Let’s talk electrolytes. When you’re on the keto diet, paying attention to your electrolytes is very important so I wanted to share with you my experience with electrolyte supplements.
While on keto, magnesium and potassium will need supplementation and you’ll also need to increase your sodium intake, but this can be done naturally without supplements. Let’s discuss what these are and why.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are micronutrients that help fire certain brain, muscle and bodily functions and nerve impulses. They also regulate the water flow to and from our cells.
These micronutrients are really just salt minerals, sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, etc and are essential to everyday events like being able to learn new information, lift your arm and pump blood through your body. You really kind of need those events to happen to function properly as a human so you’re beginning to see just how important these minerals are.
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Your electrolytes are filtered through your kidney into your bloodstream but if you know anything about salt, you know it’s easily dissolved in water. That’s why when you sweat, your skin gets salty because the electrolytes travel out of your body right along with the liquid being released.
You also release electrolytes through urine, tears etc.
The keto diet is a naturally diuretic diet. Carbs hold on to a lot of water mixed with the fat it stores when you eat the standard American diet. When your diet is mainly fats, there’s no storing of water or fat happening. It’s all getting used as fuel and any excess water will be released as sweat and urine.
This is why it’s so important to rehydrate after a workout, to replenish your electrolytes. It’s also important to ensure that you maintain a good level of hydration when on the keto diet to prevent any symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance caused by losing your electrolytes.
Keto Magnesium and Potassium Supplement
The two minerals you’re most likely to be deficient of when on the keto diet are magnesium and potassium. Sodium too but you won’t need a supplement for this, just salt your food well.
If you’re worried about sodium, I like to mix a teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt in my water each morning to help with this. I do this in the morning water since I also do intermittent fasting and my eating window is usually between 2pm-8pm on weekdays.
Magnesium and potassium you can also get from your diet but the reality is that many of us are not eating enough mineral rich foods daily in order to meet the recommended minimum requirements. That’s why I take this supplement daily as it has both minerals mixed in.
You can also opt for electrolyte powder to make your own replenishing drink without all the sugar in sports drinks. This one tastes great and has even more of the minerals needed on the keto diet. It’s a great option for those struggling with their water intake because of the taste of plain old water.
I realized that I was suffering from electrolyte imbalance when I first started the keto diet and had headaches plus found it difficult to sleep at night. The symptoms of electrolyte imbalance are so real. It was astonishing to me how quickly I felt much better after starting to supplement.
Side Effects of Electrolyte Imbalance
When you’re starting the keto diet, you may go through what some call the keto flu. It’s not really the flu but can have some of the same symptoms. You will experience your body’s transition period of adjusting to the lack of carbs.
It will flush out loads of bloat and water (hence the rapid weight loss in the first few days on keto) and if you’re not up on your electrolytes, the imbalance will have some uncomfortable symptoms.
These keto flu symptoms include:
- changes in heart beat
- muscle spasms
- digestive issues
And more. None of the above sounds like fun, right? This is why you need to either supplement or make sure you’re eating foods rich in each mineral.
Let’s look at some of these mineral rich foods individually.
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Foods Rich in Magnesium
Magnesium is the mineral that helps your body to calm down. It’s what will help you to decompress after a heavy workout or at the end of your day. I like to take my supplements at night to help me sleep as I realized that once I was in ketosis, it became difficult for
If you suffer from muscle cramps, you’re probably lacking in magnesium. Magnesium also helps you to digest protein, control your blood sugar and metabolism and a whole host of other important everyday tasks. You will literally feel the result of having low levels of magnesium, which can be depleted by heavy workouts, stress and too little sleep.
