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Electrolytes on Keto: Why They Matter and How to Get Them

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

You've heard of keto flu, right? That dreaded combination of fatigue, brain fog, and general ickiness that some people experience when transitioning to a low-carb, high-fat diet. It's enough to make anyone want to reach for a bag of chips and call it a day. But what if I told you there's a way to avoid it and feel amazing while on keto? All you need to do is pay attention to your electrolytes.

salt

Before you roll your eyes and think, "Great, another thing to worry about on this already complicated diet," hear me out. Electrolytes are essential minerals that help our bodies function properly, from nerve and muscle function to hydration and pH balance. And when you're on a low-carb diet like keto, you may not be getting enough of them from your food, especially if you're not eating processed foods or drinking sugary sports drinks.

But fear not! In this article, we'll break down the main electrolytes to look out for on keto (spoiler alert: it's not just sodium), why they matter, and how to get them through food and supplements. So, if you're ready to feel your best on keto and say goodbye to keto flu, let's dive in!



What Are Electrolytes and Why Do We Need Them on Keto?

If you've ever had a sports drink or a bottle of Pedialyte, you've heard of electrolytes. But what are they exactly, and why do we need them on keto?

3 types of salt

Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge when dissolved in water. The four main electrolytes in the body are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. They play crucial roles in many bodily functions, including:

  • Nerve and muscle function: Electrolytes help transmit electrical impulses between cells, which is essential for movement, reflexes, and even heartbeat.

  • Hydration: Electrolytes help regulate the balance of fluids inside and outside of cells, which is crucial for maintaining proper blood pressure, preventing dehydration, and eliminating waste.

  • pH balance: Electrolytes help regulate the body's acid-base balance, which is important for proper organ function and cellular metabolism.

But why do we need electrolytes specifically on keto? Well, when you drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake, your body produces less insulin, which can cause your kidneys to excrete more sodium. This increased urine output, in turn, can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, particularly in the early stages of the diet. And if you're not getting enough electrolytes from your food, you may experience symptoms like fatigue, cramps, headaches, and, of course, the dreaded keto flu.

So, in short, electrolytes are crucial for many bodily functions, and they're particularly important on keto because of the way our bodies handle sodium and water. In the next section, we'll break down each electrolyte and its role in the body in more detail.


Himalayan pink sea salt

The Main Electrolytes on Keto and How to Get Them

Now that we know why electrolytes are important on keto, let's take a closer look at each of the main electrolytes and how to make sure you're getting enough of them. Sodium Sodium is perhaps the most well-known electrolyte, often associated with processed foods and high blood pressure. But it's also crucial for nerve and muscle function, fluid balance, and pH balance. On keto, you may need more sodium than usual, as your kidneys excrete more of it in the early stages of the diet. The good news is that adding more sodium to your diet is easy and delicious! You can add a pinch of salt to your meals, drink bone broth or bouillon, or snack on salty foods like pickles, olives, or cured meats. Just make sure you're getting enough water, too, as sodium can increase thirst. Potassium Potassium is another extremely important electrolyte, especially for muscle and heart function. On keto, you may not be getting enough potassium from fruits and vegetables, which are restricted on the diet. However, many keto-friendly foods are high in potassium, including avocado, spinach, mushrooms, and salmon. If you're having trouble getting enough potassium from your diet, you can also try a potassium supplement or a salt substitute that contains potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride. Just be careful not to overdo it, as too much potassium can also be harmful.


Tip: Most grocery stores sell a Lite Salt, or NuSalt, option that is 50/50 sodium and potassium, making it a great option for a homemade "ketoade"

Magnesium Magnesium is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, including energy production, protein synthesis, and nerve function. It's also important for bone health and blood sugar regulation. Unfortunately, many people are deficient in magnesium, and it can be especially challenging to get enough on keto.

dark chocolate and almonds

Some good food sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and dark chocolate. You can also try a magnesium supplement, preferably in the form of magnesium citrate or glycinate, which is more easily absorbed than other forms.

