If you’re new to the keto diet – or thinking of hopping on board – you may already be turned off by the experience, (or thought) of what’s been called “the keto flu”. In this article, we’re going to explain the basics of the keto diet for beginners – namely, what you need to know to be prepared for and combat any side effects of going very low-carb (AKA keto flu symptoms).
First, let’s start with a refresher of how the keto diet works, which will make it much easier to understand how some people experience preliminary symptoms of distress when they start the diet…
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
If you’re following keto, it means that you’ve traded in your former way of eating for a diet that contains high fat, low carbs and moderate protein. The exact range that you want to be in for each daily is 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein and 5-10% carbs.
Eating this way allows your body to use up its glucose stores, and eventually, start to efficiently burn fat for fuel. This state of going from burning glucose (or carbs) to burning ketones (or fat) for fuel is known as ketosis.
The reason this state of ketosis is so desirable for those following a ketogenic diet is because while you’re in it, your body burns fat and calories faster. Not only does this enable you to rapidly burn off stored fat, but it can also make weight loss much easier. In addition, many people following keto report feeling more energetic and less hungry throughout the day. Studies also show potential health benefits, like reduced inflammation, which may help reduce your risk for certain diseases.
If you want to learn more about how the keto diet works, check out this article on 8 rewarding keto benefits. Moving on, let’s discuss how people starting keto sometimes end up with negative side effects…
What’s The Keto Flu & Keto Flu Symptoms?
Although, as mentioned, there are many potential benefits to being in ketosis, this transformation doesn’t happen overnight! Instead, your body needs to get used to this pretty intense switch within – and during this adjustment period is when you may start to experience some negative symptoms of carb withdrawal. This is called the “keto flu.”
To explain, when you first start greatly reducing the amount of carbs you eat, your body has to go through a type of detox process. And if you think about it, detoxing your body, and curing it from its sugar addiction is definitely not a bad thing! As with any type of withdrawal, you may experience some symptoms along the way, but fret not, as they’re temporary.
While you’re body is switching from burning carbs to burning fat for fuel (and getting into full ketosis), here are some of the detox side effects you may experience…
Nausea/dizziness – On the mild side of this symptom, you may experience some keto nausea after eating; However, on the more intense side, you may have keto flu vomiting, or instability/dizziness upon standing.
Digestive troubles – Next, suddenly consuming a diet with much less fiber and much more fat can put your digestive system in a state of shock. Due to this, you may experience constipation, diarrhea, or stomach cramps until your body balances out.
Aches and pains – Other symptoms that many people experience when starting out on keto is headaches, muscle cramps or soreness, or keto flu joint pain. Again, these are temporary, and we’ll provide remedy ideas further down in this article.
Sinus/throat issues – Some less common side effects of getting into ketosis include keto flu runny nose, which some describe in this keto flu reddit post as the body seeming to rid itself of mucus. Another complaint is keto flu sore throat, which may have something to do with imbalanced pH levels in the body – which we’ll provide suggestions for shortly.
Mood changes – Other keto flu symptoms for some people during this time include irritability, anger or getting easily annoyed. Craving more sugar during this time that you aren’t able to eat may also exacerbate these symptoms.
Trouble sleeping – Finally, some people may experience trouble getting or staying asleep while their body detoxes from sugar and refined carbs.
How Long Does the Keto Flu Last?
Now that you know what the keto flu typically entails, you may be wondering, will it definitely happen to you? The answer is no! While some people experience the keto flu for 1-2 weeks, others never experience any negative symptoms at all. The most common response is to experience some symptoms for roughly a week. As for when they start, most people report that they kick in around the third to fifth day of following keto.
How to Prevent/Help the Keto Flu
If you’re concerned about the keto flu, keep in mind there are definitely things you can do to feel better fast. And in general, these things are also best practices that you should utilize the entire time you’re following keto, for optimal results and to ensure your body functions at its best.
1) Stay hydrated and replace electrolytes
One of the biggest mistakes that people make while doing keto (or with any dietary plan) is not drinking enough water. You need to stay hydrated for your body to function optimally, especially while detoxing. But for keto, you have to go one step further and also take steps to keep your body at a good pH level.
What does it mean to have a good pH? Basically, everyone’s body has a pH level (typically somewhere between 6.4 and 7.4), but ideally closer to 7.4. This is because anything under 7.0 is considered acidic, and anything over 7.0 is considered alkaline. Having a body that is more alkaline is thought to be better for your health, whereas having an acidic body creates an imbalance, and puts you at a greater risk for sickness and disease.
Some people on keto have experienced that their pH dips down below a point considered ideal once in ketosis – however, you can remedy this by replacing electrolytes in your body, or minerals that promote alkalinity.
You can do this by ensuring that along with water, you also get enough salt, and the minerals magnesium, potassium and calcium. Adding low-carb veggies and full-fat dairy into your meals are great ways to get these nutrients. In addition, making a “keto flu drink” that contains these minerals and also has a clean ingredient list is another great way to stay on top of this. You could try this homemade recipe, or these healthy lemonades.
2) Get enough fiber + take probiotics
Next, another mistake people make on keto is not getting enough fiber, which inevitably causes digestive troubles. To stay ahead of this problem, make sure you eat plenty of low-carb keto veggies, and take helpful supplements such as green superfood juice powders that are low in carbs/sugar but packed with high-fiber, whole food gems.
It’s also recommended to take a supplement called probiotics, which helps replace the beneficial bacteria in your body. Another potential problem with keto is that it can mess with your body’s natural gut microbiome – but taking probiotics can help replenish essential, gut-friendly bacteria, and prevent any negative side effects from imbalance.
3) Get enough vitamins and minerals
Finally, speaking of supplements and fresh whole foods, you also want to make sure you get enough essential vitamins and minerals while on keto – to ensure you don’t become deficient in anything.
A great way to do this is to drink daily keto-friendly meal replacement shakes, such as our #1 rated shake right now, 310 Shake. Not only are 310 Shakes packed with plant-based proteins and fiber, but they also contain 20 vitamins and minerals, green superfoods and probiotics – giving you everything you need. You can also see a variety of additional meal replacement shake reviews, including keto-friendly meal replacement shakes here.
Still concerned about the keto flu? Don’t be! Just remember to take things slow in the beginning when you’re first starting keto, and put the tips that we recommended above in place as soon as possible. Also keep in mind that adding in exercise, and of course eating a clean, wholesome keto-friendly diet with a focus on non-processed foods will also help you feel your best!