There's always a nutrition expert out there that will try to convince you of all the supplements that you need to be taking. There might be a new one that came out from South America that will raise your metabolism by 300%. Guys, if anyone is claiming something like this, it's silly. Please don't pay attention to them.
I would like to say though there are those vitamins and minerals that ARE necessary on a daily/weekly basis that you should pay attention to. On a lot of diets if you eat well-balanced with a lot of fruits and vegetables, you'll get most of these standard vitamins and minerals - and you probably won't even need to take a multi-vitamin. But most people don't eat very well-balanced. Substitute one fast-food meal for a healthy meal and you're leaving behind tons of possible vitamins and minerals!
On a ketogenic diet, there's a few supplements we do recommend taking. And to be honest, you probably already have some of them in your medicine cabinet. There's no hidden supplement agenda here, we're just covering the bases for those vitamins and minerals you may lack on the keto diet.
The thing is though, not all supplements are worth your time. So we're giving you a list of the supplements that ARE worth your time on keto, supplements that are for specific uses like exercise, and those you can go without. Of course, it's all up to you (and your doctor, and your credit card).
Supplements Everyone on Keto Should Take
Most people, whether on keto or not, are short on magnesium. Magnesium is super important to bodily functions. It is difficult for the body to absorb magneisum through supplementation, but not impossible. It just depends on the form of magnesium you're taking. If you look online, there are tons of forms of magnesium...oxide, citrate, glycinate, oxalate, to name a few. There are different benefits to the different forms of magnesium (ie, cost, absorption, diuretic effects, etc).
For the best bioavailability, we recommend magnesium glycinate. Magnesium glycinate is almost impossible to find in stores. This is the version of magnesium glycinate we use.
Magnesium citrate also has decent bioavailability, and you may be able to find it in some stores.
A word of caution: magnesium oxide, one of the most common versions found in stores, has extremely poor bioavailability. Don't even bother - unless you're just looking for a laxative effect. It is quite frustrating that when you go to a "drugstore" like CVS, the only option for magnesium is one that your body can barely use. Just think ahead and buy online for magnesium.
Sometimes when on keto you have days where you just don't want to cook. You slack and snack on cheese, nuts and meats during the day. These days, you are seriously lacking fiber. Fiber is something needed daily. It helps with your digestion throughout the day, as opposed to being built up like some other vitamins and minerals in the body. There are actually other benefits to fiber than just your "flow". There are several ways to supplement with fiber to help the body out.
You can take a psyllium husk supplement, or drink a powdered drink mix of it (not the sugary kinds like metamucil).
To add fiber to your foods and avoid "supplements", you can add chia seeds and flax seeds to a lot of your meals - a super easy way to add fiber with minimal carbs. Avocados are also super high in fiber. You can also find a lot of recipes with fiber added, like our oat fiber bread recipe.
When you are focused on fat in your diet, it makes fiber difficult to get in. As you are getting acclimated to the keto diet, I recommend supplementing with psyillium husk tablets. A fiber supplmenet drink would be fine, but most have added sugar.
Multivitamins are an easy way to help your body out when you're lacking the proper nutrients day to day. And even if most days you do a decent job, some days you may slack, so a multivitamin is nice to have as a backup. Most multi-vitamins contain a decent amount of vitamins and minerals that keto dieters fall short of.
Calcium and vitamin D, selenium zinc and copper. All are vitamins and minerals that keto dieters tend to lack. Remember, your body can only absorb so much calcium at once, so at a different time of day get in some calcium rich foods like cheese or almond milk.
Omega-3's are super important to your brain, and just as important is the ratio of omega-3's to omega-6's that you consume. The ideal ratio is 1:1-1:2, but most Americans are getting around 1:17-1:25. The thing about Omega 3 supplements is that on a high fat diet, the amount in the supplement is actually pretty small compared to the amount of total fat that you're consuming. If you were eating low-fat this amount of Omega-3 would be significant.
My recommendation here is to still have your Omega-3 to ensure you're getting some throughout the day, but you'll need to focus on Omega-3 rich foods as well. Salmon is huge, so make sure to get it in your diet.
Supplements for Keto Diet Beginners or those that need an energy boost
You may feel sluggish and fatigued starting out on the keto diet. Or you may want an energy boost before your run. Or your brain power needs a boost. That's where these supplements come in handy.
Exogenous ketones are helpful at several different periods of ketosis. If you are just starting out and your body is not yet accustomed to making enough ketones, exogenous ketones can give you a nice energy boost.
Another helpful times to supplement with exogenous ketones is pre-workout, when you want a nice supply of ketones ready for your body. These are best for endurance and lower intensity exercise. Exogenous ketones won't help during HIIT activities. Read the guide to targeted ketogenic diet if you are doing high intensity activities and feeling major fatigue.
Exogenous ketones come with a caveat: that they are expensive! You could try a cheaper option like MCT oil or just a spoonful of coconut oil for quick energy instead. In any case, here's the brand of exogenous ketones we've tried and recommend:
I go back and forth on MCT oil on whether you should be taking it. It's a hip and trendy supplement that says you'll boost your brain power like crazy!
But you can actually get a lot of MCT's from coconut oil. And, unless you need quick ketone energy which MCT oil will supply, MCT oil is going to have similar benefits to any other healthy oils like coconut oil or grass-fed butter.
If you're having coconut oil and other healthy fats several times a day, then you're probably in good shape and don't need to bother yourself with another supplement. However, we go into more detail in our article on MCT oil here.
Here's the type of MCT oil we recommend:
Supplements for Training Athletes
This recommendation is for everyone - keto dieters or not, but a lot of keto dieters like to incorporate high intensity activity or resistance training, which is why this is recommended. If you can't eat dairy or have dietary restrictions, there's plenty of other high quality proteins out there like pea protein.
If you're doing any type of high intensity activity or resistance training, you should be drinking a high quality, fast absorbing protein within 1 hour of your workout.
During this 1 hour time frame, don't eat fat. Fat will suppress your insulin response which will not allow your muscles to repair and grow. Eat your fat at all other times, just not in this window after an intense workout. All you need is 20 grams of protein (usually about 1 scoop or serving size of protein powder) to get the necessary protein for muscle building and repairing.
And ladies, this isn't about bulking up your body like a bodybuilder. This is about maintaining the muscles you have already. If you want to even maintain muscle this is necessary. Otherwise your body will "eat" it's own muscle in order to recover from these strenuous activities. Give it what it needs after a workout to repair.
Supplements that aren't worth your time...
Potassium is very difficult to supplement with for. If you try going to the store, most supplements you would have to take the entire container to get the daily recommended value. It is best to eat foods high in potassium instead of trying to supplement. Especially at the beginning of the diet.
Note: it has been shown in research studies that potassium citrate can prevent kidney stones in children on a ketogenic diet. This is the only time I would recommend checking out a potassium supplement.
Last words on supplements:
Caffeinated beverages, and beverages with tannins, like your keto coffee or keto tea, can hurt your absorption of some vitamins and minerals like calcium and magnesium. Take your supplements later in the day when you're not drinking coffee or tea - but also don't take them on an empty stomach to prevent nausea.