Low carb adaptation: exercise recovery and cognition
February 6, 2018 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm eating low carb; I don't think I'm going into ketosis. My appetite is almost nonexistent, and I'm having trouble exercising and getting work done.

I'm getting tons of salt, potassium (in powder form), and magnesium (supplement), and I'm taking multivitamins.

It is very, very, very hard to eat, though. Exercising has been horrible, I'm freezing, and I'm having trouble performing at work.

When I first started, it was easy to get 2000 calories involving blueberries (an entire cup in the AM and PM), cheese, nuts, meat, low-carb protein bars, heavy cream, etc. But now I can barely eat anything. Apparently this passes in a couple weeks?

Is there a way I can increase my appetite while adapting? Should I add some sweet potato?

I tried eating a single high carb meal after exercising, but it hasn't increased my appetite.
posted by zeek321 to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Exactly how many carbs are you eating in a given 24-hour period, and what sort of distribution? Are you staying below 20? Also, how much artificial sweetener are you eating (from what I've read, some can raise insulin significantly - possibly even more than sugar itself: this would mean that that your body would be expecting to burn sugar but there wouldn't be any there, which might explain you feeling cold).
posted by ClaireBear at 1:10 PM on February 6, 2018

A quick assumption that you're not trying to gain weight while low carb. In general the idea with low carb and weight loss is that the increase in fat reduces your hunger and one of the outcomes is you end up not eating as many calories because you're not hungry because you're more satisfied with the increased fat and protein intake.
posted by iamabot at 1:19 PM on February 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

How much potassium are you taking and why? That's a dangerous supplement to take "tons" of.
posted by fshgrl at 1:26 PM on February 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Are you in a northern climate?
How are your vitamin D levels?
It could be just winter doldrums and lack of sunlight.
posted by littlewater at 1:46 PM on February 6, 2018

Like iamabot above, I'm assuming you're doing keto for weight loss, so apologies if this is not the case. It can take a while to adjust and to fall into ketosis, so don't panic. You sound like you've got "keto flu", which is horrible but actually a sign that things are working, so perhaps do some research on that - the Reddit /keto sub is a great resource for more information, so perhaps have a look at their FAQ's.

A few things that might be useful to check though.

Firstly, how's your water intake? Dehydration will affect appetite, and it's easy to get slightly dehydrated on keto because water will flush through your system (which is why it's important to get enough sodium, potassium and magnesium). Everyone is different, so I won't give an exact amount, but see if upping your water intake helps.

Secondly, check your macronutrient intake. Yes, you're eating low-carb foods, but some foods (nuts and blueberries) still have some amount of carbohydrates in them. It's easy to go over the initial 20gram limit and this can prevent you from slipping into ketosis. If you're not sure, use a diet tracker to check your intake. Something like MyFitnessPal can be configured for keto macro's (again, the /keto folks have plenty of instructions on how to do this). I know that I was way off when I started, and found it ridiculously hard to eat enough fat - I ended up making some keto fat-bombs to help and felt better for it.

As ever, common-sense should rule. If you feel that bad, perhaps stop the diet and see if your symptoms resolve. If they do, but you still want to go low-carb, start by making small alterations to your diet and see how you feel. Be patient, be kind to yourself, but be pro-active about your health and always ALWAYS get more info.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:51 PM on February 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

My immediate thought, as someone who's read a bit about keto but not tried it yet, is that you're getting too many carbs/sugars [two cups of blueberries a day is approximately 16g of carbs, which doesn't leave you much room for error if you're trying to be strict about your carb intake--which you should be at first], perhaps not enough fats, and not enough salts/electrolytes. A lot of people remedy the salts/electrolytes imbalance with several cups of chicken/bone broth per day.

The keto flu seems to affect different people in different ways, but if you're eating just enough carbs to keep your body from switching to ketosis, you'll end up with all the awful side effects of starting keto (flu and physical misery) and none of the benefits (adjusting to it and feeling better)! I'd make an effort to cut out all your carbs, knowing some will slip in anyway, and see if you feel an improvement in the next few days.

Also, have you asked this over in any of the Reddit keto fora? If you're female, xxketo is a surprisingly supportive, helpful place.
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:09 PM on February 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

we might be able to help you better if you explain why you want to increase your appetite? most keto people see the appetite loss as a feature not a bug.

(if you're doing keto for weight loss, don't add carbs. possibly you need a whole different diet, but if you start adding yams to a diet of cheese and meat and heavy cream, that's just going to be Thanksgiving dinner.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:39 PM on February 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

(I wouldn't mind the appetite loss if I could recover from exercise and think effectively. To get those back sooner is why I'd like to increase appetite.)
posted by zeek321 at 3:02 PM on February 6, 2018

Eating at a significant calorie deficit can lead to the symptoms you describe of being too tired to exercise and think. Also, if you went from standard American amount of carbs to very low carb, then this significant transition can be very difficult. When I first tried Atkins back in the day, I had to walk out of an aerobics class that I normally could accomplish easily. Now that my body is mostly used to low carbs, I can maintain normal exercise without too much trouble though a big calorie deficit makes it harder to exercise more.
posted by RoadScholar at 3:18 PM on February 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Can you post how much sodium, potassium, and magnesium you're taking per day? Most people, even with supplementation, don't get enough when they start keto. It sounds very much like this is what's happening with you as the brain fog and poor exercise performance and recovery are cardinal signs of electrolytes being too low.
posted by quince at 4:33 PM on February 6, 2018

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