9 Supplements to enhance your keto diet strategy

The ketogenic (keto) diet, championed for its potential benefits ranging from weight loss to cognitive enhancement, emphasizes a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb intake, prompting the body to transition into ketosis.

As keto diet followers can attest, achieving and maintaining ketosis requires dedication and keen attention to nutritional balance. 

Although the foundation of the keto diet is built on whole foods, there are instances where certain nutrients might fall short, especially during the initial phases or as dietary patterns evolve. 

This is where supplements step in, safeguarding against potential deficiencies and helping optimize the diet’s benefits. 

In this guide, we will explore nine key supplements that can complement your keto journey, ensuring you meet your macronutrient targets and maintain a robust micronutrient profile.

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Why take supplements on a keto diet?

At its core, the keto diet’s main goal is to push the body into ketosis, a metabolic state where fat, rather than carbohydrates, becomes the primary energy source [1].

While the shift offers many benefits, it also introduces unique nutritional challenges. Here’s where supplements come into play.

The primary purpose of supplements in a keto context is not to replace whole foods but to bridge potential nutritional gaps.

As carbohydrates are drastically reduced on keto, certain vitamins and minerals commonly found in carb-rich foods might be consumed in lower amounts.

Additionally, the body’s changing metabolism might increase the demand for specific nutrients, making it challenging to obtain adequate levels solely from food.

Supplements thus serve a dual purpose: firstly, to ensure that the body’s micronutrient needs are met, safeguarding against deficiencies; and secondly, to enhance the diet’s effectiveness by potentially speeding up ketosis onset or alleviating common keto-related symptoms. 

However, it’s essential to approach supplements with an informed perspective, recognizing them as adjuncts to a well-structured keto diet and not as primary sources of nutrition.

9 Supplements you should take if you’re on keto

9 Supplements you should take if you’re on keto

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is a critical mineral, playing a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, ranging from energy production to muscle and nerve function

On a ketogenic diet, the chances of magnesium depletion rise due to reduced intake of its common sources like legumes and grains. Deficiency symptoms can include muscle cramps, fatigue, and irregular heart rhythms. 

If you’re on keto, supplementing with magnesium can help alleviate these symptoms and support your overall well-being. It’s recommended to choose bioavailable forms, like magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate, to ensure efficient absorption. 

2. MCT oil 

Derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, MCT oil is lauded in the keto community for its unique ability to be rapidly absorbed and converted into ketones.

These ketones can provide an immediate energy source for the brain and muscles, supporting mental clarity and endurance. 

MCT oil’s swift metabolic conversion also aids those on keto in achieving and maintaining ketosis. Moreover, MCTs may promote satiety, potentially aiding weight loss efforts. 

While integrating MCT oil into your diet, whether in coffee or as a salad dressing, it’s crucial to start with small doses to assess tolerance, as excessive intake can lead to digestive discomfort.

3. Omega-3 fatty acids

Primarily found in fatty fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts, omega-3s are essential fats with potent anti-inflammatory properties [2].

Within the keto framework, where high fat intake is paramount, achieving a balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio becomes crucial to counteract potential inflammation. 

Regular consumption of omega-3s supports heart health, brain function, and joint mobility. For those on keto who don’t consume fatty fish regularly, supplementing with high-quality fish oil or algal oil can be beneficial. 

In addition to their health perks, omega-3 supplements can enhance the overall efficacy of the keto diet by fostering optimal cellular function.

4. Vitamin D

Often dubbed the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption, immune function, and mood regulation.

While our bodies can produce it when exposed to sunlight, modern lifestyles often lead to deficiencies, especially in regions with limited sunlight. 

For keto dieters, certain food sources of vitamin D, like fortified dairy, might be limited. A deficiency can manifest as fatigue, mood fluctuations, and weakened bones.

Supplementing with vitamin D3 can ensure optimal levels, promoting bone health and potentially enhancing mood and immunity. 

5. Digestive enzymes

As one transitions to a keto diet, the increased intake of fats and proteins can sometimes challenge the digestive system.

Digestive enzymes, naturally produced by our bodies, assist in breaking down these macronutrients for efficient absorption.

However, due to dietary changes or age, some may produce fewer enzymes, leading to digestive discomforts like bloating or indigestion.

Supplementing with digestive enzymes can provide relief, facilitating smoother digestion and nutrient uptake. 

Particularly, lipase (for fat digestion) and protease (for protein digestion) can be beneficial for keto dieters. Before adding these to your regimen, it’s prudent to seek advice from a healthcare practitioner.

6. Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and calcium)

Electrolytes are essential minerals that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They are crucial in maintaining heart rhythm, muscle contractions, and nerve signaling.

Transitioning to keto can trigger a diuretic effect, leading to a rapid loss of these essential minerals, often termed the “keto flu”. 

Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, and muscle cramps. To counteract this, it’s recommended to supplement with sodium, potassium, and calcium.

Sodium can be increased by consuming broths or adding sea salt to meals. For potassium and calcium, while there are specific keto-friendly foods like avocados and leafy greens, supplements can help ensure optimal levels. Monitoring and professional guidance are essential for safe supplementation.

