Your body can struggle considerably in the early phase of keto-adaptation. Headache, irritation, fatigue, dizziness or light-headedness. Although keto flu does not happen for everyone, these are common symptoms when one wants to achieve metabolic fat burning. It takes about 2 to 3 weeks for most people to get rid of these symptoms. And although little research has been done, there are studies that show that memory functions less well in that first week.¹ It also takes at least 5 days with a low carbohydrate and high fat diet before the body produces new fat-burning mitochondria.² Because your insulin level drops, your kidneys release sodium and you can lose fluid. Your cortisol levels can also temporarily increase, because your body thinks that it is in survival mode. Read on to see how you can minimize the adverse effects of the keto flu! Keep hanging in there, because there are many upsides which I explain on the following articles:
The most general guideline is to drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day. To make it more personal you can use the advice of coach Charles Poliquin. He recommends multiplying your body weight in KG by 39 ml. Suppose you weigh 70kg: 70 * 0.039 = 2.73L. This guideline seems to be especially wise to follow around the time of ketosis adaptation.
Your body retains less water and because of the low insulin it can also retain less sodium. Too little sodium can lead to exercise cramps, among other things. In addition, there are few added salts in keto-friendly food, so an extra pinch here and there will not hurt. A good tip to combine both # 1 and # 2 is to drink a bone broth with some salt. In addition to sodium, the body also loses potassium during this period. Spinach and avocado are good options to restore these reserves. If you still have cramps, or you are dizzy or tired, it will not hurt to increase or supplement your magnesium intake. Everything that ends with -ate would suffice (citrate, glycinate, etc.). Although you do not lose magnesium during fluid excretion, it does regulate your sodium and potassium values.
Most fats pass through your lymphatic system to the heart, muscles, fat cells and ultimately the liver. Only when it has arrived can it be converted into fuel in the form of ketones. MCT oil, on the other hand, goes directly to the liver and can be converted into ketones much faster. When the body is not yet fully adapted to fat metabolism, this can help protect you against the adverse effects of keto flu. You can also go for XCT or octane oil for the fatty acids with the most ketogenic potential.
As mentioned earlier, the keto flu can also be caused by an increase in cortisol values. Adequate rest and especially adequate sleep (7 to 9 hours per night) is advisable during this period.
Although the cold turkey approach in which you remove all carbohydrates at once may work out well for some people, a more gradual approach is sometimes more sensible. Research shows us that both a radical approach and a step-by-step lifestyle change can be successful.³ˈ⁴ The latter approach is very suitable if you want to have a little more control and keep a long-term view.
And finally, be patient! Even if you follow all the tips and if you are someone who does everything according to the book, symptoms of the keto flu can arise. It normally only takes place within the first 3 weeks of ketosis, after which you should see improvements gradually.
How did you survive the keto flu? Let us know in the comments!
1. D’Anci, K. E., Watts, K. L., Kanarek, R. B., & Taylor, H. A. (2009). Low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets. Effects on cognition and mood. Appetite, 52(1), 96–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2008.08.009
2. Jornayvaz, F. R., & Shulman, G. I. (2010). Regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis. Essays in Biochemistry, 47, 69–84. https://doi.org/10.1042/bse0470069
3. Nackers, L. M., Ross, K. M., & Perri, M. G. (2010). The Association Between Rate of Initial Weight Loss and Long-Term Success in Obesity Treatment: Does Slow and Steady Win the Race? International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 17(3), 161–167. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-010-9092-y
4. Lutes, L. D., Winett, R. A., Barger, S. D., Wojcik, J. R., Herbert, W. G., Nickols-Richardson, S. M., & Anderson, E. S. (2008). Small Changes in Nutrition and Physical Activity Promote Weight Loss and Maintenance: 3-Month Evidence from the ASPIRE Randomized Trial. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35(3), 351–357. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-008-9033-z
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