The Keto Flu
The keto flu is your body’s response to the withdrawal of carbohydrates from your diet. The transition period your body goes through when learning to burn stored body fat (instead of chips, white bread, pizza and sodas) for fuel causes you to experience flu-like symptoms for a short period of time. This is known as the “keto flu”.
Why Do You Get the Keto Flu?
When starting the ketogenic diet most people feel flu like symptoms related to carb-withdrawal. Just like a drug addict who is getting off drugs, your body is addicted to garbage carbs.
Carbs have been your bodies main energy source most of your life, especially for Americans. Replacing garbage carbs as the main energy source is the goal of a ketogenic diet for weight loss.
You want to change your diet so that your body uses stored fat for energy instead of your daily dose of garbage carbs via the typical Americans pretty disgusting eating habits.
Take a look at the back of a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos below. It contains 140 calories, 210mg of sodium, and 16g of carbs. Add that to a Subway Italian BMT sandwich that has 1330mg of sodium, 43g of carbs, and 390 calories along with a coke (12oz has 39g of carbs) … and you’ve got a food addiction problem in your cells.
Your Subway sandwich lunch has 98g of carbs.
On the ketogenic diet, to reach ketosis, it’s recommended to be below 50g of carbs daily and optimally near 30g of carbs or under!
Throw in a trip to one of America’s most popular Italian restaurants, with unlimited breadsticks at 26g total carbs per stick (and 370mg of sodium), and you are in for a whole heap’a trouble weaning yourself off a high carb diet.
When I’d go to that chain restaurant, I’d usually down 3-4 breadsticks with every meal.
When Does the Keto Flu Hit?
While you adjust to the transition from burning carbs to burning fat, you’ll feel like you have the flu – pretty quickly.
Your body is suffering from the sudden withdrawal of hundreds of garbage carbs once you start the low carb, high fat ketogenic diet. (And, sodium, based on the traditional American diet)
It WILL BE be a tough transition for most people who have been eating way too many garbage carbs and have developed carb dependency over the years.
The goal of a ketogenic diet is to restrict your carb intake and burn fat so you can lose weight and become physically and mentally healthy.
If you want to make the transition easier, start preparing yourself for the ketogenic diet by cutting back the carbs slowly over a month.
You don’t have to go cold-turkey into the ketogenic diet.
You can start replacing bags of chips, sodas and sandwiches with healthy substitutes and real food carbs – like from veggies and fruit instead of bags of chips.
How Long Does the Keto Flu or “Low Carb” Flu Last?
The symptoms of the keto flu include headaches, nausea, brain fog, fatigue and overall stress on the body. Almost everyone who starts out on the keto diet experiences the Keto Flu.
For some people, the keto, or low carb, flu lasts 48 hours to 10 days.
If you were eating a lot of carbs every day before starting the keto diet, you’ll likely have a harder time adjusting quickly.
My Keto Flu Experience
When I started the ketogenic diet, I went through a few days of feeling pretty awful.
I drank more water, added more salt to my diet, and powered through the pain.
After I made it through the flu-like symptoms, I felt better than I had hoped for.
My body quickly adjusted to a lower intake of carbs, and my appetite diminished.
I stopped craving sweets, white bread, beer and other high carb foods I had been used to eating. Pretty, awesome, right?
After all, the goal of any diet is to make healthy lifestyle choices, eat better food, control your appetite and not feed the beast a bunch of garbage that is filled with chemicals you’ve never heard of and don’t understand when you read the ingredients on the box.
How to Adjust to a Ketogenic Diet
If you want to make changes to your diet and the ketogenic diet is your preferred method, you can start to ease into it by eliminating carbs from your diet slowly over a month or two before you jump right in.
Instead of eating fast food, chips, sugary cereals, sugary or diet drinks (which are HORRIBLE!), white bread products, and potato products like fries or processed cheese covered tater-tots (which are awesome!), start replacing unhealthy foods and drinks with vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and unsweetened drinks – like water.
Up your water intake, reduce your sweetened drink intake or power drink consumption. This will help get toxins out of your body faster, too.
If you want to reduce the time you spend in low-carb adaptation, crank up the fat. – Dr. Mike
Another way to start transitioning is by adjusting your food intake toward healthy choices. Take a look at the keto diet shopping list and start making changes slowly for a month before jumping into the keto diet feet first.
Here are 5 steps you can take to help fight the side-effects of starting a keto diet:
- Make sure your carb count is low – between 20-30g carbs per day but no lower than 10g – see our ketogenic shopping list
- Eat more fatty foods – less protein – fatty meats, heavy cream & whole butter, full fat yogurt, cheese, avocados, macadamia & brazil nuts – make bulletproof coffee (recipe under Raw Cacao butter)
- Get plenty of water back into your body – add in an electrolyte replacement to help get your electrolytes up to normal levels – read our keto friendly drink list here
- Take a multi-vitamin with the minerals you need to replace that are leaving your body as you lose water weight
- Drink chicken or beef broth to get the electrolytes your body is dumping out of stored fat cells
When you feel bad, it’s also recommended to keep moving and not lie around suffering. Exercise can help you power through the pain.
I know you are wondering EXACTLY how long will the keto flu last? And, honestly, the answer is different for everyone.
I got over the keto flu in 48 hours. Some people experience it for a week. It really depends upon how your body adjusts to the diet and also how much liquid and electrolytes you put into your body.
The best way to battle the keto flu is to be mindful that on the other side of the flu like symptoms will be a healthier You!
Recommendations to make your water healthier & add in minerals or electrolytes:
Disclaimer: I’m not a dietitian or nutritionist, but a health enthusiast, clean eater and ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting partaker. I started this website because I love the keto diet and intermittent fasting lifestyle. My favorite way of eating is to eliminate as many carbs as possible from my diet, eat lots of greens, and real food, forego anything that comes in boxes or is manufactured or produced in a factory or made from chemicals that mean absolutely nothing to the average person. I’m recommending products in this article that have affiliate links and will pay me a small commission if you purchase something to help you along with your keto diet. I always recommend products I think will be beneficial based on other people’s reviews of the products or my personal research on the efficacy of the product, on your ketogenic diet journey.