Embarking on a low-carb keto journey means venturing into a world where your body’s energy source shifts from carbohydrates to fat.
While this switch brings many benefits, from weight loss to improved brain health, keto dieters are more prone to electrolyte deficiency. Electrolytes are essential minerals that keep our bodies functioning like a well-oiled machine, so as you can imagine, a deficiency can be problematic.
There are a couple of key factors that contribute to electrolyte deficiency in keto dieters, and we’ll cover those shortly (and how to conquer them), but first, let’s dive into electrolytes 101.
What Are Electrolytes?
An electrolyte is a mineral that conducts electrical charges in your body, enabling nerve cells to communicate and essential functions like thinking, moving, and heartbeats to occur.
Electrolytes include sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and bicarbonate. While all are important, some are more vital than others. We’ll discuss which ones in a minute.
Electrolytes also help regulate water distribution inside and outside your cells. This process is known as fluid balance and it’s synonymous with healthy hydration. Proper fluid balance supports your skin’s moisture and suppleness, ensures smooth blood flow, and keeps your brain surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid.[*]
You take in electrolytes from the foods and drinks you consume and lose them through urine, sweat, feces, and on a bad day, vomit.
Ketosis Electrolytes: Why Keto Dieters Need More
There are two main reasons why those in ketosis need more electrolytes than the average person:
#1: Increased urination
When starting a ketogenic diet—which is a very low-carb, high-fat way of eating—your body shifts from using glucose from carbs as fuel to using ketones from fat. This shift prompts a drop in insulin levels, which creates a diuretic effect. This process, called diuresis, results in an increased loss of water and vital electrolytes through urine.[*]
You might think drinking more water is an easy solution to this problem, but this only solves the water part of the hydration and health equation. The other part is electrolytes. Water contains some electrolytes, but not much.
To compensate for ketosis dehydration, people tend to drink more water than they need, which can further deplete the electrolyte levels in their blood, causing an electrolyte imbalance or deficiency. The result? Uncomfortable side effects like brain fog, headaches, and muscle cramps.
Interestingly, these symptoms are common signs of the infamous keto flu, which describes symptoms people commonly experience when transitioning to a keto diet. Keto flu is frequently attributed to dehydration, low blood sugar, or the body’s shift to utilizing ketones for energy. Although these factors may contribute, electrolyte deficiency is an often overlooked yet significant cause of keto flu symptoms.[*]
#2: Whole foods are lower in electrolytes
A clean, whole-food keto diet emphasizes unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods. Whole foods contain very little sodium, which is vital for fluid balance and keeping muscles and nerves running smoothly.
Because the keto diet eliminates potassium-rich foods like fruits, potatoes, and starchy root veggies, getting enough potassium can also be challenging.
If you eat lots of green leafy veggies, cruciferous veggies, and dairy, you may be able to get enough magnesium, but people often don’t get enough of these foods.
Which Electrolytes Are Most Important on a Keto Diet?
Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are considered the most important electrolytes to focus on when following a keto diet. Let’s review these one at a time:
Sodium is the primary electrolyte present in extracellular fluid (the fluid outside your cells).[*] It’s crucial for maintaining proper hydration, nerve function, muscle contractions, and blood pressure regulation.
Aim for a daily sodium intake of about 5 grams (approximately 2 teaspoons of salt) by salting your food, sipping on bone broth, eating sodium-rich veggies like celery, leafy greens, and beets, and adding a keto-friendly electrolyte supplement, like IQMIX, to your water.[*][*] Each packet of IQMIX contains 500 mg of sodium.
Potassium is an essential mineral responsible for balancing intracellular fluid. It works hand in hand with sodium to support hydration. Potassium also plays a crucial role in nerve function, muscle contractions, blood pressure regulation, and pH balance.[*]
The suggested daily intake is at least 3.4 grams of potassium for men and 2.6 grams for non-pregnant women.[*]
Potassium is found in certain keto-friendly foods, such as avocados, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, pork chops, and salmon. You can also supplement your potassium intake from food with IQMIX, which contains 380 mg per packet.
Magnesium supports nearly 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including those involved in DNA replication and repair, as well as the production of cellular energy.[*]
Magnesium is also vital for maintaining proper muscle function, blood pressure, blood sugar, nerve signaling, and bone health, making it an indispensable component of overall health and well-being.
The RDA for magnesium is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. However, anthropological evidence indicates that our ancestors may have consumed around 600 mg per day.[*] Aiming for a daily intake within this range should do the job.
Keto-friendly sources of magnesium include dark chocolate, avocado, dairy, low-carb nuts, fish, and leafy greens. Supplementing with IQMIX can also contribute to your magnesium intake, as each packet contains 750 mg Magtein®, a clinically studied form of magnesium (Mg L-Threonate) that crosses the blood-brain barrier.[*]
The Best Electrolyte Supplement for Keto
IQMIX is the top choice for an electrolyte supplement on a keto diet. It contains the three essential electrolytes discussed in this article—sodium, potassium, and magnesium—which are crucial for maintaining optimal hydration and overall health while on a low-carb diet.
As a bonus, IQMIX also includes 250 mg of super-concentrated lion’s mane mushroom, which supports optimal brain health and function.
Unlike most sports drinks on the market, IQMIX is safe for those on a low-carb diet or those with diabetes, as it’s sugar-free and contains only one gram of carbs per packet! Simply pour a packet of IQMIX into water to create an instant electrolyte drink that satisfies your body’s needs.
It’s available in delicious flavors that taste like a real treat. These include Peach Mango, Lemon Lime, Blueberry Pomegranate, and Blood Orange. Try our 8-Stick Sampler to find your favorite flavors.
With its well-rounded electrolyte profile that supports hydration and overall health, IQMIX stands tall as the top keto electrolyte supplement in its class.
The Bottom Line
Ensuring optimal electrolyte levels while following a keto lifestyle requires some initial planning. However, once you’ve established a solid routine, your body will practically manage itself. With electrolytes taken care of, you can shift your focus to more amusing pursuits, like pondering the secret lives of garden gnomes or mastering the art of interpretive dance—you know, the usual.
Written by Katie Koschalk, a health and wellness writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and certified personal trainer based in California.