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Keto Electrolytes: Why You Need To Hydrate On Keto

Published January 09, 2019 Read Time: 9 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

<article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">Electrolyte Basics</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Water Quality Matters</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Electrolytes and Ketosis</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Keto Flu and Hydrating Again</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Keto Electrolytes—Wrapping Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>You’ve probably heard about how proper hydration is important to a healthy body and weight loss. As a <a target="_blank" href="">keto dieter</a>, these benefits are important to you, so you might carry around water bottles and even splurge on products like VitaminWater and Smart Water because they tout their high electrolyte count. And electrolytes are good for you, right? Yes, they definitely are. But do you really need to splurge on products that brag about high electrolyte counts? And why are electrolytes necessary to keep properly hydrated? Let’s explore this topic a little. <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="water-poured-into-glass"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section1"> <header>Electrolyte Basics</header> <p>Electrolytes are special minerals found in our foods and (clean and natural) water that conduct electricity when dissolved in water<sup>1</sup>. The most common electrolytes that our bodies need are: </p> <ul> <li>Sodium</li> <li>Chloride</li> <li>Potassium</li> <li>Bicarbonate</li> <li>Magnesium</li> <li>Calcium<sup>2</sup></li> </ul> <p>Minerals like these are necessary for everything from proper muscle function to organ health. When we talk about being <i>hydrated</i>, we are not merely discussing water intake but the nourishing balance of consuming both water and electrolytes. Down to the cellular level, electrolytes are vital. </p> <p>The electrolytes sodium and chloride are found in salt (which is chemically called <i>sodium chloride</i>). Sodium, in conjunction with the electrolyte potassium, is necessary for a device called the sodium-potassium pump that causes muscle contraction at the cellular level. If you are lacking in these two electrolytes, you’ll notice you get muscle spasms and fatigue, seemingly without cause. Potassium is also necessary to maintain your blood pressure. </p> <p>The electrolyte chloride (again, found in salts) in union with sodium is necessary to help your cells absorb important resources like water, amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), and sugar. Chloride by itself also functions as a component of your stomach acid, helping you to break down food<sup>2</sup>.</p> <p>Just as chloride controls the balance of pH in the gut, the electrolyte bicarbonate is in charge of regulating your blood’s pH, along with other bodily fluids. It acts as a buffer against outside sources that would make your blood more acidic or more alkaline<sup>3</sup>. This is extremely important as the pH level of your blood will determine what gets absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to your cells and tissues. An extreme imbalance in this electrolyte will mess with your ability to absorb oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. This can lead to major fatigue as your cells are starved and burdened with too much waste, becoming toxic.</p> <p>Magnesium is a common deficiency found in the <a target="_blank" href="">SAD (Standard American Diet)</a>; its most common source is dark leafy greens and veggies. It helps with GI <i>motility</i> (moving food through your <a target="_blank" href="">gut</a>), muscle contractions, and maintaining the health of our nerves and blood cells. A lot of women have cravings for chocolate in tune with their cycles because cocoa is high in magnesium. It’s also found in goji berries, nuts, and spinach. </p> <p>Imbalances in your calcium levels can be painful as this mineral is required for muscle contraction, blood clotting, and the good health of bones and nerves. When you’re lacking in calcium you might be diagnosed with osteoporosis, which is when your bones are on track to degrade into fragile, breakable things that can’t serve your body. The process of balancing calcium requires a lot of other minerals; for example, vitamin D helps with calcium absorption. Getting more of this electrolyte is not as straightforward as drinking more milk because this electrolyte is also regulated by your hormones, and most milk contains the hormones of the cow that made it. But eating nourishing foods will get you on the right track.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section2"> <header>Water Quality Matters</header> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="lemon-water-in-glass"> </picture> <p>If you’re afraid that you are depleted in electrolytes and aren’t retaining the water you drink, you don’t need to reach for the branded “electrolyte” drinks like VitaminWater or Gatorade. In fact, a lot of those drinks are filled with refined sugars to keep you hooked and coming back for more. What kind of water is purple? Not any kind of water your body wants.</p> <p>Even if you don’t reach for sugary drinks to get your water fix and instead opt for fresh water, you have to be conscious of your sources. Water bottled in plastic has been shown to retain some of the chemicals that leach from the containers they come in. Depending on what part of the country you live in, your tap water can contain fluoride and chlorine (different from the electrolyte <i>chloride</i>) and while fluoride’s harmful effects on the brain and benefits on teeth are still being debated, the chlorine in our water supply is much like the chlorine used in pool water. It’s there to clean the water, but have you ever felt hydrated after swimming in a pool? Probably not, and that’s because chlorine dries us out.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="faucet-with-water"> </picture> <p>Getting your water from home filters is a great way to avoid both of these problems, but there’s one more step you’d need to take if you use a carbon filter on your water supply. Good carbon filters are, well, <i>good</i> because they suck <i>everything</i> out of your water supply. That means bad stuff like chlorine and fluoride and good stuff like electrolytes.