Are Electrolytes Bad For You?

At Konscious Keto, we have noticed there seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to sodium and other minerals your body needs.

Sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are all minerals that your body needs to function properly. These minerals are more commonly recognized as electrolytes.

Many of us have been taught that salt (which is high in sodium) is bad for us to eat. This misconception has likely lead to many people being deficient in sodium and other electrolytes.

To answer your questions and break up any confusion, this guide will explain everything you need to know about electrolytes on a keto diet.

We are going to cover:

  • What sodium does for your body
  • Why so many people think salt is bad for them
  • How electrolytes affect the keto diet
  • The best ways to add electrolytes to your meals
  • Exogenous ketones

Before we get into all the electrolytes your body needs to be healthy; we have to undo some damage. It’s time to learn the truth about sodium and whether or not it’s important to include in your diet.

The Truth About Sodium: Is It Essential?

Quick! When you think of salt, what are the first thoughts that cross your mind? You’re likely to think of negative associations.

Salty foods are often associated with high blood pressure and fatty foods. In other words, “salt = junk food and bad health.”

Sure, over-consuming salt can lead to high blood pressure and other health problems, but this shouldn’t mean you need to be afraid of the relationship you have with sodium.

There are many misconceptions of increasing your sodium intake. Your body needs sodium for healthy bodily functions! There are two main purposes for maintaining a healthy level of sodium:

  1. Sodium behaves like an electric current of communication from your nerves to your muscles. Your nerves need sodium to tell your muscles what to do!
  2. Sodium retains the moisture in your blood, so your blood can easily pass through vessels without them expanding. This function also helps maintain the balance of moisture throughout the entire body.

If you don’t consume enough salt, your body may go into a sodium deficit, which can cause hyponatremia. This is a condition that causes your cells to swell with water.

Hyponatremia can lead to:

  • Exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramping
  • Restlessness

Severe cases of a sodium deficit can lead to even worse problems, like seizures and coma. These can become fatal.

This doesn’t mean you should hit the drive-thru and order every salty menu on the item! Processed foods that are high in sodium are still unhealthy for you.

Maintaining the right amount of sodium in your diet requires a balance of healthy foods, no matter what diet you’re on.

We'll show you how including sodium in your keto diet can be simple.

Here’s Why Salt Gets a Bad Rap

The majority of us have learned that too much salt is bad for our health, but many of us don’t necessarily understand why or how.

Sodium is often looked at as a bad thing because processed and fast foods are made with extremely high amounts of salt.

This is only one of the reasons these types of foods are bad for you, but this is often misunderstood as salt is bad for you.

Some studies have shown that it only takes a small increase in sodium for you to go into a surplus and experience negative side effects.

Even just a single teaspoon of salt can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by 17% and your risk of stroke by 23%. Yikes!

The other side effects of a sodium level that’s too high are:

  • A decrease in calcium. As blood pressure rises, other important minerals are excreted.
  • Kidney stones can develop if too much calcium is excreted.
  • As your body excretes important nutrients, it will take them from other areas of the body, such as your bones. Bones deficient in calcium can lead to osteoporosis.
  • An imbalance of healthy gut bacteria, leading to inflammation and the risk of stomach cancers.

Understandably, these drastic side effects of consuming too much sodium have pushed many people into a fear of salt. However, you should not eliminate salt from your diet!

Not getting enough sodium can do equal damage to your overall health and body. This is why maintaining a balance of sodium is so important.

While on the keto diet, you may unknowingly leave yourself deficient in sodium. You may be wondering, “are electrolytes bad for you?”

But it’s important to understand how sodium and other electrolytes are crucial to a balanced keto diet!

The Truth About Electrolytes and the Ketogenic Diet

Since the keto diet requires you to cut down or decrease your carbohydrates significantly, it’s easy to go into an electrolyte imbalance.

Electrolytes include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Phosphate
  • Bicarbonate

Lacking essential electrolytes leads to symptoms of the keto flu, which many people experience when they first start their keto diet.

When you cut out carbohydrates and drink more water, your body will naturally want to excrete electrolytes.

As your body transitions from relying on blood glucose to ketones, you may experience symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Inability to focus

These symptoms derive from a few different things.

When you cut out processed foods, your body will experience a significant decrease in sodium.

Even if your sodium intake was too high before, your body would still go through a shock.

As your body experiences a decrease in insulin from cutting down on carbs and sugar, it may also purge essential electrolytes, such as sodium.

Along with purging electrolytes and minerals, your body will purge excess water instead of retaining it, leaving the body dehydrated.

Since the body is likely to experience a significant drop in important minerals, keto dieters need to pay close attention to their sodium intake throughout their keto diet, but especially during the initial transition.

Sodium Intake on a Keto Diet

How do you know if you’re ingesting the correct amount of sodium?

While the symptoms laid out above are easy indicators for lack of sodium, the best way to make sure you don’t have too much sodium is to track your daily nutrition.

A quick way to knock out the symptoms of keto flu is to increase your daily sodium intake by 1-2 teaspoons. This amount can be distributed throughout your meals in a day, instead of taking it all at once.

You can include extra salt in your drinking water, but you need to be careful with this method. Drinking salt water on an empty stomach or simply drinking too much can cause some bad consequences.

Salt water is good for cleansing the colon, but remember that detoxing the body also means excreting all those electrolytes you are trying to maintain in the body. You may also experience dehydration.

So, how much sodium are you supposed to consume on a daily basis?

Depending on how active you are during the day, anywhere from 3,000-5,000 mg of sodium should be included in your diet.

If you typically work at a sedentary office job and do low-impact workouts, your sodium intake should be at the lower end of the scale.

