In the Keto journey, the biggest obstacle between you and your goal weight is the much-feared Keto flu. Two to seven days into the diet you will experience fatigue, dizziness, constipation and headaches. Your brain will feel foggy and you will have difficulty concentrating on minor tasks. If you can feel these symptoms, do not panic and assume you are doing something wrong – it actually probably means you’re doing it right.
The Keto flu is the body’s natural reaction to the Keto diet, an extremely popular diet program that involves cutting out carbs from your daily food intake and adding fat. The flu can be looked at as your body retaliating against the sudden carb roll back. To help you understand this process better, here are the answers to some crucial questions:
What causes the Keto flu?
No matter which part of the world you live in, it is very likely that carbohydrates are a very a crucial part of your diet in the form of bread, potatoes, rice, wheat, beans etc. Basically carbs have been your body’s fuel your entire life, and you are suddenly changing that by cutting them out.
Your body usually relies on carbs for energy, but in the absence or low availability of carbs, it shifts to its second favourite source – fats! This is the entire premise of the Keto diet.
So, the fact that you are experiencing the Keto flu actually means your body is now slowly adapting to burning fats as its primary source of energy. Since this is a huge metabolic change, it starts to show ‘withdrawal’ symptoms and the result is fever.
When will it end?
The Keto flu typically lasts a few days to a couple of weeks, this may vary depending on your genetic make up as well as how metabolically flexible you are. If your diet is usually carb-rich, featuring rice, bread frequently – chances are you will take longer to adjust to the diet. On the other hand, if your diet has always been more heavy on lean meats, veggies, eggs, you will probably suffer less!
How can I cure it?
First things first, do not give up on your diet! Your body is testing how long you can resist. Think about how chain smokers react when they are off cigarettes, think of how you would react if you suddenly had no access to the internet? Chaos. That’s exactly how your body feels, but like everything else, this too shall pass.
Here are some tips for making the transition easier..
1) Hydration: It is important to keep drinking water, especially when you are kicking off the Keto diet. Once you stop eating carbs, the insulin levels in your body will drop drastically. As the insulin levels drop, your body will automatically flush out sodium and water.
While there are different inputs on how much water needs to be consumed on a daily basis, health officials recommend about 2 litres at least. You may also add a pinch of salt to make up for the lost sodium. It’s the lack of water that usually causes headaches, dizziness, nausea and cramping, so keeping the hydration levels up will definitely make you feel better.
2) Eat More Fats: This is an area most dieters usually pay slightly less attention to. While you are focusing too much on eliminating the carbohydrates in your diet, do not forget that the other crucial part of the Keto diet is to eat more fat. There are a number of ketogenic calculators available on the internet, use these to carefully estimate the amount of fat you need to consume. Remember with a low carbohydrate diet in place, fats are now your main source of energy and not consuming enough will leave you weak and demotivated.
3) Replenish Your Electrolytes: While your body is no longer being supplied with carbs, little do you know it is also missing out on some important minerals and electrolytes that are found in starchy foods. Electrolytes, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, are important for muscle movement, cardiovascular activity and a number of other tasks within the body.
It is important to maintain electrolyte levels during the diet as deficiency in these nutrients can trigger some of the major Keto flu symptoms including dizziness, irritability, lack of concentration, confusion and most importantly – fatigue.
You can replenish electrolytes while continuing to be in ketosis by choosing non-sweet, Keto friendly supplements.
4) Exercise and Rest: If you are already experiencing Keto flu symptoms, talking a brisk walk may sound crazy to you right now. However, like everything else, stress plays an important part in managing your diet. A walk, or a few stretches or even mediating for a couple of minutes keep you refreshed and motivated. Likewise, ensure you get a good night’s sleep as well. If the flu symptoms keep you from getting sleep, try drinking a class of warm milk before bedtime.
Supplements: Even though you are free to eat a healthy amount of fat during the Keto diet, you may still not be able to get the right kind of nutrition from food intake. Enter supplements. Apart from the electrolyte supplements mentioned in the above section, fish oil, exogenous ketones and MCT oil supplements, fiber as well as caffeine can better equip you to handle the Keto diet and help you power through the Keto flu.
MCT oil is a pure fat source, and you can consume it without worrying about the number of carbs or proteins you may also be consuming. It is rich in triglycerides and enters the blood stream quickly. Fish oil is also rich in a different class of triglycerides and can help you consume more fat.
Caffeine is a work out friendly supplement and will not only make you feel less sluggish but also help burn fat quicker if consumed before your workouts. Lastly, if vegetable make you belch slightly and broccoli and cauliflower are not really your best friends then a fiber supplement is necessary to keep you full and your gut healthy.
Exogenous ketones are ketones that are ingested via a nutritional supplement. These ketones help to induce ketosis and are very helpful during the Keto Flu. Do not confuse supplements with raspberry ketones with exogenous ketones, as they are not related at all. The most common, and reportedly effective ketones for the keto diet are known as BHB.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Keto Flu:
- How long can the Keto flu last?
- How bad can ketogenic flu symptoms get?
- Will I get constipated?
- What kind of foods will alleviate my ketogenic flu symptoms?
- Can I work out intensely during the Keto flu?
- Is it possible for vegetarians to do the Keto diet?
- Is the Keto diet safe for everyone?
In some cases, the flu has been known to last for more than a month – however this is rare. The same plan applies here as well, once you power through the flu, you will notice ketosis provides enough energy for you to actively engage in day to day activities. Some dieters have even reported better concentration levels and a healthy reduction in appetite.
It is a good idea to start the diet during a weekend or a vacation so that you can adapt to the new settings in the comfort of your home. Symptoms should not be reaching an extreme level, if they do, you must consult a doctor.
Many dieters complain of constipation during the Keto diet and especially during the Keto flu phase. Plenty of water, accompanied with a fibrous diet usually takes care of the situation.
Avocados and spinach are rich in potassium, while broccoli is known to be a great source of fiber. Caffeine will keep your spirits up. Many dieters report that a health helping of bone broth, which is rich in electrolytes, minerals and collagen, is extremely useful at keeping ketogenic flu symptoms at bay.
It will be difficult for you to work out intensely while you are still under the Keto flu, so pick a light work out such as a brisk walk, yoga, stretches. Once you think you are healthy and your transition to ketosis has begun you can experiment with more intense workouts including strength training, pilates and Callisthenics.
The Keto diet can be difficult to maintain if you’re a vegetarian, but thousands of people currently do it – and love it! However, as a vegetarian, you need to make absolutely certain to pre-plan your meals, cook ahead and be extra tough when it comes to cravings!
As a vegetarian, it can be a bit more difficult to incorporate an adequate amount of protein into your diet, which can certainly make the Keto flu more intense. However, there are plenty of vegetarian Keto dieters you will find on the internet who have made the transition seamlessly, and have dished out some incredible recipes.
If you do not consume eggs, you may want to consider a protein shake to help with the Keto flu symptoms, especially if you intend to work out.
If you are on heavy medication for a chronic illness, you may want to consult a nutritionist before you start with the Keto diet because the regimen is known to interfere with some medications. Those who suffer from conditions including metabolic diseases, gall bladder disease, kidney stones, anorexia, among others may want to again, consult their doctor to find out more.
Do you have any suggestions for beating the Keto flu? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments! 🙂