Wondering how you can bypass the dreaded flu-like symptoms that can come along with building metabolic flexibility on your keto diet? While we all may experience keto flu a little differently and there’s no guaranteed method to avoid it, there are some remedies you can try to make the process of reaching ketosis feel a bit easier.
Here are eight easy things you can do to help fight and prevent the dreaded keto flu:
1. Drink More Water
Transitioning into the metabolic state of ketosis is thought to encourage diuresis - increased urine output! This can ultimately lead to headaches, nausea, lightheadedness, constipation, and what some may call brain fog. Luckily, there’s a simple solution for this keto flu symptom - drink more water.
Actually drinking more fluids in general, including water and no-calorie flavored water, can help with rehydration. Additionally, increased fluid intake might also help you feel more full, leaving you more satiated and less hungry (1,2).
2. Prioritize Sleep
It’s expected to experience a temporary decrease in energy levels when starting the keto diet, you’re literally putting yourself through major metabolic changes! Some of the changes may also lead to hormonal fluctuations and insomnia, making fatigue that much worse.
Make sleep a priority during this time to help combat your zapped energy levels. This means giving yourself the time to get a lot of rest, removing distractions before bedtime, and emphasizing both the quantity and quality of your rest.
As an added bonus, research suggests that whether you're in ketosis or not, getting adequate sleep can lead to fewer cravings throughout the day which is always a positive boost for your weight loss goals (3).
3. Eat Keto-Friendly Foods (A LOT)
While some people advocate that you don’t need to worry about these on the keto diet, we don’t have any research supporting this theory. It’s likely that the types of food you eat or ketosis alone don’t outweigh the need for some calorie control to reach your weight loss goals. In fact, eating an overwhelming number of calories more than what you burn will likely still lead to weight gain - regardless of whether or not you’ve gone keto.
However, you may feel particularly hungry and have strong cravings for carbohydrates when you first begin the ketogenic diet. Plus, trying to be too strict with yourself all at once can lead to you being more susceptible to breaking your diet and overeating on the wrong foods.
So, while we do recommend considering calories on your overall keto plan it may be beneficial to allow yourself an adjustment period. During this time you can focus mainly on following your recommended keto macros without honing in too much on calorie consumption.
When you are hungry (or just have intense cravings for carbs) try eating more healthy keto-approved foods to help satisfy your needs. Over time, these will become less as your body adjusts and you can begin focusing more on incorporating your calorie goals.
4. Salt Your Food
Staying hydrated and eating slightly higher sodium contents may help improve keto flu symptoms. That’s because diuresis can also promote sodium loss.
Replacing this salt by adding it to your food can help! And when paired with active oral hydration, the added sodium can help your body to more effectively retain the fluids you’re drinking. Additionally, higher salt intake can also help you to feel more full and contribute to you eating fewer calories or craving non-keto foods throughout the day.
It is important to be cautious with increasing your salt intake as a low salt diet is usually the healthier choice. Make sure to talk to your doctor if you're thinking about increasing salt in your diet because it can be dangerous in people with certain health conditions. For example, a low salt diet is especially important for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure (CHF). So, if you choose to increase your salt intake, make sure it's temporary and that your doctor agrees.
5. Drink Electrolytes
Electrolyte depletion can also be a culprit behind some of your keto flu symptoms. This includes sodium, potassium, and magnesium imbalances that can affect your system.
You can increase your sodium intake from salt, get potassium from non-starchy vegetables, and increase your magnesium intake from various nuts and seeds.
Or you can easily improve your intake with fortified foods and beverages. Many will credit sugar-free sports drinks to their improved keto flu symptoms as they are an easy way to rehydrate and replenish lost electrolytes without any added carbs or calories. Magnesium supplements can also be helpful. Remember to never take more supplements than the recommended by the daily requirements.
Meditation offers a slew of benefits for the mind, body, and soul - attacking a wide range of keto flu symptoms.
On the weight loss front, meditation is thought to be beneficial for binge and emotional eating as well as weight loss maintenance in obese individuals (4,5,6). It also offers to decrease anxiety, improve mood, and concentration. Other studies link meditation to improved heart health which is possibly due to a decrease in stress hormones in those that meditate (7).
Whatever is going on with mediation, it seems powerfully positive and like something you may want to consider if going through a difficult keto flu.
7. Eat More Fat
While cutting carbs is the main factor behind promoting ketosis, eating plenty of healthy fats is also needed. A low fat keto diet is essentially a form of starvation. Not to mention the point of keto altogether is to optimize your body’s ability to burn fat and produce ketones for long lasting energy.
If you aren’t upping your fat consumption while simultaneously eliminating carbs, you could be making things harder for yourself than you mean to. Supplying your body with plenty of healthy fats by adding more oil to your meals or increasing your intake of naturally fat-rich foods can support your transition into ketosis (8).
Additionally, fat is thought to be satiating, helping to calm keto flu side effects like cravings and hunger (9).
8. Add Some Carbs Back in
If none of the above seem to calm your keto flu woes, you may want to consider a more scaled approach to keto dieting. This means upping your carb intake slightly to give your body more time to adapt to using more fat for fuel.
Depending on what your diet looked like before going keto, dropping your carb goal to less than 5% of your calories can feel pretty drastic for some. If your new lifestyle is feeling a jolt to the system, you can slow down and take your time by cutting back on carbohydrates a little bit at a time.
Start with a more moderate approach. For example, if your old eating habits put your macro ratio somewhere in the ranges of 50% carbs, 20% protein, and 30% fat, try starting out around 20-30% carbs and 40% fat. Then keep adjusting every couple of weeks as your body becomes more fat adapted and metabolically efficient.
Know When to Quit and When to Keep Going
Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint, and as long as you are continually working to control your portions (calories) and make improvements each day, you will get there. You won’t destroy your hard work with a few slip ups, cheat days, or missteps, just hang in there and keep at it.
Additionally, cutting carbs alone won’t transform your health and going keto is only one approach to losing weight and improving your health. Ultimately the best diet for you is the one that makes you feel good from the inside out, with healthy foods you enjoy eating.
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