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As a general rule, your whole body aches on keto because your electrolytes are imbalanced in your body. Most likely you need more magnesium and or more sodium. A person can get these from their diet or from supplements.
When your whole body aches you may be experiencing muscle cramps and or spasms, or joint pain.
This post will explain why you may be experiencing whole body aches including joint pain and how to fix the body pain. There are sections on what foods to eat and other solutions. Use the Jump to Links below to go to the headings easily.
Why Do My Joints Hurt on Keto?
Your joints hurt on keto because there may be an increase in uric acid. When starting a keto diet you may be eating more purine-rich foods. Uric acid is created from these purine-rich foods in your body (source). This pain should go away once your body is adjusted to using fat for fuel.
When there is an excess of uric acid in the blood, gout can develop, which causes joint pain (source).
There was a study done in 2012 that showed that people had an increased chance of getting gout in the short term when starting a keto diet (source). After your body is fat adapted the risk goes away.
Then in 2017, there was another study that showed that “Inflammation and joint pathology during gout flare is prevented by ketogenic diet (source).”
Why Muscle Cramps are Happening on Keto
As a general rule muscle cramps are happening because you are not getting enough magnesium, sodium, or water. Muscle cramps commonly happen in the leg. They can even happen in the arms. I’ve dealt with both places.
1. Muscle cramps and spasms are most likely happening due to not getting enough magnesium absorbed by your body (source). You might be getting enough mg of magnesium, however, the form of magnesium you are taking is not working the way you want it to. There are different forms of magnesium that you can take as a supplement.
As a general rule magnesium glycinate is the best form to take. I will go into detail below why this is. One reason is that this form is naturally in your food (source).
2. Another reason why you are having muscle cramps on keto is that your body is not getting enough sodium. When your body is not getting enough sodium it makes your kidneys flush out potassium in your urine (source 1, source 2, source 3).
Along with magnesium, potassium is also important for proper muscle function.
Also, when you are eating fewer carbs, your insulin levels are also lower than a person who consumes carbs. When your insulin levels are lower, your kidneys will flush out sodium (source 1, source 2).
3. A third reason your muscles are tense on a low-carb diet is due to a lack of hydration. In simple terms, water helps to keep your electrolytes balanced (source).
How Much Electrolytes Do you Need on Keto?
As a general rule, these are the amounts of electrolytes you need on a ketogenic diet.
- Sodium: 3,000 mg – 5,000 mg
- Potassium: 3,000 mg – 4,000 mg
- Magnesium: 300 mg – 500 mg
If you notice any muscle cramps you will want to increase your magnesium levels or also make sure you are taking Slow-Mag, a slow-release supplement form (source). I do talk below about the best form of Magnesium to take for whole body aches.
According to the National Institutes of Health, men’s recommended dietary allowance (RDAs) for magnesium is higher than female’s needs (source).
- Adult Men (19+): 400 mg – 420 mg
- Adult Women (19+): 310 mg – 320 mg
- Amounts change if pregnant and lactating.
A common question when starting keto is: “How do I get rid of keto flu?” The best way to get rid of the keto flu and even prevent it is by making sure you are getting all the electrolytes your body needs.
The Best Form of Magnesium to Take for Muscle Aches on Keto
This is the front of the supplement bottle of the magnesium I take.
To help prevent whole body aches on keto the best form of magnesium to take is glycinate. Magnesium glycinate gets absorbed well in the body compared to other forms (source) and it’s great for muscle aches and pain (source).
Magnesium glycinate is found in whole foods such as meats and vegetables (source), yet magnesium is not as abundant in vegetables like it used to be in the early 1900s (source).
Also according to the National Institutes of Health “Approximately 30% to 40% of the dietary magnesium consumed is typically absorbed by the body [2,9].” Therefore, just because you read that ½ cup of boiled spinach has 78 mg of magnesium (source), it doesn’t mean that your body is going to absorb all 78 mg.
So, taking an over-the-counter magnesium supplement isn’t a bad idea, if needed.
The brand of magnesium glycinate I take is Doctor’s Best because it’s been 100% chelated with Albion minerals TRAACS, which makes for even better absorption in the body. One pill provides 100 mg of magnesium (from magnesium lysinate glycinate chelate).
