Whats Causing Leg Cramps While On Keto
Muscle cramps while on keto come down to two causes: dehydration and low electrolytes.
In the early stages of the process , your body has to learn how to metabolize fats instead of carbs.
This usually leads to dehydration .
Heres why and what you need to know about it:
Ketones and fat metabolism:
Your body prefers to convert carbs into glucose for energy. The standard diet is so high in carbs that your body is primarily set in stubborn, carb-converting ways.
When you go keto, it is shocked into converting fat to glucose instead. Ketone bodies are a byproduct of burning fat for energy.
Glycogen and water storage:
Your body will desperately search for glycogen to convert it into glucose in the adoption phase. And glycogen is stored in water.
Did you ever wonder why keto is so good for weight loss? Its because you are burning fat AND losing water weight.
But with all of that water being flushed out , you can become dehydrated if you arent diligent.
Lack of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium:
Aside from water, low electrolytes are the other primary cause of leg cramps in the low-carb lifestyle.
When you switch to a low-carb lifestyle, you often eliminate the best sources of these three minerals. This, in turn, can throw off your electrolyte balance.
Why Muscle Cramps On Keto Happen
Cramps on a keto diet are caused by two simple but important factors:
During the beginning of a keto diet, when your body is still learning to burn fat for energy, these two things are common.
Your body loses a lot of water weight as it drops its glycogen stores. And with that water, electrolytes are lost too. So increasing your levels of both will help bring things back to normal.
Lets break down how you can do that.
Increasing Physical Performance On Low Carb
While transitioning to a low-carb, high-fat diet often reduces physical performance initially, it may provide several potential benefits long term.33
The benefits of a low-carb diet in sports may be more obvious in long-distance running and other endurance events. The bodys fat stores are significantly larger than its glycogen stores. This means that once fat-adapted, an athlete may be able to perform for long periods of time without needing much external energy. This frees the athlete from having to activate their gastrointestinal tract during activity and can minimize the risk of digestive issues.
Another benefit is the reduction of body fat that often occurs on low carb.34 This reduction in body-fat percentage with lightening of the body can be a bonus for many sports.
However, the evidence is mixed with respect to whether athletes benefit from going low carb. Two papers by Dr. Louise Burke showed a reduction in endurance race-walking performance after 3-4 weeks of keto eating.35 Questions remain regarding if the adaptation period was long enough, but suffice it to say that this is still an area of debate without a clear answer.
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How To Fix Whole Body Aches On Keto: Advice From A Nutritionist
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As a general rule, your whole body aches on keto because your electrolytes are imbalanced in your body. Most likely you need more magnesium and or more sodium. A person can get these from their diet or from supplements.
When your whole body aches you may be experiencing muscle cramps and or spasms, or joint pain.
This post will explain why you may be experiencing whole body aches including joint pain and how to fix the body pain. There are sections on what foods to eat and other solutions. Use the Jump to Links below to go to the headings easily.
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Muscle Cramps On A Zero Carb Diet
Muscle cramps, especially in the legs, are a common experience for many when they first adopt a Zero Carb diet. It is one of the many unpleasant symptoms that can occur during the adaptation period, but sometimes they can continue for longer. There are a number of reasons that these muscle cramps occur, but the main one is an electrolyte imbalance.
When you first go on a low-to-no carb diet, you lose a lot of excess fluid from your cells. As this fluid gets flushed out from your body, it carries electrolytes with it. There are four main electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride. Many folks who experience muscle cramps when they first begin a Zero Carb diet have found that both extra salt and extra magnesium can help to prevent muscle cramps during the transition process. However, increasing these three electrolytes is not universally helpful, and it is my opinion that potassium is often the electrolyte that most needs to be supplemented.
Consequently, it is my opinion, that if a person new to the Zero Carb diet is experiencing muscle cramps, they would be wise to consider supplementing with extra potassium, in addition to the other three electrolytes. Unfortunately, potassium is a mineral that the FDA has very strict regulations on, and all supplements must not exceed 99 mg per dose. This makes is difficult to obtain adequate supplementation through a capsule or tablet and is more expensive than it really needs to be.
