A ketosis diet is a powerful tool for health and weight loss. But, it can seem difficult, especially at the beginning. One of the largest problems is the ‘keto flu’. This doesn’t affect everyone but most people will experience it to some degree or another.
Just want solutions? Jump straight to the advice!
So, what are the keto flu symptoms? And, more importantly, how do you get past the ‘flu’?
This post will answer all of those questions and get you started on the right track.
To do so, I’ve searched the web for top bloggers who talk about the ketosis diet. These are people who are passionate about keto and have personal experience. In this post, they share their top tips for getting past the keto flu, including what has worked for them personally.
These different opinions are critical. After all, the keto experience is different for each person and the best solution for one person may not work for another.
Just want solutions? Jump straight to the advice!
Keto Flu Symptoms
The ‘keto flu’ is basically a form of withdrawal. You’re switching from carbs as an energy source to fat instead. To do so, your body needs to adjust.
The symptoms come from this adjustment, along with various electrolyte and hormone imbalances that occur as well.
Even so, the keto flu isn’t a bad thing. Becoming fat fueled is why a keto diet is so powerful and your body will need to adapt.
What the keto flu looks like varies considerably. Some people will experience mild symptoms, others will go through a more severe version. But, however bad it is – the keto flu will pass.
Common keto flu symptoms:
And, let me be clear, the keto flu is not long-term. Some people experience it for a day or two, others may have some symptoms for a week or more.
It isn’t an indication of what the ketosis diet will feel like. In fact, once people get past this initial phase, they tend to find that they have increased energy and fewer cravings than ever before.
The keto diet can feel amazing, once you get past the keto flu. It really is worth sticking with it. If you give up too soon, you’ll never experience the advantages the keto diet has to offer.
Most people will experience the keto flu to some degree or another. But, the advice below should help reduce the symptoms. In some cases, you may even be able to skip the withdrawal entirely.
Remedies and Advice
Healthy Gamer Girl
I find the best way to push through the keto flu is to try and prevent it by making sure I'm drinking enough fluids and getting enough electrolytes. I mostly drink mineral water, and will also supplement with electrolyte powder if I'm doing a lot of sweating!
Salting food liberally with a mineral-rich salt like Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt is also helpful, as is drinking herbal teas. While these foods only contain trace levels of minerals, it's usually enough for me to avoid any keto-flu symptoms! This strategy also works if the keto flu has already started to set in. I really can't say enough good things about maintaining a proper balance of electrolytes!
To quickly remedy the keto flu, make sure you have proper intake of these:
- Drink more water.
- Supplement with sodium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Eat more fats (especially MCTs)
- Do low-intensity exercise first thing in the morning.
Just these 4 things will usually push you past the keto flu within a matter of hours, let alone days. Getting water and mineral intake correct is vital when it comes to going keto. You can always read more here as well for specific amounts and other tips: https://www.ruled.me/keto-flu-remedy/
My Sweet Keto
The only significant keto flu I've ever experienced was the very first time I started keto at the beginning of 2016. At the time I lacked knowledge on how to beat it quickly and efficiently. I still find it quite logical that an average person will have to fight through feeling at least a bit unwell when doing keto for the first time, despite the theoretical knowledge, as every process of adapting to something entirely new has to show up somehow.
Anyways, these days I tend to jump in and out of ketosis on a regular basis, taking an occasional carby vacation. Having chronic migraine under control, and no other neurological disorders, that is something I can freely afford.
My strategy against keto flu is merely adding more sea salt to my plates. If I feel off (which, in my case, usually feels like a headache "on standby" or dizziness), I take a dose or two of electrolytes supplement. Besides, I find taking good care of sufficient protein intake crucial to keep stamina in my workouts or other activities. Failing in any of these (salt, electrolytes, protein) will result in having the first three "re-keto" days feeling lethargic and undesirably underproductive.
Getting past the keto flu starts with prevention - make sure you're hydrated, eating plenty of fat and veggies and not skimping on the salt! Micronutrients and electrolytes are very important. When starting a ketogenic diet, your body flushes out the excess water it's been storing along with many electrolytes.
If you find yourself with the keto flu, don't worry - replenish those electrolytes by eating vitamin and mineral rich foods and supplementing some extra salt. Snack on pickles, bacon and other natural, high sodium (and low carb) foods. Drinking bone broth or a bit of unsweetened coconut water is a great way to introduce electrolytes back into your system.
