The ketogenic diet has emerged into the nutrition industry as one of the most popular trends over the past couple years.
With the substantial amount of science-backed evidence proving tremendous health benefits that extend well beyond weight loss, going keto seems to be all the rage.
But some people (mostly beginners) may experience some negative side effects on the ketogenic diet. Luckily, they can be completely mitigated by addressing a few gaps in your low carb, high fat lifestyle.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll talk about the most common keto side effects and why they occur.
Causes of Side Effects on Keto
While there are several different symptoms that may occur after going keto, they’re mostly the cause of these three main side effects.
These causes are all related and taking the right steps to fix them will help you mitigate any ill-effects from keto altogether...
When you first restrict carbohydrates, you’re depriving your body of its main energy source that you lived on throughout your whole life. During this time, your metabolism isn’t used to using ketones from fat for energy.
This means there will be an adjustment period of around one week where the body feels worn down because you just eliminated its main fuel source.
But don’t worry, once you become keto-adapted, your body will begin to use its preferred fuel source (ketones from fat) without having to depend on glucose from carbohydrates for energy.
Also known as low blood sugar, hypoglycemia is a result of keto-adaptation because your body has essentially been running on sugar for your whole life.
When you suddenly switch to fats for fuel, you’ll disrupt certain hormone functions such as cortisol (stress hormone).
Hypoglycemia - and the side effects that come with it - will soon subside once your body is officially keto-adapted.
Electrolyte and Mineral Deficiencies
The drastic mitochondrial and metabolic changes that occur when you switch from carbs to fats for energy also comes with an excretion of essential vitamins and minerals.
Since carbs are known to hold water in your body, removing them altogether means your body will also get rid of crucial minerals like sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
It’s extremely important to replenish these electrolytes as a beginner to help you overcome the slight discomfort that comes with becoming keto-adapted.
Most Common Side Effects on the Ketogenic Diet
Most of these following side effects explained below are symptoms of not being keto-adapted and replenishing the minerals your body just excreted during the process.
#1. Keto Flu
Displaying flu-like symptoms is one of the most common side effects when you first start the ketogenic diet.
These symptoms include physical and mental fatigue, nausea, headaches, and a runny nose.
The keto flu is a result of hypoglycemia which can be fixed by simply allowing your body some time to adjust to eating a ketogenic diet and maintaining proper electrolyte levels.
#2. Sugar Cravings
Beginners to the ketogenic diet will find that they have an intense craving for sugary snacks.
These cravings are another response to hypoglycemia along with the previous addiction you probably had for carbohydrates and sugar.
Your brain goes into a “panic mode” temporarily when you’re making a drastic dietary change and you haven’t gotten adjusted to using fat for energy. But don’t worry, these cravings will diminish after ketones are properly flowing through your body.
#3. Strength and Athletic Performance Decreases Temporarily
While your body is getting used to ketones for energy, you’ll most likely feel weaker in the gym.
Remember, your body is still learning to utilize a completely new fuel source that it’s never used before.
But once you become keto-adapted, you’ll soon find that your strength and performance will return and in many cases improve.
#4. Trouble with Sleeping
It isn’t uncommon for people to struggle with sleeping as a beginner to the ketogenic diet. This is because cortisol (stress) levels are skewed when you make extreme dietary changes.
Cortisol is the opposite of melatonin which is the hormone your body produces to help you sleep. When cortisol levels are high before bedtime, it’ll make falling and staying asleep more difficult.
#5. Urinating Frequently
The most tell-tale sign that your electrolyte and mineral balance is having to go to the bathroom more often than usual. On the ketogenic diet, insulin levels will drop which makes you secrete sodium in your urine.
This is completely normal as a beginner on keto and it’s a good sign that tells you you’re on the right track with becoming a proper fat-burning machine.
These Side Effects Can Be Completely Mitigated With Time and a Properly Formulated Ketogenic Diet
While some of these side effects may discourage you... don’t let it!
As long as you give your body some time to adjust to the ketogenic diet, take the proper steps to keep your stress levels low and maintain a proper electrolyte and mineral balance, you can drastically reduce - or completely eliminate - these keto side effects.
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