While transitioning into a low carb or ketogenic diet, most people complain about suffering from a dreaded low carb or a keto headache.
Hence, most of the dieters leave the ketogenic diet in between without experiencing the amazing benefits of this type of diet.
You should not be discouraged if you get this type of small side-effects at the beginning of your keto journey.
There are very specific and easy lifestyle hacks and nutrient protocols which you can use to prevent these headaches.
After some time, your body adapts using fat as an energy source instead of carbohydrates as an energy source and the symptoms will disappear automatically.
In this article we will provide you the reasons for why you are experiencing a keto headache and what are the necessary steps you can take to prevent it:
- How Your Body Behaves When You Enter Keto?
- Causes of Keto Headache
- How Long Does The Headache Last
- How Can You Prevent Keto Headache
How Your Body Behaves When You Enter Keto?
In the major portion of your life, you have been feeding your body a huge amount of carbohydrates and most of them would be in processed form.
Hence, your brain, hormones, and even cells are habituated in using carbohydrates as their major energy source.
The transition of your body metabolism from carbs to fat dominant energy source might show some side-effects at the beginning.
Your body is put into an “induction phase” because of the metabolic confusion.
The metabolism of your body has to work overtime to get used to in using ketones as the primary energy source rather than glucose.
During the induction phase, you might experience some flu-like symptoms like keto flu – brain fog and headache.
Causes of Keto Headache
Keto Headache is caused because of the three main reasons:
- Electrolytic imbalance
- Sugar or Carbohydrate withdrawal
In most of the traditional western diets, sugars are used in large amounts which provide your body an instant rush and satisfy your body.
In fact, sugar is considered as very addictive substances in your brain. The more we eat the more we crave for it.
This is one of the important reasons why you are experiencing symptoms which are very similar to drug withdrawals because it has the same reward system to it.
How Long Does The Headache Last
Each and every person is different from each other and some people may experience it some may not.
The length of the symptoms may also vary because it is depended on several factors.
Example – If a person has been eating a low carb diet before going to the keto diet and also consumed a large number of green vegetables, then they might not see such symptoms.
It has been found that a keto headache lasts anywhere 24 hours to 1 week.
In some rare cases, the headache may take up to 15 days to subside.
Dehydration During Keto Induction Phase
When you follow a low carb high fat diet, your body starts excreting a lot of excess water.
Hence, when you see a weight loss during the initial stages of keto diet then it is not the fat loss, it is the water which is being flushed out of the body.
When you are in ketosis your body has a high salt content. This means your body excretes both water and electrolytes which leads to lack of water retention in your body.
Water is stored in your body in the form of carbohydrates and when you stop consuming fewer carbs your body starts losing water fastly.
For example – when each gram of glycogen is used as energy, twice the mass is lost in the form of water.
As soon as your body enters ketosis, your body starts to lose water as it tries to spare glucose. The ketones present in the body also lead to the excretion of water.
Electrolyte Imbalance during a ketogenic diet
The important electrolytes present in the body are potassium, magnesium and sodium.
When water is removed from your body it simultaneously flushes essential nutrients from the body, and brain functioning.
The nutrients are important for various bodily functions like body temperature control, energy production and optimal function of the brain.
In a ketogenic diet, the daily electrolyte requirements are much higher as compared to a normal healthy diet.
In order to main the electrolytic balance, insulin plays a huge role. It is due to a hormone which lowers the blood sugar when it becomes too high.
The work of the insulin is to provide sugar to the cells so that they can use it as a fuel and convert the excess sugar into fat. It also helps in the sodium absorption in the kidneys.
When you start a low carb diet, then the insulin levels are very low. The sodium present in the kidneys draws more fluid into it to prepare the excretion of water.
If you have less insulin in the body, it means the sodium content is also very less in your body.
If you have less sodium in your body, then you may experience fatigue and headache on a low carb diet.
You need to consume at least 500 to 700 gm of sodium in a day.
Potassium RequirementsIf your body has less potassium, then you may experience skin problems, cramps, irritability, depression, constipation, etc.
Potassium RequirementsHence, you need to consume at least 3,000 mg of potassium each day. Here is the list of keto-friendly foods which have ample amount of potassium in it.
