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Electrolytes on Keto: Benefits, How to Meet Them, and More

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Electrolytes are vital for the proper functioning of your body, which is why you need to keep them within their normal levels. Low or high electrolyte levels result in problems, ranging from headaches to muscle cramps to convulsions[*].

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When you’re transitioning to a keto diet, you can get low on electrolytes due to carb restriction leading to lower insulin levels. People who are keto-adapted may also experience electrolyte losses as a result of excessive sweating (if they lead a very active lifestyle) and are not getting enough electrolytes in their diet.

Read this article to find out more about electrolytes on keto and their benefits, how to restore electrolytes and avoid imbalances, and some important FAQs.

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. In the human body, these electrolytes include sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate[*].

The most common electrolyte imbalance is hyponatremia or low sodium levels and is the reason why people during their first week of keto get muscle cramps — one of the symptoms of keto flu.

Therefore, meeting them in their right amounts will support optimal health and wellness whether or not you’re on a low-carb diet.

The Benefits of Electrolytes: Why You Need Them

Some of the side effects of ketosis may be caused by an electrolyte imbalance. By replenishing them, your performance improves in the following ways:

1. Supports Physical Activity and Athletic Performance

Electrolytes allow your muscles to function normally. For example, calcium and magnesium play complementary roles in regulating muscle contraction, and they tell your muscles when to relax[*][*].

When this balance is off, you’re more prone to muscle cramps, which negatively affect your performance at the gym.

A 2018 review showed that functional beverages or sports drinks containing electrolytes can compensate for electrolyte losses through sweating (also known as involuntary dehydration) during physical activity[*].

2. Reduces Keto Flu Symptoms

The keto flu is a group of symptoms that happen within the first few weeks of beginning a keto diet. Symptoms can be mild or severe and include headaches, fatigue, brain fog, increased cravings, muscle cramping, thirst, diarrhea, and constipation[*].

When your body switches its energy source from carbohydrates to fat, it burns through its glycogen stores (stored carbs in your liver and muscles). Glycogen is also stored with water molecules. As a result of glycogen depletion, a loss of water occurs via your urine, and this also includes electrolytes[*].

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Make sure you’re avoiding imbalances to combat the keto flu by taking a keto-friendly daily electrolyte supplement and other strategies like eating whole foods, salting your food, and prioritizing sleep.

3. Maintains Cardiovascular Health

Electrolytes play a crucial role in heart function[*]. Potassium, for instance, keeps your heart beating by controlling electrical signals. This is why low or high potassium levels result in an irregular heartbeat (heart arrhythmia).

According to a recent US national survey, many Americans are consuming more calories than they need, yet are lacking in micronutrients. When it comes to potassium, most have intakes lower than the recommended amounts for potassium[*].

Be aware that certain things may cause potassium levels to drop, such as diarrhea, too much alcohol, water pills or diuretics, and insulin[*].

4. Promotes Deeper Sleep

Another major advantage of ensuring enough electrolytes on keto is quality sleep. A good night’s sleep helps to boost your productivity — not to mention, your ability to lose more weight and keep it off while on the keto diet.

Among the electrolytes, magnesium is an important one. In a double-blind randomized clinical trial, subjects who took 500 milligrams of magnesium daily for 8 weeks achieved improvements in their sleep time, sleep efficiency, and melatonin (a sleep hormone) levels[*].

5. Improves Brain Functioning

Changes in electrolyte levels affect your tissues, especially your brain.

Symptoms of electrolyte imbalances in the brain vary, which include confusion, a loss of alertness, poor judgment, and seizures[*]. Disturbances in sodium, magnesium, phosphate, and calcium may lead to these consequences.

Keeping your brain healthy can be as simple as meeting your electrolyte needs. One way to do this is by checking your hydration status and drinking enough water (or electrolyte-infused water) throughout the day.

What Causes an Electrolyte Imbalance?

