One of the most talked-about side effects of going keto is the "keto flu". No, we're not discussing an actual contagious illness -- keto flu isn't really an illness at all. It's the buzzword we use to describe the set of temporary side-effects that some dieters experience when they initially go Keto.
Keto flu usually hits early on, in the first two weeks of the ketogenic diet, and generally doesn't last much longer than that. It's also entirely avoidable with some basic self-care, which we'll detail below.
Keto Flu Symptoms
The body isn't a singular unit. Multiple systems are constantly working together to keep us in balance and functioning. A big change, like cutting carbs, has an effect on all the body's systems. Reduced insulin, changes in fluid and electrolyte levels, and increased fat metabolism all take place when you start losing weight with Keto. These changes can lead to the experience we refer to as keto flu.
Symptoms of keto flu include: fatigue and irritability, headache, muscle cramping and weakness, dizziness, insomnia, constipation, nausea, and diarrhea. Many people feel under the weather when starting a diet or making a significant adjustment to their normal eating. In Keto, the metabolic processes of the body are transforming from carb-burning to fat-burning, so all systems have to change gears. It's helpful to think of them as "growing pains" as the body restores its balance and adapts to newer, healthier habits.
How to avoid the Keto Flu
Growing pains are a common experience in Keto. But there's good news: with a little vigilance, we can bypass keto flu altogether and still get Keto's full weight loss benefits.
Electrolytes -- A lack of electrolytes is the number one cause of keto flu. These extremely important minerals keep muscles and brain functioning optimally, and it can disrupt everything if you're not getting enough. Sodium and potassium are especially important. It might seem counterintuitive to other diet advice, but you should increase your sodium intake while on Keto. Eat potassium-rich foods, and get other electrolytes through supplements.
Hydrate -- Staying hydrated is a holy tenet we cannot emphasize enough. Getting enough water must go hand-in-hand with getting enough electrolytes, since both are lost during initial ketosis. One of the side-effects of Keto is increased urination, so it's important to replenish those fluids. Drink at least 2.5 litres of water daily.
Consume healthy fats -- You could be hurting for carbohydrates, literally. Studies have shown that carbohydrates (sugars) are highly addictive, and when you cut them, you can go into uncomfortable withdrawals -- i.e. keto flu symptoms. Healthy fats can come from avocados, nuts, various seeds, good quality olive and coconut oils. They'll fill you up, provide energy, and boost your mood, so there will be no need to resort to carbs.
Eat more -- Eat more, in general. Weight loss involves decreasing caloric intake. But don't start tracking calories just yet. At least in the first two weeks, it's very important to stay full and energized. Weakness, diziness, and fatigue can be overcome if you stay full. Listen to your hunger, and respond kindly with keto-friendly foods.