Electrolytes on the Carnivore Diet

Are electrolytes important on a zero-carb diet?

Yes, often we need to supplement with electrolytes on an all-meat diet. Electrolyte levels, especially sodium, can get out of balance when following a zero-carb diet. If this happens, your performance will suffer both physically and mentally. 

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Sodium is not the only electrolyte found in small amounts on a pure carnivore diet. Other electrolytes like calcium, chloride, and magnesium need to be accounted for too. If you are low in any of these electrolytes, you will likely know something is wrong, because you will be feeling pretty bad.

Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to help balance electrolytes in the correct ratios. Taking too much of one electrolyte can backfire just as easily as not consuming electrolytes at all because it will push the ratios out of wack.

There are risks involved with electrolyte supplementation, so amounts being consumed must be paid close attention. 

For example, a very large dose of potassium can cause the heart to stop beating.

Why are electrolytes important?

Electrolytes are chemicals that form electrically charged particles (ions) in body fluids. These ions ensure the electrical messages are communicated all throughout the body. Many bodily functions depend on electrolytes. Optimal performance requires a consistent and adequate supply of these important nutrients but only at certain levels. Too much or too little can be just as detrimental.

Think of electrolytes like the oil in your car. The car does not run on oil, but oil is essential for all the moving components to operate smoothly. Electrolytes perform an equally important job in the body and help balance fluids in the body. The levels of electrolytes in the blood are closely monitored by the body because an imbalance can result in too much or too little fluid. This charged fluid helps cells communicate with one another. Many processes in the body cannot occur without the communication this charged fluid provides.

Electrolytes also help:

  • Balance your body’s acid/base (pH) level
  • Move nutrients into your cells
  • Move wastes out of your cells

Make sure that your nerves, muscles, the heart, and the brain work the way they should

Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, bicarbonate, and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.

The levels of electrolytes in your body can become too low or too high. This can happen when the amount of water in your body changes. The amount of water that you take in should equal the amount you lose. 

If something upsets this balance, you may have too little water or too much water. Some medicines, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and liver or kidney problems can all upset your water balance.

Common Symptoms of Low Electrolytes

Electrolytes can cause all kinds of problems for zero-carb dieters. Often the most apparent symptoms are fatigue and difficulty trying to concentrate. Some other common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle twitching
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia

Increased Electrolyte Need on Zero-Carb Diets

When carbs are restricted from the diet, the body beings processing electrolytes in a different way than is normal on a high-carb diet. The reason for this largely ties back to insulin, which is not present at high levels when there are no carbohydrates present. When insulin is low, the kidneys begin excreting more sodium, and because the balance between electrolytes is a delicate one, this reduction in sodium levels disrupts the interaction between the other electrolytes. 

When beginning a low-carb diet, this imbalance can be exaggerated even more while the body is trying to adapt to the low levels of sodium. This adaptation period is often referred to as the “keto flu” because the symptoms of electrolyte imbalance are very similar to those of the flu.

Most processed foods on a Standard American Diet have high sodium contents to increase the shelf-life of the products. Americans eating a standard diet can easily consume 3,000 – 5,000mg of sodium every single day. Because that diet also contains many carbs, insulin levels of these people are high, resulting in more sodium being retained. Those following a low-carb diet must keep this in mind when remembering that sodium consumption on a carnivore diet will likely need to be supplemented to make up for the amounts being excreted.

Recommended Supplements to Use on Carnivore

There are many supplements that can be used to ease into carnivore or support someone following a zero-carb diet. The biggest consideration is to ensure the electrolytes being consumed are in the appropriate ratios. The four electrolytes that should be focused on are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Sodium and potassium goals can be met by using lite salt, which is available in any grocery store. Lite salt is a combination of sodium and potassium. Potassium is also available in high amounts naturally in meat.

Calcium can easily be found by consuming bone broth or bone meal. There are high levels of it present in both. 

