Electrolyte Supplementing on Keto Vs. Atkins/Lo-Carb Diet


(Hilary) #1

Hi. I am about 3 weeks in to the Keto Diet. In that short time my IBS has disappeared and I’ve lost about 4 lbs, so I am pleased with those results. I had the “flu” pretty badly, but that has passed, or so I thought.

Last night I awoke to feelings of great anxiety and muscle cramps, somehow linked together. I felt this way in the beginning of going keto and then learned to take electrolytes and extra supplements and that had stopped for the last 5 days or so. After waking about at 2:30 with the horrible cramps and anxiety, then again at 3:30 I remembered that I hadn’t taken my oral supplements that day so I slugged down to my kitchen, took 2 pottassium tablets and 1 magnesium and threw in some ACV for good measure and finally made it back asleep. I had been drinking electrolyte powder all day, obviously that isn’t enough.

I have done low carb diets several times over the years and have lost lots of weight but never suffered from these muscle cramps or feelings of anxiety (not full on panic but feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin). What is it about keto that makes us need more electrolytes than on just a low carb diet? I know we all need to take more supplements in general but I never, ever had these awful feelings just eating low carb which makes me think it is something about the higher fat intake that makes this happen.

Can anyone explain this better to me? Thanks so much. I WON’T forget to take my supplements again.


Muscle cramps in general, especially while sleeping, are usually something to do with calcium-magnesium balance. Some people benefit from soaking the affected body parts in epsom salts (magnesium salt) to go directly to the problem area and bypass the digestive tract. If that works, then look at either adding more magnesium rich foods or a supplement that is well absorbed. Mg oxide and Mg citrate can draw water into the bowels and aren’t as well absorbed by the intestines as Mg glycinate.

Also sodium and potassium need to be in balance for proper hydration in the muscles.

(Scott) #3

I was having some cramping issues too. What seemed to work for me is adding about a half an eye dropper of magnesium citrate to each Hydro Flask water bottle I fill up usually twice a day (large bottle). I should mention that this is not a next day fix for cramping. I think it takes time for the magnesium to build up in the muscles. The other trick that I started 8 weeks ago is the take a salt grinder a few times a day and put a few cranks in my hand and pop it in my mouth. I let it dissolve and not immediately wash it down. I run thirty miles a week and work out at a gym three times a week so I need the extra salt.

(Brennan) #4

Carbs allow the body to retain water. Without them water runs through us quicker, taking electrolytes with it. Regular supplementation is required to maintain proper electrolyte balance.


Keto decreases the amount of insulin your body needs and produces. Insulin is part of the regulatory process and affects the way kidneys balance electrolytes. So, if you’re coming from a high insulin condition to a low(er) one there will be fluctuations. The first few weeks are the worst and some people require less supplementation after a while.

The primary action of insulin on sodium balance is exerted on the kidney . Increases in plasma insulin concentration within the physiological range stimulate sodium reabsorption by the distal nephron segments and this effect is independent of changes in circulating metabolites or other hormones. SOURCE


I think others have answered your question about why we need more electrolytes on keto/low-carb diets in general. Keto is just another name for very low carb diets like Banting, Atkins, Protein Power, etc. There are at least three possibilities I can think of as to why you are experiencing a difference now compared to what you did in the past.

One, what you did in the past was a moderate carb diet like the Zone Diet, paleo, or South Beach, not a truly low carb diet. So you’re experiencing a significant difference in carb intake.

Two, there’s something different about you or your lifestyle–age, exercise, where you live and what’s naturally occurring in your water, how much water you drink. Who knows? Age certainly can be a factor. People tend to develop issues with leg cramps as they get older that’s got nothing to do with how they eat.

Three, you’re eating differently. Maybe the previous times you ate very low carb you ate protein bars, pork rinds, deli lunch meat, and other foods with lots of added sodium. Now, you’re just eating whole foods instead of prepared ones, so you’re getting less.

Or some combination of the above!

(karen) #7

I do something similar; I have a fizzy Mg supplement from Whole Foods (I like lemon, it’s sweetened with Stevia) and I add hot water to dissolve it then add some Morton’s Lite Salt for the Na and K and add more cold water. I either drink this as a warm liquid after my workout (I workout with lots of sweating about 5 days a week), or add more cold water and drink it cold. I also take 500 mg Mg as a capsule at night before bed. I seem to have fewer cramps, no GI issues and fewer palpitations with this.