How Much Electrolytes Do I Need On a Ketogenic Diet?
Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain lean mass, or aim to drastically improve your health and physical fitness, incorporating a ketogenic diet into your lifestyle might be beneficial. Or, you may be a keto diet veteran and just curious as to what supplements you should be adding to your diet when in ketosis.
While the ketogenic diet is a great option for a variety of reasons, it’s possible to experience negative drawbacks from not properly knowing the specifics of the type of diet they are incorporating. Moreover, some are assessing their diet and meal strategies improperly resulting in many unwanted effects.
Starting a ketogenic diet for the sole purpose of knowing that it might help you shed off some pounds is not the only thing you should worry about. In this article, we’re going to discuss the health implications of Keto and how to properly incorporate this type of diet into your lifestyle! There are a few important things to learn before launching into a ketogenic lifestyle, like the fact that you will be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals due to the diet restrictions when it comes to food.
In this article, we are also going to specifically address the most common electrolytes that those on a keto diet are deficient in, which are magnesium, potassium, and sodium. In order to make sure you are not depleted of these key electrolytes, those that adhere to a keto diet need to incorporate them in unique ways to prevent electrolyte imbalances that might hinder you from possibly achieving the overall benefits of Ketogenic Diet.
Let’s jump right in!
Recap: What is the Ketogenic Diet?
First and foremost, before we dive deep into the impact this diet has on your electrolyte storage, we must be aware of what a ketogenic diet is and what it does specifically to the body.
For starters, the Ketogenic diet, keto diet, or low-carb diet as some may call it is a type of diet that is specifically designed to let your body’s fat storages be used as the main source of energy instead of consuming the carbohydrates that come in on a daily basis. This in return promotes fat breakdown to be used as your body’s own fuel source furthermore enhancing the production of healthy glucose and ketones. This is the primary reason many choose the keto diet to lose weight because it relies heavily on emptying your body’s fat storage.
Instead of focusing on carbohydrates, keto dieters implement high-quality fats and good amounts of protein in their diet as well as incorporating antioxidant-rich foods.
Over time your body becomes naturally stronger and independent from using carbohydrates as a fuel source of energy due to the fact that your body becomes “fat-adapted” which simply means that your body is able to use your body’s own fat as its limitless source of energy.
This can help people curb their appetites, lose excess weight, and increase HDL levels, which is considered “healthy” cholesterol. While there are many benefits to the ketogenic diet, one must consider the potential negatives before starting on the journey.
One of the most important things is getting in electrolytes that your body will potentially lose when you begin this new lifestyle. Three of these nutrients are electrolytes, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
What are Electrolytes and Why do we Lose Electrolytes on Keto?
Electrolytes are important minerals in your body that have an
electric charge and are ominously present in most of your bodily fluids. These powerful minerals actually conduct electricity when dissolved in water, which is where the name comes from. These electrolytes are essential in properly maintaining bodily functions.
Some of the benefits of electrolytes include:
- Maintaining your fluid balance
- Regulating and stabilizing your blood pressure
- Helping your muscles contract properly
- Maintaining your blood acidity (pH)
The problem is that when people new to this type of diet, beginners will usually experience a variety of setbacks due to electrolyte imbalances that can happen while following the keto diet.
Some may even refer to the changes as the “keto flu” as it will usually subside over time as your body becomes increasingly more adapted to the diet. Some negative effects of the so-called keto flu may include:
- changes in mood
- insomnia and restlessness
- muscle cramps and soreness
Imbalances with your electrolytes can potentially be the culprit of these unwanted health conditions, although it is fairly normal to experience these effects, especially when starting on your keto journey as a lot of people lose important trace electrolytes in their body.
Electrolyte problems don’t always mean you just have too little of a mineral either. Electrolyte imbalances in the body can mean there are too high or too low levels of one or more electrolytes. These electrolytes are especially important in maintaining or regulating daily functions in your body such as water retention and fluid balance, heart and muscle contractions, nerve stimulation, and many more.
Some electrolytes are well-known and have been studied extensively due to their great importance in stabilizing many different bodily functions, the most common and notable are as follows:
The reason why you lose or gain too much of one or more electrolytes can be correlated to the hormone called insulin which is affected mainly by the consumption of carbohydrates!
Preventing the consumption of carbohydrates results in a significant drop in insulin levels, which can lead to issues like mood swings. Aside from that, insulin is also solely responsible for retaining sodium and other types of electrolytes in the kidneys as well as aiding glucose to be absorbed in your body’s cells.
