How to Boost Your Intake Without the Carbs
When first starting a low-carb diet, you would need to ensure that you are getting enough potassium in your diet. And this can be a problem given that American adults and adolescents only get half of the recommended daily value they need, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Fortunately, there are ways to eat low-carb while amping up your daily potassium intake. By doing so, you can maintain good health as your body adapts to the diet and avoid the fatigue and malaise that can develop if you eat too little.
Role of Potassium
Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body alongside sodium, chloride, phosphorus, and magnesium. Electrolytes are minerals that dissolve to create electrically charged ions which our body needs to regulate metabolism.
Potassium is the primary positive ion (cation) found within cells, where 98 percent of the 120 grams of potassium in our body is stored. Potassium helps regulate every cell, tissue, and organ of the human body, including:
- The balance of water inside of cells (intracellular fluid) and outside of cells (extracellular fluid)
- The balance of acid and alkali (pH level) in the blood
- The delivery of nerve impulses through the body
- The contraction of smooth muscles, including those of the heart, lungs and digestive tract
Even a moderate potassium deficiency can raise your blood pressure, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, and interfere with the normal rhythm of your heart (arrhythmia). Excessively low potassium levels, known as hypokalemia, can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, glucose intolerance, abnormal nerve sensations (neuropathy), and digestion problems.
Potassium Loss in a Low-Carb Diet
The first week or two on a low-carb diet can cause potassium stores in your body to plummet. This is because excessive amounts of potassium will be needed to convert glycogen, the stored form of glucose, back into glucose for energy.
Without the customary intake of carbohydrate (which the body traditionally uses to create glucose), the body will have no choice but to use up its glycogen reserves and, with it, whatever potassium there is in the body. And because the body only retains as much potassium as is needed for that moment (flushing the rest out in urine), you need to keep consuming potassium-rich foods to keep your levels up.