Butter is Not a Carb
My best tips for getting through keto flu are to be sure you are fully hydrated, you are taking in enough salt/magnesium/potassium, you are getting plenty of sleep, and you are hitting you macros and simply eating enough the first few days.
I like making "Ketoade" which is Crystal Light and some magnesium citrate powder to help boost my magnesium levels and prevent muscle cramps. I think it's important to remember the flu typically only lasts a few days and once you push past that, it becomes much easier to make keto part of your daily routine.
Keto adaptation is a lengthy process, and you might encounter a few bumps along the road. While some people don't get keto-flu at all, I wasn't so lucky. I experienced most of the symptoms you can imagine: headaches, muscle cramps, digestive issues, heart palpitations and fatigue. The good news is that you can easily minimize or even avoid these symptoms - here are my top tips:
- During the initial phase of the keto diet, your body will need more electrolytes (that is, foods high in sodium, potassium and magnesium). That's why I regularly eat foods like spinach, avocados, salmon, beef, nuts & seeds (especially almonds and hemp seeds), and I drink bone broth almost every day.
- Don't be afraid to use salt every day. When your insulin drops, it will cause your sodium levels to drop significantly, too. I use pink Himalayan salt and sea salt.
- Stay hydrated, ideally by drinking beverages high in electrolytes. I make my own electrolyte drink which has helped many of my readers too: https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2015/10/19/beat-keto-flu-with-homemade-electrolyte-drink
- Try high-absorption magnesium supplements. I use Doctor's Best (Magnesium Glycinate/Malate) and Calm (Magnesium Citrate). Another good option is Espom salt baths (Magnesium Sulphate).
- If you are too tired to exercise, slow down. Instead, go for a walk. It will take a few weeks before your body gets keto-adapted.
Gorge on fat, meat and salt. Kratom, topical Mg and keto-diet-cokes are awesome too. Exercising in the 180-method shortens duration. But mindset is our best weapon in the war on carbs. Keto-flu sucks, you will feel like dog shit. But you still control your attitude.
We’ve done this for millions of years. Suck it up. Fat-adaptation will be the best thing you ever do for your health. Lay low for a week, experiment with fat-bombs, Netflix and chill. You realize you can eat all the steak, butter and chocolate whipped cream, right?! Optimism and acceptance are highly underrated. When you're done, tackle the carnivore-flu, it's way worse 😉
Keto flu really comes down to electrolytes. When you first start keto your body carries less water, and that throws off your electrolyte balance. You HAVE to supplement these when doing a keto diet, but it's even more critical at the start. Getting the necessary electrolytes isn't that hard. Sodium can be supplemented by salting your food and even adding salt to your water and coffee throughout the day. Potassium can easily be achieved through food. Avocados and spinach are great options. Magnesium is something you may want to supplement. I like taking 300mg of magnesium in pill form before bed.
First of all, if you have any pre-existing medical condition, or if you are on diabetes medication, it's important to discuss this with your primary physician as insulin will need to be titrated to an appropriate level.
A ketogenic diet can bring about side effects due to dehydration and loss of electrolyte minerals in the early stages. As a result, it's important to drink more water and ensure sufficient intake of nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium (salt food liberally!)
Lastly, when replacing energy from carbohydrate with fat it is important to actually make that replacement. Up your fat intake; don't fear fatty cuts of meat, and eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods without worrying about their fat content. For your body to adapt to burning fat for fuel, you need to actually eat enough of it!
When transitioning to keto, the most important step to avoid keto flu is to ensure your electrolytes are balanced. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first, drinking electrolytes in the form of electrolyte powder or a homemade electrolyte drink like the Keto Lemonade on page 422 of my paperback, The Keto Diet, or the Electrolyte Green Tea Lemonade recipe on my website. Eating electrolyte-rich foods such as avocados, dark chocolate, and greens will also help.
Another path you could take is supplementing with exogenous ketones, which can boost the ketones in your body to help nudge your body into a ketogenic state and avoid keto flu feelings. The supplement isn’t for everyone, and shouldn’t be viewed as a “magic pill” but is an option. Ultimately, I think most people would benefit from practicing patience and listening to their body – it’s a huge transition, but it’s temporary, and the long-term benefits of keto are totally worth it in my experience.
