Are Supplements Necessary for Keto Diet?
Before I actually answer this question, let’s first understand what supplements are and their general effect on our keto diet.
Supplements come in the form of capsules, tablets or liquid. They provide the user with nutrients to strengthen the body. Due to the low-carb nature of Keto diet, a number of food options are off-limits which means that we cannot access the nutrients they may have. Hence, it is a good idea to supplement our bodies with nutrients that come from supplements.
Why we need supplements?
1. Our body processes minerals differently when we take less carbohydrate
Furthermore, when our bodies adjust to having less carbohydrate intake, it starts to process the minerals differently. As mentioned before, Keto diet can cause a loss of salt in the body as our kidneys excrete more sodium. Because our sodium levels are well balanced with other minerals in the body, the loss of sodium can disrupt other mineral levels.
This leads to the “keto flu” with all its symptoms. Therefore, supplements help to balance back our mineral levels. This can reduce and eliminate the side effects that we may face.
2. Getting the minerals you need
Besides, for those who engage in rigorous physical activities, it may be difficult to get the minerals that is sufficient for your body through low-carb foods alone. Therefore, you may choose to take supplements for strengthening purposes or enhancement of athletic performance.
3. Making your diet planning easier
Supplements can also help to make your diet planning easier. This is because it can be a challenge to keep count of your carb intake along with getting all your nutrient counts right.
For example, keto diet does not allow you to take much fruit and starchy vegetables, but you do not need to worry about trying to make up for that by finding other food sources.
Instead, supplements can help you to meet those nutritional requirements. It can also be helpful to take green supplements if you do not enjoy eating green vegetables. This helps you in planning your meals generally.
My take on this
It cannot be denied that supplements are indeed helpful to boost the body, especially when we undergo a Keto diet.
However, are mineral supplements really necessary? Are we disqualified from undergoing Keto diet if we do not take them? The answer to both questions is “no”. While they are indeed beneficial, the decision to take the supplements is solely in your hands.
However, supplements like exogenous base will make it a lot easier to get into and maintain the state of ketosis. Furthermore, they help to reduce side effects that comes with keto diet. If you are one of those facing symptoms of the “keto flu”, why not give supplements a try since they are of help? One tip that I would leave you, though, is that you can always give supplements a try to see if it can make you feel even better!
You won’t actually know until you try.
The famous supplements taken by Keto dieters are Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Calcium, Vitamin D, Fish Oil, MCT Oil and Exogeneous Ketones.
Mineral Supplements for Keto Diet
1. Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium is a mineral in the body that is important for many processes. It is involved in over 300 bodily reactions and is largely important for the regulation of blood sugar, blood pressure and muscle functions. Because magnesium is present in many foods, low-carb diets are often magnesium deficient. It is even more difficult to meet your body’s need for magnesium when on a Keto diet because high-carb food like beans are rich in magnesium. Some symptoms that you are lacking magnesium in your diet are muscle cramps and twitching.
Hence, I would recommend you to take magnesium supplements on a Keto diet. Magnesium supplements can help to reduce muscle cramping and irritability which are symptoms common to beginners of Keto diet. The ideal amount of magnesium supplement to take is 200-400mg of magnesium a day.
Magnesium supplements come in different forms, technically known as magnesium salts. The magnesium ion combines with salts to maintain it in a stable form for consumption, preventing any cross-reaction with other minerals in the body. For example, Magnesium gluconate is from the salt of gluconic acid. Different forms of magnesium supplements have different absorption abilities. This is known as bioavailability. A few forms of magnesium that are effective for absorption are Magnesium Gluconate, Magnesium Citrate and Magnesium Glycinate.
Some friendly advice from me is that you can also increase your intake of foods like avocado, mackerel, spinach and pumpkin seeds. This is because they are rich in magnesium.
2. Potassium Supplements
Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in our bodies. It is mostly found in plant foods, so it can be a little tricky to get sufficient potassium on a Keto diet since some fruits and vegetables are high in carbs and not keto-friendly. Some symptoms that you are lacking potassium are muscle cramping, moodiness, twitching as well as heart palpitations.
Low potassium can also negatively impact athletic performance due to compromise in lean muscle mass. Though dietary potassium can help to improve these symptoms, sometimes they may not be enough. We should aim for about 4500mg of potassium per day. When the food in our Keto diet does not meet our body’s requirements for potassium, Potassium supplements can help.
