So you’ve started the keto diet. Things are going well for a few days but then suddenly it hits you: The keto flu. Oh yes, it’s a genuine phenomenon, and it usually occurs when you abruptly remove carbohydrates from your lifestyle.
The keto flu, sometimes known as the ‘carbohydrate flu’, is a natural process your body goes through when it shifts from using glucose as its main energy source to utilizing fat. (In this sense, it’s analogous to a drug withdrawal.) Per example, some individuals will tell you that the keto flu symptoms feel comparable to withdrawing from coffee (caffeine).
If you’ve just recently changed to ketogenic dieting and you’re feeling excessively sleepy, experiencing throbbing headaches, and possibly even irritable, do not stress. These keto flu symptoms are expected since your body is adapting to a new fuel source. Sugar is like a drug, and now you’ve given up that drug by choosing the keto diet. In fact, research studies reveal that sugar is as addictive as certain drugs, even cocaine.
While the keto flu might have you rethinking your choice to go low-carb, we assure you the keto flu is an ephemeral phenomenon and it will pass rather quickly. Even better, this article will give you some nifty tips to show you how to avoid the keto flu, as well as keto flu remedies.
For now, stick to your keto diet and don’t give into those cravings you may have for carbs. There are myriad remedies to help decrease the side effects of the keto flu. We’ll inform you precisely which keto flu remedies to incorporate immediately. But first, let’s take a glimpse at why the keto flu occurs when you ditch carbohydrates.
What Is Keto Flu? Is it a Bad Thing?
Naturally, you might worry that the keto flu is a bad thing to go through. In some ways, the keto flu is actually a good sign because it means your body is experiencing a withdrawal (which can be remedied quickly). But what is keto flu? Why does it happen?
Intrinsically, the human body uses glucose (carbohydrates) as its main energy source. However, when you change to a very-low-carbohydrate diet (AKA keto diet plan), your body transitions to using fat for energy rather than glucose. Fatty acids serve as your body’s primary source of long-term fuel reserves; in fact, in the olden days being fat was seen as a sign of longevity because it meant you had more energy to burn through before starving to death.
Unfortunately, when you consume carbohydrates daily your body barely taps into its fat stores for energy because it’s like a ‘backup’ form of fuel. Thus, by restricting carbohydrates you force your body to start burning fatty acids as fuel rather than carbohydrates; at such a point, you’ve gone into the metabolic state referred to as ketosis.
Ketosis is the natural metabolic process your body undergoes when it’s significantly depleted of carbohydrates and must rely on fatty acids for energy. As a byproduct of fatty acid metabolism, your body creates functional molecules known as ketone bodies/ketones.
Being in ketosis imparts many physiological benefits, particularly improved cognitive function, lasting energy, improved weight loss, and lower risk for type-2 diabetes. Moreover, ketone bodies are strong appetite reducers, meaning you experience less hunger throughout the day (even when calories are low).
That’s all fine and dandy, but to reap the benefits of ketosis your body needs to go through a slight withdrawal phase from carbohydrates (which is the keto flu).
Here’s a rundown of carbohydrate ‘withdrawal’ symptoms you might experience throughout the preliminary shift to the ketogenic diet:
● Cravings for sugar
● Inability to focus
● Highly irritable
● Stomach discomfort
● Muscular aches
● Trouble falling and staying asleep
When Will Keto Flu Start and Stop?
For the typical individual, keto flu symptoms will pass in about a week. Symptoms of the keto flu generally start in the first four days of beginning a keto diet. In rare cases, the keto flu might last upwards of one month; however, that’s an exception to the rule.
If your body is adapted to a diet with large amounts of refined sugar and processed foods, you’re at the most risk of the carbohydrate ‘withdrawal’ symptoms we touched on above.
If your pre-keto diet was fairly low in processed sugars and starches, you might just experience moderate keto flu symptoms or none at all.
Moreover, not everybody experiences the keto flu, even when changing from diet plans high in carbohydrates and sugar. Whether you experience the keto flu might depend on your genetics and metabolic tendencies. Some people are highly insulin sensitive, meaning they can drink about three cans of pop and feel fine. Others can barely lick a dot of sugar off their finger without getting a major blood sugar swing.
If you are experiencing the carbohydrate ‘withdrawal’ symptoms we’ve touched on, here’s the best keto flu remedies you can implement (as well as tips for how to avoid keto flu if you’re thinking about going low-carb).
The Best Keto Flu Remedies
# 1 Supplement with Electrolytes
By changing to a ketogenic diet, you’re getting rid the most dense natural foods for key electrolytes, particularly fruits and higher-carb veggies.
Not consuming sufficient electrolytes can result in tiredness, dehydration, lightheadedness, cramps, and cognitive decline. Put simply, having low electrolyte intake plays a huge part in experiencing keto flu.
