If you are just starting out on any form of low-carb diet, keto being one of them, then you should have thoroughly done your research first and be aware of the potential side effects and more importantly, what you can positively do to manage and reverse them while you remain on your chosen diet plan.
What Kind of Symptoms are to Be Expected on the Keto Diet?
Symptoms can range from headaches and feeling more tired than normal, to bad breath and constipation. More extreme symptoms can include issues like heart palpitations, hair loss, and an elevated cholesterol level.
However, one of the most commonly reported problems is leg cramps, and we’ll be going on to uncover more about the reasons why in today’s blog post. The main solution to most of these problems which are not to be unexpected when you embark on a diet low in carbohydrates is to increase your salt and water intake.
In fact, certain ambassadors of this particular diet, actively encourage as part of a preventative program to increase your intake of salt and water the minute you embark on this diet plan. You may even find that in doing so, you don’t experience these problems at all, but certainly, they can be managed and minimized.
It’s All About Staying Hydrated
In a nutshell, when you become dehydrated, either because you don’t drink enough fluids, sweat profusely due to physical exertion, work outdoors in the heat or have a bout of stomach illness, then you are going to be prone to leg cramps. The same can, unfortunately, be said for when you are in the early stage of a new low-carb diet regime as your body is quickly learning how to metabolize your fat stores for energy rather than using the usual carbohydrate supply. This stage is called ketosis
What Exactly is Ketosis?
In a normal standard American diet at least, the norm is for a significant source of our daily calorie intake to come from the consumption of carbohydrates. The body, in turn, converts the carbohydrates into glucose to be used at a later stage as energy. The issue is that glucose can’t be used straight away and so it gets stored as glycogen to be burned off later.
When you switch to a low-carb or keto diet, your body has to re-educate itself and use your fat reserves instead for energy. This process doesn’t happen overnight, and in the meantime, your body begins to produce ketones or rather, goes into that process known as ketosis.
What Impact Does That Have on Your Body?
Your body pulls out glycogen from wherever it can access it in those early days and weeks while your body is still learning how to metabolize those fat reserves instead. The next place it grabs it from is your body’s water content. This is why you seemingly drop initial weight so quickly but also why you become dehydrated and lacking in the electrolytes that can annoyingly lead to leg cramps.
The Link Between Ketosis and Those Leg Cramps
Cramps are a common but uncomplicated side effect of being on the popular keto diet, and while there’s no need to raise the alarm bells, they can be indicative of exactly what’s going on your body and some areas that you might want to consider addressing.
Leg cramps aren’t dangerous, but they can certainly be painful, and you never know when they might strike – on the commute to work, at the gym, as you’re about to tackle the leg press machine or even in bed just as you are about to nod off. Either way, they’re frustrating and need to be managed.
A Loss of Minerals Due to Increased Urination
One of the reasons that we develop muscle cramps, especially in our lower body, is down to a mineral imbalance and when you are on any kind of restrictive diet which eliminates specific food sources, symptoms like cramps can occur.
One solution is to take a magnesium supplement as it’s normally a depletion in the body of your levels of magnesium that causes cramps. This can be down to the simple fact that you are urinating far more often than usual on your new diet, increasing your water intake and restricting your food groups.
How to Counteract the Loss of Magnesium
The simple answer is to increase your water intake along with taking on board a little more salt. The combination of these will help to prevent leg cramps, and as you probably already know, the more hydrated your body is, the better it will function and flush out toxins too. You could also consider taking a slow releasing magnesium tablet to ensure that your body is getting the correct dose while you are on that keto diet.
Important! Before taking any vitamin or mineral solution make sure to consult your doctor for your overall health. Make sure your kidneys are working properly.
You Could Also Be Lacking Other Essential Minerals
Other minerals that you could be lacking on the ketogenic diet, which again an unbalance of which can result in the physical manifestation of cramps, are both sodium and potassium. These two elements are frequently combined in electrolyte drinks which are administered in situations where a much-needed boost of hydration is required.
Endurance athletes for example who are prone to dehydration due to the immense physical exertion they put their bodies through will take on board electrolyte drinks to rebalance their mineral levels. Electrolyte replacement isn’t just something that patients after a bout of sickness need to be concerned about.
Low Sodium Has Further Adverse Effects on the Body
Low sodium intake also has another effect on the body, forcing the kidneys to waste what potassium they do have in reserve which is another contributing factor towards making your muscles feel and act more irritated, resulting in an increased propensity toward cramping.
There’s plenty of scientific evidence and documented information about the interrelationship between mineral depletion, lack of hydration, and electrolytes all of which are linked to the keto diet.
The Solution to Those Leg Cramps
Allow yourself a little extra salt intake which you are on the keto diet, especially during those early stages and make sure that you are drinking lots of water. Also, try and avoid any further diuretics such as alcohol and coffee to keep your body thoroughly hydrated throughout the day.