As a low-carb, high-fat diet, keto is designed to help your body adjust from burning glucose (derived from carbs and sugars) as its primary source of energy to burning fat instead. That is why this diet has tremendous success when it comes to losing weight.
However, since most of us grow up on a carb-based diet, changing from that kind of existence to the ketogenic way of life does bring about some minimal and easily mitigated side effects such as electrolyte imbalances. Learning how to replenish electrolytes in your body will help make your Keto journey more even-keeled.
You may ask yourself: “why do electrolyte imbalances occur?”
Electrolyte imbalances tend to be more pronounced in people who take up the Ketogenic way of life because this diet fundamentally changes how your body handles certain substances such as water and electrolytes. That’s why you often find yourself a bit thirstier than usual, dehydrated, or a host of other minor, short-term side effects.
Thankfully, these side effects can easily be mitigated. However, the process needs to understand why issues such as electrolyte imbalances occur and how to replenish electrolytes when on the keto diet.
This guide will walk you through what you need to know and highlight how you can replenish your electrolytes through both supplements and various types of foods.
What Causes Electrolyte Imbalances During Ketogenesis?
To make this clearer, let’s first start by understanding what electrolytes are in our bodies and what they do.
As the name would suggest, electrolytes are minerals in your body (in your blood as well as other fluids) that carry an electric charge. It’s these minerals that help your body carry out some of the most basic yet essential functions such as:
- Heartbeat regulation
- Muscle contraction
- Bladder control
- Body temperature control
- Neurological functions
If you don’t have enough electrolytes in your body, then these functions won’t be as seamless. Various common side effects come with having an electrolyte deficiency.
- A racing heart or heart palpitations
- Migraines, brain fog, or headaches
- Muscle cramps
- Constipation and bloating
So why are electrolyte imbalances common in people who take on the Keto diet?
It has a lot to do with the hormone produced by the pancreas called insulin, which helps your cells to absorb glucose as well as your kidneys to hold on to keep sodium. When you go on a restricted carbs intake, such as you would have to when on the keto diet, your insulin levels drop.
Because of this drop, your kidneys will begin to excrete more potassium and sodium, which causes an imbalance. This mostly occurs during the first four days or so of dieting.
Another common reason for imbalances has to do with glycogen depletion. Glycogen, which is a form of sugar, is typically stored in the liver and muscles, and it’s about four parts water. The lack of carbs in your diet leads to the depletion of these stores, which leads to the depletion of the water in them.
Which Minerals Are Most Affected by the Keto Diet?
The most common electrolytes include minerals such as sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate, and chloride phosphorus but only three of these are most commonly affected by the keto diet:
- Sodium: This mineral is often affected first due to the drop in insulin production, which leads to the excretion of sodium and potassium from the kidneys.
- Potassium: Sodium and potassium form a dynamic duo that makes up two sides of the same coin. It’s their balance that helps your body maintain nominal blood pressure as well as fluids. Should there be too much of one, such as there would be too much sodium, then the balance will be affected, and so will your body.
- Magnesium: Because you will be taking in fewer carbs, you will essentially be limiting, if not removing entirely, important sources of magnesium such as whole grains, legumes, bananas, and starchy vegetables.
Tips on How to Correct and Avoid Electrolyte Imbalances on Keto
As mentioned earlier, these side effects, although uncomfortable, can easily be mitigated. Here are some simple tips that will help you correct or even avoid electrolyte imbalances when on the Keto diet:
Consume More Salt
While an increased consumption of salts can create its own set of problems, not taking enough when on the keto diet will have you experiencing the side effects of electrolyte imbalances such as muscle cramps and headaches. To balance out the loss of sodium in your body, try to increase your salt intake to about 2,400 milligrams (which is slightly less than a teaspoon).
Because salt contains sodium (40%) and chloride (60%), you will be getting a healthy dose of the minerals lost. You can increase your salt intake by adding a host of other sources on your diet such as cheese, soy sauce, meat, bouillon cubes, and some condiments.
Include Potassium-rich Foods in Your Diet
Getting sodium is easy (just add salt), potassium, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fish. The problem with potassium is that even the foods that are supposed to have it in plenty might not have as much as you need because of how they were cultivated.
To be on the safe side, you need to eat anywhere between 2,300 – 3,400 milligrams of potassium as an adult. Otherwise, you run a risk of developing high blood pressure, kidney stones, and frail bones.
Make it a point to eat:
- At least one avocado
- Raw spinach
- Chicken breasts
- Cooked broccoli
- Some asparagus
The trick is to try and include a wide variety of potassium-rich foods in your keto diet as possible (organic, whenever possible).
Eat Lots of Magnesium-rich Foods
As is the case with potassium, the best way to increase your magnesium intake is to get it from magnesium-rich foods (organic, whenever possible). Eat lots of:
- Peanut butter
- Plain yogurt
- Ground beef
You should strive to take in about 360 – 420 milligrams of magnesium daily.
Take Electrolyte Supplements
Of course, one of the easiest ways to ensure that you are getting the right amount of electrolytes is to take electrolyte supplements along with your diet. Some of the best supplements to include in your day to day eating include Bone Broth and other essential supplements.
Finally, one of the best ways to replenish electrolytes is to drink lots of water to stave off the dehydration that comes with electrolyte imbalances.