With all the buzz surrounding keto diets right now, it’s no wonder that so many people are diving headfirst into what many believe to be the ultimate fat loss plan. Reports of huge surges in energy and vitality as a result of keto are not uncommon, as well as massive amounts of weight loss. So it may come as a surprise to know that if you do follow the keto path, you may end up asking yourself, ‘Why am I so exhausted on the keto diet?’
Studies that have been conducted on keto and obesity do show that keto has many health benefits in addition to fat loss, but the fact is transitioning from a regular diet into keto leaves many people struggling with their energy levels.
What is the Keto diet?
Keto is categorized as a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. It transitions your body away from burning carbohydrate as fuel, to using predominantly fat. It can have a large impact on lowering your blood sugar and insulin levels while at the same time having positive implications for a whole host of other illnesses, including:
- Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
Compare a typical macronutrient breakdown for a keto eating plan to a low-carb diet:
- Fat: 40 – 70%
- Carbohydrate: 15 – 30%
- Protein: 15 – 30%
- Fat: 60 – 70%
- Carbohydrate: 5 – 10%
- Protein: 20 – 25%
Making the Transition
Simply jumping straight into a keto diet without any idea of what to expect is probably not a sensible approach.
While an increase in energy is one of the keto diet’s main selling points, what most people don’t realise is that in order to achieve those higher energy levels, your body has to go through a transitional period first.
Your body needs to go from burning glucose as fuel to burning fats and ketones. The length of this process can vary from person to person, and in some cases can even last up to several weeks.
During the adaptation phase, your body will begin to deplete its glycogen stores once you start to restrict carbohydrates from your diet. Once glycogen levels have been reduced up to a certain point, you start to burn ketones as fuel.
What are Ketones?
Ketones are a kind of acid that is formed in the liver. Your body produces them when you don’t have enough insulin to turn sugar into energy.
Once ketones are being utilised as fuel, your body will begin to restore its glycogen levels through a process called gluconeogenesis . Protein is now being broken down into glycogen.
Glycogen contains water molecules, so when your body starts to burn that glycogen, you also lose roughly 1.5kg of water weight. Water contains electrolytes which are important for maintaining your bodies daily functions.
It’s this specific loss of electrolytes that can produce a feeling of fatigue and weakness and can lead to people feeling exhausted on the keto diet.
Sometimes known as “The Keto Flu”.
This is where the majority of people who have jumped into keto without doing some prior research first, fall off the wagon. It’s easy to see why.
This negative experience so soon into the process makes people question its sustainability and practicality. But there are steps you can take to get you through this process. Because once you do make it through to the other side, you will start to experience what keto can really do for your health and your body composition.
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How to Dodge the Keto Flu
Get Your Fats Right
We know that the Keto diet is designed to utilise our fat stores for fuel, so it’s imperative that get enough healthy fats through dietary foods. Start thinking of fat as your new carbohydrate.
Your body is still getting used to metabolising fat for fuel, so it won’t be that efficient at this stage.
Keeping those fat stores full will ensure that your body has the right amount of fuel to burn. You can always adjust your calories once your body becomes more efficient at burning through fat stores.
Beat the Fatigue
As you lose water, vital minerals like potassium and magnesium will suddenly be in short supply. Supplementing with those minerals can be of huge importance here to help combat symptoms like headaches, weakness or dizziness. Foods like bone broth that are high in protein and minerals are a great way to ingest helpful electrolytes.
Recommended dosages for minerals is 3,000 – 4,000mg of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium and 300mg of magnesium.
Restricting calories too much, in the beginning, will also have an adverse effect on your energy levels. Until your body fully adapts to keto, make sure that you are eating enough at mealtimes so that you are completely full.
It goes without saying that water is vital for everything we do. Even more so when attempting keto. The water lost through glycogen stores alone is enough to significantly reduce our weight in a matter of days.
Consuming adequate amounts of water will also help to regulate your appetite and reduce those initial sugar cravings. Drinking the clear stuff will also reduce the stress to your kidneys. Ketones are acidic in nature, therefore some will be excreted rather than used for fuel to avoid a build-up in the body.
Ketones are excreted through the kidneys. Getting enough water will support the kidneys during the filtration process.
Drinking cold water can also help to metabolise fat faster. Your body needs to increase its internal temperature in order to metabolise the water. Burning fats requires more water for the process to occur. So consuming additional water will aid in fat being broken down more effectively.
Amounts of water will vary from person to person, but if you’re struggling to get enough water in during the day, a good tip is to drink two 8oz glasses first thing in the morning. Adult recommendations for water consumption are between 2.7 litres – 3.7 litres for men and women respectively.
If you work out a lot or live in a hotter climate, expect your requirements to be even higher!
Get the Right Mindset
Flexibility and patience is another key factor for success with keto. The process is different for every individual so comparing yourself to others can have a negative impact on your own keto journey.
If you feel that any aspect of the diet is not working for you, then be proactive in making positive adjustments. How patient you are during the transition period is a huge indicator of how practical and sustainable the keto diet will be for you.
You May Not Be in Full Ketosis
One other possible reason you may feel exhausted on the keto diet is that you simply might not be in full ketosis. You won’t be utilizing fats or ketones as efficiently as you could. if that’s the case, then you could try lowering your carb intake or take an MCT supplement
One size does not fit all when it comes to eating plans and diets. You need to find the right fit for you. The keto diet has some amazing health benefits beyond just body composition, you just need to find that sweet spot that works for you and is practical and sustainable!
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