Electrolytes and Ketosis

Ketosis’ Side Effects & its Causes

Ketosis has a couple of side effects that can be easily mitigated. If you’ve ever heard of the “keto flu”, that is the laundry list of possible side effects that reads very much like the same side effects of every medication ever advertised on television. If you haven’t heard of the “keto flu”, it’s usually referring to the week or so when someone enters ketosis for the first time or after carb binging for a bit then getting back on track where one feels the side effects of their system switching over to the keto engine. The side effects can include:

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  • Muscle cramps (charlie horses) or muscle twitching
  • Nausea/vomitting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Sleeplessness

It sounds terrifying, but I haven’t personally spoken to anyone who regretting trying keto because of this so-called flu. I, personally, would prefer to call it the “keto hangover” because that’s what it feels like to me. And I’m not sure anyone ever gave up on drinking because of the threat of a hangover, so don’t let this threat scare you away.

How to Avoid the Side Effects

Rather than shy away from keto, why not just prevent the side effects? Here’s the list of side effects again, but with prevention methods.

Muscle cramps or muscle twitching Drink extra water and add electrolytes
Nausea/vomiting Drink extra water and/or slowly reduce carb intake rather than suddenly reducing carbs
Dizziness Drink extra water and add electrolytes
Fatigue Drink extra water and add electrolytes. Eat extra food during transition.
Headaches Drink extra water and add electrolytes
Constipation Drink extra water and add electrolytes. Add extra fiber to your diet. Add extra magnesium.
Sleeplessness Eat tryptophan rich foods (eggs, turkey, etc)
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I’m sure you’ve spotted the common theme – drink extra water and add some electrolytes. This will make your transition much more comfortable.

For more information on side effects, check out this blog post: https://www.kissmyketo.com/blogs/health/10-most-common-ketosis-side-effects

What are Electrolytes?

You’ve likely heard about replenishing electrolytes in either a Gatorade commercial or in a hospital setting. Electrolytes are depleted when we get dehydrated, usually through excess exertion or illness. These molecules are essential for our bodily functions so our bodies give us plenty of signals when our supply is getting low. Muscle cramps or twitches are usually my first sign. I try to catch and remedy it at the twitching stage by drinking some electrolytes.

Electrolytes are compounds which when dissolved into water create a conducting solution that, when an electric potential is applied, produces an electrical current. When an electrolyte dissolves into water, it separates into cations and anions (together referred to as ions) which sort themselves out such that electricity travels through the fluid from the positive side to the negative side. This is essentially how batteries work and how your cells/body functions in everything it does. For example, if you want to contract a muscle, those ions transmit the electricity needed to contract your muscle. (Yu-Yahiro JA, ” Electrolytes and their relationship to normal and abnormal muscle function“, Orthop Nurs. 1994 Sept-Oct)

Why does ketosis affect electrolyte levels?

When you reduce the number of carbohydrates you eat, you reduce the amount of water that the body holds. A carbohydrate molecule is going to bind to four water molecules which are bonded to electrolytes. A fat molecule binds to one water molecule bound with electolytes. This depletion of carbohydrates accounts for the fast weight loss when you begin a ketogenic diet. The body releases a lot of water because there are no carbohydrate molecules to attach too, so the kidneys excrete the water and the electrolytes that are bonded to it. Therefore, less water molecules = lower electrolyte levels.  

How to elevate your electrolyte levels

Electrolytes are also referred to as “salts”. The common minerals that will create a conductive solution are sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and chloride. You can add these minerals to your body by consuming them.

Food

Keto-friendly foods that are high in electrolyte compounds (i.e. the minerals listed above) include eggs, nuts, avocados, tomatoes, kale, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.. These are just a few of your choices for eating electrolytes. That daily lunch salad will help you out a bunch!

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Feel free to add salt to your food as well. Pink Himalayan salt has the additional benefit of trace minerals of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as opposed to regular table salt which is pure sodium chloride.

Flavored Beverages

You could consider adding an electrolyte beverage. You do have to watch for sugary beverages though. Don’t expect to stay in ketosis if you have a regular Gatorade. There are many electrolyte powder mixes on the market that are sugar-free. We only tried two and like them both.

It really comes down to what you want to drink. What’s nice it that it gives you a flavored beverage after giving up your sodas and juices, so test a few out until you find what you like. If you decide to go with Kiss My Keto, don’t forget your promo code (kellykore) for 10% off!

Interestingly, the World Health Organization has a published recipe for Oral Rehydration Therapy (aka electrolytes). Keep in mind this is designed for doctors to be using on patients in places where cholera and other diseases are killing people by dehydration. But if you want to follow their formula, here it is for 1 liter of water. I’d recommend skipping the glucose for keto-purposes (but don’t use my recommendation if you are sick or severely dehydrated).

  • 2.6 g of sodium
  • 1.5 g of potassium chloride
  • 2.9 g of sodium citrate
  • 13.5 g of anhydrous glucose
  • 2.9 g of dihydrate

Supplements

Additionally, you can also add some supplements in pill form to your regimen. I take a potassium supplement in the morning and evening (3mg pills) and a magnesium supplement before bed (250mg).

Thanks for reading! Now I’m thirsty…

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