Alright – I’m not going to mince words: the keto flu SUCKS!
What’s the keto flu? It’s generally defined as a group of unpleasant symptoms such as body aches, lethargy, disassociation, foggy-headedness, and headaches.
Symptoms of the Keto Flu can differ from person to person, but if you’re suffering from any of the aforementioned unpleasantries when first starting the Keto Diet, you’re probably an unfortunate victim.
A bit of good news in all this doom and gloom, though: not everyone “catches” the keto flu.
Why’s that? What causes the Keto Flu? In all my infinite wisdom I don’t know, and as of today, neither do scientists.
We know for sure the Keto Flu isn’t the traditional flu in as far as being an infectious disease, but beyond that, the science is a pretty light…
Luckily, practitioners of the Keto Diet have taken it upon themselves to play guinea pig in an effort to find a cure – or cures – to this sickly side-effect.
As a sufferer of the Keto Flu myself, I have done plenty of research and testing on successful ways to remedy the Keto Flu for ME. I’ve been off and on the Keto Diet a dozen or so times over the last 7 years and sometimes I’m afflicted with the Keto Flu when starting up again – but sometimes not!
That’s the bizarre thing about the Keto Flu: it seems to be a certain set of circumstances that brings about these wicked symptoms when someone is first getting into ketosis, usually somewhere within the first 3rd, 4th, or 5th day, when your body is switching over from glucose to ketones for energy.
The internet is littered with information and misinformation about how to avoid or remedy the Keto Flu.
I’ve personally sifted through most of this and below is what I’ve found to consistently work the best for me. This is information I’ve gathered from websites, forums, books, and through good, old-fashioned trial and error. Some of these solutions may or may not work for you, depending on what is causing your particular symptoms.
Let’s get started…
Hydration is a weird thing. For the longest time, I figured as long as I was drinking water, I would stay hydrated. I learned from bodybuilders and wrestlers that drinking too much water can actually trigger a urination response and ultimately cause dehydration (imagine that!).
Your body’s cells require a specific balance of water to electrolytes (calcium, potassium, and sodium). Too much or too little of either will result in dehydration.
You already know that sailors lost at sea cannot drink sea water to survive. It’s poisonous to humans. Human kidneys cannot produce urine that is less salty than water. In order to get rid of excess salt, your kidneys need more water. Without more water, you will die of dehydration.
Conversely, low electrolytes can cause severe health complications that are none too good for your health. These complications may include abnormal heart rhythm, muscle fiber deterioration, muscle weakness, fatigue, fatigue, headache, irritability, weakness or spasms in the muscles and seizures. In severe cases, unconsciousness or coma may occur.
When you’re in ketosis, you will naturally excrete more electrolytes than you normally would on most other diets. This is both a positive and negative of the diet. Much of the immediate weight loss seen in the early days of the diet can be credited to the initial water “runoff” from your body. Many people report looking leaner and trimmer while feeling less bloated.
Over a couple days, this effect can leave you dehydrated resulting in the symptoms synonymous with the keto flu.
To remedy this, or avoid it all together, make sure to drink plenty of water. I’m talking a LOT more water. Make sure to get your eight glasses per day PLUS eight more.
Additionally, make sure you’re getting enough salt (remember, electrolytes) to go along with your water. Because you’re shedding electrolytes quickly while on the keto diet, it’s OK, and often recommended, to increase salt in foods and/or drinks you consume. I am a HUGE fan of the sugar-free Poweaids sold at most gas stations and grocery stores. They don’t contain the fattening sugars of the regular kind but do have the great addition of potassium and sodium (salt) in a ratio perfect to keep you hydrated. This is why Powerade and Gatorade are so popular amongst hard working athletes.
Your results may vary so play around with this.
If your Keto Flu is really bad, you can take it a step further and pick up a Pedialyte. These are more expensive than Poweraid but have seemed to work the best for me. I used them in college for hangovers and they are the best thing I’ve found (short of IV’s) to get me hydrated FAST!
Some sites and practitioners recommend drinking bone broth and/or bullion cubes for hydration. To me, these don’t have the adequate levels of potassium and sodium that I need. They’ve never worked quite as well as the Poweraide or Pedialyte route.
Good sleep habits are an absolute must for anyone looking to achieve a healthy lifestyle, whether they’re following the keto diet or not. Unless you’re working multiple jobs or dealing with a newborn, I have no sympathy for your poor sleep habits. Poor sleep habits are a form of laziness. Some people are literally too lazy to get proper sleep!
Modern science seems to agree that the proper amount of sleep a person needs to get each night differs from individual to individual. Some individuals work fine on only 6 hours of sleep while others will need 8. There’s no defined rule, however, you shouldn’t be getting anything less than 5. Prolonged lack of sleep is going to take a serious toll on your weightloss and fitness goals.