Starting on a keto diet could mean your insulin levels will significantly drop, which means the kidneys may not be able to retain enough sodium and potassium. Most of these important electrolytes are excreted continuously due to a lack of glycogen stores. It takes time for your cells to adapt to the minimal absorption of glucose, which can result in the “keto flu” side effects taking place.
That is also the reason why some beginners on the keto diet reported less bloated faces and more frequent trips to the bathroom.
What are the 4 Main Electrolytes to Track on the Ketogenic Diet?
There are four main electrolytes that are easily diminished and depleted during the ketogenic diet. In many cases, they’re the only electrolytes you should be primarily concerned about.
We will discuss these four main electrolytes and how they affect bodily functions, how they are depleted during a ketogenic diet, and some solutions to replenish them naturally.
Let’s get started.
Sodium – How Much Sodium Do You Need On Keto?
Sounds unbelievable right? Believe it or not, even in a time where many people are over-consuming salty foods, this is usually not the case when you are on a ketogenic diet. Sodium is usually excreted in urine and sometimes in sweat. This is at a greater rate than normal excretion of sodium when you are on a keto diet.
This is because as mentioned before, a significant drop in the hormone insulin can accelerate the excretion of sodium at a higher level. If you are depleted of this electrolyte you might experience fatigue and feel lethargic.
In order to replenish sodium electrolytes in your body, you can try drinking electrolyte-infused water or supplement your diet with sodium, don’t hesitate to put some salt in each of your meals. Many keto experts also recommended that keto dieters should consume at least 3,000 milligrams of sodium.
How much sodium do I need daily? At Least 3,000 milligrams Recommended.
It is important to remember with sodium that this is not a salt free-for-all. Just because it is important to consume sodium, does not mean that you should eat tons of processed salty foods. Chances are if you are on a ketogenic diet, you won’t eat a lot of processed foods anyway, but it is important to mention. Stick with whole foods, and try to incorporate it before your workout.
The easiest way to incorporate sodium is by adding it to water with a little bit of lemon to increase the electrolyte presence in your body.
Potassium – How Much Potassium Do You Need On Keto?
Potassium is an electrolyte that works in conjunction with sodium. Both electrolytes are two sides of the same coin, like a yin-yang dynamic especially when it comes to their effects on the body. They work to perfectly balance each other, with sodium and potassium electrolytes maintaining fluid levels in the body.
If there is an imbalance, however, too much or too little of any of these electrolytes can result in numerous health conditions. The thing is when you excrete sodium away you also throw away potassium, some of the negative drawbacks experienced from this can be a feeling of intense dehydration.
Whole foods rich in potassium are good for most people, keto dieters should intentionally focus on consuming foods loaded with potassium. It is recommended for those on the keto diet to consume at least 3,000-4,000 milligrams of potassium daily.
How much potassium do I need daily? At Least 3,000 – 4,000 milligrams Recommended.
Some foods that are high in potassium and should be part of your daily meals include:
- Pumpkin seeds
A really good way to get in a good dose of potassium is making a fun salad with a variety of fruits and veggies that include this powerful electrolyte. One of our favorite recipes includes leafy greens (kale and spinach), asparagus, avocado, chickpeas, topped with almonds and pumpkin seeds. This supplies your body with a great amount of potassium that will help sustain your body throughout the day.
Calcium – How Much Calcium Do you Need On Keto?
Calcium electrolytes are incredibly important in maintaining the nerve functioning of smooth muscles as well as fluid retention. Aside from that, calcium is also known for its ability to help you build strong bones, which is why a diminished ratio of this electrolyte can potentially result in muscle fatigue.
Calcium electrolytes are also responsible for maintaining proper hydration within your system and it is incredibly important to keep you hydrated during your keto diet as dehydration may result in numerous health problems.
The good thing is that a ketogenic diet doesn’t really restrict foods that are highly rich in calcium, in fact, a ketogenic diet has a lot of abundant calcium sources. Try incorporating some of these foods into your diet and you are good to go!
- Hard cheese
An easy way to get in a good dose of calcium is by making a salad with a variety of the above-mentioned foods. We love making a salad with a kale and spinach base, topping it with some salmon, broccoli, chickpeas, black beans, hard cheese of choice, and salmon. This not only provides your body with a high dose of calcium, but it also sustains your body throughout the day.
