which is the technical term for low sodium levels in the blood stream). This can cause slight nausea/headaches, dizziness, loss of energy/fatigue, muscle weakness and muscle spasms/cramps.
Saltstick further explains why our body craves and needs salt while on the keto diet:
For individuals who are heavily reliant on carbohydrate (especially simple carbohydrate such as white sugar or processed grains), insulin is nearly always present in the bloodstream, due to the constant flow of glucose in the diet. This can lead to what is known as “insulin resistance,” where the body becomes so used to insulin, that the hormone is no longer as effective at removing blood sugar from the bloodstream. This condition, if left untreated, can result in type 2 diabetes.
However, adherents to the ketogenic diet are on the other end of the spectrum. By limiting carbohydrates to 25 to 50 grams per day, these individuals rarely consume significant amounts of glucose, and thus rarely trigger the body’s production of insulin.
In terms of energy levels, this is not that much of an ordeal, because the body resorts to other sources of energy to fuel itself. However, removing excess blood sugar is not the only thing that insulin does. It also has important effects on blood sodium levels.
Sodium is important to a great number of physiological processes, and low levels can hamper energy regulation, focus, and other functions. In fact, low electrolyte levels are often thought to be a cause of what is known as “keto-flu,” which is when someone transitioning to the ketogenic diet experiences low energy levels, mental cloudiness and full-body aches.
Ketogenic.com further adds to this by mentioning that it’s normal to believe that sodium is bad for you initially. The truth is most of society thinks this, but it’s usually sugar that’s the culprit and not sodium.
More than likely, you have probably heard that you should avoid adding sodium to your diet.
For most of the population, especially those who are metabolically unhealthy, high sodium intake typically comes along with a high-calorie, high-carbohydrate diet, which over the long term, has resulted in increasing rates of obesity and hypertension (3, 4).
However, for individuals on a low-carbohydrate diet or athletes who are training hard, the truth is that your body needs extra sodium.
Now that we better understand how our body functions and why salt is so important, you may be wondering how much salt you need on the keto diet. Let’s see what Aaron from My Sugar Free Journey has to say about that:
Your kidneys were designed to filter salt out of your blood. They are actually quite good at it. The can filter between 3.2 and 3.6 POUNDS of salt out of your blood everyday so there is very little risk of eating too much salt and taxing your kidneys or any other internal organ. In fact it is eating too LITTLE salt that stresses the kidneys as they then have to work to reabsorb and conserve salt so don’t be stingy with the salt and salt your food to taste.
What Salt is Best?
I have stopped using the standard Morton’s salt as it is highly processed and has anti-caking agents added to it that I don’t trust. I have switched over to Redmond’s Real Salt as it is a more natural, unprocessed salt with more electrolytes than just pure sodium. But don’t feel like you have to use that particular salt, any unprocessed salt from a sea bed will work like Himalayan Sea Salt or Celtic Sea Salt. Just get your hands on a high quality salt and use it liberally.
Ruled.me mentions that in addition to making sure there’s enough salt in your diet, potassium and electrolytes are just as important. Stay on top of the key nutrients you may need to take to avoid feeling dizzy, dehydrated, and weak.
Key Takeaways: Because insulin levels are typically lower in people who consume the ketogenic diet, sodium levels might be lower than desired. It is important to take the proper amount of sodium and potassium to make sure electrolytes are in healthy levels.
Recommendations: If you are concerned about low sodium levels or you know that your sodium levels are low, consider eating sodium-rich keto-friendly foods such as eggs and lean red meats. Supplementation with a bouillon cube or well-respected brands is another option. Be sure to monitor salt and blood pressure to make sure they are optimized.
When you do start the keto diet if you have issues reaching ketosis, Popsugar says salt may be the culprit. Many people may not understand just how important salt is while being on the keto diet!
Another common mistake that can prevent you from reaching ketosis is not eating enough salt. Dr. Anna Barnwell, MPH, MSW, and a member of the clinical team at Virta Health, explained that not consuming enough of this mineral can lead to pesky side effects on the keto diet. The current US dietary guidelines recommend consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, but because the kidneys excrete a large amount of sodium into the urine while in ketosis, it's important that anyone following the keto diet consumes more than this.
Dr. Barnwell explained that most people on the keto diet need to consume close to 5,000 milligrams (five grams) of sodium, which equals 12 grams of salt. Not doing so, especially in your first days of adapting to nutritional ketosis, can trigger “keto flu” symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and constipation.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the Diet Doctor says that salt is so vital that if you don’t have enough of it, it could lead to a shorter lifespan! Who would have thought! It turns out salt is a vital part of the keto diet and may lengthen our lifespan.
According to many health organizations, most people should cut back on sodium in order to prevent high blood pressure and other health problems.3 On high-carb diets, this might be true. However, on a keto diet, your sodium needs may actually increase, due to increased losses via the kidneys.
Furthermore, the population-wide advice to cut salt is seriously questioned today. At least six recent studies have showed no clear benefit or possibly even an increased mortality with lower salt intakes.4 It seems like an intake below about 5 grams of sodium per day may lead to a shorter average life.
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Discover how to activate your body's “Reboot Switch” that flips on a fat burning inferno so you can finally get healthy and achieve your weight loss goals!