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For fast fat loss, the keto diet is hard to beat. Cutting your carb intake down to a paltry 20-30 grams per day forces your body to use more fat for fuel. Eating very few carbs changes how your body makes and uses energy and it is those changes that turn you into a fat burning machine. Once you enter ketosis, your body’s fat burning mechanisms are turned up to the max and, as a result, you’ll lose weight faster than you ever thought possible. Cool, right?!
Unfortunately, those changes can initially trigger something called the keto flu. However, the good news is that you can fix many of these problems with a keto electrolyte drink.
Symptoms of the keto flu include:
- Muscle cramps
- Feeling shaky
- Difficulty concentrating
Not every keto dieter gets all of these keto flu symptoms, and the severity varies from person to person. However, it’s a safe bet that at least a few of these things will happen to you. The most likely cause of many of them is an electrolyte imbalance.
In this article, we lift the lid on electrolytes so that, with the help of a keto flu drink, you can many of these symptoms.
What Are Electrolytes?
In the keto diet, you consume lots of dietary fats, moderate amounts of protein, and minimal amounts of carbs. These three food groups are the macronutrients. Macro means big. The macros provide your body with calories.
However, you cannot live by macros alone. You also need vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are collectively called the micronutrients, and micro means small. While you only need minute quantities of vitamins and minerals, they are still essential for your wellbeing.
The micronutrients act like sparkplugs and keep all of the essential reactions in your body happening. A lack of vitamins or minerals will affect how your body works and could even lead to illness. After all, as most people know, vitamin C is vital for a properly-functioning immune system, and calcium keeps your bones and teeth healthy. All of the other micronutrients have equally important roles to play.
Electrolytes are minerals. They have some particular and essential functions including:
- Regulation of heartbeat
- Muscle contractions
- Control of body temperature
- Bladder control
- Regulation of hydration
- Energy production
- Proper function of the nervous system
Given that electrolytes are essential for regulating your heartbeat, it’s clear that these minerals are very, VERY important. After all, your heart is the most vital muscle in your body.
Your body needs a wide range of minerals to function correctly, but the electrolytes are a relatively small group of substances. The electrolytes are:
Why Do You Lose Electrolytes On A Keto Diet?
Many of the symptoms of keto flu are directly attributable to an electrolyte imbalance. What causes this imbalance? Good question!
During the keto diet, you purposely reduce your carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day. With no dietary carbs to speak of, your body gets busy using your onboard supplies of carbs – muscle and liver glycogen. Glycogen is glucose bound to water, and every gram of glucose is linked to 3-4 grams of water. As your body uses your glycogen, all of this water is released and excreted via the urinary system. In short, you pee a lot more than usual.
All this extra peeing flushes away a large proportion of your electrolytes and, as a result, an electrolyte imbalance is created. Changes in your diet may also mean that many of these electrolytes are not replaced. For example, if you cut down on processed foods, you won’t consume as much sodium as normal. Cutting high-carb bananas from your diet means you won’t get as much potassium as usual. This exacerbates your electrolyte imbalance.
You may inadvertently make the situation even worse by following some common keto-flu advice – drink more water. Increasing your water intake to excess will further dilute your remaining electrolytes. While you DO need plenty of water, you also need to replace those lost electrolytes. It’s time to break out the keto Gatorade – but more on that later.
Signs And Symptoms That You Have An Electrolyte Imbalance
So, how do you know you have an electrolyte imbalance? The chances are that, if you are on a keto diet, it’s happened already! But, for clarification, here is a list of the signs and symptoms of this common keto diet problem.
Muscle cramps – for your muscles to contract and relax properly, your body needs adequate amounts of sodium and potassium. If this balance isn’t quite right, you are much more likely to suffer from cramps. Cramps occur when your muscles contract involuntarily and won’t relax. Cramps can be excruciating. Many keto diets report cramps, often at night.
Muscle tremors and spasms – tremors and spasms are another sign that you have an electrolyte imbalance that is affecting your nerves and muscles. You may notice your hands are more shaky than usual, or that a muscle or muscles seem to jump involuntarily.
Headaches and migraines – electrolytes regulate fluid levels within your cells and organs. Fluid imbalances can affect many bodily functions, including those of your brain. Low levels of electrolytes can cause headaches and migraines in those that are susceptible to these problems.
Heart palpitations and racing or irregular heartbeat – in the same way that the electrolytes are vital for muscle contractions, they also regulate your heartbeat too. An electrolyte imbalance may noticeably affect your heart rate.
Changes in digestion – constipation, bloating, and diarrhea are common keto symptoms that are often the result of electrolyte imbalances. Potassium, for example, helps relax your gastrointestinal tract to prevent constipation. If you have an upset stomach, the cause is likely to be an electrolyte imbalance.
While some of these problems sound serious, and they are undeniably unpleasant, they are also easy and quick to fix. All you need to do is rebalance your electrolyte levels so that your body has all the minerals it needs to function correctly.
How To Balance Your Electrolytes On The Ketogenic Diet
As you now know, there are five essential minerals that are collectively called the electrolytes. Those minerals are chlorine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. While your body will excrete your supplies of these minerals as it dumps your glycogen stores, you can replace them by making sure you include certain foods in your ketogenic diet.
Chlorine – most dietary chlorine comes in the form of chloride. You need chloride for forming digestive juices in the stomach and achieving the correct balance of fluids in your body. You don’t need a lot of chlorine, and it’s usually found in salty foods. However, good sources of this mineral include tomatoes, celery, olives, lettuce, and seaweed. It’s also abundant in meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy. You can also obtain chlorine from foods that contain salt or sodium. The sodium in food is usually sodium chloride.
