The 7 Best Supplements to Optimize Your Keto Diet

A 7-day supplement storage container filled with keto supplements.

The ketogenic diet has surged in popularity in recent years as an effective approach for shedding excess body fat and improving overall health markers. By drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and emphasizing healthy fats, the keto diet shifts the body’s metabolism into a state called ketosis. In ketosis, the body efficiently burns fat for fuel instead of relying on glucose from carbs.

While a well-formulated ketogenic diet based on whole, nutrient-dense foods can meet most of your body’s needs, certain supplements can play a crucial role in optimizing your health and performance on keto. Strategic supplementation becomes especially important considering that some nutrients may be more difficult to obtain in adequate amounts when following a high-fat, low-carb eating plan.

In this article, we’ll explore the top supplements to consider adding to your keto lifestyle. These carefully selected supplements can help prevent common nutrient deficiencies, alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of the “keto flu” that often occurs during the initial adaptation phase, and amplify the already impressive benefits of the ketogenic diet. By fine-tuning your supplement regimen, you can ensure your body has the tools it needs to thrive in ketosis.

1. Electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium

Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electrical charges in the body, enabling crucial functions like muscle contractions, nerve signaling, and fluid balance. When following a ketogenic diet, your body processes electrolytes differently, increasing the risk of deficiencies. The three most important electrolytes to focus on are sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

Adequate electrolyte intake is essential for preventing the dreaded “keto flu” – a collection of symptoms like fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, and brain fog that can occur during the initial adaptation phase of the diet. These symptoms often result from electrolyte imbalances caused by the diuretic effect of low insulin levels on keto. Proper electrolyte balance also ensures optimal hydration by regulating fluid distribution inside and outside of cells.

Recommended dosages

  • Sodium: Aim for 3000-5000 mg per day. On keto, you may need more sodium than the general recommendation of 2300 mg per day. This is because low insulin levels cause your kidneys to excrete more sodium. Salting your food to taste, drinking bone broth or bouillon, and eating sodium-rich foods can help you meet your needs.
  • Potassium: The keto goal is 3000-4000 mg daily. Many potassium-rich foods like fruits and starchy vegetables are restricted on keto. Focus on low-carb sources like avocado, leafy greens, nuts, and salmon. If needed, consider a potassium supplement.
  • Magnesium: Aim for 300-500 mg per day. Magnesium supports hundreds of bodily functions and may help alleviate muscle cramps, a common side effect of keto adaptation. Keto-friendly sources include leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, and dark chocolate. Supplemental magnesium glycinate or citrate can boost your intake.

Food sources and supplementation tips

In addition to the food sources mentioned above, these strategies can help you meet your electrolyte needs on keto:

  • Track your food intake with an app like Carb Manager to monitor your electrolyte consumption.
  • Consider an electrolyte supplement designed for keto dieters.
  • Stay hydrated with water and other keto-friendly beverages.
  • If you exercise heavily or sweat a lot, you may need even higher electrolyte intakes.

Image of the Keto Actives supplement with list of benefits

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that provide a multitude of health benefits, from fighting inflammation to supporting heart and brain health. However, the ketogenic diet tends to be high in omega-6 fatty acids from sources like poultry, eggs, and nuts, which can throw off the ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio if not balanced properly.

While both omega-3s and omega-6s are important for health, modern Western diets often contain excessive amounts of omega-6s and insufficient omega-3s. This imbalance can promote inflammation and potentially increase the risk of various chronic diseases. Aiming for a 1:1 to 1:4 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is considered optimal, but many people consume a ratio closer to 1:20 or higher. On the keto diet, being mindful of this balance is crucial.

Potential Benefits

Adequate omega-3 intake, particularly EPA and DHA found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements, has been linked to numerous health benefits:

  • Reduced inflammation: Omega-3s help produce compounds called resolvins and protectins that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Heart health: EPA and DHA can lower triglycerides, blood pressure, and risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Brain function: DHA is a key structural component in the brain. Omega-3s support cognitive function, memory, and mental health.

Dosage recommendations and best sources

The optimal dosage of omega-3s varies depending on individual needs and health status. However, most health organizations recommend consuming at least 250-500 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day for healthy adults. Higher doses of 1000-4000 mg per day may be therapeutic for certain conditions.