Lack of sleep fatigues the mind making food cravings worse but can also dehydrate you making your keto flu symptoms worse. It also wrecks havoc on your immune system, making you susceptible to illness – like the real flu.
I’ve noticed that as long as I get 6-7 hours of sleep on the Keto Diet, it helps with my Keto Flu symptoms. It’s interesting to note that I seem to require LESS sleep while on the Keto Diet than when I’m off the diet. I also feel like I sleep better on the Keto Diet.
More Fat, Preferably MCT
The Ketogenic is a low-carb/high-fat diet after all! Take away carbs and you absolutely MUST consume enough fat for your body to convert into ketone bodies. Ketones are what your body runs on while in ketosis. Without ketones, your body and mental state is going to go into the gutter fast. Pure and simple: your body either needs glucose or ketones to operate properly. If you have a shortage of either of these, your body is going to let you know in a variety of ways, none of them pleasant.
If you’re feeling cruddy, you can always try eating an avocado slice or drinking a coffee with butter. Really, anything with fat.
A problem with eating fat found in foods is that most are going to be slow to convert to ketones. If you’re feeling crappy from the keto flu, your body might be in serious shortage of ketones so you’ll want something to act fast.
This is why MCT is the preferred fat for ketone delivery into your body! MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) are triglycerides whose fatty acids have an aliphatic tail of 6–12 carbon atoms.
There are different forms of MCT strains and each strain will have different lengths of carbon tails (often identified as simply C6, C8, C10, C12), depending on where the MCT is sourced from.
The shorter the carbon tail, the quicker your body is able to “unlock” its energy. Coconut oil is a popular source of MCT, however, the MCT derived from coconut oil typically has longer carbon tails, and this isn’t always the best source for quick energy. In fact, I’ve read several accounts that coconut oil’s MCT oil yield shouldn’t even be considered an MCT because it’s processed by your liver, while true MCT oils are not. This extra stop at your liver means it takes longer until your body can convert the MCT into energy.
A quick Google search of “C6 MCT Oil” will produce plenty of results for various online retailers selling fast energy MCT. Look at the reviews before buying to make sure what you’re purchasing is legit.
Increasing your carbs while following the Keto Diet might seem counterintuitive but depending on just how bad your Keto Flu symptoms are, adding additional carbohydrates while your body adapts to the new diet can help mitigate some of the worst flu effects.
When I say “add carbs,” I’m certainly not suggesting you eat a pasta dinner at Noodles & Co. but rather you set a daily goal on how many carbs you’re aiming to hit to keep yourself in ketosis, then add 10g-20g per day accordingly, depending on how your body feels.
Keto sticks are a surefire way to determine whether or not your body is in ketosis, so you can always adjust your carb-load for a day or two, then test to see where your ketosis level sits. As long as you’re in ketosis, your body is efficiently burning fat for fuel.
Everyone’s daily allowance of carbohydrates will differ based on age, gender, heights, weight, activity level, and so much more. What works for me won’t always for you, or the next person.
I usually feel best at around 20g-30g carbohydrates per day. Most of these carbohydrates come from vegetable sources. But, I’ve hit up to 50g of carbohydrate in a day and still maintained ketosis!
Maintain Proper Vitamin Levels
As with any diet, it’s possible to become deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients. If you’re eating a balanced Ketogenic Diet you should receive adequate nutrition, but here are common vitamin deficiencies to be aware of:
Vitamin B – specifically biotin and pantothenic acid. These are water soluble which means if they’re not used, you will urinate them out. Thus, they must be replenished daily.
Vitamin K – commonly found in leafy green vegetables like Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine, and green leaf lettuce. Another reason not to neglect your vegetables!!
Vitamin D – No doubt you’ve heard that everyone and their grandma is deficient in Vitamin D. If you’re not deficient in Vitamin D, congratulations you missed out on 2017’s hottest fad. Now, reports show that folks with more belly fat are at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
These are just a few of the most common vitamin deficiencies you could be at risk at while following a ketogenic diet. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start!
Again, if you’re diligent about including leafy green vegetables into your diet, you should get sufficient amounts of these vitamins and have little to worry about.
Hopefully, these tips can help you mitigate, or even avoid, the keto flu on your own ketogenic journey.
Every single time I’ve suffered, I’ve fixed it by using one of the solutions I’ve listed above. EZ-PZ! So, hopefully, the keto flu doesn’t dissuade you from giving the ketogenic diet a shot!
A few days of suffering is worth a lifetime of health!
(If you’re ready to try the Keto Diet for yourself, you’ll want to start by downloading your FREE copy of The Keto Diet QuickStart Guide here!)