Create Your Electrolyte Drinks
Electrolyte drinks are the best way to boost and replenish your electrolyte levels. Unfortunately, most of the electrolyte drinks in the market are laden with sugar. Lucky for you, you can easily create your electrolyte drink.
Here’s an affordable and healthy DIY sugar-free electrolyte drink recipe that you can try:
2 cups of water
6 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 teaspoons of artificial sweetener
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Should You Do Some Supplementation
Aside from your food, plenty of supplements can help get rid of those cramps for good.
Even certain ones are made especially for keto that provide energy, promote good health, and fight the underlying causes of spasms and cramps . Make sure to take adequate amounts of:
- Magnesium: 300-400 mg per day.
- Calcium: ~ 1,000 mg per day.
- Potassium: ~ 3,000 mg per day.
- Sodium: 3,000 5,000 mg per day.
Not all of your intake should come from supplements, though. Be sure to follow instructions carefully or consult a physician.
Supplements are a great way to fight back against unwanted side effects during the adoption phase, but keeping track of intake, purchasing all of the supplements, AND watching your diet is time-consuming and expensive.
We recommend you get it all in one place, so you dont have to worry about it.
Include Veggies In Your Diet
If your electrolytes and hydration are on point, and yet you are still faced with leg cramps, its time to consider checking your vitamin E intake. Vitamin E is responsible for boosting your oxygen flow to the muscles through blood cells.
The best way to get vitamin E is to go the natural way by focusing on food products such as avocadoes, asparagus, leafy greens, almonds, and raw sunflower.
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When To Go To A Doctor
As mentioned, this side effect goes away on its own. Sometimes, though, they are a sign that something isn’t right. You should seek medical advice if:
The cramping is constant, too painful, or severe.
It lasts longer than two weeks.
You have a pre-existing medical condition.
You’re pregnant or a senior citizen
You’re experiencing other symptoms
You can’t sleep at night because of “restless legs”
You’re taking medications
Drop In Blood Pressure
If blood pressure drops too low, blood flow to the limbs may be reduced, which will cause the pins and needles sensation you may be experiencing.
You can usually help combat this by making sure to get a sufficient amount of sodium on your ketogenic diet.
Salts I recommend:
- Chronic kidney and liver disease
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What Causes Leg Cramps On Keto
Keto-related leg cramps are typically due to an essential mineral imbalance as well as dehydration. This imbalance tends to occur as you transition into ketosis, before your body begins regularly leveraging ketones for energy rather than glucose. You can experience muscle contractions any time of day or night if you experience them at all, and you can experience them whether or not youre aiming for weight loss on the ketogenic diet.
When you eliminate carbs from your diet, your body produces less insulin . With far less carbs to process, your body produces significantly less insulin. The lessening of insulin in your system triggers your kidneys to absorb less sodium, so more is released in your urine. This can trigger a sodium deficiency and a consequent electrolyte imbalance.
What exactly are electrolytes? Electrolytes are positively charged minerals that help with hundreds of processes within the body, mostly with the muscles and nerves. Theyre found in pretty much all of your bodily fluids . Their primary function is to push fluid in and out of the cells , contracting and relaxing muscles, and nerve conduction. The main electrolytes involved in keto-related leg cramps are potassium, magnesium, and sodium.
Other Reasons For Muscle Cramps
There are a few other factors that might be giving you muscle cramps, including too much caffeine and exercising and not drinking enough to make up for sweating , or sitting for too long without moving your body.
Drinking too much coffee can increase your chance of leg cramps when you start a keto diet because caffeine stimulates your muscles to contract instead of encouraging muscle tissue to relax. Its also a diuretic, so it takes water out of your body, which can lead to dehydration and muscle cramping.
Exercising without hydrating
When you sweat you lose both water and electrolytes, which is why theres such a big market for electrolyte supplements and sports drinks .
