Exercise plays an important role in achieving your weight loss goals. Exercise can also help you shift into ketosis faster by using up your glycogen stores. But what if you’re experiencing keto flu? Is exercise good or bad?
The answer: it depends. Let’s explore how exercise can help with keto flu and why it might make keto flu worse.
What Is Keto Flu?
Feeling under the weather? Headaches, fatigue, cravings, and brain fog are all symptoms of keto flu, a temporary (although somewhat unpleasant) condition.
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body burns fat for fuel, and many people find that as they shift into this new metabolic state, the body has an adjustment period. Not everyone experiences keto flu with the same intensity. Studies show that some people experience keto flu differently than others. 
Because keto flu is so common, there are lots of rumors circulation about how to get rid of keto flu – and that’s where exercise comes into play. Some keto fans will swear by exercise to reduce keto flu, but the answer isn’t so clear cut.
Is Too Much Exercise a Bad Thing?
Exercise is essential for overall health and wellness. Exercise aids weight loss, improves heart health, increases focus, boosts mood, and helps build muscles. Exercise complements the ketogenic lifestyle, and many people have success losing weight and achieving their goals with keto and exercise. When it comes to strenuous exercise such as intense biking (e.g., spin class), is this something that you should be doing when starting the keto diet, especially if you have the keto flu?
While fatigue, muscle cramps and nausea might be common keto flu symptoms, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is beneficial during the keto flu. HIIT depletes glycogen stores faster, and this can speed up the adaptation phase. We recommend practicing fasting and HIIT simultaneously to get out of the keto flu faster. That being said, some people would rather endure a longer keto flu period than do HIIT, so if you’d like to take it easy and take longer to adapt it’s fine, but if you want to rip the band-aid off, HIIT will actually improve flu symptoms faster.
When you’re working out, listen to your body. If you’re feeling completely wiped out and nauseous, dial back the intensity.
Choosing the Right Exercises
If you’re about to start the ketogenic diet and are looking for light exercises, you’ve got plenty of options. Good exercises to consider during your first week on keto include:
- Low-intensity cardio workouts such as cycling, jogging (focus on endurance over speed), or leisurely swimming
- Strength training exercises such as light weightlifting: Try doing less reps with lighter weights
Low-intensity cardio workouts help you feel better in a few ways. Exercise can help improve your focus and boost clarity. More importantly, exercise can help you get into ketosis faster. When you’re active, you deplete your body of its glycogen stores faster, which is essential before moving into ketosis. Remember, when you’re in ketosis, your liver produces ketones.
What Else Helps with the Keto Flu?
Besides exercising, there other ways to help combat keto flu.
Eating Enough Fat: Remember fat is the primary fuel source on the ketogenic diet, and fat helps reduce cravings and keep you feeling satisfied. 
Get Enough Sleep: Lack of sleep increase cortisol, and that can make keto flu worse.  Improve the quality of your sleep by avoiding blue lights (screens) for two hours before bed, get to bed at the same time every night, avoid workouts right before bed, workout earlier in the day, and spend time outside (to re-set circadian rhythm). Skip the caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon and evening.
Check Electrolytes: Low electrolytes can make keto flu worse. Lack of magnesium can also contribute to bad sleep. 
Stay Hydrated: Lack of water intake can make muscle cramps worse. 
Overcoming Keto Flu
Feeling the effects of keto flu? The best thing you can do is remember why you started this journey. With a little encouragement, you’ll find the strength to power through the keto flu and into ketosis. Drinking plenty of water, prioritizing sleep, and checking your electrolytes can also do wonders.
- Westman, Eric C, et al. “The Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” Nutrition & Metabolism, BioMed Central, 19 Dec. 2008.
- Martin, Corby K, et al. “Change in Food Cravings, Food Preferences, and Appetite during a Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diet.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2011.
- Song, Hong-Tao, et al. “Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Serum Cortisol Level and Mental Health in Servicemen.” International Journal of Psychophysiology : Official Journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2015.
- Gröber, Uwe, et al. “Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy.” Nutrients, MDPI, 23 Sept. 2015.
- Popkin, Barry M, et al. “Water, Hydration, and Health.” Nutrition Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2010.
At Ketogenic.com, we are committed to supporting, inspiring, and educating people on the benefits of living a ketogenic lifestyle. We do this by bringing together the top researchers, practitioners, and thought-leaders who provide resources, experience, and awareness associated around the Ketogenic diet.
Utilizing the latest cutting-edge research along with practical experience, the team at Ketogenic.com aims to foster awareness, understanding, and connectedness in helping others optimize their life on a ketogenic diet.