(Medical Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements. Especially if you have kidney problems and want to take magnesium.)
Best Keto Magnesium Foods
What’s great is that one of the best forms of magnesium (glycinate) is also found in whole foods such as fish and nuts (source). A few magnesium-rich keto foods are dark chocolate, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, and leafy greens.
Below is a table with keto foods great for magnesium. The top magnesium foods are hemp seeds, spinach, and brazil nuts per serving.
|Dark Chocolate 70-85% cacao solids||28 g/1 oz||64.6 mg|
|Salmon||half fillet (198 g)||53 mg|
|Mackerel||1 fillet (112 g)||85.1 mg|
|Ground Beef*||4 oz||25 mg (95/5) & 19.2mg (80/20)|
|Chicken Breast||3.5 oz||32 mg|
|Almonds||28 g/1 oz||76.5 mg|
|Pumpkin Seeds||28 g/1oz||168 mg|
|Chia Seeds||28 g/1 oz||95 mg|
|Hemp Seeds||30 g (3 Tbsp)||210 mg|
|Brazil Nuts||28 g/1 oz||107 mg|
|Avocado||150 g (1 cup cubed)||43.5 mg|
|Spinach, Cooked||180 g (1 cup)||157 mg|
|Kale||100 g||32.7 mg|
*higher the protein %, higher the magnesium content in ground beef. Food facts from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html
How to Increase Magnesium Absorption
- Eat raw produce such as spinach and kale. Cooking foods with magnesium may decrease absorption (source).
- Choose kale over spinach. Spinach is high in oxalates which have been shown to decrease magnesium absorption (source).
- Decrease drinking alcohol if there is a dependency. Those who have a dependency on alcohol may have issues absorbing the daily requirements of magnesium (source).
- Don’t take high amounts of zinc. A study done in 1994 showed that if you consume a high amount of zinc (142 mg/ day) it will decrease the absorption of magnesium.
- Work on improving insulin resistance especially if you are older (source).
- Decrease caffeine intake. Caffeine has been shown to cause nutrient depletion (source, source 2).
How to Get More Sodium on Keto
An easy way to get the needed sodium is to salt your food and from drinks like broth that you typically would cook with. People also drink pickle juice.
This is a bit more than you would proably need for having some pickle juice when you have a headache due to low sodium. Since I just live with my husband, I often just take a few sips out of the pickel jar.
How to Get Potassium on a Keto Diet
As a general rule, you can get all your potassium on a keto from a well-formulated keto diet. Below is the breakdown of how to get at least 3 grams of potassium (source).
Add some a salmon fillet to this salad to increase your potassium.
- Meat choices can give you 1 gram.
- 4-5 servings of non-starchy vegetables will give you 1 gram.
- 2 oz of nuts and seeds can provide your last gram of potassium.
- As a last resort, you can get potassium from Lite Salt. 1/4 tsp of this contains 350 mg of potassium.
The table below shows the same foods I had in the magnesium chart, but now it shows how much these foods contain potassiuim.
|Dark Chocolate 70-85% cacao solids||28 g/1 oz||203 mg|
|Salmon||half fillet (198 g)||582 mg|
|Mackerel||1 fillet (112 g)||352 mg|
|Ground Beef*||4 oz||391 mg (95/5) & 305 mg (80/20)|
|Chicken Breast||3.5 oz||343 mg|
|Almonds||28 g /1 oz||208 mg|
|Pumpkin Seeds||28 g /1oz||229 mg|
|Chia Seeds||28 g /1 oz||115 mg|
|Hemp Seeds||30 g (3 Tbsp)||360 mg|
|Brazil Nuts||28 g/1 oz||187 mg|
|Avocado||150 g (1cup cubed)||728 mg|
|Spinach, Cooked||180 g (1 cup)||839 mg|
|Kale||100 g||348 mg|
*higher the protein %, higher the potassium content in ground beef. Food facts from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html
You may find my post on 10 different electroylte powders to beneficial.
The information on Keto Keuhn Nutrition is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace a consultation with a medical professional. Please inform your physician of any changes you make to your diet or lifestyle and discuss these changes with them. If you have questions or concerns about any medical conditions you may have, please contact your physician.