Sitting for too long
Many people with an electrolyte imbalance get worse leg cramps at night due to a lack of movement during the day. When you arent moving, your muscles can get tighter and can seize up on you. This is why getting up and walking sometimes helps to stop a charley horse .
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When To Worry About Leg Cramps
If chronic leg cramping continues outside of exercise and with proper hydration, and/or if you have severe discomfort, swelling or skin redness, this may be a symptom of a more serious health condition. It is best to start with your primary care provider who can start the process to evaluate from the broad list items that can result in problematic cramping. There are both vascular and non vascular casues, and they can initiate a work up to sort this out.
If one possibility is venous insufficiency you may be able to be helped. At Inovia Vein, we examine patients with chronic leg cramps to look for blood clots and other symptoms of venous insufficiency. These conditions can lead to swelling in the blood vessels that creates cramping.
For patients shown to have a blood clot or venous insufficiency, we will often recommend exercise, leg elevation, and the use of compression stockings to help resolve these symptoms. In many patients, when indicated, treating the superficial venous insufficiency with approaches such as Closurefast RFA, Venaseal and Varithena can reduce the cramping considerably.
Why Should You Eat Fat On Keto Diet
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I Get Leg Cramps In The Middle Of The Night Is There Anything I Can Do
Leg cramps are a sign of electrolyte imbalances, especially magnesium. Other potential electrolytes deficiencies that may be involved include potassium, sodium, and calcium, which all play a key role in muscle contraction. Adequate fluid is also important to prevent cramps. Check out my article Got the Keto-Flu? Symptoms and How to Avoid it for ways to obtain these electrolytes through foods and beverages. You may also consider adding a magnesium supplement like SlowMag or Natural Calm if cramping continues to persist despite intake from food sources.
Heart Palpitations On The Carnivore Diet
WHAT’S HAPPENINGWHAT’S THE CURE?
- Take some magnesium – up to 400mg per day is the recommended daily allowance and safe for most people.
- Get your salt intake on point – too much or too little can cause heart palpitations. It’s certainly more likely that you’re having too little instead of too much.
- Add in carbs – if your heart palpitations don’t go away after a few weeks, you may need to add in more carbs to increase blood volume.
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What Macro Percentages Do You Recommend For Keto Dieters
This answer is a bit of a rant, but a message Im constantly trying to educate about.
I hate counting macros! Let me explain why. Somehow over the many hundreds of years, we have become the only species on earth that uses a calculator to tell us how to eat and if we should or shouldnt be hungry! Eating is a natural human ability and necessity that should not involve mathematical percentages and calculations.
I personally dont advise my patients and clients to count macros and I have yet to not get them into ketosis. In addition, I can personally tell you that I have no clue regarding my daily caloric intake or how many grams of fat, protein, and carbs I consume. But yet, I am able to maintain ketosis and feel awesome!
However, that being said, if you are new to keto and really, really just need to know exactly where youre at with your macros, aim for 75/15/10 . Of the 10% of carbs, at least 5% should come from non-starchy vegetables. At some point when you have become accustomed to keto, please, please, get rid of the calculator and trust your brain!
Get More Day Into My Keto Diet
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Keto Leg Cramps : 3 Easy Cures For Troublesome Muscles
Are you suffering from leg cramps on keto? Dont worry. Everyone on a low-carb diet gets them during the adoption phase. Heres how to cure them
We wouldnt wish leg cramps on our worst enemies. Waking up in the middle of the night with a nasty Charlie horse is painful, and getting back to sleep is almost impossible. It makes a lot of newcomers want to quitDONT.
Cramps and spasms result from dehydration and low electrolytes, which are common in the early stages of a low-carb diet.
Thankfully, curing keto leg cramps requires minor adjustments to your routine. If that doesnt work, there are plenty of supplements that will get rid of them in no time . Read on to learn:
- Why youre getting cramps/spasms
- Why its totally normal and only temporary
- Natural ways to prevent them
- Which supplements do you to need to stop them