The best sources of omega-3s on a keto diet include:

  • Fatty fish: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies.
  • Shellfish: Oysters, mussels, crab.
  • Fish oil supplements: Look for high-quality, third-party tested brands.
  • Algae oil supplements: A vegan-friendly alternative to fish oil.
  • Flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts: Contain ALA omega-3, which the body inefficiently converts to EPA and DHA.

To ensure you’re meeting your omega-3 needs on the keto diet, aim to eat fatty fish at least twice a week, and consider taking a high-quality fish oil or algal oil supplement. Be mindful of your omega-6 intake from added fats and cooking oils, opting for olive oil and avocado oil instead of vegetable and seed oils when possible.

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays a crucial role in bone health, immune function, and overall well-being. However, many people following a ketogenic diet may be at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency due to limited food sources and other factors.

Vitamin D is essential for several key functions in the body:

  • Immune health: Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and may protect against infections and autoimmune diseases.
  • Bone strength: Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and is necessary for building and maintaining strong bones.
  • Muscle function: Adequate vitamin D levels are important for muscle strength and performance.
  • Mood and brain health: Low vitamin D has been linked to depression and impaired cognitive function.

Risk of deficiency on keto due to restricted food sources

The ketogenic diet can increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency for several reasons:

  • Limited dairy: Milk and yogurt, which are often fortified with vitamin D, are restricted on keto due to their carb content.
  • Fewer fortified foods: Many vitamin D-fortified foods like orange juice, cereal, and oatmeal are high in carbs and avoided on keto.
  • Fat malabsorption: Some people may have difficulty absorbing vitamin D and other fat-soluble nutrients on a high-fat diet.
  • Obesity: Excess body fat can sequester vitamin D, making it less bioavailable.

Recommended dosage and safe sun exposure tips

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600-800 IU per day for adults, but many experts believe this is too low. The Endocrine Society suggests that adults may need 1500-2000 IU per day to maintain optimal blood levels.

On a ketogenic diet, aim for the higher end of this range, or get your vitamin D levels tested and supplement accordingly. Good sources of vitamin D on keto include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms exposed to UV light
  • Cod liver oil
  • Vitamin D3 supplements

In addition to dietary sources, safe sun exposure can help boost your vitamin D levels. Aim for 10-30 minutes of midday sun on your arms and legs a few times per week, without sunscreen. However, be careful not to burn, and cover up or use sunscreen if you’ll be outside longer.

4. MCT Oil

MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil has gained popularity as a supplement among keto dieters and biohackers alike. Derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, MCTs are rapidly digested and converted into ketones, potentially enhancing the benefits of a ketogenic diet.

Unlike long-chain fatty acids, MCTs bypass normal digestion and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. They are then transported to the liver, where they can be quickly converted into ketones. This unique metabolic pathway allows MCTs to serve as an efficient and rapid source of energy.

Potential Benefits

Supplementing with MCT oil may offer several advantages for those following a keto diet:

  • Enhanced ketone production: MCTs can help raise blood ketone levels, potentially deepening ketosis.
  • Appetite suppression: MCTs have been shown to increase fullness hormones like leptin and peptide YY, which may reduce overall food intake and support weight loss.
  • Increased fat burning: Some studies suggest that MCTs can boost metabolism and increase the body’s ability to burn fat for fuel.
  • Cognitive benefits: Ketones derived from MCTs can cross the blood-brain barrier, providing an alternative energy source for brain cells. This may lead to improved focus, clarity, and overall cognitive function.

How to Incorporate MCT Oil and Recommended Dosages

If you’re new to using MCT oil, it’s crucial to start slowly to minimize potential digestive discomfort. Begin with just 1 teaspoon per day, and gradually work up to 1-2 tablespoons daily as tolerated. It’s best to consume MCT oil with food and spread your intake throughout the day.

Some popular ways to incorporate MCT oil into a keto diet include:

  • Blending it into coffee or tea (such as bulletproof coffee).
  • Drizzling it over salads or vegetables.
  • Mixing it into smoothies or protein shakes.
  • Using it as a cooking oil for low-heat recipes.

While MCT oil is generally well-tolerated, excessive consumption can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea, cramping, and nausea. Stick to the recommended dosage, and listen to your body’s feedback. For most people, a daily intake of 2-3 tablespoons is considered a safe upper limit.

Image of Keto Trim supplement bottles with overview of benefits

5. Digestive Enzymes

The high-fat, moderate-protein nature of the ketogenic diet can put extra strain on the digestive system, especially for those new to this way of eating. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can help alleviate common issues like bloating, gas, and indigestion that may occur during the adaptation phase.

