Whenever you start a new diet, there is an adjustment period. However, when you’re starting a ketogenic diet, it’s a whole different animal. For many of us, the keto flu strikes hard and fast. The keto flu symptoms that hit me the hardest were brain fog, extreme irritability, and fatigue.
Thankfully, there are simple steps you can take to reduce those awful keto flu symptoms and make you feel better while your body is becoming “keto adapted”.
The Keto Flu A.K.A. Sugar Withdrawal
The keto flu is something that a large percentage of people encounter when first transitioning into a ketogenic diet. It may be easier to think of the keto flu as sugar withdrawal.
If you’re a coffee drinker, think of how you feel whenever you skip coffee for the day. You get a headache and sometimes you get a little cranky. This is caffeine withdrawal, right? You have some coffee and you feel better.
Well, when you all of the sudden stop giving your body the fuel it’s used to burning for energy, you begin to feel similar symptoms due to carb or sugar withdrawal. Here are some of the symptoms of the keto flu:
Keto Flu Symptoms:
- Low Energy
- Cravings for Sugar and/or Carbs
- Brain Fog
- Sleep Issues
|Learn All About Keto On Episode 03 of The Happy Healthy Family Podcast!
My Keto Flu Symptoms
To help my body start burning fat for energy faster, I started the diet with a 40 hour fast. It sounds like a really long time, but in reality it was only one day. I stopped eating at 4:00PM, fasted the next day, and then did not eat food again until 11:00AM the following day.
This did put my body into ketosis right away. Ketosis means that your body is using fat to produce ketones for energy(instead of using sugar). Being in ketosis typically means you are in fat-burning mode.
Dad’s Got The Keto Flu
Unfortunately, being in ketosis did not mean I was immune for sugar withdrawal. I started experiencing keto flu symptoms on day 3. I had terrible brain fog. It felt like my brain wasn’t working right. I still had motivation to be productive and get stuff done. Unfortunately, that brain fog and my energy level made that a lot tougher.
The Keto Incredible Hulk
The worst keto flu symptom I had was extreme moodiness. By that, I mean I was angry, very angry. As a Dad, this is not a very good state to be in. I need all the patience I can muster, and sadly, there were many times I was not proud of my behavior. I was like the Keto Incredible Hulk walking around my house. (Sorry to my family)
Why Do We Have Keto Flu Symptoms
I needed to get back to being a happy, patient Dad. This is when I started diving into how to get over the keto flu faster.
I discovered the cause of the keto flu and dehydration has a lot to do with it. Essentially, when you stop eating sugar, your body begins using up all your stored sugar. Because stored sugar (called glycogen) is stored with lots and lots of water.
As you burn that stored sugar, you lose that water too. This accounts for the bulk of the rapid weight loss we see in the first few days of keto. You’re not losing fat, but rather you’re losing water weight.
When you release the extra fluid, it does make it easier to digest and oxidize fats for energy. Unfortunately, when you lose all that water, you also lose your electrolytes. Therefore, you need to correct this imbalance before you can start feeling better.
4 Tips to Getting Over The Keto Flu:
1- Add Electrolytes
In order to start feeling better, you need to add in electrolytes mainly potassium, sodium, and magnesium. There are a few ways to do this.
Eat Lots of Salt
Real high quality salt contains all the electrolytes you need, and it’s a cheap way to make sure you get enough trace minerals each day. Just make sure it is a quality salt and not the super cheap table salt (which is devoid of these minerals). We need to consume 2 ½ teaspoons each day to ensure we have enough electrolytes.
Keto Expert, Maria Emmerich, recommends a very easy strategy to help you meet your daily salt needs. Every morning put 2 ½ teaspoons of salt in a small dish and place on your stove every morning. Throughout the day, add that salt to your food trying to make sure you use it all before the day is over.
If you find that using that much salt is too hard, then you can also make “Sole Water”. This is essentially a salt water drink that you can have throughout the day. Check out my friend Jaclyn’s sole water recipe here.
Another strategy to consume enough electrolytes is to drink bone broth. This superfood has become very popular and drinking a couple glasses everyday can go along way at beating your keto flu symptoms. Just make sure you buy a quality product such as Kettle and Fire or Ancient Nutrition. *Note: quality premade bone broth is expensive, so if you’re like most of us and money is tight, make your own!
If you want to make it even easier or if you want to ensure you’re getting plenty of electrolytes, you can always buy a supplement. E-Lyte is a fairly inexpensive supplement that our family has used for our son’s autism treatment for years (detox support). You simply add a bottlecap full to your water and drink it 2x a day.
I had to make sure I was getting enough minerals because I did not want to be tired and angry any longer. I actually really like the taste of this supplement. It is sweetened with stevia, and gave me that sweet drink I was craving thanks to the sugar withdrawal. If you decide to try this supplement, keep in mind that it does have 3 carbs, so adjust your daily “total carbs” accordingly. (20-30 carbs/day)
In addition to the salt or electrolyte supplement, you want to take magnesium too. Most people are already deficient in this valuable micronutrient. Magnesium is needed for tons of biochemical reactions, but for the keto flu, it helps regulate potassium. Experts recommend we supplement with 400-800mg each day. While I like this magnesium supplement, you can check out this article from Dr Axe for more on the types of magnesium.
2- Rest and Avoid Exercise
We always want to ensure we’re sleeping enough, and a good night’s sleep can go a long way in fighting those sugar withdrawals. You also want to pull back on any strenuous exercise and opt for yoga or meditation instead. You don’t want to elevate your stress hormone(cortisol). If cortisol spikes, you will likely feel the carb cravings hit harder and the moodiness that comes with it.
3- Add MCT Oil
You’re probably starting the keto diet for weight loss. If so, you want to be careful with adding too much extra fat. However, a little MCT oil or Brain Octane can really help you feel better, give you a burst of energy, and help you become keto adapted.
However, after a month, begin reducing any extra fats or MCT oil so you can start really losing weight and burning stored body fat.
4- Add More Carbs As a Last Resort
The temptation will be there to add in more carbs, but doing so will slow your transition to becoming fat adapted. If you just feel miserable and don’t think you can keep going, then add in a few extra carbs. Better to slow your progress than give up entirely. Just make sure they are good carbs and do not go over 30 carbs/day if possible.
I have been doing Keto for about 2 weeks, and I am finally beginning to come out of the keto flu. My anger is SO much better, the brain fog has lifted, and I have more and more energy each day. I think the supplements really helped push me over the hump.
They were certainly not the cheapest supplements in the world, but since I was not eating as much (thanks to being in ketosis), it kind of evened out cost-wise.
You do not have to turn into “The Ketogenic Incredible Hulk” like I did. Say goodbye to sugar withdrawals and start feeling like yourself again. If you follow these strategies, your keto flu symptoms should be much more manageable if not prevented all together.
Prevent or reduce your keto flu symptoms:
- Drink Lots of Water
- Add 2 ½ teaspoons of Real Salt or an electrolyte supplement
- Drink Bone Broth
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Add MCT Oil or Brain Octane
Need More Support With Keto
|Maria and Craig Emmerich, (or as I like to call them the Keto Batman and Robin) have created a “Keto School”. If you are really serious about healing and/or weight loss and want to have tons of support every step of the way, check out their program.
In addition to a full course on the ketogenic diet, their Keto School gives you meal plans, cooking videos, and at the VIP level gives you weekly webinars where you can get your questions answered. It’s like having a personal keto nutritionist.