I am back on keto after a long break; today is day eight, and I’m finally over the keto flu period. Compared with my first time going keto, the keto flu was much more manageable, and I could beat it back with good nutrition only. In this post, I want to share my keto flu remedies and the recipe I used to cure the keto flu without supplements.
A Comparison of Then and Now
In April 2018, I started the ketogenic diet for the first time after reading a little about it in Tim Feriss’ 4-Hour Workweek and hearing Joe Rogan talk about it on his podcast. I was in Tianjin, China, and had no access to supplements or keto products. In retrospect, I was also terribly prepared for starting the keto diet.
I had tried low carbohydrate diets before, but I’d never heard of a high fat diet.
I had some butter and MCT oil to make keto coffee in the morning but never thought to buy meat, vegetables, oils, avocados, nuts, cream, or any other keto foods. The first two days went quickly with no real issue, but on day three, all the symptoms started. I woke up with a migraine, and it didn’t leave me for over a week!
I spent day after day lying on the sofa eating microwaved butter mixed with cacao powder, thinking that if I just ate enough fat, I’d feel better. I searched YouTube and Reddit to find a cure as my phone’s screen worsened my headache.
I thought I was doing everything right, I was tracking my macronutrients, getting over 75% of my calories from dietary fats and my carbohydrate intake was always below 20g. What was I doing wrong?
Finally, one evening I saw a video recommending eating leafy greens for the electrolytes, so I hobbled downstairs to a small Korean market in my neighborhood and bought a bunch of leafy greens. In the market, I saw a can of Powerade with the word electrolytes in English on the side; I bought three cans.
Drinking sports drinks can be a way to get some electrolytes quickly but you need to be sure they are keto-friendly, zero carb, and use the right sweeteners.
Back in my apartment, I drank a few sips of Powerade while cooking up the unnamed green vegetables, expecting to feel better quickly, I didn’t.
After ten days of keto flu and gradually adjusting my diet, I woke up one day with no headache, the morning air felt fresh, and I had a big smile. I instantly noticed how sharp I felt mentally and knew the keto lifestyle would be worth it right then and there.
In contrast, the two days before starting keto this time, I went out to buy supplies.
My Starting Keto Food List
- Pork Ribs
- Chicken WIngs
- Other leafy greens
- Low sodium salt
- Pink Himalayan salt
- Low carb sauces (Tabasco and )
- 100% Chocolate
I filled my chest freezer and fridge freezer! You will notice that this list includes no supplements, no keto products, no ketone powders, and no cheat meals. The only things I have that have any carbs in them are the chocolate, cream, sauce, veggies, and avocados, and all of them are low enough to keep me under 20 grams of net carbs per day.
How Long Does Keto Flu Last?
Keto flu can last anywhere from a day to two weeks or more. It will entirely depend on how you manage your hydration and electrolyte levels. The first time I did keto my keto flu symptoms (including strength loss) lasted ten days, but this time around it was only two half days and much milder.
If you want to cure your keto flu quickly, just keep reading!
What is Keto Flu and What are Keto Flu Symptoms?
The keto flu is a temporary side effect of starting the ketogenic diet. Not everyone will experience keto flu but most do. It’s just a stage you need to go through to become keto adapted or fat adapted.
As you can see below there are many keto flu symptoms but don’t worry you’re unlikely to get them all! Headache is by far the most common of the symptoms.
What Causes Keto Flu
Although keto flu may not be a medically recognized condition, there is enough information out there for us to know what’s going on. When you start the ketogenic diet, lots of changes happen all at once and give rise to multiple causes of the keto flu. When you start keto, one of the first things you notice is sudden weight loss. This is not magical instant fat loss; instead, it’s water weight.
In the first few days of starting the ketogenic diet, you will lose a lot of water weight. I’m on day eight and I weigh 3kg (6lbs) lighter due to water loss. Glycogen, which is stored in your muscle cells, for example, binds with water. Every gram of glycogen will bind with 3-4 grams of water. When you start a no-carb diet, your glycogen supplies don’t get replenished, so when it gets used up, it’s gone along with the water that binds to it.
Flushing all that water out of your system causes two other problems for new keto dieters.
- You can become dehydrated quickly.
- The water takes with it your supply of electrolytes
- Carbohydrate withdrawal
- Electrolyte depletion
- Calorie deficit
Prevent Keto Flu Symptoms – What I Did Differently this Time
Knowing what I know now, I did things very differently, this time going into ketosis. And I was rewarded with only very mild keto flu symptoms. I had a headache for two half days on days 5 and 6, but I used a secret weapon when it appeared, and the headaches were gone quickly. Find out what it was below.
Here are the tips you need to keep your keto flu at bay without supplements
- Stay hydrated
- Keep fat intake high
- Salt liberally and frequently
- Spinach! Lots of it
It’s difficult to know precisely the cause of keto flu your symptoms, so don’t try to figure it out; instead, treat all of them. The best two keto remedies are simply water and salt (although I don’t recommend you mix them and drink salt water, yuk!)
Dehydration is an easy problem when you start keto because you need so much more water than you’re used to, so keep drinking water!
With all that water intake, you will be washing away more essential electrolytes, so keep adding the salt! Finding the fluid-balance between hydration and your electrolyte levels can be tricky at first.
I use a low sodium salt because it’s high in potassium, and pink Himalayan salt for extra sodium (I don’t know if the additional minerals in pink salt help, but I guess they don’t hurt.) I didn’t use any ratio between the two salts just rotated between the two throughout the day.
Aside from potassium and sodium, you also need magnesium. Most people online will tell you you need to supplement with magnesium, but by eating the right things, you can get all the magnesium you need to get over the keto flu.
For example, spinach has 78 micrograms of magnesium per half cup serving. Pumpkin seeds are another excellent supply, and chocolate is too. Lastly, you should eat at least one avocado daily when you start keto, which contains 58mg of magnesium.
You need more fat than you might think at first! Drinking keto coffee, bulletproof coffee, or butter coffee is a great way to add some extra fats to the start of your day. Don’t forget to add salt too!
A Day of Eating
- Water (first thing after waking and continued drinking water throughout the day)
- Keto Coffee
- Smoothie (see below)
- Bacon and spinach (cooked in the bacon grease)
- Cheese, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts dipped in low sodium salt
- Another smoothie
- Bacon and Chicken Wings with baby pak choi (cabbage)
Remember, you don’t have to eat the same way throughout your keto journey. Once you’re over the keto flu period and have settled into your keto diet, you have much more flexibility in what to eat and when. But if you want to get rid of a keto headache, fat, electrolytes, and water are your best bets.
Avoid Keto Flu! My Keto Flu Secret Recipe
- 1 Avacado
- 500 ml water
- Big handful of spinach
- pinch of salt
- tsp of coconut oil
- Half Scoop of protein powder (for taste, I like strawberry)
This avocado smoothie is the best way to quickly relieve some keto flu symptoms like a headache or migraine. Full of fats, potassium, magnesium, and sodium, it only takes a minute to make and will have you feeling better in no time. On the days I had my keto flu headache, I had two of these smoothies, and the headaches went away.
Once you’ve finished your smoothie and your headache is gone, keep doing what you’re supposed to do to keep it that way!