Digestive enzymes are crucial for breaking down the foods we eat into smaller, absorbable components. On a keto diet, the increased consumption of fats and proteins requires higher amounts of certain enzymes, particularly lipases and proteases. Lipases help break down fats into fatty acids and glycerol, while proteases break down proteins into amino acids. Without sufficient levels of these enzymes, digestion can be impaired, leading to uncomfortable symptoms.

Key Enzymes to Look For

When choosing a digestive enzyme supplement for the keto diet, look for a comprehensive formula that includes:

  • Lipase: The main enzyme responsible for fat digestion. Higher potencies (10,000 FIP or more) are beneficial on keto.
  • Proteases: Enzymes like pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin that break down proteins. Look for acid-stable proteases that work in the stomach’s acidic environment.
  • Amylase: Breaks down carbohydrates and starches. While less crucial on keto, amylase can help with any residual carb digestion.
  • Lactase: Digests lactose (milk sugar). Helpful for those consuming keto-friendly dairy products who may be lactose intolerant.
  • Cellulase and hemicellulase: Break down plant fibers. Beneficial for digesting low-carb vegetables.

Dosage Guidelines and Timing Recommendations

Proper dosage and timing are key for optimizing the benefits of digestive enzymes on keto. General guidelines include:

  • Take enzymes with meals: Enzymes should be taken at the beginning of meals to match the body’s natural digestive process.
  • Adjust dosage as needed: Start with the recommended dose on the product label, and increase gradually if needed for symptom relief.
  • Consider higher lipase amounts: Keto dieters may benefit from higher lipase doses (10,000 FIP or more per capsule) to support digestion of increased fat intake.
  • Look for keto-specific formulas: Some digestive enzyme supplements are formulated specifically for the macronutrient ratios of the keto diet, which may simplify dosing.

While digestive enzymes are generally safe and well-tolerated, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare practitioner before adding any new supplement to your regimen. Those with known digestive disorders or more serious symptoms should seek personalized guidance to rule out underlying conditions.

6. Greens Powders

The ketogenic diet’s emphasis on high-fat, low-carb foods can make it challenging to get enough micronutrients from the diet alone. Many nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables are restricted due to their carbohydrate content. Greens powders offer a convenient solution by providing a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds in a low-carb, keto-friendly format.

Keto-specific greens powder supplements are specially formulated to be low in net carbs. They often contain additional ingredients like MCTs and digestive enzymes to support ketosis and enhance nutrient absorption.

Nutrients and Antioxidants Provided

Greens powders can provide a wide array of essential nutrients and antioxidants that may be lacking in a typical keto diet:

  • Vitamins and minerals: Greens powders are rich in key micronutrients like vitamin A, C, K, folate, iron, calcium, and magnesium. These nutrients support immune function, bone health, energy production, and more.
  • Polyphenols and antioxidants: Plant compounds like polyphenols and antioxidants in greens powders can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation associated with many chronic diseases.
  • Fiber and prebiotics: While low in net carbs, greens powders provide fiber and prebiotic compounds that support healthy digestion and gut microbiome balance.

How to Choose a High-Quality Greens Powder

When selecting a greens powder supplement for a keto diet, look for products with:

  1. Organic, non-GMO ingredients: Choose powders made from organic, non-GMO fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based ingredients to ensure purity and maximum nutrient density.
  2. Cold-processing: The powder should be cold-processed rather than heat-treated to preserve sensitive vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
  3. Diverse blend of 20+ greens, fruits, veggies: The best keto greens powders contain a wide array of organic produce to provide comprehensive nutritional support.
  4. Added MCTs and enzymes: Keto-specific formulas often include MCTs and digestive enzymes to promote ketosis and nutrient absorption.
  5. No fillers or artificial ingredients: Avoid greens powders with added sugars, fillers, or artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

By incorporating a high-quality greens powder, keto dieters can easily and affordably boost their intake of essential micronutrients, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. This nutritional insurance can help optimize overall health and performance while following a ketogenic lifestyle.

Nuvialab keto supplement package, bottle and capsules

7. L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is an amino acid derivative that plays a crucial role in fat metabolism and energy production. It transports long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria, where they can be oxidized (“burned”) to generate energy. For those following a ketogenic diet, L-carnitine supplementation can offer several potential benefits.

