How to prevent muscle twitching on a ketogenic diet

I made a pretty interesting discovery about the mechanism behind muscle twitches (also called benign muscle fasciculation syndrome) in relation to a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. I gave the very low carbohydrate diet many attempts in the past. Whenever I would lower my carbohydrates below around 50 grams per day, I would get muscle spasms all over my body. A muscle would contract only once and then a few seconds later another muscle somewhere else would contract. Most of the time it wasn't visible but I could feel it every time. It feels like all your muscles are charged and could contract every second.

Muscle Twitching
With muscle twitching, it feels like your body is always a millisecond before a contraction

I have discovered what causes this on a ketogenic diet. And even though I mentioned before that salt was helping, it actually has nothing to do with salt. Any relief from a high salt intake was only temporary and I would have to take increasing amounts of it. (At this point I also want to mention that I no longer follow a ketogenic diet, you can read a new blog-post about my current diet.)

I will tell you how I discovered this and how you can prevent this on a ketogenic diet.

As I was researching these symptoms in relation to keto, electrolytes and magnesium were always mentioned. But both would not help. So I didn't find the solution here yet. 

One day I researched keto in high altitudes because I was planning to go on a hike in the alps. With nuts as my fuel source as they are the most calorically dense whole plant food. I found out that eating ketogenic while in high altitude can be tricky. And here it also gets tricky and technical to explain this.

As the air is less dense at high altitude, you have to breathe a higher volume of air to absorb the same amount of oxygen. This is problematic because the body will lose a certain amount of CO2 per air volume that is breathed in and out. It takes a couple of days for the body to adjust to this and reduce CO2 loss. 

In the cells, there needs to be a balance of CO2 and O2. So with the loss of CO2, the cells are also not able to take up enough O2 which can be deadly in extreme cases. That is also the reason why hyperventilation (aka Wim Hof breathing) is dangerous. Don't do it. You won't increase O2 levels by doing this but actually decrease cellular O2 levels exactly because this balance needs to be maintained. In order to prevent the loss of CO2 (and therefore O2), the blood vessels in your brain restrict and you feel dizzy. 

The problem with ketogenic diets in high altitudes is that, as the body uses fats as it's the main source of calories, it needs less oxygen for the same amount of energy output. Less oxygen utilization means also less production of CO2. This is widely known and used to measure an athletes state of fat utilization through breath analysis, so I won't go into that here. At high altitude, this can potentially be a problem, because less CO2 is available in the cells. In altitude, the increased breathing volume pulls the CO2 from the body, and O2 levels might drop to critically low levels. But here the body can adapt over time as well and you also require less oxygen, so it balances out.

But what has all this to do with muscle twitches on keto?
I did not make this connection until a couple weeks later. I was trying the very low carb diet again and had the same issue. Muscles started to twitch, salt did not help anymore and so I ended up researching for benign fasciculation syndrome. It is not so uncommon and many people experience it at least once throughout there lifetime.
Probably everyone knows the annoying eyelid twitch. But that is not what I had. My muscle would twitch only once and then another one would twitch.

And then I also found this video. It is in german, but this doctor made a genius discovery. He has discovered that CO2 is relaxing and that low levels of it lead to nervous system over-excitement. He has connected the CO2 loss in his patients to increased breathing, caused by stress. Everybody knows that in stressful situations you increase your breathing. In order to quickly run away from a lion, this was probably a helpful adaptation. But constant low-level stress (where you sigh) has the negative side-effect of increased loss of CO2. Low energy levels because of low cellular O2 levels follow.

Through controlled and slow breathing I was able to completely stop my muscle twitching. It took only about half a day. I guess after a couple of weeks of strict keto this side effect would have subsided by itself. But I never went that long to find out because I was too concerned about it and increased my carbs. Now, after eating ketogenic or very low carb for a long time, I never have this issue anymore. The body adapts to the decreased production of CO2 by holding on to more of it, it seems.
Interestingly, I only get the twitches sometimes after intense exercise. Which, for me, is another sign that this theory could be true. Because, after intense exercise, the increased breathing persists for some time after you actually finish and you lose CO2.


The adaptation to keto is partly comparable to the adaptation to high altitude. Because less CO2 is produced in the burning of fats, the body has to adapt by conserving more of it. This could also explain why some people feel the keto-flu, where they feel low in energy. 
The solution is simple though. Pay special attention to your breathing for a while and breath slowly and regularly. While sitting, I am now at about eight in- and out-breath per minute. 

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If Consciousness is the Ground of Reality, can we explain everything with it?

