The goal of the keto diet is to maintain a state of ketosis in order to shed some weight. However, to get the most out of ketosis, you must also remain aware of your body’s other needs. Proper hydration should be a key concern for everyone, and for those chasing or maintaining ketosis, hydration levels are an integral part of the diet’s success. In addition, obtaining the recommended amount of fluids will help avoid symptoms that are synonymous with the dreaded keto flu. Since low-carb diets typically retain less water, it is essential to know how much fluid intake is necessary. Read on to learn about the relationship between ketosis and dehydration and how to stay hydrated on a keto diet.
Why You May Get Dehydrated on Keto
In a normal diet, your body’s preferred source of energy is carbohydrates. Some carbohydrates are converted to glucose for immediate use, and the rest are converted to glycogen and stored in the muscles and liver. This stored glycogen is in a hydrated form, meaning that there are about three to four grams of water per gram of glycogen. These glycogen stores are depleted when carbohydrates are eliminated from the diet, or are severely restricted in the diet.
Dehydration is a known side effect of the ketogenic diet. In addition to glycogen depletion, you also excrete more salt, resulting in less water retention. When in ketosis, you also excrete a lot of excess ketone bodies, which also contributes to dehydration.
Signs of Dehydration on Keto
When your body’s fluid stores are too low, it can have some uncomfortable effects. As your body adjusts to the keto diet, you may notice some signs of dehydration, including:
- Excessive thirst
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Dry eyes
- Feeling confused or having brain fog
While these symptoms may be unpleasant rather than dangerous, dehydration can become serious if left untreated. When you begin to notice signs that your fluid stores are getting low, take action sooner rather than later.
Don’t Forget the Electrolytes
Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are the electrolytes necessary to achieve proper hydration. During the keto diet, insulin levels are low. This causes your body to flush out more sodium. Therefore, it is important to replenish these essential electrolytes, especially sodium, in order to get the most out of your keto lifestyle.
How Much Water Should You Drink on Keto?
The rule of thumb states that a person should divide their weight by half and drink that many ounces of water per day. For example, if someone weighs 160 pounds, they would need to consume 80 ounces of water per day. For someone on keto, this amount may be more because this diet alters your body’s water and electrolyte levels.
For more accurate data, the U.S. National Library of Medicine states that adults should drink 2.7 to 3.7 liters of water in a day. However, it also stresses that there is no universally applicable daily water recommendation. It says a variety of factors can affect your specific needs, including age, weight, activity level and diet.
How to Stay Hydrated While on Keto Diet
Fortunately, there are options available to stay properly hydrated while maintaining ketosis.
Drink when You’re Thirsty
How do you hydrate on keto? The easiest answer is to drink enough water. Your body does a great job of telling you when you’re thirsty, so pay attention and always keep water close at hand. If you don’t like to drink water, try adding natural citrus juice to taste.
Eat Water-Rich Whole Foods
For restoring hydration, water-rich whole foods are the best choice on both counts. Not only do they provide fluids with their natural water content, many of them also contain high levels of minerals that help your body retain fluids. When a lack of fluids makes you feel tired (or just plain thirsty), choose low-carb fresh products such as celery sticks, tomatoes, cucumber slices, berries and lemons in your meals and snacks.
Take an Electrolyte Supplement
Electrolytes allow your body to use the water you put in, and equipping yourself with more electrolytes means you’ll be better able to enjoy the full benefits of proper hydration. If you want to know the exact amount of each mineral you’re putting into your body, you may prefer to use electrolyte supplements. You can purchase electrolyte supplements that are specifically tailored for keto.
Amp up Other Fluids
Infused and sparkling water aren’t the only alternatives to plain water. Other keto-friendly beverages can round out your fluid intake. When you feel “uncomfortable” with glass after glass of water, try a cup of hot or iced tea or coffee. Of course, you’ll want to avoid adding sweeteners, but feel free to use high-fat dairy products like half-and-half, butter or heavy cream for extra flavor.
Another hot beverage you might enjoy: a warm cup of broth. Chicken, vegetable, beef and bone broths all contain high levels of sodium, which can help your body maintain its fluid stores.
Low-carb, non-dairy milk also has a place in the keto diet. Unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, flax milk and cashew milk are just a few of the great low-carb options. To make hydration more interesting, pour these over keto-friendly cereal as a base for a high-fat smoothie, or simply slurp them up on their own.
It’s good to know that losing fluids can be a positive sign that your high-fat, low-carb efforts are paying off in ketosis. But a keto diet doesn’t have to leave you in a desert of dehydration – it’s important not to let fluid loss lead to dangerous consequences.
If you feel like your fluid stores are getting low, remember to drink water according to your thirst level and increase electrolyte-rich foods, drinks, and even supplements.