An electrolyte imbalance is when you have either increased or decreased levels of electrolytes in your blood. Various factors trigger electrolyte imbalances, more specifically low electrolytes on keto, such as:

1. Fluid Loss (Keto Flu and Exercise)

The keto diet can result in a diuretic-like response due to ketones, resulting in frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate. This is why people who are new to the keto diet report losing a lot of weight initially — a.k.a. water weight loss.

Exercise can also cause fluid and electrolyte loss, mainly through prolonged exercise and exercising in hot weather[*][*].

Be sure to watch out for signs and symptoms of dehydration, such as sunken eyes, dry mouth, excessive thirst, and headache.

A good practice is to simply drink whenever you feel thirsty. If you’re planning a long workout session, especially when you’re heading outside, carry a water bottle with you.

2. Not Eating a Wide Variety of Whole Foods

Relying on processed foods while on keto may make low-carb eating more convenient; however, this can result in some micronutrient deficiencies.

Any kind of food preparation — and food processing to a greater extent, through high levels of heat and light exposure — results in a loss of micronutrients[*]. On the other hand, electrolytes are abundant in natural foods like meat, poultry, seafood, avocados, broccoli, nuts, and seeds.

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This is why, at Perfect Keto, we strongly encourage everyone to follow a clean keto diet. It’s the best approach to follow throughout your journey, whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned ketogenic dieter.

3. Taking Certain Medications While on Keto

Because you can experience a significant loss of water shortly after starting the keto diet, check for any medications that could cause your electrolytes to drop further.

Medications that mess with your electrolyte levels include Amphotericin B, corticosteroids, and insulin[*][*][*]. Better yet, speak with your doctor if you’re not sure how your current medications may affect your electrolyte status.

What Causes Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes You Need on the Keto Diet

Below is a list of important electrolytes and how much you need for each electrolyte (your normal electrolyte values)[*][*]:

  • Sodium: 135 to 145 mmol/L
  • Potassium: 3.6 to 5.5 mmol/L
  • Magnesium: 1.46 to 2.68 mg/dl
  • Chloride: 96 to 106 mEq/L
  • Calcium: 8.8 to 10.7 mg/dl
  • Phosphate: 3.4 to 4.5 mg/dl
  • Bicarbonate: 23 to 30 mmol/L

How to Restore Your Electrolytes on Keto (Or Avoid Imbalances)

The good news is that it’s not difficult to prevent an electrolyte imbalance while on a low-carb plan. A common misconception is that keto can lead to deficiencies, but that’s unlikely to happen if you’re doing it right. Here are a few strategies that will help.

1. Eat Whole Foods That Are High in Electrolytes

Nothing beats a keto diet that’s rich in nutrient-dense foods. You might need to do a bit of research to create a list of keto foods that are known to replenish electrolytes, especially if you’re keen on nutrition.

Popular sources of electrolytes include coconut water, avocados, beef, chicken meat, eggs, spinach, clams, salmon, lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt, and almonds. You can make things even more interesting by trying delicious keto recipes using electrolyte-containing ingredients.

2. Obtain Electrolytes With Keto-Friendly Electrolyte Supplements

The most convenient way to get electrolytes no matter the time and place is to consume an electrolyte drink. This is also helpful for supporting your workout performance and recovery post-workout.

While there are plenty of electrolyte drinks out there to choose from, stick to sugar-free and keto-friendly options. Perfect Keto has an electrolyte powder that contains sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and vitamin D (to boost magnesium absorption).

3. Pay Attention to Your Thirst

Thirst is a sign of mild dehydration. When you’re thirsty, you’re also likely to feel tired and dizzy. It’s important to address thirst right away by drinking water or an electrolyte drink.

Moreover, keep in mind that your sense of thirst diminishes as you age[*]. For this reason, older people (particularly seniors) should drink more. Hydration or water tracker apps can help to remind you to drink.