It’s also very important to note that consuming too much potassium can also prove very fatal. Hence, it is always better to stick to the natural sources of potassium instead of using various potassium supplements.
In a low carb diet, magnesium is not as deficient as compared to the other nutrients but it is still important to maintain its optimum levels.
A deficiency in magnesium can lead to dizziness, crams, and keto headache.
It is recommended to consume at least 400 mg of magnesium per day.
Here is a list of keto foods which are rich in magnesium:
- Cooked Spinach
- Cacao powder
How Can You Prevent Keto Headache
A headache which you get while you are in keto is by burning fat for fuel and the body’s inability to use this fat as an energy source.
Whenever your body is unable to burn fat, you would face difficulty in losing weight. In such situations, as soon as your blood sugars run out you will feel hungry.
To combat the problem of a keto headache you need to improve your body’s metabolism to burn fat instead of glucose.
Your body needs to be flexible in switching from one source of energy to another.
The keto headaches would soon vanish once your body gets habituated in using fat as an energy source.
Here we have listed five techniques which you can use in order to prevent a keto headache:
1. Drink Water Along With Salt
When you consume a low carb diet, your insulin level will get low which means you won’t have as much sodium as compared to other diets.
You also start to excrete water that was being held in your body when you stop consuming carbohydrates.
Sodium deficiency is one of the important cause of a keto headache which can be cured by adding more water and salt in your metabolism.
You need to increase the salt consumption because if you drink more water, then it will flush out the sodium in your system.
You can also maintain the sodium levels by consuming bouillon.
If you still face any difficulty in increasing the salt intake in your body, then you can use various sodium supplements to maintain the sodium loss.
2. Eat More Fats
If you eat more fat, it will help you to get accustomed to using fats as an energy source.
Since you are replacing carbs with fats within your body to use them as the primary fuel, hence you need to start consuming more fats than you were previously.
You can get almost 70% calories from fats.
In beginning, take your time to track the fat intake because fats are more dense in calorie and can make you full easily.
Consume >fatty meats like salmon, bacon, chicken thighs and rib-eye steak. You can also add coconut oil and butter in each meal to increase your fat intake.
3. Don’t Eat More Protein
At the beginning of your keto journey, it is not advised to consume too much protein.
When you consume a huge amount of protein, then your body starts converting those calories into sugars by a process known as >gluconeogenesis.
You should always keep the daily protein intake to 25% of the calorie intake.
You can also eat in the ration of 2:1 fat to protein so that you can make sure that your body does not make excess sugar from the protein.
4. Exercise Regularly
If you exercise regularly, then your’s body metabolic functionality improves significantly.
Exercising regularly helps in burning fat and improve weight loss, both are important factors which contribute to a keto headache.
Exercising has much more benefits than just weight loss. It helps to repair the existing broken metabolism.
In a study, it was shown that after exercising the type 2 metabolism were restored an were also able to utilize energy more efficiently.
Exercise helps in improving the speed at which your body starts using fats as its main energy source and will also help you to remove the symptoms of a keto headache.
5. Use Exogenous Ketones Supplements
Consuming >exogenous ketones supplements are a good way to increase your ketone levels if your body has still not converted into usings fats as an energy source.
Your beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) levels upto 2 mMol after consumption.
Exogenous ketones can also cause to decrease the blood sugar level due to insulin sensitivity. It is important in the induction phase because your body is getting primed to start using fats instead of carbohydrate as an energy source.
By adding exogenous ketone supplements in your diet you can drastically remove the problem of various keto side-affects including keto headache.
The keto headache may sound daunting to you or can even discourage you from adopting a ketogenic diet.
However, taking the necessary steps to remove the symptoms is not as difficult as many people think.
If you replace the essential nutrients and minerals, exercise frequently and maintain a proper low carb high fat diet then you can be assured that these keto flu symptoms will vanish sooner or later.
Always remember that keto headache is a normal thing during the induction stage and it happens to most of the people who adopt this way of eating.
Hence, we would suggest you to not to give up the keto diet because of these small keto flu’s.If you stick your diet then you would experience the amazing benefits of a low carb high fat ketogenic lifestyle.
Have you ever had a keto headache? If yes, then how did you cope with it? Do let us know in the comments section below.