Keto Electrolytes: How to Avoid Imbalances and Dehydration
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Keto Electrolytes: How to Avoid Imbalances and Dehydration

Keto is a low-carb, high-fat diet that helps you burn fat rather than glucose for fuel. While the keto diet is a safe and healthy lifestyle with minimal side effects, there are bodily changes you should be aware of, including imbalances with keto electrolytes.

When you start a ketogenic diet, it changes the way your body handles electrolytes and water. You may experience thirst, dehydration, and other short-term side effects as a result.

While electrolyte imbalances can be quite common on keto (and easily treated), it’s important to understand why an imbalance occurs in the first place. This guide details what electrolytes are, why an electrolyte imbalance may happen on keto, and how to replenish your electrolyte levels through food and supplements.

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals in your blood (and other bodily fluids) that carry an electric charge. These nutrients allow your body to carry out essential functions like muscle contractions, heartbeat regulation, body temperature control, bladder control, energy production, and neurological functions. Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, phosphorus[*].

You must have enough electrolytes in your body to function correctly. If one or more of these electrolytes are deficient, you may experience the following side effects[*]:

  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Feeling shaky, dizzy or weak like you’re going to pass out
  • Headaches, brain fog, or migraines
  • Weight loss (usually due to a loss in water weight)
  • Leg or other muscle cramps, such as getting Charley horses at night
  • Trouble with constipation and bloating

What Causes an Electrolyte Imbalance?

When you switch to a keto lifestyle and drastically decrease your carb and processed food intake, you will naturally reduce your sodium intake. Meanwhile, the levels of other electrolytes may decrease along with it.

How does this happen? Each gram of glycogen (stored glucose) in your body is stored with 3 grams of water. When you eat a low-carb diet, and thereby use up your glycogen stores, all that water that was storing it also gets flushed out[*].

When this happens, you can develop an electrolyte imbalance. And if you’re not making an effort to replenish these critical stores, you’ll likely feel symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, heart palpitations, feelings of being dizzy, shaky, or weak, leg cramping, constipation, and bloating.

The Relationship Between Electrolytes and Keto Flu 

The above side effects are symptoms of the keto flu, which can occur during the initial period where your body is adjusting to the lack of carbohydrates and switching to running on fats (ketosis).

The keto flu really comes down to electrolyte imbalances. If you don’t understand these symptoms, you may conclude that keto isn’t right for you — but in reality, it’s just an adjustment period.

Electrolyte imbalances can happen to those who are new to the ketogenic diet — but thankfully, there are some simple ways to address these imbalances.

Dehydration on Keto

Water makes up more than 50% of your body and is probably the most important necessity in life. Although everyone should be mindful of their body’s water requirements and stay hydrated, if you’re eating a ketogenic diet (at least in the beginning phase) you may have higher water needs.

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The low-carb nature of this diet leads to water loss. This can lead to at least mild dehydration, which can contribute to constipation and other keto flu symptoms.

4 Keto Electrolytes to Help Replenish Your Levels

You can replenish electrolytes through nutrition. There are four main vitamins and minerals that help rebalance your electrolytes to normal levels (and below, you’ll learn various keto-friendly food sources for each).

You can also use keto greens powder or the Perfect Keto Electrolytes supplement to maintain optimal electrolyte balance.

Note: If you lead an overly stressful life or exercise often, you may need more of these minerals. Stress can affect hormone balance, leading to further fluid and electrolyte imbalances, while strenuous exercise can deplete sodium levels to a greater degree.

Chart of keto electrolytes

#1: Sodium

Sodium is an important mineral and electrolyte that helps retain water in the body and keeps a proper balance of other electrolytes. Sodium is also vital for muscle and nerve function[*].

Keto dieters can replenish sodium by adding Himalayan sea salt to water and food, or by regularly drinking bone broth. You can also make a DIY electrolyte drink with just sugar-free coconut water and sea salt.

#2: Potassium

Potassium is a must for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, regulating heart rate, and ensuring proper fluid balance in the body. Like sodium, you also need potassium for nerve and muscle function[*].

However, too much potassium is toxic so be careful with supplementation. Thankfully, there are great whole food sources out there that contain adequate amounts of potassium. These include salmon, nuts, avocados, leafy green veggies, and mushrooms.

#3: Calcium

Calcium is another essential electrolyte that plays many different roles in the body, including blood clotting, building strong bones, regulating nerve function, and ensuring proper muscle contraction[*].

You can get calcium from dairy foods, leafy greens, broccoli, fish, and even non-dairy unsweetened milks like almond and coconut milk. If supplementing with calcium, make sure it includes vitamin D to ensure adequate absorption.

#4: Magnesium

Magnesium helps your body maintain a healthy immune system, normal heart rhythm, proper nerve and muscle function, and many other biochemical reactions. Like calcium, you need it for building healthy and strong bones[*].

Leafy greens, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, and nuts have magnesium. You can also consume a magnesium supplement like magnesium citrate (around 500 mg of magnesium per day is sufficient for most people).

Restore Electrolyte Levels by Staying Hydrated

Since excess water excretion can cause electrolyte imbalances and dehydration on keto, increasing your water and electrolyte intake is imperative when starting a keto diet.

The amount of water that you need to consume daily depends on your activity levels, the climate you live in, and your food intake.

Surely, you’ve been told to drink eight glasses of water per day. However, telling the global population to consume the same amount of water doesn’t account for height, weight, activity level, or physical location.

For example, a 200-pound man who exercises daily and lives in Phoenix, Arizona, should drink more water than a 120-pound female who exercises three times a week and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

That said, you should not drink so much water than you flush out your electrolytes, which is counterintuitive.

Instead, listen to your body. Eat whole foods like green, leafy vegetables that are naturally high in water content, and drink water throughout the day.

Don’t Fall Victim to Keto Electrolyte Imbalances 

When transitioning to a keto diet, you may experience an imbalance in electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals, like magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium that carry out a wide range of important bodily functions.

To restore your electrolyte levels, you can consume electrolyte supplements, like those offered by Perfect Keto, or you can increase your consumption of certain foods.

Keto-friendly foods like nuts, seeds, and leafy greens are naturally high in electrolytes and can help bring your levels back to normal. At the same time, try to increase your water intake and use sea salt generously at mealtime.

With the right food choices and the right supplements, you can have electrolyte levels. Review this list of keto-friendly foods to get started.

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33 thoughts on “Keto Electrolytes: How to Avoid Imbalances and Dehydration

  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?

  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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