The first week or so of your ketogenic journey may have you feeling less than epic. The reason this initial step happens to you is a simple question of adaptation. As your body gets used to using fats for fuel and oxidizing ketones for energy, you start to feel more and more amazing until you become "fat adapted."
Although entirely unrelated to the influenza virus, folks who've taken on keto flu attest to experiencing feelings like fatigue, brain fog, headaches, muscle stiffness, and cravings. This happened in the first 2-7 days. In this article, you'll learn what makes keto-ers feel off during this period, by analyzing changes your body goes through as you adapt to being in ketosis.
Your Blood Sugar Levels Will Drop
When you restrict carbohydrate intake to such a degree as the ketogenic diet demands, your blood sugar levels decline. By lowering your blood glucose dramatically, you compel the body to find alternative sources of fuel. The first available source of carbohydrates to metabolize is the stored glycogen in the liver and muscles that are waiting to be metabolized. Here's where things get interesting. Something important to note, before you look at the consequences of glycogen metabolism, is how carbohydrates affect stored water in the body.
You Will Retain Less Water
Carbohydrates, as compounds, love to hold onto water. They do this even as they sit and wait in your liver and muscles. Studies have shown that 1g of glycogen has the propensity to hold up to 3g of water. Naturally, then, as you burn up your glycogen stores, you get rid of held water at the same time. This flushing of water is fantastic to reduce that bloated feeling and drop a quick few pounds; however, there is also a downside to these effects.
You Will Lose Electrolytes
When you get rid of water, you also expel certain essential minerals your body needs to function. Minerals like potassium, magnesium, and sodium are considered electrolytes and are exceptionally important for regulating the flow of nutrients into your cells and waste products out of your cells. Unfortunately, as you lose water, your electrolyte balance is disrupted, and you begin to feel sluggish and run-down.
You Will Experience Flu-Like Symptoms
When you first change to a ketogenic eating plan, your system is suddenly deprived of its usual, stable stream of readily-available glucose. While your body learns to acclimatize to the new energy source, fat, you will sometimes note feeling fatigued, lethargy, nausea, headaches, and constipation in the first week. Because the body hasn't yet had the chance to become fat-adapted, it might not be producing ketones efficiently enough for the initial 3-5 days.
Ways You Can Manage Or Prevent Keto Flu
With no glucose to use for energy and an unreliable flow of ketones fueling the cells, you simply aren't running on optimal energy levels in this period. The way to get adapted to fat is just to stick to your ketogenic lifestyle and let biology do the rest! Eat adequate good, healthy fats loaded with omega-3s (wild-caught salmon, macadamia nuts, avocados) to give your liver everything it needs for ketogenesis. Also, beware of overloading on secret starches (keto-friendly veggies like squash and zucchini) in the first few weeks, as you are aiming for at least 70% of your total daily intake to be from fats.
What's great about the keto flu is that you'll know that it's a sign that you are sticking correctly to the ketogenic diet. No keto flu means your liver is not engaging in ketogenesis, and that would be a lot more of a letdown than a few days of brain fog. The ultimate lesson here is that if you use the power of patience, electrolytes, exogenous ketones, and smart food choices, you might just cure keto flu, once and for all.