Ketogenic diet and electrolyte supplementation

The ketogenic diet is one that is becoming extremely popular. Generally, when someone is beginning the ketogenic diet they hear about the “keto-flu”.  This "flu" is often just an electrolyte imbalance. Truth be told, this can happen at any point on any diet but specifically on keto. 

You may hear, “keto is so healthy”, “keto is the best diet”, “keto changed my life” and then wonder why all of a sudden you have to supplement specific minerals. As you begin keto, you cut out carbohydrates to the extreme and replace them with fats. When you remove carbohydrates from your diet, your body begins to produce less insulin and has less glycogen storage. With every 1 gram of glycogen, you store 3 grams of water. When you deprive your body of these stores, your body will start to flush out water weight. When people begin the ketogenic diet, they often drop many pounds within the first week or so. This  water loss helps you feel better and be less bloated but it also causes your electrolytes to leave your body with the water.  Therefor,  you need to replenish your electrolytes. 

What are the electrolytes

The basic electrolytes talked about on the ketogenic diet are Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium. There are a few others but generally they are not thought to be supplemented in addition to what you get from your food. Electrolytes are important for muscle function (including organs and the heart), nerve function, balance in the acidity of your blood, keeping your body hydrated and so much more.

Sodium

Sodium is extremely important for hydrating and helps the body retain water. The other electrolytes rely on sodium to help keep proper balance. Sodium is also extremely important when it comes to nerve and muscle function. 

Potassium

Potassium helps regulate the heart and blood pressure levels. Potassium also plays a large role in making sure the body has the proper fluid balance. Nerve and muscle function also rely on potassium. 

Magnesium

Like potassium and sodium, magnesium also aids in nerve and muscle function. Magnesium is critical for a healthy immune system and for regulating a normal heart beat.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle weakness

  • Heart palpitations

  • Nausea

  • Headaches

  • Muscle cramps

  • Changes in blood pressure

  • Nervous system issues

  • Constipation

  • Bloating

  • Dizziness

Other general causes of electrolyte imbalance

  • Loss of body fluids (diarrhea or vomiting)

  • Sweating (especial during exercise)

How much should you be supplementing?

All things depend on your specific body. How well does your body use electrolytes and the hormones that keep them balanced. How often do you exercises. Your height and weight will also cause this to vary. Now, we don't want electrolytes too low or too high so it is important to keep yourself in check. You can even ask your doctor to test these.

Each electrolyte is going to need to be supplemented differently. Sodium should be between 3-7 grams of sodium a day. Sodium is not to get confused with salt. Salt does not contain only sodium but other minerals as well such as chloride. So make sure you are supplementing the proper amount. The total potassium intake should be about 2-5 grams per day. Magnesium is a tad less than the others and should be supplemented between 1-3 grams a day.

Please keep in mind that not everyone will need to supplement these electrolytes.  If you feel fine without supplementation, try it for a week or two and see if you happen to feel even better. Electrolyte imbalance can happen quickly. Many of the symptoms are so similar with other things and you might overlook it.  A suggestion might be to up your electrolytes first if you have any of those symptoms rather than reaching for anything else.

What foods have the electrolytes?

Sodium

  • Eat salt (Pink Himalayan or Celtic sea salt)

  • Add 1 tsp of salt to 1 liter of water

  • Drink broth or Bouillon

Potassium

  • Avocado

  • Meat (114 g for every 4 oz)

  • Swiss Chard

  • Spinach

  • Salmon

  • Broccoli

Magnesium

  • Spinach

  • Swiss Chard

  • Avocado

  • Mackerel

Hydration

One thing we didn't speak about in this blog is water and hydration. As most of us know, water makes up more than half of our body.  It's critical that we stay hydrated in order to have a normally functioning body. The electrolytes need water in order to do their job properly as well. Drink more water and do not be afraid of gaining water weight. It is natural at times for your body to hold on to water. Truth is, if you restrict your water, your body will hold on to even more water. Drink it to lose it.

Supplements

There are many safe supplements to take to provide all of these aforementioned electrolytes.  Any grocery store, pharmacy, or drug store near you should have them. There are different types of these electrolytes.  Some are absorbed by the body very quickly while others take much longer. There are many keto electrolyte products out there that are great to use and generally make it much easier for us. Don't stress about the electrolytes but know that they are just as important as the food you put into your mouth.

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