On the keto diet, your body relies heavily on fat for fuel. L-carnitine is essential for this process, as it shuttles fatty acids into the mitochondria to be converted into energy. Without adequate L-carnitine, your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel may be impaired, potentially hindering the effectiveness of your keto diet.

Potential Benefits

In addition to its role in fat metabolism, L-carnitine has been studied for its potential benefits in various areas of health:

  1. Exercise performance: L-carnitine may improve exercise performance by increasing oxygen supply to the muscles and reducing muscle soreness and damage.
  2. Cardiovascular health: Some studies suggest L-carnitine can lower blood pressure and inflammation associated with heart disease.
  3. Brain function: Acetyl-L-carnitine, a specific form of L-carnitine, has been shown to improve brain function in people with Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.
  4. Blood sugar control: L-carnitine may help improve symptoms and risk factors of type 2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels.

Dosage Recommendations and Safety Considerations

The recommended daily dose of L-carnitine is typically 2 grams per day, which is considered safe and free from serious side effects. Some studies have used doses up to 3 grams daily without adverse effects.

However, it’s important to note that while your body naturally produces L-carnitine, certain factors can increase your risk of deficiency, especially on a keto diet:

  • Vegans and vegetarians may have lower L-carnitine levels due to reduced intake of animal products.
  • Keto dieters may have increased L-carnitine needs due to the high-fat nature of the diet.
  • Vitamin C deficiency can impair your body’s ability to produce L-carnitine.

Symptoms of L-carnitine deficiency can include fatigue, muscle weakness, and brain fog. Over time, deficiency may increase the risk of conditions like obesity, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

If you suspect you may be deficient or have any pre-existing health conditions, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before starting L-carnitine supplementation. They can help you determine the appropriate dosage and form of L-carnitine for your individual needs.

The Importance of a Nutrient-Dense Keto Diet

While supplements can play a valuable role in optimizing your health on the ketogenic diet, they should never be viewed as a substitute for a well-rounded, nutrient-dense way of eating. The foundation of a successful keto lifestyle is a focus on whole, minimally processed foods that provide the essential vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds your body needs to thrive.

Focus on Whole Foods

The cornerstone of a nutrient-dense keto diet is an emphasis on whole food sources of low-carb vegetables, healthy fats, and high-quality proteins. Prioritize non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and colorful options like bell peppers and zucchini. These provide fiber, antioxidants, and important micronutrients.

For healthy fats, focus on whole food sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These not only provide the fats necessary for ketosis but also contribute vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds.

When it comes to protein, opt for nutrient-dense options like eggs, full-fat dairy products, and if you include them, sustainably sourced meats and fish. Plant-based protein sources like tofu, tempeh, and nutritional yeast can also be incorporated.

Supplements Should Complement a Well-Rounded Diet

While supplements like electrolytes, MCT oil, and omega-3s can help support your keto journey, they should be viewed as complementary to a nutrient-dense diet, not as a replacement for one. Whole foods provide a synergistic array of nutrients and beneficial compounds that can’t be fully replicated by supplements alone.

Focus on getting the majority of your essential nutrients from whole food sources, using supplements strategically to fill in gaps or optimize results. Remember, supplements can enhance a well-formulated keto diet but they can’t make up for a poorly planned one.

Special Considerations for Vegetarian/Vegan Keto Dieters

Vegetarian and vegan keto dieters may face additional challenges in meeting their nutritional needs, as many plant-based sources of protein and essential nutrients like iron and zinc also come packaged with carbohydrates that can quickly add up.

Careful planning is essential to ensure adequate intake of nutrients that may be more difficult to obtain on a vegetarian or vegan keto diet, such as:

  • Complete proteins with all essential amino acids
  • Iron, zinc, and calcium
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA
  • Vitamin B12 and vitamin D

Incorporating eggs and dairy products, if they fit your vegetarian plan, can help close some of these potential nutrient gaps. However, supplementation with a well-designed multivitamin, algal oil for omega-3s, and potentially individual nutrients like B12 or iron may be necessary to support optimal health, especially on a vegan keto diet.

Ultimately, the key to success on a ketogenic diet is not simply hitting your macros or incorporating trendy supplements – it’s about nourishing your body with a wide array of nutrient-dense, whole foods. By making this the foundation of your approach and using supplements judiciously to complement your diet, you can set yourself up for optimal health and vitality on your keto journey.

Single bottle of Keto Trim on a light blue background

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