Why Electrolytes are important on a keto diet

Anyone on a keto diet would have heard the term electrolytes being thrown around, we all have a vague idea of what they are.

However, what do electrolytes actually mean and what is the function and importance of them in the body.

An electrolyte is a substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water.

They are essential for a number of bodily functions, that interact not only with each other but with the cells in the tissues, with nerves and muscles.

As humans, we need electrolytes to be able to survive and many automatic processes rely on this small electric current to be able to function which is provided through electrolytes.

A balance of different electrolytes is essential for optimal health.

A common misconception is that energy drinks or sports drinks are all you need to replenish electrolytes; however, this is not the case.

Electrolytes conduct electricity when mixed with a solution such as water.

They are known to support nerve and muscle function, help keep the body hydrated, help balance both blood pressure and acidity and help with rebuilding damaged tissue.

A muscle needs calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium.

Your muscles contract and when these become imbalanced it can lead to muscle weakness, twitching, headaches, changes in bowel movements, heart palpitations, vomiting and seizures.

Older adults seem to be more at risk to electrolyte imbalances.

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keto electrolyte drink recipe


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Electrolytes that your body needs are:

Magnesium

Sodium

Calcium

Potassium

Bicarbonate

Chloride

Phosphate

What is an imbalance of electrolytes?

Electrolytes in the blood can become too high or too low leading to an imbalance.

There are many factors that can affect the levels of electrolytes but most commonly change in relation to water levels in the body.

Electrolytes can be lost through sweating during exercise, living in a very hot climate, a rapid loss of fluids such as vomiting and diarrhoea or changing your diet where you lose water weight.

This is why it is vital that they are replaced.

The kidneys and hormones regulate the concentration of each electrolyte and if levels are too high the kidneys filter it from the body and the hormones help to balance the levels accordingly.

The most common electrolyte imbalances are sodium and potassium, having low levels of electrolytes can ultimately affect overall health.

This imbalance can present as a health issue when the concentration of a certain electrolyte becomes too high for the body to regulate.

What makes Electrolytes more important on the Keto diet?

When embarking on a low carb, high fat keto diet your body goes through a phase of glycogen depletion in the muscles and produces less insulin in the absence of blood glucose. 

When the glycogen stores become depleted then our kidneys respond by excreting more water as opposed to retaining it.

This can lead to a loss of water weight or a ‘whoosh’ bought on by the absence of carbohydrates.

This is fantastic as not only have you shed a few pounds and look better it will also give you a boost to keep going.

The downside however is that you have lost a significant amount of electrolytes along with the water loss.

What functions are electrolytes responsible for?

Heartbeat regulation

Muscle contractions

Energy creation and regulation

Bladder control

Brain health and neurological functions

Body temperature regulation

However, when electrolytes become imbalanced or depleted, we can experience:

Heart palpitations

Muscle spasms

Bloating

Changes in Bowel movements  

Headaches

Shaking

Dizzy spells

Weakness

All of the above are also signs of Keto flu which you can learn about here.

Electrolyte deficiency is the most common cause of the keto flu and it is easily rectified by taking the following vitamins and minerals.

It is also important to note that everyone will have a different level of electrolytes that their body will need.

How do I restore Electrolytes?

SODIUM

This probably goes against everything you have been taught or believed in but you need to put extra salt on your food!

High sodium is linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular conditions but when you are on a keto diet an increase of water excretion means that electrolytes including sodium are being depleted.

The best source of sodium is sea salt, pink salt and Celtic salt.

I am conscious that when on a Keto diet especially in the summer months, or when I’ve done a grueling workout, I need to quickly replenish lost electrolytes.

I often dissolve a bouillon stock cube if I feel dizzy or light-headed and this is a quick fix for me.

POTTASIUM

Potassium is vital for the regulation of healthy blood pressure, healthy heart rate and to balance fluid in the body.

Potassium however can be toxic at higher doses so its better if you try and get your potassium levels met through dark green leafy veg, avocados, salmon, nuts, mushrooms and apple cider vinegar.  

CALCIUM

Calcium is responsible for functions such as blood clotting, building and maintaining a strong skeletal system and nerve function.

For bioavailability calcium is best taken with vitamin D. You can get your Calcium form dairy, leafy greens and broccoli.

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium helps a whole host of bodily functions. It helps us maintain a healthy immune system, nerve functions and a normal heart rhythm.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to get enough magnesium from our diet so in this case it would be a good idea to take a supplement to fill the nutritional gap.

If you drink lots of dark sodas or drink lots of caffeine you could be flushing out all the magnesium that you are taking in.

For immediate relief and a quick electrolyte fix you can use:

Pickle juice

Bouillon Drink

Sole water

Bone Broth

Stock Drink

Salt and Lemons

HOW I TAKE MY ELECTROLYTES

To make sure that I was getting my daily dose of electrolytes. I would make a big 32 oz beaker of my electrolytes and sip it throughout the day.

I noticed that when I tried to drink them all in one go it would cause me to have some serious unwanted visits to the toilet which is not very good for anyone.

This would be counterproductive as I was trying to replenish electrolytes only to lose them immediately. I now sip my electrolytes throughout the course of the day.

When I missed taking enough electrolytes I really suffered. Headaches, feeling dizzy, lightheaded and even vomiting were common if there was an imbalance.

I could clearly see that for me to be able to continue with the Keto diet it was imperative that I keep on top of my electrolytes. 

ELECTROLYTES ARE NOT OPTIONAL AND NEED TO BE ADDED IN FROM DAY 1

SODIUM 5000-7000mg

MAGNESIUM 300-500mg

POTTASIUM RICH FOODS 1000-3500mg

DONT WAIT UNTIL YOU FEEL LIKE CRAP, THE SOONER YOU GET THEM IN THE BETTER YOU WILL FEEL

My electrolyte drink consists of the following:

Sodium 7000 mg a day

Potassium 3500 mg a day

Magnesium 500 mg per day

For sodium, I use sole water which is pronounced So-lay.

For magnesium, I use a supplement called natural calm.

For potassium, I have been using Nu salt. Below is how I make my sole water:

SOLE WATER

1.Take a wide mouthed mason jar and fill it a ¼ of the way with either Himalayan pink salt or Celtic salt or a mix of the two.

2. Add filtered water all the way leaving an inch on the top

3. Close the jar and give it a good shake

4. Leave on the counter, after 24-48 hrs you will notice that the salt is sitting at the bottom of the jar and the clear water is on the top. 

This means that the water has absorbed all the salt that it possibly can. You can keep adding salt and filtered water to the same jar.

On special occasions I also have this as my electrolyte Pina colada. In a pint glass add the following

2 tablespoons sole water

¼ teaspoon Nu salt

2 tablespoons whipping cream

Fill with water or coconut water

Add Dasani pineapple coconut water flavor

MY ELECTROLYTE DRINK

 I use a 22 oz bottle and I add

2 tablespoons of sole

Some swerve sweetener or Dasani water enhancer pineapple/ coconut flavour

¼ teaspoon of Nu Salt

2 teaspoons natural calm supplement.

Add filtered water, ice and enjoy throughout the day.

The bottom line

Water and electrolytes are important.

Period.

But this is more so the case on a ketogenic diet, listen to your body, drink when you are thirsty and keep your sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Keeping on top of your electrolytes could be the single most important thing that will either make this diet a success or a failure for you.

Trust me once you have had the keto flu you will do anything to prevent it from happening again.

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