7. B vitamins

Also known as vitamin B-complex, B vitamins represent a family of water-soluble vitamins essential for converting food into energy, supporting nerve function, and aiding in red blood cell formation. 

On a keto diet, with the omission of certain grains and fruits, there might be a potential risk for reduced intake of some B vitamins. Biotin, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin are of particular note. 

Supplementing with a B-complex can ensure a balanced intake of these nutrients, supporting overall metabolic function and energy levels.

It’s crucial, however, to note that while B vitamins can aid in energy production, they should complement, not replace, a well-rounded keto diet. 

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8. Exogenous ketones

Exogenous ketones are synthetically produced ketones [3], acting as an external source to naturally produced endogenous ketones. 

For those on keto, these supplements can offer a rapid energy boost, helping to induce or maintain ketosis, especially during the early phases of the diet or after carb-heavy meals. 

Available primarily as ketone salts or ketone esters, they can provide cognitive clarity and support athletic performance.

However, they’re not a shortcut to genuine ketosis and should be used as an adjunct to a well-formulated ketogenic diet. 

As their impact can be potent, starting with lower doses and consulting a healthcare professional is recommended.

9. Iron

As a vital mineral, iron is integral for transporting oxygen in the blood and supporting energy metabolism. A deficiency can result in anemia, characterized by fatigue, weakness, and pale skin

While the keto diet emphasizes meat, a rich source of heme iron, certain individuals might still fall short, especially if their diet leans towards plant-based sources. Non-heme iron, found in plants, isn’t absorbed as efficiently as heme iron from animal sources. 

Therefore, for vegetarians or those who consume limited meats on keto, supplementing with iron can be beneficial.

It’s crucial to monitor iron levels and consult a healthcare professional before supplementing, as excess iron can be harmful.

Common mistakes to avoid when taking supplements while on keto
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Common mistakes to avoid when taking supplements while on keto

It can be challenging to navigate the world of supplements, especially when following the ketogenic diet.

While supplements can be beneficial, they can also be tricky to navigate. Here are some of the common mistakes many keto dieters make when it comes to supplementation [4]:

1. Over-reliance on supplements

Always remember, supplements are meant to complement, not replace, a balanced diet. There is no pill or powder that can replace the various nutrients found in whole foods. It’s essential to view supplements as an adjunct to your primary nutrition.

2. Not tailoring supplement intake

Everyone’s body and nutritional needs are unique. Just because a fellow keto dieter is benefiting from a particular supplement doesn’t mean it’s right for you. It’s vital to assess your own deficiencies and requirements.

3. Over-supplementation

“More” doesn’t always mean “better.” Excessive intake of certain vitamins or minerals can lead to toxicity, adverse reactions, or can interfere with the absorption of other essential nutrients.

4. Ignoring quality

All supplements are not created equal. It’s crucial to choose high-quality, reputable brands that have undergone third-party testing. Avoid products with unnecessary fillers, additives, or unlisted ingredients.

5. Neglecting doctor’s advice

Even if a supplement is available over-the-counter, it doesn’t negate the importance of professional consultation. Always discuss any new supplementation with your healthcare provider, especially if you have underlying conditions or are on medication.

Incorporating supplements can indeed elevate your keto journey, but it’s essential to do so with knowledge, caution, and a balanced perspective. Making informed choices can help you avoid these pitfalls and truly enhance your keto strategy.

Closing thoughts

Embarking on the ketogenic journey is a commitment to holistic wellness, where the foods you consume play a starring role.

While supplements can be valuable allies in this quest, ensuring a foundation of nutrient-dense, whole foods is paramount. 

As we’ve explored, each supplement has its unique benefits, but it’s essential to approach them with discernment, tailored to individual needs.

Always prioritize natural nutrition, use supplements as complementary tools, and seek expert guidance. 

By maintaining this balance, you can harness the full potential of the keto diet, paving the way for optimal health and well-being. Here’s to a nourished and empowered keto journey!

FAQs

Can you take supplements with keto?

Yes, you can take supplements while on the keto diet to address potential nutritional gaps or enhance its effectiveness. However, it’s essential to choose supplements that align with your individual needs and consult with a healthcare professional before adding them to your regimen.

What is the best keto supplement?

The “best” keto supplement varies based on individual needs, but MCT oil and exogenous ketones are popular for boosting ketone levels and energy. Always consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable supplement for your specific requirements.

Can I take vitamin C during keto?

Yes, you can take vitamin C while on the keto diet, as it’s a non-carbogenic vitamin essential for immune function and skin health. Just ensure that any vitamin C supplement you choose does not contain added sugars or fillers that could affect your carb intake.

Should I take fish oil on keto?

Yes, taking fish oil on keto can be beneficial as it provides omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart health and counteract inflammation. Ensure you choose a high-quality fish oil supplement and consult with a healthcare professional for the appropriate dosage.

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[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/ 
[2] https://medcraveonline.com/GHOA/omega–3-and-its-anti-inflammatory-properties-ndash-the-key-to-fight-inflammation-effectively.html 
[3] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326607 
[4] https://www.cleaneatzkitchen.com/a/blog/10-common-mistakes-to-avoid-when-following-a-keto-diet

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