The extremely low-carb keto diet forces your body to burn fat for energy. Your body adjusts by asking your liver to create chemicals called ketones to fuel your energy. Switching to a diet very low in carbohydrates requires your body to adjust to the new way of eating. Some people experience side effects during the transition period.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and vary from person to person. People commonly report the effects as they begin the new way of eating, and last for about a week. It's common enough for people to feel under the weather that the condition is sometimes called the keto flu. The good news is you can manage the symptoms and mitigate the side effects.
Many people suffer from these common symptoms
While some people may transition to a ketogenic diet without any side effects, others may experience gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. Others suffer from headaches, irritability, and have trouble concentrating or sleep poorly. Lastly, some people struggle with muscle cramps, soreness, dizziness, and weakness. Almost everyone has trouble battling sugar cravings.
Make sure you're eating enough
Restrictive diets can be difficult if you don't consume enough calories. Almost everyone struggles with food cravings for sweets. Research shows that low-carb diets help reduce cravings for high-carb foods over time but be sure to eat enough fat to help reduce cravings and keep you from being hungry.
Stay hydrated and balance your electrolytes
Drinking enough water is important to a healthy diet every day, but especially if you're battling symptoms like fatigue and muscle cramping. Replacing fluids is critical with diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress because these symptoms can leave your electrolytes imbalanced. The keto diet restricts many high-potassium foods like fruits, beans, and starches, which can further contribute to the imbalance.
Staying hydrated and balancing your electrolytes may help reduce any symptoms experienced in the adaptation period of the diet. You can do this by including plenty of green leafy vegetables to maintain your electrolyte balance. Adding in foods high in magnesium can address muscle cramps, headaches, and issues sleeping.
Get plenty of rest and sleep
Fatigue and irritability are common in the first week of following a ketogenic diet, so it may be a good idea to give your body a rest. Avoid strenuous exercise until your body adapts to the new way of eating.
When you don't get enough sleep, your stress hormones rise. The additional cortisol can make you irritable and worsen your keto flu symptoms. If you are having a difficult time falling or staying asleep, try reducing your caffeine intake and regulating your sleep patterns, so you go to bed and wake at the same time every day.
It's a marathon, not a sprint
Typically the effects of the keto flu only last about a week, but can make people uncomfortable enough to give up on making a big change. It's a lifestyle, not a temporary diet, so think of your transition as a marathon, not a sprint. Cut back slowly on carbs while you increase the fat and protein of your diet to make the transition smoother.