Now that you have started a keto diet, you must be anticipating the plethora of benefits that go along with it. Know that in some cases, people may fall prey to keto flu. Unlike the actual flu, it isn’t contagious or dangerous but is pretty unpleasant. If you have kickstarted the keto diet, being aware of the keto flu will help you to watch out for the signs and learn to deal with them. This article provides a detailed roundup of the keto flu symptoms and their duration, followed by some tips to overcome it.
What Is Keto Flu?
The body must adapt to survive when switching to a ketogenic diet and drastically reducing carbohydrate intake. During this adaptation, some individuals may experience an array of symptoms known as “keto flu.”
These may feel similar to actual influenza but are caused by their bodies using fat instead of glucose for energy (1). This change in fuel sources is called ketosis. It is usually initiated through fasting or starvation (2).
The symptoms of keto flu may include (4):
- Brain fog
- Muscle cramps
- Food cravings
- Muscle soreness
- Intestinal pain
- Sleeping problems
Reducing carbohydrates to as low as 20 to 50 grams per day can trigger withdrawal symptoms, just like those experienced when weaning off caffeine (3). That is why it pays to have the proper nutrition knowledge before embracing the ketogenic diet trend.
How Long Does Keto Flu Last?
Starting a low-carb diet is an exciting shift. However, some may experience the dreaded keto flu symptoms after a few hours into the diet. And, they may last for about one week.
Keto-style diets have many benefits, but prolonged or intense indicators of the “flu” can stem from underlying issues like nutritional deficit and stomach problems (4). Guidance from a medical professional can help you tackle health concerns and determine if introducing more carbs is needed for successful weight management.
These symptoms are caused when the body transitions to its new fuel. For those with naturally flexible metabolism, this phase is often skipped altogether.
When Does Keto Flu Start?
The keto flu symptoms can affect some individuals within just 24 to 48 hours of cutting down on carbohydrates. This usually happens when their body’s carb stores (around 500 grams) become depleted.
Consequently, the body switches from burning sugar for fuel to metabolizing fatty acids into ketones (5). While everyone is different, this transition period won’t last beyond one week.
As you adjust your eating habits and curb carbohydrate cravings, many have witnessed an overall improved sense of well-being. However, if it all feels too difficult or uncomfortable for you, it could be a sign that this approach isn’t for you.
How To Avoid Keto Flu?
While we all may experience keto flu differently, there is no proven method to avoid it altogether. Instead, you can ease the process of reaching ketosis for yourself.
Here are some tips for avoiding keto flu symptoms:
Hydration is one of the essential aspects of following a ketogenic diet.
If you don’t get enough water during this lifestyle change, your body might quickly become dehydrated. It may adversely impact performance and cognitive function (4). The keto flu fever may also strike if one doesn’t tweak their hydration levels during the initial days of a keto diet.
The best way to treat these effects?
Increase the intake of fresh water combined with unrefined salts. Besides averting the negative impact, a higher fluid intake will make you feel more satiated and less hungry (6).
Prioritize Your Sleep
Starting the keto diet can give your energy levels a temporary dip. Hormonal fluctuations and insomnia may compound this issue, making it worse.
Try to sleep adequately during these changes to help you feel more energized, increase concentration, and reduce cravings for unhealthy food choices. Together, these factors will contribute towards weight loss goals.
Make sure your bedtime routine is relaxed and distraction-free so you get quality rest every night. Ideally, you should get 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night. But if you feel your energy draining during the day, take a quick 30 minute nap to end the fatigue.
Avoid consuming caffeine, as it may make it difficult to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.
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Do Low-Intensity Exercise In The Morning
Start your morning with a long walk after drinking warm water and a pinch of salt. Increasing your fat-burning process through ketosis is critical to helping reduce keto flu symptoms and increase energy levels.
Walk at a pace where you can easily talk without getting out of breath for at least an hour. This practical, low-intensity exercise provides numerous benefits in the morning. You will undoubtedly find yourself more awake, energized, and ready to take on the day.
Relieve Stress With Meditation
When you first begin the keto diet, you may feel more irritable and stressed than usual. This happens because your cortisol levels are higher than usual.
Practicing meditation for 15 minutes a day could help reduce cortisol levels and provide an improved sense of well-being throughout the process. While meditating, focus on taking long, slow breaths. Also, try not to think and return to your normal breathing when thoughts or urges arise instead.
Doing this trains our minds to be reactive in stressful situations and helps achieve overall equilibrium during times of change.
Eat More Fat
Cutting carbs is the starting point of a successful ketogenic diet. But don’t neglect healthy fats.
Many people believe that low-fat diets are effective while on keto. They fail to understand that these low-fat foods may drastically hinder their ability to produce enough energy.
Increasing your intake of oil or naturally high-fatty foods ensures you transition into ketosis smoothly and effectively (8). So, don’t stop those essential oils and proteins from getting onto your plate.
Calculating your macros is easy to ensure that nutrients like fat take center stage to stave off those pesky side effects. When determining how much of this macronutrient you need daily, you can calculate your keto macros using an online calculator or a keto-friendly application.
How To Get Over Keto Flu?
If keto flu symptoms strike you, don’t give up before trying a few tips for a keto flu cure. It is natural to feel a little off and unusually fatigued. Try to support your diet with the prevention tips mentioned above.
Meanwhile, there are some more steps that you can take to overcome the symptoms. Those include:
Supplement Your Diet With Magnesium, Sodium, And Potassium
This diet might cause rapid sodium and potassium losses. This may bring fatigue, lightheadedness, headaches, constipation, and cramping.
It would be best if you consumed plenty of avocado & leafy greens like spinach in your daily meals to counteract these symptoms. Also, during the first week of keto, add unrefined salt at meal times, a minimum of 5-7 grams per day (one teaspoon up to a teaspoon and a half daily). This will assist with replenishing sodium levels quickly.
Magnesium is another mineral that can make your transition into ketosis much easier. This essential mineral may bring many perks, such as relieving muscle cramps, improving sleep quality, and increasing insulin sensitivity (9).
Nutrient-packed foods like pumpkin seeds, almonds, and spinach should be included in your meal plan to get a decent dose of magnesium. For additional support, a daily magnesium supplement is recommended. Try magnesium citrate, which has been found to have superior absorption.
Don’t consume any supplements without professional guidance. Your GP could better guide you about the safe minerals that will help you reach your fitness goals without any adverse effects.
Bring Some Carbs Back
If none of the above tips help you to avoid or recover from keto flu, you should consider a more scaled approach. This means increasing your carb intake slightly to give your body time to adapt.
Begin with a moderate carbohydrate intake. Then, adjust it accordingly over time as your body gets comfortable using fat as fuel. This can help ease any potential keto flu symptoms while ensuring that you still reap all the benefits of this remarkable lifestyle shift.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of how you approach your weight loss journey, through keto, intermittent fasting, or simply eating healthier – know that progress is progress, no matter how small!
At the end of the day, the best diet for you is the one that makes you feel fabulous from the inside out. Don’t fret when you are unable to find instant results. If you have the right mindset and continue improving daily, you will eventually reach your goals.
Just don’t give up. Have faith in yourself, and keep going!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Ketogenic Diet (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Biochemistry, Ketogenesis (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Caffeine Withdrawal (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Keto Flu: Symptoms and How to Get Rid of It (2023, healthline.com)
- What to know about ketosis (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss and weight maintenance: A randomized clinical trial (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Ketogenic Diet 101: A Complete Scientific Guide to Keto (2021, everydayhealth.com)
- The 9 Best Keto Supplements (2022, healthline.com)