Experiencing leg or muscle cramps on a keto diet? You’re not alone! Muscle cramping is a common “side effect” of a ketogenic diet. But thankfully, it’s temporary and easily remedied. Here’s why you might get muscle cramps on keto and two simple ways to handle them, starting today.
Why Muscle Cramps on Keto Happen
Cramps on a keto diet are caused by two simple but important factors:
- Low electrolytes in your body
During the beginning of a keto diet, when your body is still learning to burn fat for energy, these two things are common.
Your body loses a lot of water weight as it drops its glycogen stores. And with that water, electrolytes are lost too. So increasing your levels of both will help bring things back to normal.
Let’s break down how you can do that.
1. Drink Lots of Water
Drink at least three liters or about half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Preferably filtered or spring water.
You need to replenish water lost during the beginning of the diet and as you enter the Keto Zone. Drinking enough fluids will combat the dehydration that contributes to muscle cramping, as well as fatigue or low energy.
If you get bored of drinking plain water, spice it up a bit by adding a squirt of lemon or lime juice or fruit essence.
2. Consume More Electrolytes
Low levels of these, which are often flushed from the body with water weight, can cause muscle cramps on keto.
Thankfully, this issue is easily fixed as well. Simply replenish these electrolytes to keep things functioning properly again!
And thankfully, there are a number of easy ways to consume them:
- Use a sugar-free electrolyte supplement that can be added to your water.
- Add sea salt to your water and/or keto foods.
- Have a cup of bone broth with breakfast (or anytime during the day).
- Drink apple cider vinegar with warm water before bed or during the night. It contains calcium and potassium to combat nighttime cramps.
- Supplementing with magnesium at night (look for the spray form, as magnesium is best absorbed topically through the skin)
Last Resort: Slightly Increase Your Carbs
To get into the Keto Zone, you need to stay at 20 grams net carbs or less per day. And since muscle cramps are part of the induction phase that gets better once you enter the Zone, we recommend staying strict with your carbs.
However, if your cramps are too severe and nothing else seems to help, you can try increasing your carbs slightly to reduce the cramping. Just make sure they’re from whole food sources—no white flours or sugars! And understand that this is a last resort.
Just like with a cheat day, eating carbs to combat cramps is like taking three steps backwards. It’s better to power through, use the two steps above, and find relief on the other side.
And remember that muscle cramps on keto are usually temporary. Keep drinking water and getting plenty of electrolytes, and wait it out. As you enter the Keto Zone and become fat-adapted, your body should even itself out. You’ll feel amazing and forget all about any muscle cramps you had in the beginning!