Magnesium seems to be the only difficult electrolyte to find naturally on an all-meat diet. It is suggested that magnesium be supplemented with. Taking two 200mg tablets each day will prevent any nutritional deficiencies from arising down the road. 

The easiest way to get the right electrolyte balance is by using a premixed electrolyte supplement so you only have to take one supplement and the guesswork is completely taken away.

I actually felt pretty back on carnivore until I got my electrolytes to balance out. After I started using a premixed blend of minerals I felt great and had all the energy I had hoped for when starting the diet.

Best electrolyte supplements for Carnivore

  • Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium
  • Missing chloride
  • Contains all electrolytes
  • Contains some B vitamins

To get over the electrolyte slump I used Perfect Keto Electrolytes. It has all the appropriate ratios, so you don't have to worry about getting into an imbalance.

I've also used Zeal Naturals and they will cover all your bases too.

Ideal Electrolyte RDAs on Carnivore or Zero-Carb Diets

These are the ideal ratios to aim for on a zero-carb diet:

CalciumPotassiumSodiumMagnesium
1000 mg2000 mg5000 mg400 mg


Sodium

The body obtains sodium through food and drink and loses it primarily in sweat and urine. Healthy kidneys maintain a consistent level of sodium in the body by adjusting the amount excreted in the urine. When sodium consumption and loss are not in balance, the total amount of sodium in the body is affected. The concentration of sodium in the blood may be too high or too low.

The total amount of sodium in the body affects the amount of fluid in the blood and around cells. The body continually monitors blood volume and sodium concentration. When either becomes too high, sensors in the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys detect the increases and stimulate the kidneys to increase sodium excretion, thus returning blood volume to normal.

This can often result in diarrhea for individuals who consume a large amount of sodium all at once.

When blood volume or sodium concentration becomes too low, the sensors trigger mechanisms to increase blood volume. These mechanisms include the following:

  • The kidneys stimulate the adrenal glands to secrete the hormone aldosterone. Aldosterone causes the kidneys to retain sodium and to excrete potassium. When sodium is retained, less urine is produced, eventually causing blood volume to increase.
  • The pituitary gland secretes vasopressin (sometimes called antidiuretic hormone). Vasopressin causes the kidneys to conserve water.

Calcium

About 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones, but muscle cells and blood also contain calcium. Calcium is essential for:

  • Formation of bones and teeth
  • Muscle contraction
  • Normal functioning of many enzymes
  • Blood clotting
  • Normal heart rhythm

Too much calcium can quickly be dangerous, especially if consumed with Vitamin D3, which increases the absorption of calcium.

The body precisely controls the amount of calcium in cells and blood. The body moves calcium out of bones and into the blood as needed to maintain a steady level of calcium in the blood. If people do not consume enough calcium, too much calcium is mobilized from the bones, thus weakening them. Osteoporosis then can result, which is often seen in older people. To maintain a normal level of calcium in blood without weakening the bones, people need to consume at between 1,000 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day.

The level of calcium in the blood is regulated primarily by two hormones:

  • Parathyroid hormone
  • Calcitonin

Potassium

Often, you will know if you are low in potassium if you feel cramping in legs or have twitching muscles. 

Potassium functions to:

  • Help regulate fluid balance
  • Support the nervous system
  • Helps regulate muscle and heart contractions
  • Communicate messages across the body

Less than 2% of Americans meet the US recommendations for potassium, however, a low potassium intake will rarely cause a deficiency

Instead, deficiencies mostly happen when the body suddenly loses too much potassium. This may happen with chronic vomiting, chronic diarrhea or in other situations in which you’ve lost a lot of water 

It’s also uncommon to naturally get too much potassium. Though supplementing with potassium is not considered natural and can lead to dangerously high levels of potassium in the body.

Excess blood potassium mostly occurs when the body cannot remove the mineral through urine. Therefore, it mostly affects people with poor kidney function or chronic kidney disease.

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