The Keto Diet and Electrolyte Balance
The keto diet causes major metabolic changes within the body. Switching from burning carbs as an energy source to utilizing fat is the whole process of keto. This is the reason that many experience weight loss and boosts in energy and cognitive health. But that initial weight loss isn’t only fat – in fact, much of it is water due to changes in fluid balance.
Fluctuations in fluid balance with the keto diet can be attributed to a few things:
Reduction of circulating and stored carbohydrates. As carbohydrates in the diet are reduced, the body will purge stored glycogen, the storage form of sugar, for energy. Glycogen is kept in the muscles and liver and is stored with water. As glycogen gets used up, the water its stored with is also released.
Changes in insulin. With a lower carb diet, the body produces less insulin (the hormone that manages blood sugar). When insulin levels start to drop, more sodium and fluid are excreted through the kidneys.
Total reduction of inflammation. A hallmark sign of inflammation is swelling. The ketogenic diet is known to support a healthy inflammatory response. As inflammation cools, swelling is reduced. As fluid leaves the body, the electrolytes sodium, potassium and magnesium are reduced as well. That is why these specific electrolytes are an important focus of a healthy ketogenic lifestyle.
The three main essential electrolytes you will want to monitor during a ketogenic lifestyle are
Sodium is essential for human health and is required for normal cell function, fluid balance and nerve impulse transmission.
Potassium resides largely within the cell. Think of potassium as an effective bouncer at your favorite concert – its star role in good health is stewarding nutrients in and waste products out of the cell. But that’s not potassium’s only job, it also helps the heartbeat stay regular and balance the impact of too much sodium in the diet.
Magnesium is required for healthy nerve and muscle function, maintenance of the immune system, strong bones, stable blood sugar and blood pressure.
Fluids and Electrolytes
A well-designed ketogenic diet should include plenty of fluids to replace what you lose as your carbohydrate stores are depleted as well as plenty of electrolytes in the form of foods or supplements.
Fluids should include mostly caffeine-free, unsweetened beverages like water,unsweetened plant-based milks, broths and herbal tea. In general, two liters of fluid per day is a good starting point. Larger or highly active individuals may need more. If urine is dark, drink more – lighter urine is a sign of good hydration.
Your electrolyte balance can be maintained by regularly including foods that are high in sodium, potassium and magnesium in your diet. You may even come up with some meals and snacks that incorporate foods rich in all three like a spinach (potassium, magnesium) salad with salmon (potassium), pumpkin seeds (magnesium) and topped with a vinaigrette dressing (sodium).
Supplementation is definitely not required, but it is often times helpful to keep your body at its max performance. Also when first starting keto, it can be helpful to beat the "keto flu" by already taking preemptive measures and drinking electrolytes to maintain levels of proper hydration. Be sure to properly read the labels and look for electrolytes that are keto friendly and labeled "sugar free"
Electrolytes are minerals that are important for a wide range of functions, from maintaining blood pressure and normal heart rhythm to muscle contractions and fluid balance.
Imbalances in these minerals happen to some keto beginners and this leads to symptoms popularly referred to as keto flu.
The keto flu is easy to prevent and treat by paying special attention to your intake of key electrolytes, namely sodium, potassium, and magnesium.