We've all been there: fast asleep in the middle of the night only to wake up gripping your calf muscle as it spasms uncontrollably in unbearable pain. There are few things worse than your sleep being interrupted by a charley horse.
Cramping is a common symptom of Keto flu early on in your Ketogenic transition and can stick with you for any number of weeks following. There are a variety of causes for the cramping, the good news is that it's relatively easy to track down and resolve the problem for good.
Why are muscle cramps common on Keto?
Usually cramping is a sign of a lack of certain minerals which is extremely common during Keto induction. The reason for this is simple: the vast majority of non-keto dieters get 75% of their salt intake via processed foods. Naturally, on a Ketogenic diet nearly all of these processed foods are removed. This leads to a deficiency of sodium and in response your body can signal to your kidneys to excrete additional fluids (and in turn your electrolytes).
You might find yourself running to the restroom frequently to urinate which might also lead to you drinking more water. This cycle of excess intake of water and excess secretion of water means you are depleting your electrolytes even further.
In summary, you're body is retaining less water and electrolytes and therefore your muscles will be much more prone to cramping.
Ways to prevent cramping
Add more salt into your diet
This is probably the easiest and most common issue for those new to the Keto diet. You should try and keep your daily intake of salt anywhere from 5-8g, this is about twice as much as the CDC guidelines recommend. Again, the main reason behind this is that by cutting out all of the processed foods you were eating before, your sodium intake tends to plummet.
Supplement additional electrolytes
If simply increasing your sodium intake doesn't do the trick, you might need to track your electrolyte intake more closely. The most common culprits of muscle cramping are undoubtedly magnesium and potassium. Both of them are relatively easy to overlook, so put in some extra effort to ensure you are getting enough.
For potassium intake, you should shoot for around 3-4.5g per day. It's important to note that this should be spread throughout the day and taken predominately from natural food sources. Too much potassium supplementation in too short of a time period can actually kill you (hyperkalemia).
There are several 0 carb 0 sugar electrolyte supplements which will also help you maintain your electrolyte levels easier, particularly if you workout and sweat frequently. My personal favorite is Ultima Hydrating Electrolyte Powder. It taste delicious and has a good balance of all the most important electrolytes.
Drink more water
This one's easy, if you're already doing everything else right, you just might not be drinking enough water. Quick rule of thumb is to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces. This amount can vary drastically depending on things like your activity level. I personally find I function best drinking at minimum around a gallon of water a day.
Reddit Keto subreddit - A great resource for general Keto information
Keto for Normies podcast - One of the first Keto resources I came across and certainly one of the most thorough.