If you are highly physically active during the day and you sweat, you’ll need a higher level of sodium.

The best way to know what level of sodium is the best for your body is to track your daily sodium intake and observe how you feel on a daily basis. Adding sodium to your diet just a teaspoon at a time can make a world of difference!

Besides stirring salt into your water, there are other ways to include sodium in your keto diet:

  • Drink bone broth
  • Eat vegetables from the sea, such as seaweed nori or kelp
  • Eat salted nuts and seeds as a snack
  • Add exogenous ketones to your diet

The type of salt you consume is also important! This part will be explained more after going over two other important electrolytes you need to include in your keto mealplan.

Potassium Intake on a Keto Diet

Potassium is another important electrolyte to monitor in your keto plan because the body can’t make potassium on its own. Similar to salt, potassium helps with a lot of crucial bodily functions.

Not only does potassium help regulate the fluids in your body, but it also is part of a healthy mineral balance. These two things are necessary for the body to:

  • Contract muscles
  • Regulate the heartbeat
  • Manage body temperature
  • Control bladder function
  • Produce energy
  • Transfer messages from nerves to muscles

About 3,500 - 4,700 mg of potassium is required on a daily basis.

When you consume the right amount of potassium, you can experience these healthy benefits:

  1. Reduction in muscle cramps - yes, this includes menstrual cramps too!
  2. Reduction in risk for stroke and coronary heart disease.
  3. Reduces the chance of kidney stones by binding with calcium, which stops stones from collecting in the urinary tract.

You can include potassium in your diet through these potassium-rich keto foods:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Exogenous ketones

Magnesium Intake on a Keto Diet

Along with sodium and potassium, magnesium helps regulate the amount of fluid in the body, your mineral balance, and the responses between nerves and muscles.

However, you only need around 400 mg of magnesium on a daily basis to reap its benefits. That’s far less than how much sodium and potassium your body needs.

Needing very little magnesium means that it’s also very easy to be deficient in magnesium when your body is transitioning during the keto diet. Thankfully, there are keto foods that are rich in magnesium.

You can include magnesium in your diet by eating:

  • Almonds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Artichokes
  • Fish
  • Cooked spinach
  • Exogenous ketones

One other place that you may find both potassium and magnesium in is sea salt!

Quite simply, sea salt is seawater that has been dehydrated until only the flaky salt is left.

It has the same nutritional value as table salt, but depending on what area your sea salt is harvested from you may be able to increase your potassium and magnesium intakes.

Supplement with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

It may seem like all salt is the same, especially when we are talking about sodium. Next time you visit the grocery store, though, take a look at the salt selections. There are quite an array of options to choose from!

How do you know which salt is best for adding electrolytes to your diet? One of the best salts for adding sodium and other important electrolytes to your diet is pink Himalayan salt.

Pink Himalayan sea salt can be easily found in grocery stores. Many prefer the pink salt over traditional table salt because the flavor is stronger and it adds a visual appeal to foods.

However, the lesser known benefit of pink Himalayan salt is that it adds calcium, potassium, and magnesium to your diet! In fact, these electrolytes are what gives Himalayan salt its attractive pink color.

Pink Himalayan salt is normally purchased in grinders, so the salt can maintain its chunky, crystallized form.

Simply use it to season meats, vegetables, eggs, and any other food that could use a dash of salt.

Supplement with Keto Activate

If you are concerned that you are over-salting your foods, or you want to avoid adding salt directly to your water, you can use exogenous ketones, such as Keto Activate.

Keto Activate is a safe way to increase your electrolytes in a convenient powdered form. It looks a lot like protein powder, but it serves a different purpose for keto dieters.

Exogenous ketones are actually beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB, which is the key element your body needs for producing energy as it cuts down on blood glucose.

A serving of Keto Activate can easily increase your sodium by 31%. A single scoop of Keto Activate also adds 593 mg of calcium and 323 mg of magnesium to your diet.

You can use exogenous ketones throughout your keto meal plan. They’re a great way to directly increase your ketones for regulating energy and combat the symptoms of keto flu. This is especially beneficial in the beginning weeks of your keto diet.

If you’ve surpassed the initial transition your body goes through to reach ketosis, congratulations! Keto Activate can still be helpful to you.

After a holiday season, you may need some help getting back on track if you indulged in some meals.

Adding a scoop of exogenous ketones to a meal can help you get back to your ketosis more quickly than by adding salty foods to your diet.

Summary

Electrolytes are crucial to a balanced keto diet! You need electrolytes to have the proper amount of water in your blood for regulating muscle and nerve function.

There are certainly opportunities for you to have a surplus of electrolytes as well as a deficit in your body, and both lead to detrimental consequences. However, there are many ways to maintain a healthy level of all the important minerals.

Sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are the most important electrolytes to keep balanced in your diet.

While you can supplement these minerals through certain keto foods, you can also consume exogenous ketones to get an accurate amount of each mineral every time.

Log your daily nutrition, notably during the first few weeks of your keto diet.

You can observe how you feel when you have too much or too little of each electrolyte, but you can also ensure you’re eating a balanced diet while consuming minimal carbohydrates.

Sources

  1. Cappuccio F. P. (2013). Cardiovascular and other effects of salt consumption. Kidney international supplements, 3(4), 312-315.
  2. Takacs, M.S, B. (2018). Potassium: A New Treatment for Premenstrual Syndrome. [online] Orthomolecular.org. Available at: http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1998/articles/1998-v13n04-p215.shtml [Accessed 29 Dec. 2018].
  3. Weaver C. M. (2013). Potassium and health. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 4(3), 368S-77S. doi:10.3945/an.112.003533

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