Keto leg cramps are one of the most common side effects that individuals experience, when on a ketogenic diet.
The painful muscle spasm is usually caused by overuse of the muscle, lack of proper hydration or even prolonged flexion.
In the case of the ketogenic diet however, the cause is different!
Well, nowadays, more and more people get into modern diets and nutrition plans, such as the ketogenic diet.
Extreme diets, that exclude one or more food groups, often lead to such unpleasant side effects, mainly due to the lack of some nutrients.
So, let’s start analyzing the problem that is Keto Leg Cramps by briefly going over keto nutrition!
What Foods Must We Exclude on Keto?
Keto is simple – If a food contains carbs, we don’t eat it.
However, some of the foods from the list below are abundant of some much needed micronutrients like minerals and vitamins, which regulate muscle function.
Foods that we exclude:
- Sugar rich foods – Fizzy drinks, fruit juices, cakes, ice cream, candy, etc.
- Grains – Rice, pasta, bread, etc.
- Fruits – All fruits, except for small reds like strawberries and blueberries
- Legumes – You like beans and lentils? Can’t have them on a keto diet.
- Roots – Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots – All of those can’t be eaten.
While sugar-rich, processed foods really don’t have any viable micronutrients, it is foods like fruits and vegetables that have those.
Such micronutrients are potassium, calcium and sodium.
Logically, the lack of those may lead to severe muscle cramps.
Why Do You Cramp on Keto?
Alright, as we just said, muscle spasms are caused by two major factors – Lack of proper hydration & mineralization.
Note that if you are new to keto, it is completely normal to experience these symptoms, especially during the first couple of days/weeks, which are the adaptation phase.
Needless to say, if you have thus far conditioned your body to use carbohydrates (glucose) as energy, it will feel weird to go out of its way and metabolize fats instead.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Energy Pathways Within the Body
If you know a bit of physiology, you should know that carbohydrates (glucose), are the easiest, most prioritized and most efficient source of energy for the body.
This is exactly why you must let your body adapt and bear the pain of the starting phase, during keto.
During the initial period of your ketogenic diet, you will lose a TON of water!
You may even lose up to a total of 5 lbs of weight during the first WEEK!
Why is that you may ask?
Well, it is simply because the body’s preferred energy source (glucose), usually gets stored in the form of muscle and liver glycogen.
HOWEVER! Muscle and liver glycogen also get stored along with water.
Around 3 grams of water per 1 gram of glycogen, to be precise.
Needless to say, when you don’t have glucose and glycogen, due to the lack of carb intake, you will also lose the water that goes along with them.
And of course, as water goes, so do many of the viable minerals.
Keep in mind that the ketogenic diet requires you to exclude many foods that are rich in viable electrolytes.
If you don’t know what electrolytes are, those are basically substances that create an electrically-conducting solution, once dissolved into a solvent like water.
Well, YES! If you don’t know – The central nervous system works with ELECTRIC signals!
Even the muscle contractions during a workout are electric signals.
And when you don’t have the proper, electrically-conducting environment (electrolyte balance), the signals will be bad.
Of course, bad signals mean a bad end result.
How to Approach Keto Leg Cramps?
Alright, now that we know what keto is, what pros and cons it offers, we can move on to the actual solutions and actions we can take to prevent or deal with the specific side effect discussed – Cramps.
Let’s see what are the best things you can do when it comes to your eating and drinking habits:
1. More Water, Less Alcohol
The most viable cure for muscle spasms during a ketogenic diet, is simply staying hydrated!
We recommend you to start off with a baseline of about 2.5 liters per day and move up from there if needed.
Note – You should not drink water excessively, even though hydration is important!
Furthermore, it is of prime importance to reduce or completely cut out alcohol, when you are on the ketogenic diet.
That is simply because alcohol further leads to dehydration and also kills important vitamins and minerals in the body.
2. Sodium Intake
Many people think that sodium will make them bloated or even fat, but that’s straight up nonsense!
Sodium is one of the important electrolytes we just talked about, which is why you need proper salt intake.
As a matter of fact, sodium levels in the body are very, VERY tightly regulated.
What this means is that sodium is VITAL for the body and the majority of its processes, which is why, its excretion is regulated.
If you consume a lot of salt, the body will excrete more, and vice versa – If you consume food in a deficit of salt, the body will retain and recycle the sodium it currently has, without flushing it out.
So, how much salt should you eat?
Well, we don’t recommend obsessing over it and weighing it in a tea-spoon on your scale.
Rather, try and just season your meat with salt, pepper and other herbs, that are neither too much, nor too little.
Alright, right off the bat, we discussed the MOST IMPORTANT things when it comes to spasm management – Water, alcohol and mineral intake.
However, there are other things that you can do, which will help you in this specific case, that’s namely supplementing your nutrition plan with certain products.
Besides optimizing your nutrition & hydration, you can also pick certain supplements that can help you battle the unpleasant muscle cramps.
As a matter of fact, there are supplements DESIGNED to battle that specific problem with keto.
Here are our recommendations:
NOTE! These are the recommended daily intakes
- Sodium – 3000-5000 mg
- Potassium – Up to 3,000 mg
- Magnesium – Up to 400 mg per day
- Calcium – Up to 1000 mg per day
Before you look into purchasing supplements however, make sure that your nutrition plan & bad habits are in check.
The ketogenic diet is a way of adapting your body to using its alternative energy pathways, to provide energy for physical and mental activity.
Excluding carbohydrates from your menu will allow the body to supercharge fat burning, turning fats into ketones in the liver, which then get used up as energy.
However, users should be careful with this diet, as excluding certain food groups also means excluding certain micronutrients, which are viable for many processes.
Keto Leg Cramps ,Side effects include muscle spasms, which can be well treated, given that you provide the body with enough water, vitamins and minerals and last but not least, exclude bad habits like drinking and smoking.