Keto for India
Firstly as the name suggests, it is not anything like the flu. So reading the word ‘Flu’ should, not scare newbies to Keto. My strategy, which I share with all those who join me, is to stay strong in the head and hydrated in the body.
From personal experience I can tell that if you drink 4 to 5 liters of water in a day, at regular intervals, you might not feel the flu at all. Out of these 5 liters, 1 liter should be limewater made with the juice of 1 lime and add remember to add white salt and pink salt for sure. And once this finishes and if one feels irritated or a slight headache, then all you need to do is warm up a glass of water and add a pinch of both salts and keep sipping it. Also in the early days try not to keep long gaps between meals.
Ketogenic Diet for Women
My most powerful strategies for getting through keto flu are:
It really is amazing how much difference it will make to how you feel if you focus on keeping your electrolytes balanced while you are transitioning to keto. The absolute best thing for me was to dissolve a stock cube in a mug of hot water, blend a tablespoon of butter in and drink this. It tastes delicious and really picks you up. Another tip is to mix a teaspoonful of Himalayan salt and half a teaspoonful of Lo Salt in a ramekin in the morning, and make sure you have used it all up by the time you go to bed.
In addition to keeping a weather eye on your electrolytes I would say make sure you are eating enough. Now is NOT the time to be reducing your calories. Get the fats in and don't be scared of them!
And get as much rest as possible. Try to think of the first week as a little bit of a holiday. Take things easy, don't worry about staying on top of the washing or other jobs around the house. Put your feet up, have a nice long bath, go for walks in nature. Treat yourself!
Finally, stay positive and remember that even though it can suck, keto flu is temporary, and when it passes you are going to feel on top of the world. 🙂
There are several strategies I have used.
- Adding more fats in - especially MCT oil or coconut oil in my morning coffee or greens drink.
- Eating a bit more than I would normally eat. (For people who have been high carb for a long time, it might be less painful if add a bit more clean carbs into their keto diet initially.)
- Making sure to drink plenty of water and get plenty of salts.
- Taking some exogenous ketones can also help.
I would highly recommend adding a good amount of salt to your day. Beating keto flu is not only drinking enough water, but water with some salt in it. Adding half a teaspoon to a litre of water will be better than just drinking plain filtered tap water for helping beat keto flu. First thing in the morning try have a glass of water with half a teaspoon of salt too before drinking anything else. I also wouldn't be worried about salting my keto food either to help make sure you are getting more than enough salt minerals in the day.
My favorite cure for keto flu involves salt! Many people are told by their doctors to cut back on salt but when we go low carb or keto, we need to increase our salts! You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel by drinking some well salted broth or even sprinkling some chunky sea salt on your hand and licking it off. I favor pink Himalayan sea salt because it has the bonus of extra minerals.
As your body begins to go into ketosis, you may have reactions that, for some, feel like the flu. This is one way your body reacts to the drastic changes in the foods you are used to eating. There are several things you can do to help avoid the Keto flu.
First of all be sure that you stay well hydrated. Staying hydrated will help you during the keto flu process. As your body adjusts to changes, it needs extra fluids to help. Be sure to keep sugar free electrolytes handy. Electrolytes are much needed during the Keto flu. Look for sugar-free versions like G2 or Powerade. Another option that is more preferred by many is to use bone broth as a way to stay hydrated.
Fit to Serve Group
As much as I love recommending a ketogenic diet for greater health and wellness, I must admit that what frustrates me the most is when I hear that someone quits the diet because they can’t pass the keto-flu stage.
It’s so unfortunate because if they only knew they were inches from feeling amazing they would persevere. I remember the first time I attempted the keto diet, the unpleasant symptoms that came from switching from being a glucose-burner to being a fat burner kind of took me by surprise.
At the time information about the diet wasn’t easy to come by. I had only briefly heard that I could encounter headaches, fatigue and flu like symptoms when entering ketosis. Innocently, I somehow thought I would be one of the rare few that would be spared the dark side of the keto diet.
When my glucose stores had been depleted and I was just about to create ketones, I almost threw in the towel. What was the hardest for me was the hypoglycemic symptoms I felt. I truly thought I was going to pass out.
