Ketosis and Leg Cramps | Causes and Treatment

Some people while following the keto diet may experience leg cramps. So what are the causes of leg cramps during ketosis?

When you are following a low carb high-fat diet, you reach a stage called nutritional ketosis wherein you lose lots of water from your body. This leads to dehydration and loss of minerals through urine. This is the main reason why people following keto diet lose weight rapidly during the first few weeks of very low carb high-fat diet. Dehydration and loss of minerals are the two commonest reasons for legs cramps for those following ketogenic diet.

However, there are many other reasons for leg cramps.

What is a leg cramp?

As defined in an article published in BMJ Clinical Evidence “leg cramps are involuntary, localized, and usually painful skeletal muscle contractions, which commonly affect calf muscles but can occur anywhere in the leg from the foot up to the thigh.”

Leg cramps
  • are common and their incidence increases with age
  • typically occur at night and usually last only seconds to minutes
  • may be idiopathic (of unknown cause)
  • may be associated with a definable process or condition such as
    • pregnancy
    • renal dialysis
    • venous insufficiency

How do you treat leg cramps?

Rehydrate yourself

Since ketosis leads to rapid water loss followed by dehydration, the most important treatment is to drink enough water to rehydrate your body. As a rule of thumb, try to drink about half your body weight in ounces per day.

Increase salt in your diet

Increase the amount of salt in your diet. I recommend substituting white salt with Himalayan pink salt. It has many minerals and trace elements which are considered to be healthy for your body. You can also drink lemon water adding rock salt.

Increase carbohydrate

If you are having legs cramps due to low carb diet, you may consider increasing carbohydrate intake slightly. Usually, leg cramps occur when your body is getting adapted to nutritional ketosis and when your body is deprived of glucose. Some people may also have keto rash due to low carb high-fat diet. I have discussed keto rash in another article. Please read the blog to know more about keto rash.

Supplements

During nutritional ketosis, there is a loss of minerals like magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium. Thus, adding supplements may be beneficial for some people. Although, I personally do not recommend taking supplements as you can get all the minerals from food, however, in some cases magnesium, potassium, and calcium supplements may be required to get relief from your leg cramp. Always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements.

To know more about potassium read the article potassium plays a key role in your everyday functions. Also, read how magnesium deficiency raises your risk of many chronic ailments and premature death.

In conclusion, several approaches such as stretching before and after exercise, adequate hydration, and correction of electrolyte disturbances may be an effective and safe way of preventing leg cramps.

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