Calcium Last but not least, calcium is another essential electrolyte, particularly for bone health and muscle function. While many people associate calcium with dairy, there are plenty of keto-friendly sources of calcium, including leafy greens, almonds, chia seeds, and sardines.

If you're concerned about getting enough calcium on keto, you can also try a calcium supplement or a fortified almond or coconut milk. Just be sure to read the labels, as some dairy alternatives may contain added sugars or other additives. Getting enough electrolytes on keto is crucial for many bodily functions, including nerve and muscle function, hydration, and pH balance. By focusing on the main electrolytes - sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium - and incorporating them into your diet through food and supplements, you can avoid keto flu and feel your best on the diet.


couple in kitchen smiling

How to Get Electrolytes on Keto

Getting enough electrolytes on keto can be a challenge, but with a little planning and creativity, it's easy to incorporate these vital minerals into your diet.

Whole Foods High in Electrolytes One of the best ways to get electrolytes on keto is through whole foods. Here are some examples of foods that are high in each electrolyte:

  • Sodium: Salt is the primary source of sodium in the diet. You can add salt to your meals, or try incorporating other sodium-rich foods like olives, pickles, or bacon.

  • Potassium: Avocado, spinach, mushrooms, and zucchini are all great sources of potassium. You can also try snacking on a handful of salted pistachios or almonds.

  • Magnesium: Leafy greens like spinach and kale, nuts like almonds and cashews, and fish like salmon are all rich in magnesium. You can also try adding some pumpkin seeds to your diet for an extra magnesium boost.

  • Calcium: Dairy products like cheese and yogurt, leafy greens like kale and collard greens, and fish like sardines are all great sources of calcium. You can also try incorporating some bone broth into your diet for a calcium and collagen boost.


legumes, nuts, chia seeds, spices

Here are some meal ideas to help you get your electrolytes:

  • Spinach and mushroom omelet with feta cheese for potassium and calcium

  • Grilled salmon with a side of roasted zucchini for magnesium and potassium

  • Avocado and cucumber salad with olives and feta cheese for sodium and potassium

Electrolyte Supplements If you're having trouble getting enough electrolytes from food alone, you may want to consider an electrolyte supplement. Here are some common electrolyte supplements and their pros and cons:

  • Electrolyte tablets: These tablets are easy to take and can provide a balance of electrolytes. However, they may contain fillers or artificial sweeteners that some people prefer to avoid.

  • Electrolyte powders: Powders can be added to water or other beverages and can be customized to your specific electrolyte needs. However, they can be expensive and may contain artificial sweeteners or flavors.

  • Electrolyte drops: Drops can be added to water or other beverages and are highly concentrated, so you only need a small amount. However, they can be expensive and may have a strong taste or aftertaste.


woman drinking electrolyte drink

Many people associate electrolytes with sugary sports drinks, but these beverages are not typically keto-friendly and are often loaded with added sugars and artificial flavors. Instead, focus on whole foods and electrolyte supplements to get the minerals you need. If you're not a fan of swallowing pills, fear not! There are plenty of tasty ways to get your electrolytes. Try adding some salt and a squeeze of lemon or flavoring to your water for a quick sodium boost, or sprinkle some chia seeds on your salad for an extra magnesium boost. Just don't go licking rocks for calcium, okay?


Final Thoughts on the Importance of Electrolytes on Keto:

In conclusion, electrolytes are essential for maintaining proper hydration, nerve and muscle function, and overall health on the keto diet. Without adequate electrolytes, you may experience symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps, commonly known as the keto flu.

salts

To ensure you're getting enough electrolytes, focus on incorporating whole foods high in sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium into your diet. You can also consider electrolyte supplements if you're struggling to meet your needs.

Remember, everyone's electrolyte needs are different, so pay attention to your body and experiment with different foods and supplements to find what works best for you.

May the keto gods bless you with plenty of electrolytes and no keto flu! Cheers to feeling like a million bucks.


The information provided above is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please speak with a licensed healthcare professional specific to your situation before making any sudden changes to your diet.

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