If you haven't heard of the keto diet by now, it's a low carb high-fat diet that switches your body over to burning fat as opposed to protein. Stay dedicated to the diet as the Body Reboot book goes into great detail about and you'll likely achieve some fantastic results. However, with any diet, sometimes there are some challenges to overcome before enjoying the benefits.
One side effect of going on the keto diet is called the keto flu, which you may or may not experience after cutting out carbs. You know you have the keto flu when you start feeling tired, dizzy and perhaps are craving carbs. The bad news is that the keto flu isn't fun, but the good news is your body is or soon will be going through ketosis, which means that soon you may lose some weight and be on your way to achieving some incredible health goals!
The keto flu is also known as the carb flu, and many of the symptoms mimic what it's like to go through the actual flu. Don't be alarmed, however, if you go through the keto flu when you first start the keto diet. There are ways to combat your symptoms and get through it without giving up on your diet altogether.
Add More Salt to Your Diet
When you eat fewer carbs your body tends to store less sodium, which is why it's essential to combat the keto flu by increasing your sodium intake, which is what Keto Summit recommends:
When you go low carb, your insulin levels will tend to go down, which in turn means you don’t hold on to as much sodium as before. You also get rid of excess water that you’ve been holding on to (hence why you’ll usually experience decreased bloating when you go low carb or keto).
So, to combat this decrease in sodium, the simple answer is to take in a bit more salt as sodium deficiency is also a huge issue. If you’re afraid to eat too much salt, then rest assured that if you’re cutting out all the junk food, you’re already consuming way less salt than before (even bread contains salt so you were probably eating way more sodium before).
Manage Electrolytes and Get Rest
Well and Good talks about what Jen Fisch, author of Keto in the City recommends to ease the symptoms of the dreaded keto flu:
Jen Fisch, founder of Keto in the City and author of The Easy 5-Ingredient Ketogenic Diet Cookbook, says you can combat those dreaded symptoms by managing your electrolytes, drinking lots of water, and giving your body extra rest.
“Load up on potassium- and magnesium-rich foods, add a little extra salt, and sip bone broth,” says Fisch. And if you like a tough workout, she advises taking it easy during the first week of keto.
Insider also recommends having enough electrolytes in your system to make it through the keto flu:
To replace electrolytes and make sure you're getting enough nutrients, try incorporating foods that are high in potassium , including fruits, beans, and starchy vegetables into your diet.
Marygrace Taylor, an author on Prevention, also reminds us that it's all about hydration when it comes to the keto flu. Incorporating drinks with electrolytes (which Insider just mentioned above) and making sure you're drinking enough water is essential when you're not feeling your best.
Remember, your water and electrolyte intake needs to go up on a keto diet, and dehydration can exacerbate many keto flu symptoms. There’s no hard and fast recommendation for how much water keto dieters should be drinking, Nico says. But in general, you should be sipping enough so that your urine stays clear or pale yellow. As for electrolytes like sodium? A registered dietitian can help you figure out how much more you should be having and the best places to get it. If you're feeling sick and can't see a nutritionist right away, consider mixing a low-carb electrolyte drink into your water.
Eat Some Clean Carbs
It may be counterintuitive to eat more carbs when the whole idea to reduce your carb intake, but if that's what it takes to get through the keto flu then go to it. The fact that you're feeling crappy is a good indication that you cut out carbs too quickly and The Keto Summit reiterates this below. Cutting carbs out of your diet should be a slow process, especially if you start feeling awful right away. It's okay to get on the keto diet at your own pace; it's not a race even if you're anxious to lose weight and get healthy.
While cutting down your carb intake all at once may result in faster weight loss, the simple fact is you’re not going to lose any weight unless you stick to that low carb or ketogenic diet. So, your first priority should be to ensure you’re not going to give up on the diet because you feel too crappy with your keto flu symptoms. If that’s going to be the case, then try reducing your carb intake slowly.
If you're not sure how you feel about eating the good carbs, another thing you can eat to help you feel better while you're in ketosis is by eating food high in magnesium. You'll find magnesium in foods like spinach and nuts, so load up!
Although losing water doesn’t really flush out magnesium like it does other electrolytes, we do need extra magnesium to regulate sodium and potassium levels in the body. Leafy greens like spinach (again) are great sources of magnesium, as are most nuts and seeds. I just found a sack of sprouted watermelon seeds at Costco that give you 35% of the RDI for magnesium per ounce. Even though low-carb and sweeteners don’t usually mix, I’d say the huge amount of magnesium in blackstrap molasses makes a tablespoon worth adding.
You may have to dip into the supplement bin for this one. Any magnesium ending in “-ate” will do: glycinate, citrate, malate, etc. And once again, it’s one of those cases where almost everyone can probably use extra magnesium regardless of their current diet. It’s simply a good nutrient to have.
Eat Fatty Fish
According to Mark's Daily Apple, eating fatty fish should help counteract the keto flu and also may help reduce headaches. We sure hope so!
One theory is that low-carb flu is caused by the release of stored arachidonic acid from adipose tissue. Since AA is the precursor to inflammatory molecules implicated in headaches, a sudden rush of AA into the blood—as happens in obese and overweight people during initial weight-loss—could be responsible. If this is true, taking extra fish oil or eating fatty fish like sardines or salmon should counter the omega-6-induced inflammatory response triggering the headaches. If this isn’t true, eating fish is still a good idea.
Pay Attention to How You Feel
When you begin the keto diet, your body is going to be adjusting to getting energy from an entirely different food source, so Business Insider recommends being patient with yourself while your body adjusts to the switch. If and when you go through the keto flu stay in tune to your body and pay attention to how you feel. It's also a good idea to mention to your doctor that you're trying the keto flu so that he or she can offer recommendations if needed.
Because the keto diet is so restrictive, it's common to get hung up on all of the numbers and tools out there. Mancinelli said there are a few threshold numbers to stick to, but overall it's more important to pay attention to how you feel.
“What I generally recommend to people is to start with consuming less than 20 grams of net carbs. And then you wait for the transition symptoms, and most people will start to have them within a few days. And when they're done you'll feel amazing,” Mancinelli said.
“You've got to pay close attention to how you feel, your energy levels, and your mental clarity. Because you'll be foggy in the beginning and then all of a sudden it will be like a cloud is lifted,” she said.
Even though the symptoms of keto flu (also known as the carb flu) are uncomfortable, they are worth it! Not only do most people experience weight loss after going through that initial period, but some may also find they have fewer digestive issues, more energy, and less bloating, as well as experiencing other benefits too.
However, as with any diet, it's important to stick with it. If you feel tempted, don't throw in the towel because the results from being consistent with the keto diet are worth it!
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