Theories of everything have an interesting aspect to them. Whenever someone tries to explain the universe, he has to be granted at least one ultimately mysterious agent. In the religions, it is god that is never questioned. But where did he come from? That can never be answered within the religious world-view.
In the scientific world-view, we could say it began with the big bang. Where did it come from? What was before the big bang? We don't know yet. And, if our theories ever predict what was before the big bang, than what caused that thing? What was before that? This line of reasoning will also never end. You can always ask another why.

At one point every explanatory model, a so called "theory of everything", has to be granted it's one free and unexplainable variable from which the theory can then explain everything else.

Now it gets interesting. Once it is understood, that we will always have one fundamentally mysterious and unexplainable event that "caused" everything or with which everything can be explained.

In the scientific world-view there is a physical universe outside of ourselves, which needs to be explained and it should have started with the big bang. In the religious world-view there is also an independent outside world and it was created by god.

What do both of these have in common, making them a very risky model to base our world-view on?
They are both events for which we, in our own experience, have no direct evidence. Where is the big bang or god? Do they really exist? No. Not more than any other idea. They might be true, but we have to say that we do not know. If we could see visions of god or the big bang, does that proof that those visionary impressions of ours had anything to do with creating the whole thing? We can never know.
The thought of a physical, material world outside of our perceptions is already a believe. Empirically we can never know this. Postulating this and then trying to explain all of reality on that underlying, unspoken assumption is never going to be successful. Science is hiding it's most basic assumption from us. The assumption that there is an underlying, independent physical universe. Science, in the field of quantum physics, has also already shown that everything is based on consciousness.

The moon really is only there when we look at it.

So it would be wise to base our explanation of the world on something we know for sure, 100%. What is it, that we unmistakably know for sure? Imagine you had an accident and all your sensory inputs would be wiped out. Imagine that that accident even wiped out your ability to think. What would be left? What could you still know for sure? If the world does not exist anymore, what remains?

I am conscious. I am. I exist. Could anything else ever be known for sure? Everything else arises within consciousness. But it is possible to explain everything from this knowledge:

If this interests you, I can really recommend you read Bernardo Kastrup's book: "Brief Peeks Beyond".

About True Minimalism

The modern trend towards minimalism evolved out of the overly materialistic western culture. It is no surprise than that this minimalism is based around reducing the number of personal belongings. The goal of most minimalists is to live a freer life through a reducing of their physical possessions. Physical books, CDs, DVDs, pen and paper have all been replaced by smartphones and laptops without a real compromise. These days, instead of filling our homes we fill hard-drives and cloud-storage-space. Haven't we just replaced one activity with another? Leaving our heads just as clouded as before? We can experience an endless stream of distraction with the swipe of a fingertip.

True Minimalism and what it allows us to do
Where are you on the spectrum of minimalism?

As one goal of minimalism is to reduce the negative impact of our actions on the environment, we have to ask the question if this is achieved by having less material possesions. The second goal of (true) minimalism is to free up thorough leisure time, unoccupied by anything "productive". Introspection, creative thinking, pondering ones existential nature, dreaming, creation of meaning and purpose; these mental spaces take considerable down-time of the rational observer to blossom. That would mean our minimalism has to extend to an experiential minimalism. In which we reduce our cultural input and consumption of experiences. In the following we are going to explore these aspects of a minimalist lifestyle and  the benefits of spreading minimalism beyond the material.

Reduces modern minimalism our negative impact on nature?

Pretty quickly are willing to answer this question with a yes. After all, each physical item which does not need to be produced and at the end of it's lifetime be discarded or recycled, reduces our negative impact on nature. But if you have a look into the minimalist culture as it emerges today, what is it that those people tend to do? Proud of having everything they own fit into one backpack, they have become global citizens. With airplanes as their preferred choice of transportation, a large part of what they consume is just no longer their own. The increased amount of money and energy spend on experiential consumerism and global travel leaves us rethinking the original question.

Does material minimalism allow us to create meaning?

Just reducing our material possessions is not going to make us happy. It is the first step in the right direction though, if your life is filled with an overabundance of material distractions.

True minimalism is probably the only way in which we can gain the freedom in time and capacity of mind to construct a meaningful purpose for our lives. We see it in the life of a monk. In addition to the reduction of our material possessions they also strive to reduce their consumption of externally provided experiences.
Consuming culture in all of our spare time will leave us with little capacity to think for ourselves and to experience the deepest aspects of truth and reality. It will get us stuck at where we are, unable to direct our own life-story, unable to create the dream we want for others and ourselves. True minimalism extends to all aspects of our lives and reduces everything that is not beneficial. This sort of minimalism frees up the time to explore the depth of our own being, through which we come to an understanding of ourselves, our dreams, our wants and needs that is deeper than we can imagine.

If you are already looking to reduce your consumption then I hope I could inspire you with this post to broaden your view and extend your approach to make sure your lifestyle has the results and impact that you wish for.