As a beginner keto dieter, you may have heard the term ELECTROLYTES on keto thrown around, but what are they and why are they important? This blog post will give you a basic overview of keto electrolytes, why they’re important on the keto diet, and how to make sure you’re getting enough of them.
What Are Electrolytes?
In short, electrolytes are minerals that dissolve in water and conduct electricity. These minerals are found in your blood, urine, and sweat. Some of the most important electrolytes for our bodies are sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. We need these electrolytes for many different things including hydration, muscle function, and nerve function.
Why do We Have to Worry About Electrolytes on Keto?
I have had a lot of experience with keto and low carb diets. And let me tell you, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE ELECTROLYTES!
Our bodies need electrolytes in order to function. Period.
We will feel sick, lethargic, tired, weak, dull, and any other sad physical feeling you can think of, without electrolytes.
I started keto in the beginning before it was a common known name. And because of that, there wasn’t a lot of information about why people would feel really sick when changing from a carb diet to a keto diet.
The keto community would just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh, it’s just the keto flu. . . you’ll eventually get out of it if you stick with keto long enough, and then you’ll feel great”
So that is what I did. And I felt miserable for almost 2 weeks. And then, my body compensated, and I felt great! in the end, it was worth it to me. I LOVE how my body and my emotions feel while being in ketosis. I really honestly do. (check out benefits of a keto diet besides weight loss)
So of course, I suggested it to everyone else, but none of them could get through the keto flu, and I don’t blame them, their body was screaming that something was wrong, and they wisely listened!
But now that keto has been around awhile, we know better! Now we know most of the keto flu symptoms is actually a side affect of your body flushing out a lot of your built-up electrolytes. And once we knew that, we knew we could supplement the electrolytes. . . And BAM! No more (or very little) keto flu.
Why Are Electrolytes Important on the Keto Diet?
When you’re on the keto diet, you’re eating a lot of fat and very few carbs. This can lead to dehydration because when there are fewer carbs in your body, there’s also less water. And when you’re not properly hydrated, you can start to experience some of the side effects of the keto diet like headaches, fatigue, nausea, constipation, and cramps.
This is where electrolytes come in!
- Drinking something salty like bone broth or bouillon can help replace the sodium that you’re losing through increased urination.
- Adding magnesium supplements or eating leafy greens can help with constipation and cramping.
- And finally, drinking coconut water or squeezed lime juice can help with energy levels and muscle function.
The amount of electrolytes you should be taking on the keto diet may surprise you.
Important Electrolytes and where to find them (interesting article on keto history and electrolytes)
The four important electrolytes you need to make sure you get while on keto are
sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
With a traditional, higher carbohydrate diet, you usually will have enough electrolytes, and carbs will hold onto them for a few days. Keto will flush all unused electrolytes out of your system daily. SO YOU MUST REPLENISH THE ELECTROLYTES EVERY DAY!
When you start reducing your carbs dramatically, combined with keto being a
natural diuretic, it can cause the electrolyte levels to be extremely low. You are going to aim for more
sodium than you normally would, which you get from salt. Try to get at least 5000mg of
sodium per day. Calcium of 1000 mg a day, with potassium, you’ll want 1000 to 3000mg a day, and at least 300mg of magnesium a day.
Getting Enough Sodium
Sodium is the most important electrolyte to focus on when you are on the keto diet. If
you feel faint and lightheaded, it is often from your sodium level being too low. The best
way to cure this is by having more salt on a daily basis.
Not only should you be salting your food, but you should try making an electrolyte drink. This will allow you to add more salt, while also getting your minimum water intake at the same time.
You can use regular table salt, but pink Himalayan salt is often preferred since it has other benefits
as well. You can also get more sodium from broth or bouillon cubes, and pickle juice. There have been times when I have literally licked some pink Himalayan salt when I need a quick pick-me-up while making food.
Get it here
Getting More Potassium
The next electrolyte you need more of is potassium.
Mostly because you are no longer eating foods that would otherwise have increased the potassium level, like bananas.
However, you can still get your potassium with low-carb foods while on the ketogenic diet. As long as you are following a balanced diet of meat and veggies, you’re probably getting enough. Some of the top foods with potassium are kale, mushrooms, meat like pork, and avocados.
Fun fact. Cream of Tartar has a decent amount of potassium. If I feel like I need more potassium that day, I’ll put about 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar into a cup of water, and drink that. It almost has a tart lemon taste to it. . . You can even add lemon to help mask the taste if needed.
There aren’t many foods you can eat on keto with enough magnesium, so the best
option is to take a magnesium supplement. Get one that has at least 300mg per tablet,
and all you need is one a day. I am a big fan of how “Standard Process” Makes their supplements. It is from whole foods, and keeps most of the nutrition.
Calcium is really easy to get on the keto diet if you eat dairy. I still take at least one of these supplements a day. This is calcium lactate, which is an easily digestible type of calcium, and can relieve leg cramps quickly because of how fast it is absorbed into the body.