Calcium – this mineral is vital for muscle and heart contractions. In fact, it’s so crucial that if you don’t eat enough calcium, your body will “borrow” what it needs from your bones. That’s why a low calcium diet is bad for your skeleton. While you won’t run out of calcium, it is important you consume enough so that your bones won’t have to pay for your shortfall.
Calcium-rich foods include dairy foods, leafy greens, broccoli, fish, and fortified non-dairy unsweetened milks such as almond and coconut milk. If you use a calcium supplement, make sure to also consume vitamin D to ensure proper absorption.
Magnesium – like calcium, magnesium is vital for bone health. It also helps to maintain a healthy immune system, regulate your heart rate, and for proper nerve and muscle function. Magnesium also plays a crucial role in the health and function of your digestive system.
Good dietary sources of magnesium include dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa solids, low sugar), salmon, leafy green vegetables, and nuts.
Potassium – responsible for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, regulating heart rate, and ensuring proper fluid balance, potassium also plays a role in nerve and muscle function. Good dietary sources include salmon, nuts, avocados, leafy green veggies, and mushrooms. Beware of eating too many potassium-rich foods AND using a potassium supplement. An excess of dietary potassium can be toxic.
Bananas and other fruits are high in potassium, but they are also high in sugar. This means that they are off the menu when you are on a keto diet.
Sodium – this is one of the most abundant dietary minerals. Sodium is important for fluid balance and for controlling the other electrolytes. Sodium is also crucial for muscle and nerve function. Sodium, in the form of salt, is added to almost all processed foods, and many people use it in cooking and as a seasoning. Getting enough sodium should be pretty easy!
The most practical way to make sure you are getting enough is to sprinkle some sea salt on your main meals. Why sea salt? It contains additional minerals, such as iodine, that are also good for your health.
While it’s important you eat a wide range of mineral-rich, keto-friendly foods to restore your electrolyte balance, there is another option: ketoade. Ketoade isn’t a commercial product. Instead, it’s a homemade electrolyte keto drink you can make yourself.
Homemade Electrolyte Keto Drink
You can buy a sugar-free electrolyte drink, and many sports drinks meet these criteria, but it’s much cheaper and very easy to make your own. Making and drinking your homemade ketoade is an excellent way to restore electrolyte balance without having to pay a whole lot of attention to exactly what you eat.
Whether you are in keto induction or have been following the keto diet for a while now, making and drinking homemade ketoade is a very good idea.
Here is a keto electrolyte drink recipe to try for yourself. It makes six servings, and each one contains only 1.7 grams of carbs and six calories.
- 5 cups water or herbal tea of choice. You can also use coconut water
- ½ cup lemon or lime juice
- ½ teaspoon potassium chloride (or use you can use lite salt or cream of tartar)
- ¼ teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
- 2 tablespoons Natural Calm magnesium supplement
- ¼ cup powdered Erythritol or Swerve (calorie-free sugar alcohol)
Drink one serving per day with meals.
Alternatively, you could make bone broth. This IS more labor intensive, but it’s also a viable option for getting more electrolytes into your diet. It’s also a good source of protein and collagen. You can drink it, or because it’s definitely an acquired taste, you may prefer to use it as a stock in stews or soups, or for making keto-friendly sauces and gravy.
To make a simple bone broth, you’ll need:
- 2-3 pounds of bones. We use pigs’ trotters, but oxtail, chicken carcasses, lamb shanks, or any other bones will work too. Leftovers work great.
- 10 grams gelatin
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3-4 celery sticks, washed
- 3- carrots, washed
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
Put all the ingredients in a slow cooker and then cover with water, so your crock pot is no more than ¾ full. Cook on low for 12-24 hours. Remove the bones, drain the remaining liquid, and freeze for later use. Don’t discard the bones or any remaining meat – dogs love them! Mash the softened bones to make a nutrient-rich paste and add it to your dog’s meals. Use the meat as a healthy treat – for your dog, not for you!
What About Drinking Water On The Keto Diet?
So, because drinking too much water on the keto diet can flush electrolytes out of your body, does that mean you should cut down on your intake? Absolutely not! Even in ketosis, your body needs an abundant supply of water. Too little water will undoubtedly exacerbate many of the symptoms of keto flu. In addition, dehydration is terrible for all aspects of your health.
However, it is essential that you don’t fall into the trap of hyper-hydration. By that we mean you don’t need to drink gallons of water. Some nutritional experts suggest you drink water from dawn ’till dusk, but that’s not good advice. Drinking water non-stop will further disrupt your electrolyte balance.
Instead, make sure you consume around 64 fluid ounces of water per day, and also use your thirst to guide you. If you feel thirsty, drink a little more. But, if your pee is crystal clear and you aren’t even slightly thirsty, there is no need to force even more water into your body. Remember, the more you pee, the more minerals you expel from your body, and you need those minerals.
Remember too that vegetables, soup, and low-sugar fruits contain water, and as well as being hydrating, they also contain the very electrolytes you need to keep in balance. Beware of caffeine and alcohol as both are diuretics which mean they increase your urine output.
Electrolytes are your friends! Your body needs them to function correctly. You’ll soon notice if your electrolytes are unbalanced, but you’ll start to feel better when you get everything back on an even keel. Remember though, an electrolyte imbalance is brought on by your change in diet. It’s nothing to worry about (unless you ignore it, of course!) and it’s also easy to fix.
Use the information in this guide to ensure you have all the minerals you need in the proper proportions. Eat plenty of vegetables and consider supplementing your keto diet with a homemade electrolyte keto drink. Alternatively, make up a batch of bone broth or just buy one of the several keto electrolyte drinks now available.
Keto flu is all-but unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you cannot significantly reduce its severity and its duration. Paying attention to your electrolyte balance could mean that your keto flu symptoms hardly even register on your radar.