4. Slowly Transition Into the Keto Diet

Know that it’s okay to start the keto diet slowly. Doing this may prevent keto flu symptoms (and electrolyte imbalances) while also building sustainable habits.

Ease into the diet by doing low-carb, which entails eating up to 150 grams of carbs per day, for a week before going full keto. Drastically reducing your carb intake to 50 grams or less, especially if you’re coming from a Standard American Diet (SAD) can make you feel overwhelmed in the beginning.

Some people do it cold turkey, but this doesn’t have to be your approach.

5. If You’re Taking Medications, Talk to Your Doctor Before Starting Keto

As mentioned earlier in this article, certain medications may affect your electrolyte status.

Since restricting carbs can lead to a reduction of electrolytes, notify your doctor about your plan to do the keto diet if you’re currently under any medication. This includes antibiotics, corticosteroids, and insulin.

In addition, it’s imperative to work with a doctor who has the knowledge and experience with assisting patients with a low-carb or keto lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find more answers to the most common questions on electrolytes on keto:

How do I know if my electrolytes are low?

Watch out for common signs and symptoms of low electrolytes, which include muscle weakness, cramps, headache, dizziness, confusion, and an irregular heart rate. You may also want to consider an electrolyte panel test (which involves drawing blood) to check the levels of minerals in your body.

Do I need an electrolyte supplement?

Electrolyte supplements are necessary if you’re transitioning to a very low-carb diet, exercising frequently, experiencing an illness, or simply rehydrating.

Can too many electrolytes cause weight gain?

An excess in your electrolytes causes fluid shifts in your body. This may lead to water weight gain and not fat.

Is it OK to drink electrolytes every day?

It’s not necessary to drink electrolytes all the time unless you suspect dehydration or feel the need to do so (for example, if you’re transitioning into nutritional ketosis). Remember that it’s also possible to take too many electrolytes and develop problems as a result.

Final Thoughts on Keto Electrolytes

Electrolyte imbalances while on keto are often linked to the keto flu, but they can also happen due to an inadequate electrolyte intake (such as a keto diet high in processed foods) and unreplaced electrolyte losses from intense and long workouts — or a combination of these things.

Maintaining their optimal balance allows your body to thrive and work well. Simple strategies like eating more whole foods, supplementing with electrolytes, and responding immediately to thirst will mitigate losses and prevent them from happening in the first place.

If you’re trying to optimize your electrolytes on keto, consider our Daily Electrolytes Powder. Our flavors include Pink Lemonade, Black Cherry, Lemon Lime, and Watermelon.

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33 thoughts on “Electrolytes on Keto: Benefits, How to Meet Them, and More

  1. Very informative article!
    I have been very low carb for years now and am struggling with electrolyte balance! It is affecting my whole life in such a negative way…,
    -I add up to 1 teaspoon of light salt daily
    -magnesium oil on my legs/ plus Epsom baths each night
    -I eat spinach/mushrooms/avocados daily
    -I eat fish every night for dinner
    -I do take a multi & Vit D supplements
    -I weight train 3xweekly, incline brisk walking 4-5 days week
    -I do strictly follow very low carb/low cal diet, without refeeds.

    I’m just off balance and it affects everything!
    PLEASE HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT!
    *i am going for blood work tomorrow for some answers and wish I could find a doctor that specializes in low carb- any advice there???

    1. only one teaspoon? salt is only 40% sodium (60% chloride). It is recommended by Stephen Phinney to have 4-6g of sodium per day looking at recent studies. That equates to around 12 teaspoons per day. I’d try upping your dosage and see how you feel. Also to note, too little sodium intake has a higher mortality rate than too high sodium.

    2. I too have been low carb/keto for about 10 months and am just now struggling with headaches. Of course no doctor I’ve seen has any idea what it can be other than the obvious answers (and of course prescriptions) but I’m researching and thinking it might be an electrolyte imbalance, maybe even hormonal and perhaps both, related. Going to try adding more sodium. Took some with bone broth tonight and feeling better….will continue experimenting. Finding it odd that I’d only start experiencing these symptoms recently…it’s all quite perplexing.

