Are you feeling sluggish? Tired? Hangry? Do you have a headache? Muscle cramping? Brain fog? You might be experiencing the dreaded keto flu.
No, this isn’t really influenza, but for the sufferer, keto flu can feel like an all-too-real reality.
The first thing to understand is that keto flu can actually be a really great sign you are going into ketosis; and the second thing to know is that keto flu, as drastic as it can feel, is very easy to resolve with some simple steps.
So long as you don’t don’t give into your carb cravings, that is.
In its most simple form, keto flu is when your body enters ketosis. During this time, metabolic reactions are taking place, and your body is switching from carbohydrates (glucose) to fat for energy.
When the glycogen supplies are reduced, your body has no choice but to seek out fat for fuel; this is, after all, why we store fat so efficiently. Fat, however, requires a lot of water to synthesize than carbs.
Your body starts calling on every drop of water to turn that fat into fuel, which can make you dehydrated.
This is also why people who switch over to keto get such impressive results in their first week; in this time, you can shed a lot of water weight and fat out of a necessity of not having carbs to draw upon.
Your body goes into a bit of a panic and starts to pull fat off the shelf in an effort to sustain you.
While the first week is often the biggest weight drop during keto, it’s not uncommon for this to be water weight, or for you to keep losing fat this effortlessly while in ketosis.
Keep reading to find out how you can make getting into ketosis an enjoyable experience, and kick that keto flu to the curb, so you can maintain all those fat-burning, heart-healthy benefits of ketosis.
You can read more on what ketosis is and how to get into ketosis here.
You will likely stay more accountable if you know what’s going on under the surface!
The Symptoms of The Keto Flu
The first stage to understanding keto flu is to be able to identify it. Many people experience keto flu during the early few days of adapting, or until their body becomes efficient at burning fat.
One of the biggest indications is weight loss; many people are surprised how much they can lose just by going into ketosis, with people who are transitioning from a high-carb diet having the highest fat loss.
You may also likely feel some fatigue. Imagine ketosis like going to the gym, but for 24 hours a day, and you’ll understand why you have less energy.
Burning fat takes practice, and until you are used to it, can make you feel fatigued or lethargic.
During this transition, your body is looking for glucose, and when it doesn’t have it, isn’t yet ready to produce enough ketones to sustain you.
Don’t worry; you can take an exogenous ketone to supplement this process.
Ketones are very unique because not only do they provide abundant energy, much more than carbs or sugar do, but they also fuel our brain.
Carbs do not provide the right nutrients for the brain to thrive.
As the brain is over 60% fat, it needs fat to fuel itself. If you don’t eat enough fat, you are essentially starving your brain.
This is why brain fog, a forgetful sensation, can plague many carb-eaters.
Over the long-term, insufficient fat is now considered to be a risk-contributor to people who are prone to Alzheimer's disease.
So let’s find out what makes ketones so unique.
Benefits of BHB Ketones Include:
- Burn fat while maintaining muscle
- Decrease “keto flu” symptoms
- Normalize blood sugar levels to avoid carb crash
- Reduce spikes in blood insulin
- Increased mental alertness
- Decreased hunger
- Decreased appetite
- Reduced carb cravings
I’m sure many of the items on this list are things you experience regularly.
This is because, for the most part, many Americans depend on grain, a leading source of carbs and sugar.
Our diet from a young age is dependant on light fruits and vegetables, bread and pasta, and other grains.
It wouldn’t be so bad if these items didn’t all but replace fat on the grocery market shelf, but now, it is hard to find fatty foods.
This means most Americans are deficient in ketones.
If you’re not taking a natural BHB supplement, or if you have recently reduced your carb intake, you might be experiencing symptoms of keto flu.
This is a sign you do not have enough ketone production, and you should alleviate the situation either through supplementation or by forcing your body into a deeper state of ketosis by fasting and exercising more.
As we have also gotten quite lazy over the years, you can understand why so many people love BHBs.
Let’s look at some of the symptoms of keto flu to see if you’re experiencing keto flu.
The high-risk time for keto flu is during the first day or two of reducing your carb intake.
The more carbs you come down from, the more likely it is you will experience more aggravated symptoms, but this is not always the case.
It really can vary from person to person, and we’ve seen things like general fitness, diet, history with ketosis, and insulin resistance, all be factors.
Symptoms of Keto Flu Include:
- Brain fog
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Muscle cramping or soreness
- Lack of concentration or focus
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Sugar cravings
- Heart palpitations
Naturally, any of these conditions can make you feel anxious, but remember, keto flu is merely a side-effect of transitioning into ketosis.
