Whether you are an experienced keto dieter or are considering trying keto for the first time, it’s important to ensure you are getting the nutrition you need for optimal health. Certain supplements will ease your transition and help you avoid nutritional deficits on your keto journey.
Although it would be great if we could get all of our nutrition from food, this approach can cause more problems than it solves, especially when the body is under stress due to aging, athletic training, fat loss, or the dietary restriction required by ketosis.
Considering that the keto diet requires you to avoid most higher carb foods, including nutritious options like beans, some grains, and high-carb fruits and vegetables, you can see why targeted supplementation is critical for success.
This article will cover supplementation that can support the body’s stress response and ensure you are getting all the nutrients necessary for smooth sailing with keto. In some cases, it is possible to overcome deficits by adding supplementary foods, such as organ meats, seaweed, or leafy greens, whereas in others, a specially formulated supplement will get you better results.
To Help With Nutrient Balance
When starting a keto diet, your first task is to identify any nutritional holes and ensure you are getting adequate electrolytes. A keto diet naturally results in the loss of water, sodium, potassium, and magnesium, which can lead to low energy and feeling poorly. Because you start losing water within the first 24 hours of a keto diet, it is important to address nutrient needs before beginning the diet. Individual requirements for electrolytes will vary, but baseline recommendations are as follows:
Sodium: Adding 4 to 5 grams of sodium (about 2½ teaspoons of table salt) to your diet by salting your food and drinking bone or bouillon broth can help cover your sodium needs.
Potassium: Potassium should be increased progressively, working up to a range of 4 to 6 grams of potassium citrate (not potassium chloride) from a supplemental source. Leafy greens, nuts, avocados, and seeds are keto-friendly foods that provide potassium.
Magnesium: Magnesium helps calm the nervous system and can counteract difficulty sleeping or GI issues that sometimes arise on a keto diet. Shoot for 400 mg of elemental magnesium from a high-quality magnesium chelate such as the best-selling Ubermag Px.
Other foundation nutrients that should be addressed on keto include:
Vitamins A, D, E, and K: Because a keto diet is high in fat, you can maximize your absorption of these essential fat-soluble vitamins that play a central role in immune function and bone building. These nutrients also impact muscle strength, fat burning, and detoxification processes. Unless you are eating organ meats on a regular basis, it is worth supplementing because, although the added oils and butter from a keto diet will improve the bioavailability of vitamins A, D, E, and K, they won’t supply them in quantities needed to maximize health.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C has a powerful effect on the immune system and it can help to balance cortisol after intense exercise or during serious mental stress. Vitamin C is required for optimal adrenal gland function and plays a peripheral role in ensuring the body is able to optimally burn fat, which is paramount on a keto diet. Unfortunately, because a keto diet drastically limits fruit and higher carb vegetables it is nearly impossible to meet vitamin C needs without supplementation. Requirements will vary but studies have shown benefits from 500 mg to several grams of vitamin C.
To Support Digestive Health
One of the biggest (and easiest) things you can do to set yourself up for success with a keto diet is to get your gut working like clockwork. Making sure you are getting adequate fiber from low-carb vegetables, seeds, nuts, avocados, and olives is the first step to a well-functioning gut. Sometimes a fiber supplement can be helpful especially at the outset of keto when constipation can occur. In addition to helping food move through the GI tract, fiber is necessary because it feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Two additional gut-friendly supplements are:
Probiotics will promote the diversity of “good” bacteria in your gut. If you are struggling with digestive issues or are new to a keto diet, a supplement can ease the transition so that your GI tract adapts to the macronutrient composition of keto more quickly and you experience greater energy and wellness.
Digestive Enzymes With Ox Bile help break down food and enable the absorption of nutrients through the digestive tract. Because you are bumping up your intake of fat in place of carbs, you need a digestive enzyme that provides lipase, the primary fat digesting enzyme. Ox bile extract will improve fat metabolism, especially when gall bladder function is limited. A good choice is a supplement that also contains protease to ensure amino acid absorption and amylase to aid in the breakdown of low-carb plants, such as our Enzyme Full Spectrum.
To Support Fat Metabolism
Shifting the body to rely on fat for energy requires a shift in metabolism. Certain nutrients can support this process and accelerate the body’s metabolic flexibility and capacity to burn fat.
EPA and DHA Fish Oils: The omega-3 fish oils EPA and DHA have numerous health benefits and play a unique role in metabolism because they are incorporated into the outside lipid layer of every cell in your body. When cells contain more omega-3s, they are more easily able to burn body fat, fueling metabolism. It is likely you will get more EPA and DHA on a keto diet than on a traditional western diet, but unless you are eating fatty fish daily, it is a good idea to supplement with a high-quality fish oil.
Carnitine: Carnitine is an amino acid composite made from lysine and methionine that has a potent fat burning effect. It is responsible for transporting fats into cells to be used by the body for energy. The body naturally produces carnitine, but raising carnitine stores in the muscle gives the cells the right genetic machinery to oxidize fat for energy. Supplemental dosage will depend on the individual, but studies have shown improved exercise performance and better body composition maintenance from 1 to 3 grams a day.
To Boost Training Performance
Workout performance can take a hit as the body adapts from running on carbs to burning fat. Carbs supply a “faster” burning energy source than fat, which makes supplements that improve metabolism and stimulate the nervous system useful when working out on a keto diet.
Caffeine: Caffeine is the most effective legal performance-enhancing aid available and it is especially effective on a keto diet when muscle glycogen stores are depleted. Glycogen is the energy source for muscle and levels are reduced when dietary carbs are restricted. Caffeine stimulates the release of energizing neurotransmitters like norepinephrine that convey the added benefit of increasing fat burning. For example, one study found that when trained cyclists took caffeine and performed an interval time trial at maximal capacity in a glycogen-depleted state they performed significantly better than a placebo group.
Branched Chain Amino Acids: Amino acids from protein serve as an energy source for the muscle during training and they help preserve tissue from being broken down for energy when blood glucose levels drop. The key is to use an amino acid supplement that provides the branched chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, because they are best for preserving muscle.
Final Words: This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you a starting point for identifying supplementary nutrients that are missing from the typical keto diet. As you progress with your nutrition journey, you can research some of the other exciting supplement options out there to take your health and performance to the next level.