Thankfully, I stuck with it and when I entered ketosis for the first time, mind you two-weeks in, I knew I was onto something special. The immediate energy I felt was stunning. A few days later the brain fog lifted and I was officially in love with the diet.
I must say that being on a keto diet has many benefits, but the keto flu is nothing to sneeze about. Since those first weeks, I have learned a few hacks that make transitioning so much easier.
Here are my top three favorites strategies for getting past the keto-flu
- Consider intermittently fasting. By eating less frequently, you will naturally raise your ketone production and speed the process of getting into ketosis and burning fat for fuel.
- Take a thirty-minute walk every day while transitioning. There is no need to do an extreme workout to feel the benefits. Exercise will increase fat oxidation and help raise your ketone levels. This will keep the dreaded keto-flu symptoms safely at bay.
- Experiment using exogenous ketones. They may be especially beneficial before you are fat-adapted and provide you with the energy that you crave when your glucose stores become depleted. I find that exogenous ketones can help with training your body to recognize ketones as an alternate fuel and avoid most of the flu-like symptoms altogether.
Everyone dreads it, but not everyone gets it. In those who do get it, it can last a few days or a few weeks. Symptoms can be quite unpleasant, or very mild.
So you feel tired, irritable, sluggish. You have brain fog, you can’t focus, you’re craving sugary foods. Your stomach doesn’t feel right, you may even feel nauseous, have a headache or pains everywhere. You feel ill.
Well, if you’ve just started a ketogenic, low carb or paleo regime, it’s likely that you have keto flu!
Your body is a highly tuned machine that has run on glucose all its life. Suddenly, you’re taking away its prime source of energy, so of course it has to adjust and in doing so you’re likely to feel a bit crappy. It’s your body telling you that it’s not happy (cravings, irritability, brain fog) and that it’s working hard at learning to deal with a new form of energy (fatigue, aches and pains, general unwellness).
So how do you deal with it?
My first bit of advice for anyone thinking of cutting carbs is to do so gradually. Sugars first, then simple carbs, then complex carbs. A stepped change is unlikely to lead to keto flu as you’re allowing your body to get used to the switch.
But if you’ve already reduced carbs drastically and have keto flu, there are several steps you can take to improve the situation and make it as short lived as possible:
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Increase you salt intake.
- Stay active, but don’t overdo it.
- Eat more good fats, don’t worry about calories for now.
- Eat a few simple carbs (berries, nuts).
- Some people find bone broth beneficial. If you like it, go for it: it delivers the nourishment, extra fluids, additional salt and extra fat you need to ease you out of keto flu.
In the meantime, think about all those health benefits that are going to come your way. You’ve made the best lifestyle choice, you won’t regret it!
Alrighty, how to avoid Keto Flu…. Keto flu is quite simply the negative side effects of switching over from using glucose as the primary fuel source to using ketones. Unfortunately, the short-term negative of “keto-flu” is enough to keep people from trying the diet in the first place. However, these symptoms can be minimized by following a few basic guidelines. The sooner you get keto-adapted, the sooner you can reap the benefits of the superior fuel source.
- Increase your water intake. It’s very important to make sure you are completely hydrated when switching over to ketosis.
- Increase your electrolytes. As you switch to ketosis, your kidneys will start flushing your system and it is really easy to become deficient in certain electrolytes. Supplement with: 1) Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, 2) Potassium (I use and recommend Zip Fizz because it has 950 mg of potassium per tube), 3) Magnesium
- Burn through any stored glycogen as fast as possible. The sooner you can burn through your glycogen stores, the sooner you will be able to tap into the ketones as a fuel source. Increase your training intensity to burn through glycogen faster.
- Eliminate/Minimize carbohydrate intake. I’m a fan of the “rip the bandaid off” approach and recommend decreasing TOTAL carbs to around 10 grams the first week or two of starting the diet.
- Make sure the foods you consume come from quality sources. Try and consume quality, organic, minimally processed foods to ensure that you are ingesting as many micronutrients through your foods as possible.
As you can see, there are many ways to make the keto flu bearable – or get rid of the symptoms entirely. Many of the solutions focus on being kind to yourself while making sure you get enough electrolytes and water.
You can also check out our Ketosis Diet Guide for an introduction to the approach, along with various resources and links to powerful articles that can help you along the way. Some of those links are from sites on this list and there are various tools featured as well.
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