Studies from Harvard Medical School found that high potassium diets can lower blood pressure. There is also a relationship between diets with high potassium and protection against stroke. Besides, potassium helps to build proteins and muscles. When our diet has enough potassium, our muscles will feel stronger and less prone to cramping up. Furthermore, research shows that people with more potassium levels have higher bone density than those who do not have enough potassium. This keeps our bones strong.
With all these health benefits, it is recommendable to take potassium supplements to ensure you have sufficient amount of potassium in your body. Famous potassium supplements include Potassium gluconate, Potassium chloride and Potassium citrate. Both potassium gluconate and potassium chloride are primarily used as dietary supplements. Potassium citrate on the other hand is helpful for reducing the risk of kidney stone formation.
3. Sodium Supplements
Sodium is a natural mineral in our bodies that help to regulate the balance of water. It is important for the function of our muscles and nerves as well as maintaining blood pressure levels. On normal diets, we are typically advised to reduce sodium intake, but for a low-carb diet like Keto, we should make sure we have an adequate amount of sodium. Symptoms that your body lacks sodium includes weakness, tiredness, lack of concentration and even headaches which as commonly known as symptoms of a “Keto flu”.
The National Academies of Science (NAS) has recommended keeping our daily intake of sodium to below 2300mg. However, those who carry out vigorous activities that cause you to sweat a lot such as athletes or construction workers should take more sodium. Beginners of Keto diets should also make sure you obtain more sodium especially at the starting phase. This is because starting a low-carb diet causes loss of excess fluid through increased urination, causing a loss of sodium.
Maintaining levels of sodium in your body is not as difficult as maintaining the other mineral levels. However, if your Keto diet does not supply an adequate amount of sodium, there are electrolyte supplements containing sodium that can help to provide what your body needs. Unless you are under medication for high blood pressure, it is recommended for beginners of the Keto diet to start taking sodium supplements of about 5g per day to prevent experiencing “Keto flu”.
4. Calcium Supplements
Calcium is a mineral important for maintaining strong bones. Almost all our calcium is found in the bones and teeth, supporting our bodies. Additionally, calcium helps our muscles to contract and our heart to beat. Adults typically require 1000mg of calcium daily and those above age 50 require 1200mg daily.
Calcium is also used for other health conditions. For example, doctors use calcium to control elevated levels of magnesium, potassium and phosphorus found in the blood. Research also shows that calcium helps to control blood pressure. Furthermore, calcium supplements are common for treating and avoiding osteoporosis.
Dietary sources are usually recommended for us to obtain the calcium we need. For example, keto-friendly foods such as unsweetened soy drinks, canned fish with bones and dark leafy vegetables. However, our calcium levels can be a concern on the Keto diet because foods like leafy greens and dairy foods are limited due to their carb content. One of the best dietary sources of calcium is milk, but those committed to the Keto diet cannot take much because they are high in carbs. Hence, you can take calcium supplements to meet your body’s calcium requirements. If you wish to take Calcium supplements, make sure that it includes Vitamin D because this vitamin helps in calcium absorption.
Vitamin Supplements for Keto Diet
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most essential vitamins for humans. It is required for bone health, a strong immune system and an energized body. It helps our bodies absorb the minerals that we need such as magnesium and calcium. It also regulates inflammation, sex hormones and more. Basically, it is very important for us to have sufficient vitamin D.
It will be good to check your vitamin D levels through a blood test to gauge whether your body has a sufficient amount. Sometimes, even if people take supplements, they still lack getting adequate levels of vitamin D. The reason why this vitamin is difficult for us to get even if we are not on Keto diet is because many of us try to avoid the sun these days to avoid exposure to UV rays, but vitamin D is made by our bodies upon exposure to the sun. Hence, all the more do we need to supplement ourselves with this vitamin as Keto dieters.
Vitamin D can be obtained through foods like mushroom, eggs and fatty fish on the Keto diet, but you will have to eat plenty to keep up with your vitamin D needs. Hence, supplementation of 400 IU a day is recommended. The form of vitamin D recommended is the vitamin D3 form, known as cholecalciferol. This is the natural form of vitamin D made by your body from sunlight.
2. Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is a lesser known fat-soluble vitamin. It is vital in the transportation of calcium in our bodies. Many people have calcium build-ups because they lack this vitamin, resulting in the clogging of arteries, tartar on teeth and some people start feeling stiff as they age because of this build-up of calcium.
