Electrolytes and Why It is Necessary on a Ketogenic Diet

Before I started eating low carb, I had no idea about electrolytes. I don’t even remember hearing that word before. So when I found out that electrolytes are very important when you’re following a Ketogenic diet, I was surprised that I need it and I need more of it compared to the amount I usually consume.

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are substances (nutrients and chemicals) that have many necessary functions in the body. They are the compounds that produce electrolytic solutions when dissolved in water.   They are responsible for your heartbeat, rebuilding tissues, maintaining bones and teeth, maintaining fluid balance in the body, nerve signaling, regulating blood pressure and blood pH, and many other functions. Electrolytes include magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium and chloride.

Why are electrolytes important in a Ketogenic Diet?

Electrolytes are important because of its function to the body. When you are in a very low carb diet like Keto, it is even more important. Why? Because in ketogenic diet, your body don’t retain water as much as when you eat a high carb diet. In a high carb diet, the body stores glycogen along with water. In low carb diets, your body will not have many glycogen to store. Therefore, it will also not store water. Water will be excreted in the form of urine and sweat. (This is why you pee and sweat a lot on a keto diet). As the body expels the water, it also flushes out electrolytes, particularly sodium. Moreover, ketones are highly diuretic on its own, which makes it more necessary to supplement on electrolytes.

What are the effects of Electrolyte Imbalance?

When a person doesn’t have enough electrolytes in the body, s/he will experience the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Heart palpitation
  • Flu-like symptoms (keto flu)
  • Bloating
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • insomnia

How to Avoid Electrolyte Imbalance and Keto Flu?

Keto flu is a condition that most keto eaters experience, especially on the first few days/weeks since they started. It is normal because the body is transitioning from burning carbohydrates to burning fat as source of energy. Electrolytes come as your body excretes ketone bodies. This can be avoided by maintaining a good level of sodium, magnesium and potassium.

Recommended Dosage

You can get sodium, magnesium and potassium from your food intake. But it is recommended in keto and low carb diets to supplement as most people overestimate the micronutrients they get from the food they eat.

For sodium, the recommended dosage is 5000 to 7000 mg. This is in addition to the sodium you get from what you are eating. Note that salt is not all sodium.

For potassium, it is recommended with supplement with 1000 to 3,500 mg. This is also in addition to what you get from the food you eat. Make sure you don’t go over potassium as it can be dangerous.

For magnesium, the recommended dosage for supplementation is 300 mg.

Foods Rich in Sodium, Magnesium and Potassium

Most of us can’t reach the recommended dosage of electrolytes in a day. But if you can eat food and drinks that are naturally rich in these micronutrients, then that would be better.

Here are foods that are rich in Sodium

foods high in sodium
natural sources of sodium
  • Salt
  • Pickles
  • Bone broth
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cured meats (make sure you get cured meats that are low in carbohydrates)

Foods rich in Potassium

foods high in potassium
natural sources of potassium
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Salmon
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts

Foods rich in Magnesium

foods high in magnesium
natural sources of magnesium
  • Fish like Mackerel, Pollock
  • Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Cashew Nuts, Pine Nuts
  • Cacao and Dark chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach

If you have just started eating low carb diet, make sure you supplement on electrolytes to avoid keto flu. If you have already started and still have the signs of keto flu, track the amount of electrolytes you are taking and you will feel better. If you are having time falling or staying asleep, take your magnesium before bedtime. If you are feeling sluggish at the gym, take salt water before your workout. If you have more questions about electrolytes or about the ketogenic or low carb high fat diet in general, please feel free to leave it in the comment section below.

References:

Ketogains, “On Keto Flu and Electrolyte Imbalances”

The Ketogenic Diet: A Complete Guide for the Dieter and Practitioner by Lyle McDonald, Page 80

Electrolytes and Solubility, Chapter 4

Ketogenic.com, “The Importance of Electrolytes on a Ketogenic Diet”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK247/

Ketodietapp, “”Keto-flu” and Sufficient Intake of Electrolytes”

Written by