The keto and low-carbohydrate movements have taken the world by storm, with many people swearing off carbohydrates and reaching for alternative forms of macronutrients to fuel their bodies. The thought process is that if you remove carbs from your diet, your body will be forced to burn fats instead.
Over time (usually a couple of weeks), your body adapts to using fat as its primary source of fuel and begins to break it down into ketones.
As a result, you can start feeling more energized—and some people report losing weight rapidly in the first few weeks of starting on a low-carb diet.
However, despite all this hype around ketogenic diets, some people still have concerns over electrolyte deficiencies on the diet. Because the keto diet eliminates some foods high in electrolytes (namely, fruits and grains), some people worry about deficiencies that may come with that.
Many health professionals still primarily focus on macronutrients when discussing nutrition and forget to mention the micronutrients that can make just as much of an impact on how you feel and perform.
Some people assume that if they’re eating a high-fat diet, they don’t need to worry about electrolytes—but in reality, it’s definitely something that should be focused on in a proper and healthy diet.
Let’s look at what electrolytes are and whether or not you need to supplement your diet with them while on keto.
What Are Electrolytes And Why Do You Need Them?
Before we take a look at how these symptoms can affect you on keto, let’s first take a look at what electrolytes are and why we need them.
These essential nutrients are what allow our cells to function properly. And since they work with so many different parts of the body, their presence is crucial for our health and well-being.
They help control our blood pressure and heart rhythm, preventing cardiac arrest. They keep us from feeling cramps while we’re exercising, too. And they keep our muscles contracting in a coordinated way to get the most out of them during workouts.
When you start to look at what electrolytes do for the body, it’s easy to see why we need them.
The bottom line is that when your electrolytes are out of balance, you’ll start feeling sick pretty quickly.
Let’s take a look at some common signs and symptoms of low electrolytes on keto, so that you know what to watch out for.
Symptoms Of A Deficiency In Electrolytes
Let’s say that you’re not dehydrated but do feel tired and your muscles are cramping up during exercise. Many experts would argue that a deficiency in electrolytes could be the reason for this.
That said, it’s vital to know what symptoms of an electrolyte deficiency look like before supplementing with sports drinks or anything else.
Is sodium deficiency something that you experience? If your muscles cramp up and you’re tired during exercise, then it could be.
Other symptoms of a sodium deficiency can include:
- Mood swings or even depression
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle spasms and twitches
- Poor sleep patterns
What about potassium? Low potassium levels can cause muscle weakness, confusion, constipation, fatigue and insomnia. It’s also vital to know the symptoms of a deficiency in this nutrient too.
The primary symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness and cramping
- Heart palpitations
The Need For Electrolytes On Keto (And How To Supplement)
So let’s say that you’ve been experiencing symptoms of low-level dehydration for a while now. What are some ways that you can get more of these electrolytes in your diet?
Typical drinking water just doesn’t cut it. Water alone won’t help you replace what you’re losing when you sweat heavily, especially sodium and potassium.
Sodium is present in celery, artichokes, avocados, and almonds. Potassium can be found in dark leafy greens like spinach and broccoli. Other sources include salmon, avocado, and almonds as well.
These foods are low in carbs, making them perfect for keto dieters who have to stay within their ketogenic macro limits. And they’ve got a lot more than just electrolytes too.
These superfoods can help you get the nutrients you need to fuel your body without having to worry about feeling sick or fatigued.
Try adding foods that contain magnesium and calcium to your diet as well. Magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
It’s worth noting that it’s tempting to load up on electrolyte supplements or buy the sports drinks filled with them, especially if you want to make sure you’re getting a ton of sodium. The problem with sports drinks is that they likely contain a lot of sugar as well.
A better way to get these electrolytes is through a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of natural foods.
You might be surprised at how much your cramps and fatigue subside just by adding more salt, potassium and magnesium to your diet.
So does this mean that you should be supplementing with electrolytes?
When it comes to getting enough of them through your diet, then yes. You can get what you need from low-carb superfoods like the ones mentioned above.
On the other hand, if you find that your cramps are bad enough that they’re preventing you from exercising or even doing daily chores, then a supplement can help.
If there’s no improvement in a few days, it may be time to consult with your doctor.
This way they can run a test to see if there’s something else going on that could be causing your cramping, fatigue, and other symptoms of low-level dehydration.
It’s always better to play it safe when you’re not sure what the cause is. Remember that these electrolytes are important for proper muscle function, so it’s crucial that they’re present in the right amounts.
Some of these supplements may also be beneficial for people who are dealing with serious, chronic conditions like adrenal fatigue and other autoimmune disorders.
In the end, it’s up to you what you decide to do. Remember that electrolyte deficiencies can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms like cramps and dehydration that we don’t want on keto. Make sure to keep an eye on your water intake as well.
Now that you know how to supplement with electrolytes on keto, it’s time to take action and put this advice into practice.
Make sure that you track how much water you’re drinking and how much sodium, potassium, and magnesium you’re getting.
You’ll be in a much better place once you get this under control.