How much calcium do I need daily? 1,000-1,500 milligrams Recommended.
Magnesium – How Much Magnesium Do You Need On Keto?
Whether people are following a keto diet or not, research has suggested that almost two-thirds of the population in most western countries are magnesium deficient. This is due to the lack of magnesium-rich foods in their daily meals.
This can be due to consistently eating high-calorie less nutrient-dense foods found in the Western diet. This diet typically lacks even basic vitamins and minerals resulting in obesity and numerous health conditions such as high blood pressure.
It can also be more of a problem for many beginner keto dieters because of a deficiency in this active mineral and electrolyte, which can worsen the impact of the keto flu. To be precise and clear, the keto diet doesn’t directly affect magnesium electrolyte deficiency, but in most cases, keto diet restrictions directly prevent keto dieters from consuming magnesium-rich foods that are also high in carbs.
Some of the foods that are rich in magnesium include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Various seeds
We suggest making a ketogenic friendly pudding using avocado, coconut milk, cocoa, stevia, and Himalayan salt. It’s a delicious dessert option for those on a ketogenic diet as well as filled with magnesium. Also check out our anti-anxiety magnesium smoothie recipe.
While you can gain a lot of magnesium from these foods, there is only so much you can consume. It is safe to say that the only way to resolve this is by supplementing elemental magnesium daily. It is recommended for keto dieters to consume 200-400 milligrams of magnesium to prevent this mineral electrolyte deficiency.
How much magnesium do I need daily? 200-400 milligrams Recommended.
Use these magnesium supplements to get your recommended daily dose:
Take note of the importance of these electrolytes on your keto journey, they are not optional but are extremely viable in making your keto journey a successful one!
Due to your body’s low insulin levels, your kidneys will excrete too much of those essential electrolytes mentioned above. This is why it is so essential to have an intake of these electrolytes either by supplementing or by incorporating foods that are high in these minerals.
If you are still worried you can consult your doctor for an electrolyte check up and see if you are viable to take some electrolyte supplements.
The Importance of Increasing Water Intake During Ketosis
Hydration is important and necessary if you are following a ketogenic diet or not. We know that proper hydration results in better blood pressure, efficient muscle and joint movements, supple skin, better mood, and many others. But the importance of hydration increases when you are following a strict low-carb diet.
Dehydration can be one of the most prominent symptoms of keto flu and many beginners usually overlook this factor. This is problematic because dehydration can result in serious conditions such as kidney damage. Don’t overlook the idea as simply drinking more water, you need it especially when you are following a keto diet.
The reason why you need to drink more water during the keto diet is simple — you are more dehydrated during your keto diet even if you think you realize it.
The reason why is because carbs are mainly responsible for retaining water and other electrolytes such as sodium in your body, if you eat little to no carbs, the water is excreted at a faster rate and you retain less water. This is the main reason why during keto diet you need to drink more water.
You can usually feel the effects of dehydration especially if you aren’t mindful of your daily water intake. The symptoms are pretty obvious. Dehydration can result in other problems such as dry mouth, dry throat, headaches, muscle weakness, mental fatigue, and agitation.
Long-term dehydration can also result in long-term health problems that are irreversible. Aside from increasing your water intake, you should also take note of the importance of electrolytes on your keto journey.
Electrolytes are crucial in maintaining proper hydration, the key electrolytes being sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Since keto decreases the amount of insulin that affects these electrolytes, try to properly balance them out.
Also, don’t overly stress and end up drinking too much water! You can also increase your water intake by eating fruits and vegetables, incorporate them in your meal plans and you’d be surprised by the effect.
The Keto diet can be a hard and rigid place to start your health and fitness success but if you follow and incorporate this essential knowledge by implementing it into your ketogenic lifestyle you will likely get the most benefit from the lifestyle change.
To sum things up, in order to effectively incorporate the ketogenic diet without experiencing keto flu due to electrolyte imbalances, there are a few things you can do.
- Have a well-planned keto diet consisting of meal plans that are low carb, high fat, and high protein but must also have the key electrolytes
- Always add extra salt to your meals!
- Eat foods high in calcium
- Eat foods high in potassium
- Eat foods high in Magnesium or supplement Magnesium
- Always be hydrated! Drink lots of water!
- Take electrolytes supplements
Always remember that the unwanted keto flu is always preventable if you pay special attention to key electrolytes – Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium and Calcium.