Over the first few days (up to two weeks) of eating low-carb, you may run into some frustration. Where is all of this energy I’m supposed to have? Why do I want to mow through that bag of chips right now? Am I coming down with a cold? For some people, the transition from burning glucose to burning fat comes with unwanted symptoms that range from slightly uncomfortable to miserable. This transition period is known as keto flu, or low-carb flu. It’s real, and it can be pretty terrible.
But, it’s temporary.
What is Low-Carb Flu?
Low-carb flu, or keto flu, is a set of symptoms that you may feel over the first few days of limiting carbohydrates. Low-carb flu isn’t a flu or infection at all, and it’s not a medical term. It got its name because some of the symptoms of carb restriction can feel like you’re sick with the flu.
Low-carb flu has dissuaded millions of people from pursuing and sticking to a healthy diet. You can laugh now that you’re fat-adapted and humming along on stored body fat, but you’ve forgotten just how terrible the transition from sugar-burning to fat-burning can be.
Symptoms of Keto Flu, or Low-Carb Flu
Keto is unique compared to other diets because there is an objective marker that tells you if you’re on the right track. With an easy at-home test, you can confirm that you are, in fact, in a state of ketosis.
Regular readers probably know I’m not a big data tracker. My energy, sleep, workout performance, stamina, and enjoyment of life tell me almost everything I need to know about how well I’m doing. Nevertheless, I get that some people love to play the self-quantification game. In some medical situations, measuring ketones is advisable, even necessary, as well. I’m not a total curmudgeon about it. Heck, I’ve been known to check in on my blood glucose and ketones from time to time.
If you’re thinking about testing, you should become familiar with the three different methods. Each has its own pros and cons. You’ll want to pick the option that’s right for you.
If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Folks, I have been grateful for every story that has come my way over the years. It’s an incredible privilege being on the receiving end of your reflections and evolutions, and they are why I’ve kept at it all these years—knowing the message and information have made a difference in people’s lives. I appreciate every single one. This success story comes from Registered Dietician, Primal Health Coach, and cancer survivor Martha Tettenborn. She takes us through her journey from learning to advise a low-fat, high-carb lifestyle to beating cancer using Primal principles. Enjoy! —Mark
It has become my passion to share the power of nutritional interventions for improving health overall, but especially in the treatment of cancer. I have come to this from personal experience…
I studied at University in the early 1980’s to become a dietitian, because I had an overwhelming interest in nutrition and wanted to be in a helping profession. At that time, the cholesterol and saturated fat theory of heart disease and overall health was considered cutting edge science and we were fully indoctrinated into the low-fat approach to almost all health issues. The only exception was using a high calorie, high protein approach to under-nutrition (such as with failure-to-thrive or cancer patients), and in that situation, we recommended using sugar or honey, butter or cream, and other added fats and simple carbs to increase the caloric density of foods.
Even after publishing several books and hundreds of articles that draw upon the science of ketosis and low-carb living, I keep researching, thinking, revisiting, and discussing the underpinnings of ketosis. My writing partner, Brad Kearns, and I maintain a running dialogue on all things keto. The latest conversation revolved around two very common questions or “problems” that keep coming up in the ketogenic community: why am I getting low ketone readings?
It’s a fair question. Why do some people on a keto diet register high ketones while others eating the same way register low numbers?
I won’t offer definitive answers fit to etch into stone. I will offer my exploration of the research, some educated speculation, and actionable advice you can ruminate on. And by all means get back to me with your take on the questions and my explorations, please. Dialogue is essential to understanding.
A little planning and motivation will help you start a low-carb, keto, or Primal lifestyle, and under normal circumstances, keeping your carbs on the low side is easy. But let’s not create the illusion that it is easy all the time. From time to time, you may get stressed and eat mindlessly. Or, your aunt drops off her blue-ribbon cake that you’ve loved since you were in preschool, and you give in, just this once. Or, you had a jam-packed day and all you can muster to make for dinner is that package of gluten-free noodles in the back of your pantry. The next thing you know, you’ve eaten enough carbs for a week, and you wonder how you’ll get back into ketosis after a carb binge.
The short answer is, yes you will recover from a carb binge. Yes, you will get back into ketosis. As far as how long it will take to get back into ketosis – that depends on numerous factors, that we’ll dive into here. The important thing to remember is, you did not obliterate your goals with one misstep. Especially after you’ve spent some amount of time in ketosis, your body will allow for fluctuations in carb consumption here and there. That’s called metabolic flexibility, which we’ll go into shortly.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, does the renewed vigor assailing the keto diet have me worried about my business? Should I start going vegan to cover all my bases? Second, did the “ketones for overtraining” study from last week control for calories? And third, how can a person eat enough fat if they’re avoiding lactose?
There are a dizzying number of keto pills on the market now. They promise easy weight loss, increased energy, and the benefits of ketosis without the pesky following-a-strict-diet part.
As savvy MDA readers, you know that optimal health never comes in a bottle. You also know that I’m a proponent of wise supplementation to support a Primal diet and lifestyle when appropriate. I’ve said before that I think exogenous ketones can be useful in specific circumstances, though they’re never necessary for success.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a question about taking ketones for overtraining from a reader.
I just saw this article the other day and I’m wondering what you think of it. Should high-carb athletes (or regular carb athletes) be taking ketone supplements? Is there any reason why they shouldn’t? It’d be awesome to get the “best of both worlds,” but is it safe?