You might have seen success stories or heard from a friend how amazing they feel on a ketogenic diet.
And they weren’t lying.
One of the reasons I love a ketogenic lifestyle is that I feel great.
- Steady energy
- Clear focus
- No dips or crashes
- Appetite suppression
So now you’re wondering why YOU are exhausted on a ketogenic diet, and it usually boils down to a few key reasons I will be outlining below.
Why am I exhausted on the keto diet? The usual culprits leading you to be so tired on a ketogenic diet include a lack of electrolytes, eating too few calories, and not being keto-adapted (fat adapted).
Why You're So Tired, Hungry, And Exhausted On Keto, But First…
Look, I get it… you’re tired and hungry.
While you should expect at least some tiredness or hunger during a fat loss diet, you shouldn’t have to slog throughout the day or daydream about food every waking second.
Unless you’ve dieted down to ultra-low levels of body fat like a bodybuilder that is.
The truth is, if you give it enough time and fix what I’ll cover below you should feel satiated and have plenty of energy.
Burning fat for fuel
Your body can only store upwards of about 2,000 calories of carbohydrates. Compare THAT to even a lean individual who carries at least 30,000 calories of fat on their body available for energy.
Compared to a carbohydrate-based diet, you are teaching your body to use this fat (both from your food AND your body) for fuel while on a ketogenic diet.
Steady energy levels
You should have steady energy levels on a ketogenic diet because there are no sugar spikes and dips compared to your Standard American Diet (SAD).
If your body needs fuel on a ketogenic diet, it can easily convert stored body fat (the fat on your body) into ketones and provide that energy.
Compare that to a carbohydrate based diet… once you’re out of energy, you will have to eat some more carbs to bring yourself back to life.
Talk about being hangry.
A ketogenic diet is appetite suppressing by nature.
A diet high in healthy fats helps delay gastric emptying (basically helps slow digestion of food).
This slowing helps you stay full longer.
Ketones themselves might also promote feelings of satiety, but through what mechanism exactly is still unknown.
Why You're So Tired On The Ketogenic Diet
So let’s get down to it.
Why aren’t you experiencing all this energy you’re supposed to have?
The dreaded “keto flu” is just how it sounds.
You literally feel like you’ve come down with the flu and have no idea what’s going on.
… even during the blazing summer months.
When does keto flu start?
You may notice that this flu like symptoms within 2-3 days after starting a ketogenic diet.
Keto flu symptoms
Symptoms of the keto flu include:
- Brain fog
How long does keto flu last?
The symptoms of keto flu last anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks, but we can generally avoid or shorten that with the tips below.
Keto flu quick tips
A few tips to help minimize or erase the keto flu symptoms you may be experiencing.
Liberally salt ALL of your foods. Salt isn’t the devil here, and may even be more important to be mindful of while on a ketogenic diet.
A good read on salt is the book The Salt Fix.
Salts I recommend using due to increased mineral content (and they taste better), but really any salt will do:
Keep your fats and calories high
When switching to a ketogenic diet, people naturally start to eat even less (which is a good thing).
The problem here is that dieting is stress that your body doesn’t want. Compound this with making your body switch from burning carbs to burning fat for fuel, and that can be a recipe for disaster.
Keep your calories up, at least in the beginning (1-3 weeks), before dropping them back down for further fat loss.
Keto diet is too low in calories
To expand on the above point, your rate of weight loss is too high.
This is the part where you need to exercise patience and not fall for what you’re seeing on social media or expecting results like Bobby or Sally.
You do you.
I always recommend a weight loss of 0.5% – 1.5% per week. The more fat you have to lose the higher you can generally go, but when you’re down to the last few pounds, you should expect to lose slower as to minimize any muscle loss.
For a 200 pound individual aiming for 1% of weight loss per week, that would translate to a 2 pounds per week weight loss MAX.
Regardless of what you do, the body AND the brain have to go through an adaptation period.
This period is usually referred to as keno-adaptation or fat-adaptation.
Again, this period will last between 1 to 3 weeks for most individuals regardless of whatever preventive measures you may take.
However, some people may feel fine, and some may feel low in energy during this time. The best thing you can do is follow the above tips and remain patient.
Keto and adrenal fatigue
First off, there really is no such thing as “adrenal fatigue.”
It merely is not a real medical condition.
Those who feel they suffer from this condition report one or more of the following:
- Persistent fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep
If you’re experiencing any of the following, I find it usually is a result of high stress, excessive exercise, lack of sleep or food, possibly a combination of two or all the above.
The chances keto has anything to do with these symptoms isn’t likely.
Of course, you can also be experiencing the keto flu, and increasing your water and electrolyte intake will help with that.
Are you feeling nauseous while on Keto?
Maybe you’re not tired, but you feel a little “off,” possibly a bit nauseous?
This usually is the case for individuals who have a hard time digesting the increased fat from a ketogenic diet.
The body isn’t used to processing high fat
Our gallbladders are responsible for storing and concentrating bile from the liver. This bile is what helps our bodies digest and absorb fats from the food.
For more info about the gallbladder give this a read.
If you’re experiencing problems with digestion, I would recommend one of the following.
Smaller but more frequent meals
A lot of people are on the intermittent fasting and keto bandwagon or even limiting themselves to one meal a day (OMAD)
Instead, try eating smaller but more frequent meals.
This will allow your body sufficient time to process the smaller bolus of fat before you hit it with another one.
You can also try supplementing with bile salts which are digestive enzymes that help with fat digestion.
Here is a couple I recommend:
- Check prices and reviews of Pure Encapsulations Enzyme formula
- Check prices and reviews of Enzymedica Lypo Gold
Eat less fat
Ok, I said 2…
But the truth is, you don’t NEED to eat tons of fat to be in ketosis.
You might be thinking that you need X percent of fat, but the truth is the only requirement to be in a state of ketosis Is not going over your carbohydrate threshold.
Other Supplements That May Help Relieve Lethargy And Tiredness On Keto While Adapting
If you're experiencing tiredness and lethargy when switching to a ketogenic diet or after a “cheat” day, this may be one of the only times I would recommend either a keto salt or a keto ester product.
You're essentially providing your body with exogenous ketones to provide energy while your body adapts.
The benefit of salts over esters is that they generally taste better and are much cheaper. However, ketone esters raise ketones in the blood much quicker and are bio-identical to the ketones we naturally produce.
Additionally, if it's electrolytes you're lacking, an excellent electrolyte supplement high in both sodium and potassium can do wonders for your energy levels.
I would say over half of the people who can't seem to find the energy on a ketogenic diet have an electrolyte imbalance and slightly dehydrated.
- Check prices and reviews for Keto Vitals Electrolyte Stick Packs (individual packs easily portioned out)
- Check prices and reviews for Key Nutrients Electrolyte Powder
Wrapping up what to do if you’re in ketosis but have no energy.
One of the benefits of a ketogenic diet is high and steady energy.
However, there may be reasons why you haven’t experienced this benefit just yet.
So if you've been in ketosis but have no energy or find yourself sleep on keto:
First, resolve any electrolyte deficiencies that may lead to the keto flu.
Secondly, maintain a reasonable level of weight loss of 0.5 – 1.5% (with 1.5% reserved for those who are really overweight).
Third, exercise patience and allow for keto-adaptation before you throw in the towel. This usually takes upwards of 3 to 4 weeks.
Lastly, look at how your stress, sleep, and other lifestyle factors are before assuming it’s your diet.