Keto flu or carb crashing. There are many names for what happens when you stop eating carbohydrates and start fueling your body with dietary fat instead. On this page I will tell you what to expect for those first couple of days and also give you my best tips for an easy transition.
If you’ve been eating the standard Low Fat High Carbohydrate diet for your entire life, it’s safe to say that your body is probably a sugar burner. This also goes even if you’ve managed to keep your diet healthy in terms of low in sugar and junk foods. Grain products, potatoes and starch in general are all converted to glucose (blood sugar) in the body. And your body is a clever machine that tries its best to adjust to whatever you provide it with. By feeding it plenty of carbohydrates, it has enough fuel and never really have to rely on fat for energy. Over time your body has slowly downregulated the hormones and enzymes used for fat burning, for the simple reason that they weren’t all that necessary.
And then, all of a sudden you stop eating carbohydrates! For the first couple of days, your body relies on stored carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy but after 3-4 days, the storage is empty. You’re feeding your body dietary fats but your body isn’t familiar with what to do with it, so now it starts complaining. Or even crashing! Also called the keto flu. This is how you feel:
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF KETO FLU – CARB CRASH
¤ Fatigue, feeling exhausted, heavy legs
¤ Dizziness, nausea, feeling lightheaded
¤ Problems concentrating
¤ Mood swings, feeling irritable
¤ Constipation or diarrhea
¤ Bad breath – metallic taste in the mouth
¤ Crazy appetite or cravings or no appetite at all
These symptoms are all your body telling you that it does not have access to enough fuel. Which it doesn’t at this point. But hang on for a little while…
HOW TO GET THROUGH THIS MISERY
There are three easy ways to ease the pain:
- add more water
- add more salt
- add more fat
Eat enough salt: You may have heard that you’re better off not using too much salt but it’s not entirely true. The thing is that your amount of carbohydrates in the diet determines your need for salt. High carb diets make the kidneys retain salt whereas a low carbohydrate intake increases sodium excretion by the kidney. So chances are that you’ll need to add extra salt to your diet when following a low carb diet plan.
The next time you feel dizzy, lightheaded, tired or even constipated, try adding 0,5-1 tsp of (quality) salt to a glass of water and drink it. If you start feeling better within just 15 minutes time, you have your answer to your malaise right there! If drinking salt water sounds too much for you, drinking 1-2 cups of bone broth per day will give you the same result.
Eat enough fat (and enough food): Many people have a hard time getting used to the thought that fat isn’t the villain it has been made out to be for the past three or four decades. So they tend to be a bit careful with adding the extra fat to the diet. But attempting to to follow a low carb diet that is also low in fat is a recipe for hunger, fatigue and lack of energy and therefore very difficult to sustain in the long run.
Adding enough fat to your low carb diet is essential for getting your body to start burning fat. Think: Eat fat – burn fat. When you serve your body fat (in the absence of carbohydrates), your body will upregulate the hormones and enzymes necessary for fat burning and your body becomes a fat burning machine.
Some people tend to lose their appetite completely and therefore end up with too much of a calorie deficit. This can mean that the body simply isn’t getting enough energy and enough nutrients and therefore responding with fatigue and lack of energy. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll still need to consume less calories than you burn but going too low in calories is rarely the way to do it.
IF YOU FEEL REALLY, REALLY BAD…
Having mild symptoms of your body adapting to a new type of fuel is okay. Feeling really, really bad is not okay, in my opinion. So if you feel terrible and you’ve tried the tips mentioned above, I suggest you try to add some extra carbohydrates to your diet. I don’t mean eating Snickers bars for dinner, I mean adding a handful of nuts, maybe some fruit or even a serving of rice or a piece of whole grain bread. And then see if that makes you feel any better.
Afterwards you can try to lower your carb intake gradually until you find a level which gives you the added benefits, you were looking for.