You may have heard of the keto flu – you may even have experienced it!
But for anyone who is, for the first time, transitioning to a low-carb, high-fat diet, the keto flu can hit you pretty hard. And if you don’t know what’s happening it can easily knock you off your stride.
For me, the keto flu lasted for about 3 weeks. I think this is actually longer than most people experience it – the average is about 1 week. I was a total carb addict before hand though so that could explain it!
The keto flu is also known as the low carb flu, and although there are plenty of lucky people that barely notice it, for others it can really feel like you have genuinely got the flu. For a few days you are miserable and want nothing more than to lie on the sofa with a blanket and Netflix.
With symptoms such as:
a general feeling of ‘unwellness’
I mostly experienced an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and lack of motivation to do, well, anything, accompanied by intermittent nausea and hot flushes.
What Causes Keto Flu (aka Low Carb Flu)?
I haven’t been able to find any actual scientific explanations of what is actually happening during keto flu. Most people believe it is a combination of withdrawal from sugars and carbohydrates plus detoxification symptoms.
Marks Sissons from ‘Mark’s Daily Apple’ has this to say:
If your body is used to employing easy glucose carbs and now must create glucose from fats and protein (a slightly more complex but entirely natural mode of operation), it can take some time to get up to speed. Rest assured that our bodies can and are doing the job. It simply takes time to work efficiently. The transition actually shifts metabolic related gene expression, increasing fat oxidation pathways and decreasing fat storage pathways. (That’s nothing to shake a stick at!) Within a few weeks, the body should be fairly efficient at converting protein and fat for the liver’s glycogen stores, which provide all the glucose we need for the brain, red blood cells, muscles, etc. under regular circumstances.
How to Get Through the Keto Flu
The most important thing to do, in my opinion, is get enough rest. Your body is going through a process of change and healing, and if you give yourself permission to rest up and let your body do what it needs to do, it can actually be a lovely experience (despite the flu-like symptoms!).
Other things you can do are:
- Drink plenty of water
- Make sure you are supplementing your electrolytes by adding plenty of Himalayan salt or other clean salt to your food.
- Stay away from heavy exercise, light walking of time under tension exercises are more than enough at this stage.
- Eat more fat than you think you should! Help your body to adjust to using fats as fuel by making sure there is ample supply of it.
- Take ketone supplements. I’ll be honest – I did not experiment with these but in the last year or so I have heard many stories of these supplements really helping to kick start ketosis and get people through the flu-stage.
- Add plenty of coconut oil or MCTs to your daily diet. These fats are very easily broken down by your body and produce an easy form of energy for your body to use.
- Be prepared – know what you’re going to be eating in advance so you don’t get caught out in the middle of a carb craving. Having a ready supply of fat bombs is perfect for this.
- Treat yourself in other ways. Now is the time to have that luxurious bath, or buy yourself a little something (other than food).
Use this time to do your research and learn more about the keto diet/the benefits of eating low carb. It’s great to build up your knowledge in this area as much as possible, plus the more you know, the more motivated you are to push through the keto flu and reach the promised land!
And one final word of advice… It’s really important not to ‘cheat’ while you are experiencing keto flu. Yes, eating some carbs will make you feel better at this point, but it will also set you back to square one in terms of keto-adapting, I’m afraid.
Once you have keto-adapted, you can add carbs here and there if you need them because your body has already got all the metabolic pathways for burning fat as fuel in place. Thus you can dip in and out of ketosis as you like. But until you’ve reached that point it’s best to stick with what you’re doing so you get there faster.
Let me know in the comments if you have found any other ways that really help to get you through the keto flu!