Carbo-Dehydrated – What Is Keto Flu and How to Avoid It?
So, I was unhealthy when I went to college. I ordered too many takeaways and didn’t respect my body enough.
As I got older, I realized that I had to be healthier.
I got a girlfriend and a good job, and I realized that I wasn’t just taking care of myself anymore. That’s when I started a ketogenic diet in order to boost my health.
At first, I thought it would be easy.
Then I started looking into everything. I found this thing called “keto flu” and at first, it frankly terrified me.
But after some research and some practical work, I realized it was nothing to be afraid of.
It’s a very real thing but if you take precautions and are aware of the risks, it is also very avoidable.
So, What Is Keto Flu?
Keto flu is basically a way of your body going into shock. If you suddenly stop giving your body carbohydrates, it will go through withdrawal.
The symptoms can be harsh. They can include dizziness, headaches, cramps, nausea, and irritability.
It was just like the real flu, then. I wasn’t sick when I started my diet, but I’d had the flu before. Looking at the symptoms, I quickly realized it was nothing I’d want to go through.
So, I took it slow and eased myself into it.
I’ve always liked cooking. A ketogenic diet for me was a challenge. It was a challenge to buy the right ingredients and make the best tasting recipes from these.
However, after I’d seen the possible side effects, I slowed down.
Now I cook myself delicious and healthy meals, but I knew I couldn’t start with these. I knew I couldn’t suddenly switch to not having any carbohydrates. So, I went slow.
At first, I mixed it up. I made a ketogenic meal here and there but added a component that was high with carbohydrates.
I kept my balance with what I’d already been eating.
Before switching to a salad without the chicken or without the fruit, I added these in just to make sure I didn’t get ketogenic flu.
The Best Ways to Avoid Keto Flu
As I’ve said, the best way to avoid ketogenic flu is simply to start slowly.
You know what you’ve eaten for the past few weeks and so use this to your advantage.
For example, if you’re already a vegetarian or a vegan, the switch will be faster. However, if you’re just sick of fast food and you’ve just realized that a change is necessary, then you must start slower.
I was in the same position. I knew that I couldn’t switch immediately from having a burger every couple of days to eating salads.
Yes, before long I stopped craving crisps and unhealthy snacks and immediately wanted to reach for the salads and leaves, but this didn’t mean I made the switch straight away.
So, the most important thing if you’re embarking on a ketogenic diet is to start slowly. Start by swapping out one meal a day.
Know what your body thinks it needs and gives it that but reduce it over time.
You have a goal. Your goal is to eat foods low on carbohydrates.
Maybe you’ve seen the coverage on Alicia Vikanda and how she used a ketogenic diet to become Lara Croft in the most latest film adaptation.
But she had a personal trainer and a dietician to tell her what to do and what not to do.
Yes, it sounds harsh, but you have to be your own dietician. It can feel like a treat to finally eat something incredibly healthy after days of takeaways. But if your body is used to takeaways; it will instantly disagree.
So, the best way to reach your goal is to set up a meal plan.
Make sure you’re still eating three meals a day but start out by making one of them incredibly healthy. A chicken Caesar salad will always be recommended.
Then switch that one meal to a meal that is entirely ketogenic. When you do this, you can make another meal healthier, before repeating the process.
It can be tempting to make the switch right away if you have seen the benefits. Resist the urge! You really don’t want to make yourself ill, if you’re trying to get healthier!
So, the main first step is to start with a low carb diet, rather than jumping straight into a ketogenic diet.
Now, here’s the advice that anyone anywhere will tell you. Literally. any illness.
How can I help it? Stay hydrated.
Yes, it sounds mundane. Yes, it is true.
To go into it deeper, when it comes to a ketogenic diet, hydration is pivotal.
This isn’t even about drinking enough water, it’s about avoiding things that will make dehydrated.
Think about it, we’ve all met those “health nuts” who’ve told us that yoga, meditation, and switching to a ketogenic diet changed their life and their health and yet are drinking ten coffees a day or smoking like a chimney.
You have to ignore these people and do it properly.
Avoid things that dehydrate you or balance them out. I’m not going to tell you to stop drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol. I’m not going to tell you to finally kick the habit of smoking.
What I am going to tell you is that if it is at all possible to cut these things out, do.
Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which means that they dehydrate you. Certain fizzy drinks such as coca cola have exactly the same effects.
If you wish to continue drinking these things what you have to do is, make sure you balance them out with water. Water is always going to be the key.
Being aware that these things will dehydrate you is also extremely helpful, because it means you’ll always be more likely to reach for a bottle of water just after having one.
The last point is also about balance.
Think about it. Your calories are going down because of your diet. In fact, they’re plummeting. Great, right? No. Not for your body.
While it’s always going to be attractive to cut out calories, if you want to avoid illness there are a couple of things you must do.
I’ve been there, I know. I’ve been in the position of thinking “if I wake up later, I only have to eat lunch, great!”.
While this was attractive in terms of saving money and in terms of lowering calorie intake, I know now that my body disagreed with me.
You simply can’t let your calorie intake plummet. You need to keep in mind the fact that calories are only one aspect of food.
You cannot let calories be the be-all and end-all of what you eat.
Because of this in order to keep a balance similar to my intake I switched to five smaller, but healthier meals. Instead of eating “brunch” and dinner and absorbing everything I could, I started to make sure I woke up earlier and ate healthier, but more consistently.
That being said, you need to know lunchtime, dinnertime, and all of that is a myth. You have to break away from the thoughts that tell you “I’ve missed one, I’ve missed lunch.”
These times to eat are a human concept and are nothing to do with what your body, and by that, I mean your body, actually needs.
What If I Get Keto Flu?
Fear not. You didn’t do anything wrong. Sometimes there can be a total curveball thrown in. You can do everything right and yet still end up getting ill from it all.
There is a lot you can do to help yourself.
If it really is a last resort to add some carbohydrates to your diet there are still other practical steps you can take, but I would really consider temporarily doing this.
The difference between actual flu and ketogenic flu is that ketogenic flu isn’t a virus. While the amount of time, people are affected by the flu will differ, it will generally heal around the same time.
With ketogenic flu it’s a bit different. As your body is craving carbohydrates, it might eventually become necessary to give it what it wants.
There are other ways you can help yourself, though.
Electrolytes. There isn’t a time when these won’t help your body, but right now you need to up your game with them. Salt, magnesium, potassium, sodium.
Whether it’s in the form of salt water or supplements, make sure you start off by taking these as much as the bottle allows!
The best thing about getting better, is that you can do all of the treatments at the same time. This brings me to the next helpful point. Hydration.
Again, this means avoiding alcohol, tea, coffee, and other things that dehydrate you.
If it’s hot outside, make sure you seek out shade. If you sweat often, counteract it with an extra couple bottles of water.
Honestly, there is no situation that water or hydration will not help, but when you’re sick with ketogenic flu it is vital you stay hydrated.
It may be difficult. You’ve got a headache. You’re tired. You’re dizzy.
But, think about it. You have willpower. You have the willpower to take control of your diet and get healthier. Use it. Use it to get out of bed and fight how rough you feel for going for a jog or a walk.
It will always be better to exercise outside for two main reasons. Number one, you get fresh air. Oxygen will do you worlds of good when it comes to breaking out of an illness. Number two, there’s an end point. Exercise can be addictive.
You have to be careful going into diets that you’re doing it to improve your health and not simply to lose weight. If it’s just to lose weight, exercise can become addictive.
If you’re going for a jog around the block, then, that’s all it is. It can’t possibly become something that you’re spending too many hours on and wearing yourself out with.
If you’re doing all of this and are still stuck, then add some clean carbohydrates into your diet. Look for locally sourced foods, or foods without additives.
Trust me. It’s worth stretching your diet for the sake of feeling better.
So, About the Journey?
A ketogenic diet is a journey. There are highs and lows and you will start to feel a bit more tired before you get used to the change.
This doesn’t mean you have ketogenic flu.
All there is to say, really, is be careful and keep a balance. Take precautions against ketogenic flu and enjoy the challenge of the diet!
It’s a brilliant opportunity to look for foods that you love, and that you can cook. It can stretch your repertoire as a chef.
It’s not all your body needs, however.
Exercise, oxygen, hydration. These are the main things that can prevent keto flu, and these are the main things that prevent it.
This is for a reason: they’re good for the body and they’re good for the mind.
Keep everything up and your ketogenic experience will be incredible, I promise!