Foods that are rich in magnesium include animal protein and dark leafy greens. It’s recommended that you get at least 400mg of magnesium from your daily diet. Here’s a short list of where you could be meeting this need:
- Hemp seeds
- swiss chard
- pumpkin seeds
- chia seeds
- dark chocolate
- pine nuts
Foods Rich in Potassium
While magnesium will help you to relax more and sleep better, potassium is really where it’s at. You need potassium to help maintain balance in the body and fire off nerve impulses. Potassium balances out sodium in the body to regulate your blood pressure.
A deficiency in potassium will also lead to muscle cramps, constipation, general irritability, heart palpitations and a higher blood pressure and risk of kidney stones.
You don’t need much potassium in your diet to meet your daily needs and in fact too much can also cause problems in your body. You can get your potassium from avocados and dark leafy greens. Meat is high in potassium as well. Even though cooking strips away much of the mineral, it can still be found in the gravy or juices in the pan.
This is why I like to saute my veggies in the same pan when I’m done cooking my meat. Mushrooms are also a good source of potassium.
Sodium Intake on the Keto Diet
It’s weird to be recommending that you increase your sodium intake because all our lives we’ve been told to control our salty food consumption because of the risk of an increased blood pressure.
The fact is though that on the ketogenic diet, you’re eating way less sodium than normal. Think about this. You cook a lot more on this diet in order to meet your daily macro needs, eating out much less often and grabbing packaged foods even less.
Fast food, packaged foods in bags and boxes and eve eating out at fine dining restaurants were the culprit of our high salt intake. Now that we’re cooking all the time, eating much fresher foods and controlling the salt we intake, it is likely that you’re sodium consumption will change drastically.
You lose sodium through sweat and urine and the symptoms of low sodium in the body include fatigue, dizziness, headaches and a general difficulty concentrating or getting anything done.
As stated before, the keto diet is naturally diuretic, flushing out instead of holding on to fat with much lower levels of insulin in the body. Thankfully no supplementation is truly needed here as you can meet your daily recommended dosage of 3-7g of sodium (1-3 teaspoons of salt) easily in your diet.
Do this by drinking bone broth for all the other benefits it provides, liberally salting your food or having a teaspoon of high-quality salt in your water especially 30 minutes before a high-intensity workout or activity.
The Keto Flu
When I first started the keto diet I did not experience much of the keto flu symptoms discussed earlier. This is because I had read up on the possibility of going through a tough transition phase where my body was processing the food I ate differently and the adverse effects it could have.
When you start to eat more whole foods and less carbs, your kidneys excrete more sodium than before. It stops holding on to it like it does with a high carb diet, goodbye bloat! But the balance between sodium and the other electrolytes in your blood stream is delicate and this transition can cause all the symptoms already discussed in this article like headaches, fatigue, constipation, muscle cramps, heart palpitations and more.
I often joke that starting the keto diet is often like pregnancy, the symptoms are far and wide and you never know which ones you’ll get.
The first time I started the keto diet the main symptom I suffered from was insomnia. Thankfully that was an easy fix by getting more magnesium in my diet. I take it at night to help me to sleep and it really works wonders.
The second time I went back on the keto train, I had even more symptoms and this time I got constipation along with it. Maybe I thought I would skip by the keto flu this time around since I’d already been on the diet before but nope. Flushing out the carbs and all the bloat that it comes with will always be a transition I see.
Guess what helped me to get through my constipation no matter all the other things I tried? More magnesium!
Take your keto supplements. Replenish your electrolytes while on the keto diet an don’t take it for granted at all. Swap out your medication for good old vitamins, minerals and real, whole foods and enjoy increased health, energy and vitality.
The keto diet has really changed the quality of my entire life and I encourage you to give it a try if you’re suffering from any kind of lifestyle disease. You don’t even have to go full keto. Here’s how I feed my kid a low carb diet while still allowing her to enjoy the more high quality carbs since she’s a healthy kid who does not need to be so strict with her carb consumption.
A strict keto regimen is for those who want to control or reverse a lifestyle disease. When you’re healthy, maintenance is all you need and you’ll have the freedom to switch things up and have a more balanced diet.