Once your body switches over into a state of ketosis, you’ll be burning through your stored fat faster than you ever thought possible. All of that stubborn thigh, butt, and belly weight is going to disappear!
Before you get to the point where your body enters full ketosis, however, you should expect a few bumps along the way – one of them is the keto flu.
Keep reading to learn more about what the keto flu is, what symptoms you should expect, and how you can deal with it to minimize your discomfort.
What Exactly Is the Keto Flu?
The keto flu is not actually the flu – the ketogenic diet will not make you sick. The term “keto flu” is simply used to describe the set of symptoms that sometimes occur as a side effect of changing your diet from being heavy in carbohydrates to being loaded with fats.
The keto flu gets its name because the symptoms are similar to flu symptoms. Here is a list of some of the symptoms you may experience with the keto flu:
• Muscle cramps
• Sore muscles
• Poor concentration
• Sugar cravings
• Stomach pain
Before you start the ketogenic diet, your body is adapted to breaking down carbohydrates into glucose and using that glucose as a readily available source of energy. When you lower your glucose intake and start prioritizing fat, your insulin levels are going to drop and, when they get low enough, your liver will start converting fatty acids into ketones to be used as energy.
While low insulin levels are a good thing in the process of ketosis, it can produce some unpleasant side effects like the ones listed above. As your insulin levels drop, your body starts excreting more sodium through your urine which, in addition to making you urinate more frequently, can contribute to dehydration which may trigger or worsen the symptoms on this list. Over time, however, your body will adapt and you’ll feel better than you ever have.
So, how long can you expect these symptoms to last?
Most people find that symptoms of the keto flu last for 5 to 7 days, though it can sometimes be longer if you aren’t fully committed to your macronutrient ratio. The sooner you can get your body into full ketosis, the sooner you’ll be relieved of these symptoms.
How Do I Prevent or Reduce My Symptoms?
While you may not be able to completely prevent symptoms of keto flu, there are some steps you can take as you enter ketosis to mitigate the negative side effects.
Here are some simple steps to take to prevent or reduce symptoms of keto flu:
1. Drink plenty of water
2. Avoid very strenuous exercise
3. Get enough sleep
4. Replenish your electrolytes
5. Take exogenous ketones
6. Watch your macros
You already know that staying hydrated is important for good health, but it is particularly important when you’re starting the ketogenic diet. After your body burns through available glucose, it will burn through your stored glycogen before finally converting to burning fat. For each gram of glycogen your body burns, you’ll lose up to 4 grams of water which can quickly lead to dehydration. Drinking plenty of water will help reduce your keto flu symptoms and keep you on the path to ketosis.
Short-term fatigue and weakness are common signs of keto flu, so it only makes sense that you should avoid strenuous exercise while you’re first starting out. A brisk walk in the morning can help you burn stored glycogen, but avoid more intense forms of exercise like running, biking, or lifting weights at least until you get used to the ketogenic diet. Not only should you avoid tiring yourself out too much, but you should make sleep a priority – adequate sleep is the best way to avoid fatigue.
In addition to staying hydrated and avoiding intense exercise, you may want to consider taking some supplements. Replacing your electrolytes can greatly reduce symptoms of keto flu, so try to include some sodium- and potassium-rich foods in your diet. You should also watch your magnesium levels because this mineral reduces headaches, muscle cramps, and insomnia.
Taking exogenous ketone supplements is another option that may help reduce symptoms of keto flu. Exogenous ketones can help you enter ketosis more quickly which means that your keto flu symptoms will go away sooner. Through all of these things, you also need to keep a close eye on your macronutrient ratio to make sure you’re following it properly.
Precautions and Safety Tips
Before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will tell you if it is healthy for you to make these changes and, if it is, he will monitor your condition to make sure you stay healthy.
The ketogenic diet is a wonderful option for people who want to lose weight, particularly from fat, but it is not the right choice for everyone. People who have type 1 diabetes or if you take medications for hypoglycemia or type 2 diabetes, this diet may interfere with your insulin levels in an unsafe way. The ketogenic diet may also be unsafe for women who are pregnant or nursing.
As you follow the ketogenic diet, one more thing you should be on the lookout for is a condition called ketoacidosis – this is a condition in which ketones become so highly concentrated in the blood that it becomes acidic. Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition that is most likely to occur in people who are diabetic, but alcoholism, low calorie intake, and overactive thyroid can contribute to it as well. If you notice the following symptoms, talk to your doctor:
• Increased urination
• Dry mouth
• Extreme fatigue
• Frequent nausea or vomiting
• Difficulty breathing
• Mental confusion
• Fruity-smelling breath
• Abdominal pain
While there are things you can do to encourage your body to enter ketosis more quickly, it’s really just a matter of time. Do your best to stick to your macros and follow the tips above if you find yourself dealing with symptoms of keto flu.