• Post last modified:May 9, 2021
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If you have been following a keto diet, you may be familiar with the keto flu.

The ketogenic diet is a very high-fat and very low-carbohydrate diet. Although it can help reduce weight and even help treat certain diseases, it still has many side effects. Since most of the symptoms are similar to ordinary flu, it is often called keto flu.

These adverse reactions include headache, fatigue, constipation, hair loss, bad breath, insomnia, leg cramps and so on.

For specific information, please refer to How To Prevent The Keto Flu: Symptoms And Remedies.

This article mainly introduces the causes of ketogenic leg cramps and how to prevent and relieve the symptoms.

What Causes Leg Cramps on A Keto Diet?

Many people have experienced leg cramps on the keto diet. In fact, leg cramps are one of the classic symptoms of the keto flu and can occur both day and night.

Keto leg cramps are usually caused by an imbalance of minerals in the body (such as magnesium, sodium or potassium) and dehydration.

1. Dehydration

When following a ketogenic diet, your body will change its metabolism from using glucose as an energy source to using ketones as energy. At this time, all glycogen (glucose) will be consumed first.

Glycogen is usually tied to water. Therefore, when glycogen is reduced, so is water.

Therefore, in the first week or so after starting a ketogenic diet, you may notice a significant weight loss. That’s because you have lost more water. 

However, this can also cause dehydration. Studies have shown that dehydration is a potential cause of leg cramps.

2. Electrolyte (mineral) imbalance

Electrolytes, including sodium, magnesium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphate and bicarbonate are vital to many key functions of the body (such as cell communication). 

After starting a keto diet, both your blood sugar level and insulin level will drop. This causes your kidneys to excrete more sodium ions through the urine.

When your body discharges a lot of water, many minerals (magnesium, potassium, etc.) can also be lost through the discharge of water. This results in an electrolyte imbalance.

Electrolyte imbalance makes nerve cells more sensitive. This in turn causes pressure on nerve endings, which may cause muscle spasms [*].

3. Other reasons

There are some other factors that can cause muscle cramps.

  • Drinking too much coffee: Caffeine stimulates muscle contraction. Caffeine is also a diuretic, that helps to shed the water in your body. However, losing too much water can lead to dehydration and cramps [*].
  • Failure to replenish water during exercise: You may lose more water and electrolytes if you sweat a lot during exercise. As a result, you may experience muscle cramps if you don’t replenish the water lost through sweating.

How To Relieve and Prevent Leg Cramps on Keto?

The best way to prevent and treat leg cramps on a keto diet is to eat nutrient-dense foods and stay hydrated. You can take some nutritional supplements when necessary.

Here are some tips to follow:

1. Eat potassium-rich foods

Potassium is an important “muscle mineral” that can completely relax the muscles helping you to avoid cramps.

Eating more potassium-rich foods can help relieve and prevent leg cramps. These foods include:

  • avocados, swiss chard, spinach, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, kale and mushrooms

2. Eat magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium is involved in more than 300 different biochemical reactions in the body. One of its functions is to maintain normal muscle and nerve function. Therefore, magnesium deficiency can cause muscle cramps.

Magnesium-rich and low-carb foods include:

  • pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, cashews, kale, arugula, broccoli and oysters

3. Consume enough salt

Sodium helps maintain the balance of other electrolytes. 

When you enter a state of ketosis, your body loses a lot of water and sodium ions. This is why most people experience “keto flu”. Some of the symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, or palpitations are related to sodium deficiency.

How to ensure adequate sodium intake?

You can add some Himalayan sea salt to your water, or drink more bone soup. Especially during the early stages of the keto diet. Adding more salt to your meal can help balance your body fluids and electrolytes, which can relieve the keto flu.

4. Drink plenty of water 

Keeping your body hydrated can help reduce leg cramps and other discomforts caused by keto flu.

If you exercise regularly, make sure to drink enough water before, during and after exercise.

Summary:

Leg cramps are one of the most common signs when you are on a keto diet. The causes are related to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance.

Eating more foods that are rich in minerals can help prevent and relieve cramps and other keto flu symptoms.


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