Many people never experience keto flu, and people even report the more often they stay in ketosis, the less the symptoms of keto flu occur (although this is reported on a case-by-case basis).
However, having keto flu is not a bad marker against you either. It can “just happen” to some people who are going into ketosis.
Let’s find out more.
What Causes Keto Flu?
As we’ve mentioned, keto flu is primarily an indicator your body is transitioning into ketosis and is burning fat for fuel.
Fat is incredibly nutrient dense (it’s roughly 9 times denser than simple carbs) and requires more work to metabolize.
This is why people feel euphoric and like they have a ton of energy when they get into ketosis.
Once keto flu passes, it’s like a rainbow after a storm, the skies part and out comes the sun, and ketones are incredibly abundant.
But surprisingly, the real reason you are experiencing keto flu is not that you stopped eating a few grains or starchy vegetables, it’s that you are not eating enough fat.
Our low-fat lifestyles have led us to believe that fat is bad for us, and even when switching to a ketogenic diet (a low-carb,high-fat diet), we still grossly underestimate how much fat we need per adult, per day.
The brain alone is 60% fat, and cannot use any sugar or carbs for fuel.
And even though the brain accounts for a small portion of our overall body weight, it still utilizes 20 percent of the body’s metabolic energy.
That means if you are not consuming the caloric intake from fat to replace the fat and carbs you used to eat, your check engine light is going to come on.
Que keto flu.
Reducing carbs is a great thing to do for your health, but few people realize they have to replace those nutrients with healthier fats.
Three Things Often Characterize Keto Flu:
- Carbohydrate withdrawal
- Electrolyte loss and dehydration
- Becoming fat-adapted (ketosis)
Let’s take a look at these three stages in more detail. This will help you better understand what action to take to get over your case of keto flu.
But as a rule of thumb, if you ever feel like keto flu is coming your way, eat more fat and see how you feel.
One of the biggest offenders of keto flu is carbohydrate withdrawal. In America, many people depend on carbs for energy and will eat approximately 200-300 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Some people may eat even more. To get into ketosis, you have to restrict your carbs to less than 30 net grams. Net carbs are regular carbs minus any fiber or sugar alcohols.
The problem is apparent to see; a 270-gram carb reduction is a massive change.
Your body is going from gallons of carbs per day to trying to “drive” on an empty tank; this is absolutely the result you want, as the empty gas tank is what triggers your body to switch to emergency reserve and pull in “rocket fuel,” or fat.
If you put rocket fuel into a regular car, and the mechanisms could work, the results would speak for themselves.
Tip: Some people prefer to taper off their carb intake slowly, and some people prefer to go all in and get it out of the way.
The latter may trigger keto flu more easily. It’s best to test out what will work for you.
If you are prone to keto flu, going slowly is a great idea.
If you have a higher tolerance, jumping into the deep end with fasting can really expedite the process.
Next up, we have a very common offender. In most cases, a simple electrolyte imbalance is to blame for keto flu.
In the western world, we’ve become out of touch with reading our body, and many people ignore the early signs of dehydration, often mistaking it for hunger, boredom, and lethargy.
We are quick to point the finger at stress and our chaotic lives, but in most cases, we are capable of incredible energy as humans, and forget to hydrate our bodies.
We’re made up of over 80% water, and yes, it's worth repeating.
You cannot drink enough water when you are eating a ketogenic diet.
Most of us fail to get 8 glasses a day on a traditional American diet, but in the ketogenic diet, water is crucial to success.
As noted, the body uses higher quantities of water to metabolize fat.
It also causes a diuretic response, to aid in flushing toxins, meaning you need to urinate more often. That’s a double pow.
Tip: Drink smart waters, which contain electrolytes, to restore an electrolyte imbalance. These are the salts in water.
You can also supplement with Keto Activate, which contains a proprietary blend of minerals and salts to help boost your energy and restore your natural balance.
Let’s go back to basics and bring ourselves up to speed on some simple science.
Your body has two forms of fuel:
- Glycolysis: this is when you convert glucose into energy
- Beta-oxidation: this is when you turn fat into energy
During ketosis, you are switching over from glycolysis to beta-oxidation. So, going from glucose to fat metabolism.
What makes this process difficult, however, is that we all have different rates of metabolism, and so, getting into ketosis is different for everyone.
If you metabolize fat easily, you probably won’t experience keto flu.
But, if you are like many people researching ketosis for fat loss, you might be prone to keto flu due to your body’s stubborn desire to be in glycolysis.
Tip: Be patient, and understand that while time varies from person-to-person, everyone is capable of becoming fat-adapted, and the health benefits of ketosis are significant.
