If you have been following my posts of late, you would have read me banging on about electrolytes and Keto and the possibility of not consuming enough of these minerals, due to the fact that the diet can be restrictive of the amounts and types of fruit and veg that are acceptable to avoid consuming too many carbs.
This realization has caused me to try and educate myself more about electrolytes, their function in the body and why they are so important.
So What Are They??
Electrolytes are minerals that form electrically charged particles known as ions. Many bodily functions rely on these ions, such as maintaining the body’s pH levels, regulating nerve and muscle function and maintain a healthy water balance.
Thinking of them in terms of an engine, they are not the “fuel” that runs the engine, but more the oil to help the engine run smoother. Electrolytes are vital for many of your bodies systems to function properly, including digestive, cardiac and nervous systems.
Below are some of the main electrolytes and their function:
Sodium (salt): Regulates the body’s water supply
Potassium: Nerve and muscle function, including regulation of heartbeat
Bicarbonate: Maintain acidity in blood (pH levels)
Magnesium: Nerve function and muscle contraction
Iron: Essential for blood production and oxygen transportation in the blood
Zinc: Regulates immune system
Copper: Maintain healthy metabolism, blood and bones
Calcium: Strengthen bones and teeth, fluid balance and muscle contraction
You can see that maintaining adequate electrolytes is very important in everyday life, but is particularly important during the first few weeks of being on the Keto diet. This is due to the elimination of carbohydrates, which means water loss.
Water loss leads to a loss of essential electrolytes, in particular sodium, and is cause to some of the symptoms associated with Keto Flu, such as headaches and fatigue.
How To Replenish
Whilst their are many supplements out their that can help to replenish electrolytes quickly, it is usually best to try and consume them in your daily food intake, but still keep some supplements close by, in case you feel like you are not getting adequate amounts.
The recommended sodium intake on a Keto diet is 3000-5000mg. This equates to 0.6-1.0 teaspoons of salt. This can be difficult to track, as salt is a common additive in many foods, but you should not be scared to add a little extra salt to your meals.
Many people tend to lean toward sea salts rather than table salts as table salts are more refined and do not have some of the trace elements that are found in natural sea salts, however, the trace amounts are minimal and their is debate over whether this is enough to make much of a difference.
For potassium, 3000-4000mg should be the daily goal. Avocado, spinach and kale are great sources of potassium, as well as some fish such as Sea bream, Cod and Monkfish.
Muscle cramps can be a good way to determine if your magnesium levels are low, but to avoid this you should try to consume around 300-500mg of magnesium. The best sources are hemp and pumpkin seeds, but other great sources include Swiss chard, spinach, Brazil nuts and some fish.
Magnesium is very important in the diet, but it can be difficult to consume enough in your food alone. It is common for many on Keto to take a supplement for this.
Milk is commonly seen as good source of calcium but due the amount of carbs in milk, it is not recommended on the Keto diet. You would need to drink at least 750mls of milk to get your daily calcium dose from most full cream milks, which would mean around 40 carbs.
Sardines and salmon are a great source of calcium as well as bok choy, broccoli, kale, almonds and some hard cheeses and the recommended dose is 1000-2000mg.
Lack of iron can be common, not just with people on the Keto diet but is essential for human body growth as it boosts hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
The recommended iron intake is 18mg and can be found in foods such as red meat, shellfish, liver and spinach.
Bicarbonate is a naturally occurring by-product of your metabolism and is a form of carbon dioxide waste. It is an electrolyte that helps to maintain the correct pH level in your body and helps to keep you hydrated.
At this point, I am unable to find any sources that lead me to believe that this is something that needs to be “topped up” with any foods, but it can be common to be tested for this in your blood in certain circumstances.
Only a small amount of zinc is required for an adequate amount but it is very important for a healthy immune system among other things. 11mg is the recommended dose and can easily be found in red meat, shellfish, seeds, nuts and dairy. Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc.
Importance Of Electrolytes
It’s clear to see that adequate electrolyte intake is extremely important as it can upset the natural balances of your internal system and cause some unpleasant side effects.
Try to be conscious of exactly what you are eating and the amount of electrolytes you are consuming, whether you are on Keto or not. If you have recently begun Keto and you have not been feeling too great, then chances are you have expelled a lot of electrolytes recently and should try to replenish them as best you can.