      1. Ive started mixing 1tbsp of Gelatin into my electrolytes liquid and drink it down morning and evening and wow what a difference! Ive also add 1 tbsp fat, mct oil, coconut oil.
        You can add plain Gelatin to any beverage, soups, etc. I hear its great in coffee too
        You have to try it and see the difference for yourself.
        Great Lakes or Zint both make healthy Gelatin that aides in joint buffering for backs, knees and so on. It also helps lessen wrinkles, aided in hair growth, nails. Read the reviews on amazon
        I just started taking it, 3 days in snd my dizziness has been cut by 75% . I have already noticed my crapey Skin lessoning too

        People also add it to plain pediolyte -just check carbs

      2. hey
        check out whether too much oil causing your headaches
        I have never had headaches until a strong diet… I guess it was too much olive oil 🙂

    3. I failed at keto before because of this difficulty balancing electrolytes so this time around I am adding even more salt and finding it has been going better (but I have to be very diligent with this). Maybe try adding more salt throughout the day? About 2 tsp worth

    4. I had the same problem, where every fluid would get flushed out. I started taking supplemental pills for Magnesium, Potassium, and Iodine along with more salty foods. Cheese helped on the calcium part.

  2. I am struggling with insomnia. ..I take magnesium. .just started taking potassium. And sodium..I also cut out coffee..I’m trying to figure out what is wrong. .did all kinds of blood test and all normal. .im confused..any advice? ?

    1. What time of day do you exercise? Are you overly stressed? Eating too close to bedtime? Too much blue light or time on your comp/phone/watching tv? There’s many different things that can affect sleep.

    2. Did you check your hormones too? As you get older lack of hormones affect it too… But I also agree w other poster about light, late exercise etc

    3. I too suffer from insomnia, I’ve just started taking 5mg of melatonin 1/2hr before bed and am sleeping like a baby!!!

  3. I am in my 6th month of the keto diet and in recent weeks, nocturnal leg cramps have become a major issue. During the day I feel fine and I am okay at maintaining the macro ratios plus I eat tons of spinach along with the other keto-appropriate foods. I have just started to take magnesium and potassium supplements and am drinking water before going to bed. But that makes me a perpetual peeing machine so I need to wake up every couple of hours. I will try adding a bit of salt. I am beginning to wonder if the missing glycogen has a role that isn’t being addressed or admitted to with this diet.

  4. I have been on a keto diet for 3 months and just recently been getting headaches everyday. I take a multi vitamin and magnesium, use Himalayan salt and I can’t imagine why this is happening. If anyone has any advice I would appreciate it

  5. Great article. I started taking multivitamin, vitamin D and a adding electrolytes to my water and feel such a difference in addition to Keto diet. I have tried a few electrolyte brands but really like the brand Optimal Hydration the best.

  6. Coffee decreases electrolytes in some people, it did with my sister. She was loving her bulletproof coffee and had to completely stop it because she was having low magnesium/ sodium issues. After she stopped her coffee habit her symptoms resolved. Plus many people doing keto aren’t eating enough. Not near enough calories, which wrecks metabolism and causes low energy, etc.

  7. To anyone suffering with Insomnia or any sleep troubles, please dont take melatonin. I took it every night for almost 5 years. I couldnt sleep without it. I learned to wheen it off and fall asleep better now by doing cardio before bed and limiting my coffee intake by not having any caffeine 8 hours before i plan to fall asleep

  8. Thanks for the info! It’s Day 3 of Keto and Day 1.5 of kicking Diet Coke. Started drinking coffee to replace the caffeine with some whipping cream. Slight headache today, added 500mg potassium/magnesium. Never a problem with salt intake for me…LOL I’m cutting water weight like crazy, already down 5 lbs. On flu alert, keto strips indicating medium range ketosis…water intake up.

