Phases of keto diet and carb withdrawal
Embracing a very low carb lifestyle is a major change and our bodies need time to adapt to new way of eating.
It takes time for our body to transit from burning glucose for energy to using fat as dominant fuel. In that process, ketones as a byproduct of fat breakdown become the main fuel source. That happens when your body enters the state of ketosis, which is possible only on very low carb diet and which is the final goal in order to lose weight, heal your body, increase energy and prolong longevity.
There are two stages of well formulated keto diet:
Stage 1- It takes from 1 to 4 weeks and that phase is the actual transition from carb burner to fat burner
Stage 2 – After 4-6 weeks, you should start to feel all the merits of your hard work as you become keto adapted once your macros (proteins, fat and carb) ratio is correct and adjusted.
The first few weeks on this diet are referred to as carb withdrawal or “keto flu”.
Drastic reduction of carb intake may come as a shock to the body and a lot of people can experience not so pleasant side effects which are just temporary and should subside as you go. The symptoms may vary from mild to severe in each individual case, depending on genetics, body type, and most significantly in my opinion, how much carbs you were consuming in your previous diet. People who consume a lot of pasta, potatoes, rice, cereal and sugary drinks may have a more difficult time at the beginning of the ketogenic diet.
These are the symptoms during this “miserable ” stage:
Constipation or diarrhea
The science behind “keto flu” is simple dehydration and electrolyte loss. By restricting carb intake, glucagon (the stored form of carbs in our body) levels go down. Since glucagon binds water along with electrolytes, simple replenishing that loss by drinking plenty of water and getting enough electrolytes (Mg, K and Na) through food or supplements would help tremendously. Staying hydrated is the key to ease up weakness, muscle cramp and headache. Our body is made of 60% water so common sense is to have around 2L or more daily.
On a ketogenic diet our body loses electrolytes which are essential for normal function. Replacing electrolytes is vital as our body becomes more efficient. Consume at least 2 teaspoons of good quality sea salt to replace sodium and eat enough green leafy veggies and healthy fats to replenish magnesium and potassium. Bone broth and soups are excellent choices for staying in balance.
During this period it would be wise to eat enough calories and healthy fats without restrictions, at least until cravings subside and your body becomes adapted to very low carb. Of course, you have to stick to your macros ratio and carbs under 30g, but be liberal with fat and calories. Then first stage is a good time to consume extra ” fat bombs”. As soon as you become keto adapted, though, you should leave that behind as consuming extra dietary fat will sabotage weight loss. The goal is to use BODY FAT as a fuel, not get extra from food.
There are other ways that can help to ease up the symptoms of carb withdrawal, like avoiding strenuous exercise and choosing some lighter activities in the beginning such as walking, light biking or yoga. Good, adequate sleep and rest is also important since lack of sleep raises stress hormone cortisol which can make keto flu symptoms even worse. In order to improve sleep, you should avoid caffeine drinks late in the afternoon, cut blue light sources at least 3 hours before bedtime, take a bath to relax and wind down.