Most people have heard of the ketogenic diet, keto for short. The keto diet is good for fat loss and involves eating 50 grams of carbs per day or less while eating moderate amounts of protein and lots of fat.
The keto diet is nothing new and has been around for over a century. It was initially developed as a treatment for hyperactivity and epilepsy in children. Yes – doctors used to prescribe this diet!
Fast forward to the 21sts century, and the ketogenic diet is now one of the most controversial diets around. How can eating so much fat be good for you? And what about the dreaded keto flu? Is it contagious?
What is the keto flu?
A lot of people think that the keto diet will make them feel unwell. However, the truth is once your body makes the shift from using carbs and fats for energy to using ketones, you will feel great. In fact, that’s one of the best indicators that you have achieved ketosis – all the side effects disappear – often overnight.
However, until your body makes the shift to using ketones for fuel, you will probably experience at least a few of these symptoms. Don’t worry, none of them are life-threatening, and there are ways you can minimize them. However, they can also make you feel less-than-stellar for a few days. It’s these side effects that are often called the keto flu, and no, it really isn’t contagious!
Common symptoms of the keto flu include:
- Difficulty focusing (“brain fog”)
- Changes in taste and smell
- Lack of motivation
- Sugar cravings
- Muscle cramps
- Increased urination/dehydration
- Muscle cramps
Keto flu symptoms usually only last a few days. However, they’ll last a lot longer if you have just spent a week eating as much carbohydrate as possible before starting your keto diet! If you gradually decrease your carb intake over several days before embarking on your diet, you should find that you breeze through the keto flu quickly and smoothly. That being said, some people are more prone to the keto flu than others.
Here are a few tips to reduce the effects of keto flu…
Drink more water
This is the most effective way to beat the keto flu. Transitioning into ketosis uses a lot of water, and you will find yourself urinating much more than usual. As you urinate more, you’ll also be losing minerals called electrolytes, and that makes your symptoms worse.
Make it your mission to drink more water – 64 ounces per day is a good target. Plain water is the best choice, but remember there is also water in leafy vegetables, tea and coffee, bone broth and bouillon, and soup. Add a little salt or use a carb-free electrolyte mix to replace lost minerals.
Eat more fat
A lot of people are fat-phobic but, when it comes to the keto diet, fat is your friend. About 70% of your calories should come from fat during the keto diet. Symptoms of the keto flu are often much worse if you don’t eat enough fat. Without carbs, your body needs an alternative source of energy, and that’s fat.
Make sure you don’t try and do a low-fat keto diet – they never work. Instead, if you feel tired, hungry, or have any other keto flu symptoms, try increasing your fat intake. Good sources of fat include:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Lard/beef fat
Take it easy with exercise
Exercise and the ketogenic diet are definitely compatible, but it’ll take a while for your energy levels to return to normal once you enter ketosis. Trying to exercise hard before you make the shift to burning ketones for fuel can be hard. You’ll feel tired, weak, and may fatigue faster than usual.
Allow for this by dialing back your workouts until most of your keto flu symptoms have passed. At that point, gradually increase your workout intensity and duration until you are back to your previous best.
Don’t starve yourself
The ketogenic diet is excellent for fat loss, but you don’t have to starve yourself for it to work. That’s the beauty of the keto diet – it’s being in ketosis that speeds up fat loss, rather than the amount of food you eat, initially at least.
When you start keto, don’t be tempted to starve yourself. Eat plenty of fat and moderate amounts of protein so that you don’t feel hungry. You’ll still lose weight and fat, and the scales will soon reveal the effectiveness of keto dieting. You can finetune your calorie intake once you are in ketosis. Right now, your body has enough to contend without adding starvation into the mix.
Use supplements that will help you get into ketosis faster
If you cut your carb intake to 20-50 grams per day, it’s only a matter of time before you reach ketosis. However, the longer it takes, the more likely you are to suffer keto flu. Get into ketosis faster by using a few well-chosen supplements. Supplements can help speed up glucose dispersal so that your onboard carb and glycogen stores are used more quickly.
Good options include:
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil
- Exogenous ketones
Contrary to popular opinion, the keto diet is a great way to lose weight and is safe for most people. The keto flu IS a real thing, but it’s easy to overcome, and it doesn’t last long. Yes, you may feel a little under the weather for a few days, but it’ll soon pass. Remember too that, once your keto flu has gone, you’ll enter maximum fat-burning mode, and every day you are in ketosis will take you another step closer to your ideal weight.