  9. My doctor told me coffee dehydrates the body, for every cup of coffee consumed, need to drink two cups of water. I drink decaf coffee sometimes . I also read that keto diet effects some people thyroid and it can effect hormones. It get’s a little more complicated sometimes doctors do not understand keto. And if you have excess estrogen stored it is considered toxic fat, which is another important factor to consider , when burning this sort of toxic fat there is more careful detoxification practices that needs to take place to help I elimination I have ten pounds to lose. My doctor seemed to think Keto is too extreme for me, I don’t think it is . Anyhow, I taking electrolytes and added extra sea salt to my food I have chills, and insomnia avoiding computer at night has helped. taking hot Epsom bath before bed has helped to sleep

  10. I was having constipation, headaches and dizziness too, I increased my sodium intake like every morning I drink 2 cups of homemade beef broth, eat breakfast anytime after, take my blood pressure pills and add: 1 magnesium tablet, drink water or Powerade zero mixed with sparkling water, snack on cheese 1 babybel or a piece of gouda for calcium, and no more constipation, headaches or dizziness. Store bought beef broth is good too, do not buy the low sodium or you will have to add salt in it. Hymalayan salt in a cup of water will work as well. Remember you need to increase your magnesium. potassium, and calcium intake. Good luck.

  11. Take keto electrolyte supplements containing Na, K, Mg, and Ca. These electrolytes need to be in the right proportions and the keto supplements on Amazon are correctly formulated. I take one in AM and another before bed. Severe muscle cramps disappeared

    1. Hi Sara, it depends on your dietary needs and goals. You take the MCT when you need more fat, the collagen when you need more protein. The base you take based on your goals.

  12. I believe it is important to mention if you take meds for blood pressure to check with a Dr about potassium. Potassium can lower BP so don’t use with BP meds unless you take with your Dr.

  13. Was on Keto for about 6 months. I started experiencing heart palpitations. My doctor had me wear a holter monitor and I was told I have “venticular ectopy”, but when I got off keto the palpitations stopped. Anyone else experience this? The keto diet has helped me lose weight and I love the way I feel on it. Is there anything I can do to prevent these heart palpitations? Anyone else experience this?

    1. Hi Patty, make sure you’re not lacking the necessary minerals. Stress can also cause palpitation so take a rest.

  14. Might be too late but you never know who might need this info.
    A good part of insomnia during Keto is the result of reduced in carbs. Your body utilized carbs to get the amino acid tryptophan (ie turkey has a lot, so you feel sleepy when you eat it).
    Tryptophan helps trigger the body to release serotonin, which in turn signals the production of melatonin.
    So what do you do if you want to sleep and continue with keto?
    Two options
    One – have your carbs during dinner
    Two – take a melatonin supplement

    Option two sounds easy but keep in mind the implications with prolonged usage on your health 🙂
    Hope this helps!

  15. I’ve been on the OMAD ket plan for about six months and have shed more than fifty. I found that the best way to obtain sodium and potassium is to dissolve two heaping teaspoons of pink salt and a level teaspoon of ‘cream of tartar’ (potassium) to a 1.5 L water bottle. Sip throughout the day or a few gulps if feeling hungry, irritable, or light-headed. Two tablespoons of vinager, added to the solution, is also cleansing and an appetit supressor.
    Magnesium chloride is the best source of magnesium available. I dissolve 50g of magnesium chloride in 1.5 L of spring water and mix. After a daily shower, I spritz my body with six pumps and distribute with hands. This should provide 500-700 mg magnesium daily. Magnesium is best absorbed through the skin rather orally.
    Calcium? Eat lots of whole fat yogurt and French soft cheeses daily.

  16. Hi, great article! I have been Keto for just over 6 months now and have recently started to have issues with my teeth being sore/sensitive has anyone else had this issue? If so, any ideas on cause or prevention?

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