</p> <p>But don’t toss that carbon filter just yet! You can still get electrolytes from naturally occurring salt (Himalayan, Celtic, and sea salts), fruits, vegetables, trace mineral supplements, and clean natural water. Lemon water, for example, is so popular as a morning drink because it’s chock-full of electrolytes to replenish your body after a long night’s rest.</p> <p>By the way, did you know that you lose approximately two liters of water when you sleep? Merely from breathing and sweating into your sheets, you could use a good dose of hydration when you wake up. Simple water loss processes like these are the reason staying hydrated is so important. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section3"> <header>Electrolytes and Ketosis</header> <p>There are two main ways that starting a ketosis metabolism can make you dehydrated. The first is through your insulin and blood sugar level, and the second is through the release of sugar by-products that get stored in your liver. </p> <p>When we switch into <a target="_blank" href="">ketosis</a> for the first time, the body is still enacting the negative feedback loop required to process sugar. This means there is lots of insulin still pumping through your veins to direct all the sugar your body is used to running on. But the catch, with switching into ketosis, is that the sugar is not present. And the presence of insulin decreases the presence of electrolytes like potassium and magnesium in your bloodstream. Because there is less sugar to contend with in your blood, this insulin forces extra electrolytes through your kidneys to be pushed into your waste. Bye, bye electrolytes! </p> <p>In our muscle cells and liver, we have stores of <i>glycogen</i>, a form of energy we get from eating sugars (the by-product mentioned earlier). When we switch into ketosis, our bodies live off those glycogen stores for fast-acting energy during workouts and fasting. For each unit of glycogen stored, there are three units of water keeping that glycogen in place<sup>4</sup>. When we switch into ketosis, our bodies burn through that glycogen and release huge amounts of water that our waste removal organs, the kidneys, have to excrete in the form of urine and sweat in order to balance out. Have you ever cut out sugar only to find that you have to use the bathroom multiple times a day? That is because this process is happening in your body. </p> <p>With this heavy release of water, we have an equally heavy release of electrolytes. In the kidneys, little units of cleaners called <i>nephrons</i> use electrolytes to remove excess water from the blood (as well as using water to remove excess electrolytes). When glycogen stores are released, causing a huge flush of water to enter our bloodstream, the kidneys have to take electrolytes from other organs and tissues to counteract the excess water and flush it out into the urine. </p> <p>When we start ketosis, our kidneys are also dealing with a rush of toxins released from our fat stores as the fat cells get broken up for metabolic energy. Anything harmful or present in excess gets put into the capable hands of our kidneys to remove from our system, but this means that our kidneys need some support in the form of extra hydration. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section4"> <header>Keto Flu and Hydrating Again</header> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-blowing-nose"> </picture> <p>When our kidneys are dealing with this rush of waste removal, we can easily become dehydrated, and that’s when the <i>keto flu</i> hits. The keto flu is the infamous first hump most keto dieters experience when they first switch into ketosis. Symptoms include runny noses, body aches, fatigue, and general discomfort. It’s called the keto flu because its symptoms look a lot like that of the common flu virus. But the keto flu is not caused by a virus; it is founded in your body’s dehydration.</p> <p>Have you just started your keto journey, and now you feel like your nasal passages are dry? Are your eyes watery or itchy, and you feel like you’ve just spent an entire day soaking up pool water? This is the first stage of the keto flu, and the solution isn’t more tap water, but more <i>hydration</i> because we want to fix your electrolyte imbalances. That means you need a good dose of clean water and electrolytes.</p> <p>If you’re past the first hump of ketosis, you can still be suffering from dehydration, however. Chapped lips, dry hands, and constipation are also common symptoms of dehydration. In fact, the sign that you are thirsty means you’re already dehydrated! Other symptoms of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances include:</p> <ul> <li>Dizziness upon standing</li> <li>Constipation</li> <li>Bloating</li> <li>Muscle cramps and spasms</li> <li>Headaches</li> <li>Racing heartbeat without cause</li> <li>Thirst!</li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="lemons"> </picture> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section5"> <header>Keto Electrolytes—Wrapping Up</header> <p>To stay hydrated, you want to drink one-half milliliter of water for every pound you weigh every day. If you’re noticeably sweating that day, you might want to add another half of a liter and electrolyte supplements to that rule of thumb. But don’t reach for the sugary beverages; instead, add some lemon juice to your water or have cucumber as a daily snack. You can even grab a handful of berries or put the berries in your water!</p> <p>There are a lot of processes that have to adjust and rework themselves when you switch to a new form of metabolism for the first time. One of these important processes is your hydration levels and to maintain everything that water and electrolytes do for your body. Whether your hydration is from lemon water or bought in a bottle, by staying on top of your water intake and using smart electrolyte sources, you can curb the keto flu and keep your first steps on your keto journey easy and symptom-free! To discover more about your electrolyte intake, check out our article on <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">micronutrients</a> and recipes for electrolyte friendly foods. </p> </section> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Everything you need to know about electrolytes</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">What does your body use sodium chloride for?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">What are electrolytes?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Muscle glycogen storage and its relationship with water</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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