This post is going to be all about what to expect when you start eating Low Carb.
I recommend going cold turkey with the carbs – pretty much ZERO carbs. So everything you read here is referring to a very strict low carb / ketogenic diet. It is entirely up to you what you want to do but this is what I do because it gets quick results and you feel great!
I said before that the first couple of weeks are the hardest. A lot of people quit during this time because (a) their bodies have not yet become ‘keto-adapted’, so they are not yet burning fat instead of glucose and haven’t seen a result yet OR (b) they can’t manage the initial side effects!
When you stop eating carbs, particularly if you have been eating a lot of them you will probably experience some side effects. Not everyone has all of these symptoms, so don’t be scared but it is important to understand why they happen and how to minimize them to make the first couple of weeks easier for you.
1. Frequent Urination
I actually like this one, because it is telling me that I am doing something right! This happens because your body is using up stored glucose in your muscles and liver, which produces excess water! It doesn’t last long!
After about Day 4 – you can use Ketostix. They are about €10 or less for a box of 50 and you pick them up in the pharmacy (sometimes in the Diabetics section). You test your urine for ketone levels with these (without giving you another science lesson, these are a product of the fat burning process!). Look, it doesn’t work for everyone but it did for me. I like to use them at the start because it’s the one result you can see immediately. If the stick is turning pink or even purple there are ketones in the urine and you are doing it right!
2. Feeling Tired and Dizzy (Keto Flu)
When you start doing all that extra urinating you’ll start to lose minerals. Having lower levels of these minerals will make you feel tired, you’ll get headaches and you may even have muscle cramps. (I never felt dizzy or light headed but some people do!)
Don’t worry though, you can counteract the mineral losses by increasing your intake of salt (use a bouillon cube or make salty broth and sip on it throughout the day!)… and eating foods which are high in potassium. (Dairy foods, green leafy vegetables and avocados.)
For a headache, half a teaspoon of salt in a small glass of water often does the trick for me in about 20 mins!
When I feel tired, I remind myself to have some more fat – Heavy Cream in Coffee is delicious and gives me the energy boost I need!
3. Constipation or Diarrhea
This is just down to a change in your diet. Constipation can happen because of the mineral loss, dehydration or perhaps too much dairy. Try more water and cutting down on dairy intake.
Diarrhea can happen too and is usually because you aren’t eating enough fat. Make sure not to shy away from the fat! Replace the carbs you cut with fat – heavy cream in coffee, fatty cuts of meat, avocados etc!
4. Bad Breath
I have READ that your breath smells bad but I actually don’t know what the smell is because I obviously haven’t smelled it off myself! It’s supposedly fruity and a bit like nail polish remover. I do notice my saliva feels/tastes different during ketosis – a bit more acidic like a tangy sweet.
There are other side effects but I’m only speaking from experience. If you have a symptom do a google search, I’m sure you’ll find you aren’t alone!
Top 5 Tips to make it through the first 2 weeks:
- Take measurements and a before photo. Measure all your problem areas – belly, mid section, waists, hips, thighs, arms etc. Take a before photo in your underwear so you can see everything! You will be able to take more measurements a week or so later and hopefully see results. This is the BEST way to see your progress! It will be a couple of months before you’re glad you took that photo!
- Drink Salty Broth: Combat those headaches and the ‘flu’ symptoms by getting that salt back into your body!
- Eat Plenty of Fat: When you feel an energy slump, or a sugar/carb craving – you have not had enough fat! Make sure that you are including it in your breakfast and lunch. If you need to snack between meals DO IT! Embrace the fat – Cheese, Avocados, Cured Meat, Olives, Seeds.
- Forget about calories and macros: Stop counting calories, the only thing you need to care about now is LOW CARBS. Eat when you are hungry – listen to your body! Trust the Keto way!
- Use Ketostix: Use the urine strips to see the ketones in your urine! This is a brilliant way to let yourself know that you are doing the right thing in the early days!
If you manage to get yourself through the first two weeks you will be keto-adapted! You should find you are better able to focus and you have more energy. You’re eating habits and appetite will probably have changed too and you will be well under way to losing those few pounds!