Anyone can be successful with the Keto Diet. Even those people who give you the side eye and say “I could never live without bread/potatoes/pasta, etc.” when they learn about the Keto way of eating. Anyone can successfully become Keto adapted and discover the many benefits of living on fat. However, nature has put one huge obstacle in our way…the dreaded Keto Flu. It’s different for everyone. There are varying symptoms and varying degrees of severity, dependent on your body’s reaction to carbs, your previous diet, etc. Today, we’ll discuss what the Keto Flu actually is, what causes it, some common symptoms associated with it and some things you can do to help ease the symptoms. The most important thing to know about the Keto Flu, is that it passes. And when it does, your body becomes an amazing fat burning machine and you begin to reap all the amazing benefits of a Ketogenic Diet that everyone talks about!
When you eat what we consider a Modern Diet, your metabolism runs on carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are easily metabolized energy that your body can break down and use pretty readily. What it doesn’t use, it stores for future use as fat. However, in today’s world, with an abundance of cheap, carb rich food, those fat stores are never needed, so we gain weight. But, for those that choose a low carb or Ketogenic diet, the steady flow of carbohydrates stops abruptly. Your body will use up it’s stores of glucose, and when that is gone, your body will begin to use those fat stores for energy. But, switching from sugar burning to fat burning has some unique side effects known as Keto Flu. Hang in there, getting Keto Flu means that your body is switching gears. Its actually a good thing! It may not feel great at the time, but you’ll come out on the other side of the Keto Flu as a energy driven, fat burning machine!
A common misconception is that the low energy, headaches and withdrawl type symptoms are just the way life is when you don’t eat carbs. Carb eaters will tell you this, time and time again, but it simply isn’t true. Keto Flu is a temporary condition that only lasts while your body is switching fuel sources. It is normally short lived, and if you are one of the patient individuals who are able to wait it out, you are wildly rewarded. The benefits of the Ketogenic Diet are abundant. I have more energy now than I had when I was eating a high carbohydrate diet. I’m a runner and have found that my endurance is so much higher on a fat fueled diet than it ever was on carbs! I no longer hit the dreaded “wall” when I run! I have also been rewarded with better sleep, clearer skin, higher mental clarity and so much more. Don’t listen to those who are misinformed. Do your own research, talk to people who have been on low carb or ketogenic diets for some time. Those who have been eating this way, for at least several months, will all talk about the abundance of energy that comes with it! If you don’t know anyone personally, hit up social media! Our Keto community on Instagram is amazingly supportive. Ask questions, look for advice, most of us are happy to help!
Everyone ends up with different symptoms and different severities of those symptoms. There is no way to tell how the Keto Flu will effect you, until it does. Common symptoms are things like lightheadedness, nausea, extreme fatigue, headache, muscle cramping, cloudy thought processes, and diarrhea. In some extreme cases (most likely due to electrolyte imbalances) it can result in temporary high blood pressure and heart palpatations. I had a history of heart palpatations before starting Keto and they returned with a vengeance during the Keto Flu. But, I am happy to report, that in the seven months that I have been eating Keto, that was the only episode I have had and I used to get them often!
My experience with the Keto Flu was not epic or life changing. I had all of these symptoms off and on over a period of about two weeks. It wasn’t like the “real flu” where BAM! your sick. It was gradual, so gradual in fact that I really didn’t realize I had been hit by the Keto Flu. I was just chalking these symptoms up to carb withdrawal (which is essentially what is happening). I didn’t even realize that at the time, it had a name. It wasn’t until it passed and I became Keto adapted that I really realized that I had been hit by the Keto Flu. The biggest things I noticed were low energy, lightheadedness and diarrhea. But not all at the same time and not all at once. They came and went periodically.
The best thing to do for the Keto Flu is just to wait it out. You’ll be very tempted to eat some carbs just to ease the suffering. DON’T! Just be patient and symptoms will subside. Beyond that, there are a few things you can do that will help!
- Eat fat. As your switching energy sources, eating enough fat in your diet will help boost your energy a bit.
- Hydrate! Drink your water. Staying hydrated is always a good idea and makes you feel better!
- Vitamins. Take a multivitamin. If you are lacking anything in your diet, taking a multivitamin will help!
- Electrolytes. Find a good electrolyte source. A good source will have Sodium, Chloride, Potassium and Magnesium. They all play important roles in body functions. I won’t go into that here, but I will eventually do a detailed post on supplements!
- Take it easy. You can exercise through the Keto Flu if you are dedicated. But don’t beat yourself up if you take it easy for a few days. Your body is about to turn into a fat burning machine…so a few days off from the gym isn’t gonna hurt!
- Be patient! One of the most important things to remember is that time will pass and the Keto Flu will go away. You may be tempted to stray from your Ketogenic Diet, but don’t! It will be get better! I promise!
Just remember that not everyone gets the Keto Flu. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones. But if not, keep in mind that there are some things you can do to help lessen the severity of your symptoms.
I remember being pretty miserable for a short time while going through the Keto Flu. Both the Hubby and I were starting Keto together, so just think of all these symptoms x 2! He seemed to have such an easy time with the transition, which frustrated me even more when I felt like crap. I remember standing in the kitchen, screaming into the living room. “This is horrible! Why am I doing this to myself? I’m just gonna go eat a cupcake!!!” I was seriously throwing a tantrum like a 2 year old who was just told they couldn’t eat a treat! It seems ridiculous now, but at the time my feelings of angst were totally real. The only other thing I’ve ever been addicted to was nicotine. I was a smoker for many years and giving up smoking was hard. REALLY HARD. But giving up carbs was worse. Carbs are everywhere! But, the important thing to take away from this story, we made it through the Keto Flu and life got good! REALLY GOOD! We no longer have mood swings caused by low or high blood sugar, our energy is off the charts (the Hubby now gets up at 4:00 am to hit the gym before work!), and it does get easier as time goes by!
Hopefully some of this is helpful and will convince you to keep pushing through the Keto Flu! Look for support and try a few of the things above, but most importantly keep going! You can totally do this!