In more cases than not, people misdiagnose keto-adaption, when they have an electrolyte imbalance.
The best thing to remind yourself when suffering from keto flu is ‘this too shall pass,’ and that you are making a significant contribution to your health.
Much like a butterfly, you must come out of your carb-induced cocoon and be reborn.
Why Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) Can Solve Keto Flu
While BHBs, or Beta-hydroxybutyrate, might sound strange, for many people on the keto diet these natural salts are a staple supplement to sustain ketosis.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate, a naturally-occurring energy substrate, is a stable form of ketone bodies.
BHB mineral salts, such as BHB sodium, calcium, and magnesium are hydrolyzed to free BHB and free metal ions upon ingestion.
It can then travel through the blood and is actively transported into the brain and muscle (1).
Beta-hydroxybutyrate has been shown to:
- Fuel brain and muscle
- Increase blood, muscle, and brain ketone levels
- Decrease and normalize blood glucose
- Increase muscle protein synthesis
- Decrease fatty acids in the blood
- Reduce physical and hormonal effects of low blood sugar
- Decrease respiratory exchange ratio
As many cases of keto flu are caused by an electrolyte imbalance, taking an exogenous ketone supplement like Keto Activate is a great idea.
The benefits do not end there; it’s now believed that exogenous ketones can extend lifespan by lowering glucose and insulin.
They also increase antioxidant defense mechanisms.
MCT oil, which produces ketones, results in better weight loss than an equal amount of olive oil.
When rats were given 30% of their calories as corn starch, palm oil, or beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB, the most quantitatively significant ketone body), those that got the ketones had about half the glucose and insulin levels of the group given starch.
Their food intake also dropped by about half.
The experiment lasted 6 days, so no weight loss occurred, which probably would have happened if the experiment had gone on longer.
This is a great reason to make BHBs a part of your daily regimen.
If you already drink a daily keto coffee or protein shake, adding in BHBs can be as simple as adding in half a tablespoon into your drink.
Many users report sustained energy, the loss of keto flu, and an improved outlook with a more concentrated, directive focus.
BHBs are a clean source of energy and allow your body to thrive, as it nourishes its natural habitat.
It is also not something you can depend on to get from foods, as ketones cannot be eaten.
Check out our blog for yummy recipes you can make at home, like our delicious keto coffee, to give yourself the best fighting chance against keto flu.
5 Ways to Rid Keto Flu
Learning how to get rid of keto flu is an essential practice in self-care.
Much like a plant, our bodies rely on a few essential nutrients and processes.
When they get these, they thrive. If they don’t, well, you don’t need us to tell you what can happen.
Below is a simple 5-step plan you can use to get over keto flu and improve your state of ketosis as part of your daily regimen.
1: Replenish Electrolytes
We cannot say this enough. Be sure to increase your salt intake, your water intake, and use a BHB like Keto Activate to replenish your body's electrolytes.
You can also sip bone broth, which is high in sodium and potassium.
As your body is in a state of constant flushing, removing all the toxins from your body during ketosis, it has to work harder to stay in balance.
This can exhaust you and be the first stage of keto flu, so top up regularly.
2: Get Plenty of Sleep
An often overlooked aspect of keto flu is your body's need to repair itself.
Switching fuel sources can be a traumatic experience, and getting at least 8 hours per night of restorative, natural sleep can be life-changing.
The reduction in stress and the cortisol response also aids in fat loss.
When your body can rest, it still burns fat, but it can do so more effectively than when you are away.
3: Do Light Exercise
It might sound counterintuitive, but simple exercises like walking or yoga can help your body meet your energy demands.
Light exercise sends a signal to your body that you need more fuel, and your body will look harder for fat; thus making you get fat-adapted faster.
However, this isn’t about pounding weights at the gym, a simple walk around the block goes a long way.
These calming and restorative exercises reduce insulin dependence and promote ketosis.
4: Add Healthy Fats
During the transition process, your body is getting the message you are starving, as it cannot source its steady intake of carbs.
While transitioning, it’s a good idea to eat to satisfaction and to consume more healthy fats.
The more you can help your body, the more relief it feels later when it can find fats (and you will naturally feel less hungry over time).
5: Increase BHBs
Beta-hydroxybutyrate is an ideal supplement to take once a day during ketosis, and before your workout (you can take it several times a day as needed).
The proprietary blend of minerals and salts in Keto Activate will restore an electrolyte imbalance and is often the only course of action you need to take to cure keto flu.
If you notice the sensations, sip a delicious keto beverage over a 30 minute period to be revitalized.
Getting over the keto flu and into ketosis can be a simple and enjoyable experience when you use these five simple steps.