I keep talking about how fasting and ketosis will make you feel energetic, but what if you have low energy on keto? What then? In this post, we will talk about what to do if you have the keto flu, which is the most common cause for having low energy on keto. We will also talk about what to do if you have been keto for a while, were feeling amazing but are starting to notice a decline in your energy level.
Is It the Keto Flu?
When you transition to the keto diet, it is normal to experience some symptoms as your body adapts. In fact, I didn’t think going keto would affect me because I am in ketosis every single day just from intermittent fasting. However, when I went on my Keto experiment, I still had 3 days where I was low on energy. I felt weak and had a mild headache. That’s called the keto flu.
What Causes the Keto Flu?
As you transition to the keto diet, your body has to adapt to different levels of glycogen stores and insulin levels. When your insulin levels are very low, your body converts fat into ketones. Most of your cells will then use ketones in place of glucose for energy.
I read an article by the Diet Doctor that explained that as your insulin levels drop, our body will respond by excreting more water and sodium in the form of urine. This explains the rapid weight loss that many will experience and also the keto flu symptoms. These symptoms include fatigue, headache, irritability, nausea, weakness, muscle cramps, poor concentration, etc.
I would add that the keto flu and low energy on keto can simply be due to the stress of a change in diet. As I mentioned, I was in keto every day and still experienced symptoms. I did not lose any water weight at all. Any change can be a stress to your body as it needs to adapt. Plain and simple.
What to Do If You Have the Keto Flu?
Wait it out is the most obvious advice. It will pass, I promise! However, you may find any combination of the following cures helpful: rest, hydration, electrolytes, and more fat.
Take It Easy
When you have low energy on keto, your body is telling you what to do. It’s telling you to rest. If you are able to take some time off, sleep more, and relax, that’s ideal. However, I realize we don’t all have that luxury. You can try to plan the start of your keto transition during a weekend or your days off (keep in mind the keto flu usually kicks in on the second or third day). If you cannot take 2-3 days to rest and recharge, at the very least, try to go to bed early.
Drink More Water
Since the transition to the keto diet is likely to cause your body to excrete more water, it makes sense to try to replenish this loss by drinking enough water. Aim for at least 3 liters of water a day (or 1 oz of water per pound of body weight).
Replace Your Electrolytes
Your body will not only excrete water, but it will also excrete sodium. Whenever you feel unpleasant symptoms, you can try adding half a teaspoon of Himalayan or sea salt to your water and see if that helps. You can also try the Super Lytes, which is meant to accomplish the same thing (it contains Himalayan salt, but also Rooibos tea). Another tasty option is to drink homemade bone broth.
Eat More Fat
Increasing your fat intake may also help. Add more coconut oil to anything you sautee, put more olive oil on your salads, eat olives, sardines, avocado and see if that helps.
What If You Have Been Keto for a While
The Keto flu is simple. It will pass with time. What if you have low energy on keto after having been keto for a while and feeling amazing doing it? That’s a much more difficult situation and you may have to do some soul searching to decide what the right course of action is. All I can offer are some practical suggestions you can try.
1. Check Your Macros
Often, people go all in when they get started with keto but gradually stray off without noticing. As a reminder, you should make sure your macros are as follow:
- 65-80% of calories from fat
- 20-35% of calories from protein
- 5-10% of calories from carbs
Furthermore, you may find that experimenting with different ends of the macro ranges helps.
If you feel you have low energy on keto, moving your body is probably the last thing you want to do. However, I can’t tell you how many times I felt too tired to workout and felt amazing afterward. Go out for a brisk walk or try one of my fitness routines.
If you are already exercising, are you exercising too much? Half an hour to an hour a day is a reasonable goal. Two hours a day could stress your body and make you fatigued.
3. Increase Your Calorie Intake
Many people get started with the keto diet to lose weight. Often, they think they need to eat as little as possible to lose weight. However, when you go keto, you don’t need to restrict your calorie intake. It will happen naturally without your feeling hungry.
If you have low energy on keto, you may be under nourishing yourself. This can happen because you are eating the wrong foods or NOT enough food.
Keto or not, I used to be tired all the time. That’s one of the reasons I started learning about diet and nutrition. I knew I had to do something. It wasn’t normal to be ready for bed at 8:30 pm, not want to get up in the morning, AND need a nap in the afternoon. I experimented with many healing protocols. Changing my diet and learning to avoid inflammatory foods helped a lot, but I still struggled a few years down the line. I found that more and more foods were becoming inflammatory. Even foods that shouldn’t be. I think healthy people should be able to eat grains, but I was willing to accept that I would do better without them. But things like seeds, nuts, and even some fruits and vegetables? It was getting ridiculous!
When I started being more consistent taking vitamin D throughout the Winter and a Greens powder, that’s when things changed. Maybe you should try it too.
5. Try Different Meal Timings
As with calorie restriction, fasting may be another source of stress to your body.
First, give up intermittent fasting for a while. Fast for only 12 hours each day and make sure you eat your three meals a day. See if that helps.
You can also change up the timing of your meals (early vs late breakfast and early vs late dinner would be the most obvious options).
6. Make Sure You Focus on Clean Keto
Having low energy on keto or on any diet is usually a sign that your body is not getting the nutrition it needs. That’s why so many of my recommendations focus on increasing your vitamin and mineral intake. This one is no exception. Sometimes, people start the keto diet by making recipes that are mostly meat and dairy-based. Not a good plan! Most people thrive with more greens and nutrient-dense foods. Check out my low-carb food list for inspiration.
7. Cycle Some Carbs Back In
Another option to try, particularly if you are a woman, would be to increase your carb intake and get out of ketosis periodically.
Women often crave more carbs and foods during the last week of their cycle and there is a reason for that. Evidence suggests that calorie and carb restriction both can negatively impact a woman’s hormonal function.
How the Keto Diet May Affect Women
A study done on mice suggested that females don’t thrive on keto the same way males do. In the study, while male mice lost weight, female mice ended up gaining weight. Many experts suggest that carbs are an essential part of a woman’s health. Cutting carbs (as well as fasting, lack of sleep, and too much exercise) increase cortisol levels. As I mentioned in my posts before, some cortisol is fine, but too much causes hormonal imbalances. Choose your stresses wisely!
Like everything else when it comes to your health, figuring out why you have low energy on keto requires you to get to know your body. To do so, you will need to experiment. I hope these tips help.
If nothing helps, you consult your medical practitioner for further guidance. You may be able to trace your fatigue back to some specific food sensitivities or vitamin/mineral deficiencies.