Everyone seems to fear going keto after they hear about the Keto Flu that plagues people the first few days of going keto.
But you shouldn't fear the keto flu, and you should know that there are ways that you can lessen and even beat it!
When you start cutting the number of carbs you're eating your body goes through a sort of withdrawal process.
Your body wants carbs for fuel, but you're making it choose a different (and better) source.
So, it throws a hissy fit and makes you feel like shit.
What Is The Keto Flu? + How to Beat it
The Ketogenic diet says we should maintain a low-carb / high-fat diet.
Meaning, you keep your carb levels as low as possible each day.
People typically don't go over 30g net carbs when starting a keto diet.
By doing this, you are shifting the way your body is fueled and the source that our body uses. Decreasing your carb intake causes your body to want to fight because it ultimately thinks it's starving.
You're depriving it of its main fuel source.
So, when you increase your fat intake you are telling your body, “It's ok. You don't have to worry. We're not starving. We're just changing how we do things here.”
Why Will You Get The Keto Flu?
Cutting carbs from your diet is sort of like the equivalent to quitting drugs.
Your body goes into this state of withdrawal, and it sucks. Like major league suck.
The withdrawal period is what causes you to have the keto flu.
Your body will start to detox and begins shifting from one fuel source (glucose/carbs) to another (fat).
But while it's changing our body is going through the steps to change sources.
Kind of like a body freak out mode.
Your body is used to burning glucose (or carbs) for fuel. It's not sure what's going on when you kick carbs to the curb. Hence, it starts to think you're starving.
Then, once you've successfully cut those from your diet for a while your body starts to figure it out. It has nothing familiar to use for fuel so it starts to turn to the fat stored in your body instead.
Slowly (or quickly depending on the person), it starts using the fat and turning it into ketones.
Typically, our bodies only resort to this when we are actually starving, which is why some people have a really hard time losing weight.
When you switch fuel sources you're telling your body to use fat instead of glucose. Once you officially burn off the excess carbs stored in our body and fat is the main source you'll enter what is known as “ketosis”.
Ketosis is the act of our body using ketones for fuel.
What Kind Of Symptoms You Can Expect Once The Flu Starts?
Expect flu-like symptoms.
That's pretty much how it received its name.
It's not usually long lasting unless you're not really sure how to fix it. (Read to the bottom and I'll help you figure it out.)
You'll start feeling things like:
- feeling drowsy
- having headaches
- feeling like crap
- won't have any energy
- Probably won't be able to think clearly
- And, you might be really irritable… Think grouchy monster type things.
But don't fear, it's not long lasting and you can lessen how long you have the flu OR negate it altogether.
How Long Does It Last?
The length of your symptoms really depends on how many grams of carbs you're used to eating and the quality of carbs.
If you're used to eating a really high carbohydrate diet, then your symptoms might persist a little longer than usual.
But, there are ways that you can burn through your reserve stores so that your body starts burning fat for fuel faster.
If you're used to eating a lot of boxed meals and carbs, then you might also have a longer lasting keto flu than others.
The best case scenario is that you switch to a whole-foods based diet first.
Meaning you cut processed foods from your diet for about two weeks before you cut your carb limit down to a strict keto level.
By switching over to whole foods your body will start slowly detoxing from processed carbs and allow your body to release toxins that may have been stored in your body otherwise.
How Do I Get Rid Of The Keto Flu?
There are a few ways you can get rid of the keto flu, but I'm going to list my favorites.
- Exercise – this helps to burn any carbs leftover in your body so you can get into ketosis faster.
- Drink plenty of water – when you swap from carbs to fats for fuel your body doesn't retain water like it used to so you can dehydrate faster… which is another reason you might get the flu symptoms
- Get enough salt – same same as drinking water, when your body starts flushing excess water that was being held in your body you're also losing a lot of sodium… make sure you're salting your food and you can even put a small pinch of salt in your water (it won't alter the flavor any)
- Get plenty of rest – This will help your body rest as it makes the switch. Take an Epsom salt bath, drink really soothing and calming teas, and just rest your body as much as you can.
It might be really crappy that you have to go through this, but the benefits of making it through this stage far outweigh the bad.
Can I Avoid Getting It?
You actually can avoid getting the keto flu!
But, the question will be are you willing to do the work needed to still get into ketosis?
In order to avoid getting keto, you'll have to slowly drop your carbs each day.
This means if you're used to eating 120g of carbs daily, then you choose a number to decrease them by until you get to your goal.
So, if the goal is to get to 30g net carbs.
You could slowly decrease by cutting down 20g of carbs each day. It would take you less than 5 days to get to your goal.
But, you can take this as fast or as slow as you want.
The faster you cut your carbs the quicker your body will get into ketosis.
If you choose slower, then you will be slower at reaching ketosis.
Neither is better than the other. It's just two different routes you can take.
How To Move Forward
You can better your chances of getting into ketosis by not restricting your fat intake.
I know this seems counter-intuitive at first because if you're wanting to lose weight you think you need to decrease fat.
In the beginning, you need to give your body the fuel source it needs to convert to. Once you're in that state of ketosis you can start playing with your fat intake.
Think of it this way…
Protein is the goal you need to hit. Carbs are the limit you're trying to not go over, and fat is a lever that you'll play with once you're safely in ketosis.
So, don't try restricting yourself in the beginning.
We want to set our bodies up for success vs creating an environment for failure.
Is There Anything I Can Take To Help?
Since the keto flu can be exacerbated by lack of water, vitamins, and minerals (or electrolytes too)… yeah, there are things you can take to help alleviate the symptoms.
You would want to make sure you:
- Drink plenty of water… try to aim for at least half your body weight in ounces (ex. 100 ounces if you're 200 pounds).
- Take an electrolyte supplement
- Make sure you're eating a lot of low-carb vegetables (like the low-carb veggies in this keto food list)
- Add Himalayan Pink Salt to your water to help replenish salt you're losing in the fat loss and water loss process
You can even check if you're in ketosis by using urine test strips. The faster you get into ketosis, the faster your keto flu symptoms will be gone.
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