One method to consume adequate electrolytes without harming your efforts to stay in ketosis is to supplement with an electrolyte solution daily. Search for an electrolyte supplement which contains at least calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium.
Intuitively, you’ll need to be cautious of typical sports beverages (like Gatorade) which is loaded with sugar (and not keto-friendly). The simplest option is to make your own homemade electrolyte solution with eight ounces of water, one teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt, and some fresh lemon juice.
# 2 Stay Hydrated
When experiencing keto flu symptoms, you absolutely need to drink as much fluid as possible and stay hydrated.
Remaining hydrated will tame any headaches you’re experiencing and enhance energy when you’re feeling lethargic. In general, you should consume at least one ounce of water per every kilogram you weigh. So if you weigh 60 kilograms (which is about 135 lbs), then you should consume 60 ounces of water daily.
Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your water intake; being dehydrated will almost always make you feel ill, regardless if you’re following a keto diet.
# 3 Take an Exogenous Ketone Supplement
Taking an exogenous ketone supplement, such as BHB salts, can likewise help in reducing keto flu signs. Exogenous ketones will elevate your energy throughout the day and blunt your cravings for sugar/carbs.
However, it should be made clear that taking exogenous ketones will not replace a proper keto diet. Exogenous ketones will merely assist your diet and help you remain in ketosis so long as you don’t consume too many carbohydrates.
# 4 Sip on Bone Broth
By the same token as tip #3, staying hydrated can be made quite a bit simpler by using bone broth. Instead of opting for the broth from carb-laden chicken noodle soup (or chicken stock from a can, which is usually loaded with additives like MSG), go for homemade bone broth. Drinking homemade bone broth can be a simple method to increase your water intake while also giving you crucial electrolytes.
# 5 Increase Your Fat intake
Are you experiencing crazy amounts of cravings for sugary foods? The solution is simple: increase your fat intake (check out these keto recipes)! Fat is the most satiating macronutrient and will help decrease your appetite.
Have an extra serving of MCT oil in your morning tea/coffee; nosh on an avocado as a ‘treat’; stock up on whole eggs and bacon for breakfast. Those will surely help you feel more full and remedy symptoms of the keto flu.
# 6 Assess Your Carbohydrate Intake
We just got done telling you to consume more fat, and now we’re suggesting you should consume more carbohydrates? Are we losing our minds, here? Don’t worry, there’s a reason for these suggestions.
There are a couple situations in which you should actually increase your carbohydrate intake while going low-carb.
If you’re exceptionally active and experiencing keto flu, including a couple of carbohydrates in your pre-workout meal (such as half of a banana) can remedy any symptoms you’re experiencing.
If the keto flu is striking you like a slap to the face and you had a carb-rich diet prior to going keto (specifically with processed carbohydrates and sugar), your best bet is to take the transition to low-carb dieting in a more methodical and slow fashion.
However, we advise trying tip #5 and increasing your fat intake first and foremost. If that doesn’t do the trick, then have a modest “transition stage” between your routine diet and the keto diet.
To do this efficiently, start by ditching all processed and starchy carbs from your diet. You can keep things like veggies and fruits, for now. You can then gradually phase out carbohydrates from fruits and starchy veggies every day by decreasing the quantity you’re consuming; ultimately, when your carbohydrate intake is less than about 30 grams per day your body reaches ketosis.
# 7 Exercise (Lightly)
Trust us, we understand that the last thing you’re considering when you are experiencing queasiness and muscular aches is opting for a marathon session at the gym. However, mild exercise, like a hot yoga session, will in fact assist ease muscular discomfort and stress while releasing feel-good endorphins to enhance your state of mind and mood.
# 8 Don’t Overlook Your Sleep
When you are going through keto flu, chances are you’re experiencing trouble nodding off to sleep at night, or have trouble staying asleep. If that’s the case, then give these remedies a shot:
● Try Epsom salt baths: A Epsom (magnesium) salt bath is a great way to relieve any aches you’re experiencing and help you unwind before bedtime.
● Drink chamomile tea: Chamomile herbal tea is superb for helping calm your brain and is useful for promoting more restful sleep.
● Turn off electronic devices: Looking at electronic devices, especially your phone, in the hour leading up to bedtime can disrupt your circadian rhythms due to the lighting. In general, it’s best to turn off your electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed to let your body prepare for a night of rest.
Remember: The Keto Flu is Temporary!
While symptoms of the keto flu might be a drawback to beginning the ketogenic diet, they’re pretty much the only negative about going low-carb. When your body adapts to the keto lifestyle, you’ll be astonished at the seemingly infinite amount of energy you have each day. (Not to mention the enhanced weight loss, cognitive function, and well-being you experience.) The keto flu is simply a bump in the road on your keto journey; use the tips from this article to avoid the keto flu or push through it quickly if you’re already experiencing it.
Still contemplating if the keto diet is right for you? Check out these ketogenic diet reviews to see other people’s experience with it.