The good news is that this overlooked vitamin can avoid these issues and bring us health benefits when we have a good amount. Firstly, it can help to protect us against heart disease. Research shows that a higher intake of this vitamin is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. This could be because vitamin K2 distributes calcium in the body well which avoids the accumulation of calcium in arteries around the heart which is a great risk factor for heart disease.
Besides, the vitamin K2 is important for bone health. Studies have shown its role in treating arthritis and osteoporosis. This vitamin may also decrease the risk of developing cancer. Although more research is to be done, some studies have shown that it can help with liver cancer and prostate cancer.
It can be difficult for us to get sufficient amounts of this vitamin. Hence, it is recommendable to look for the MK-4 version which is easier to get. There are different types of vitamin K2, numbered from MK-4 to MK-13. MK-4 can be found in eggs and poultry. Since this vitamin is low in many foods, it would be good for us to use supplements to gain a good amount. While vitamin K2 MK-4 has not revealed any serious side effects, we should be careful not to take unnecessarily high doses or it may reduce the antioxidants in the body. A standard daily dose is about 100-300mcg a day.
Specialty Supplements for Keto Diet
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil is a common dietary supplement consumed by many who are not even on the Keto diet. It is extracted from fish tissue such as tunas and mackerels, or from fish livers such as the case of the famous cod liver oil. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can be found from oily fish. The two main omega-3s found in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 can also be found in plant sources, the main one being alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). However, those found in fish oil have greater benefits than those in plant sources. Hence, it is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to eat 1-2 portions of fish each week.
If you do not eat much oily fish, taking fish oil supplements can help you get the omega-3 fatty acids your body needs.
While many benefits come from omega-3, the body does not produce it on its own. The body cannot make omega-3 from omega-6 fatty acids either, which is common in the Western diet. Many Keto-friendly foods are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds, nuts and sunflower seeds. However, when too much omega-6 is consumed as compared to omega-3, systemic inflammation can occur which may lead to illnesses. Taking fish oil supplements is a good way to maintain a healthy omega-3 to omega-6 ratio on your Keto diet.
One of the benefits of fish oil supplements is to support heart health. According to studies, people who eat a lot of fish have lower rates of heart diseases. This is likely because fish oil helps to reduce the risk factors of having heart diseases. For example, those with high blood pressure can reduce it even by taking small doses of fish oil. “Good” cholesterol HDL levels can also be increased. Furthermore, studies indicate that fish oil supplements in a Keto diet can help optimize healthy triglyceride levels which promote cardiovascular health.
Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties as well, which can help to treat chronic inflammation. It can greatly reduce joint stiffness and pains for those facing rheumatoid arthritis. Fish oil can also decrease the production of inflammatory molecules in stressed and obese individuals.
Besides, fish oil supplements help to promote brain health. It has been suggested in studies that people with certain mental disorders have lower omega-3 levels. Consuming omega-3 can reduce symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
Fish oil supplements could also be good for your eye health. Studies show that those who lack omega-3 have a higher risk of getting eye diseases. Although it is clearer that taking fish can reduce eye diseases, it is less clear that fish oil supplements will yield the same effect. However, some people use fish oil for dry eyes, cataracts and glaucoma.
Fish oil supplements come in softgel form, like a capsule, which contains the oils within. A good dose to take on a Keto diet would be 2-3g a day.
2. MCT Oil
Medium chain triglyceride (MCT) is a type of fatty acid that is typically found in coconut oil and palm oil. Fatty acids are basically the building blocks of fat in our bodies and in foods we eat. MCTs are broken down by your liver and enter into your bloodstream as ketones to be transported to energize your brain and muscles. Hence, they are burned by the body for energy instead of being stored as fat. MCT has many benefits because of its unique properties, making it an important part of your Keto diet.
Firstly, MCTs are able to enhance ketone body production. This efficient production of ketone bodies gives us immediate energy which enhances our brain function and athletic performance. Some experts say that MCT acts like carbohydrates in that they provide an efficient energy source. However, the good news is that MCT differs from carbs in that they do not increase our blood sugar levels. In fact, MCT stabilizes and lowers blood sugar naturally because of its unique property of giving off a stabilizing effect. After just one oral dose of MCT, you will develop a slight drop in your blood sugar.
Furthermore, MCTs are digested easily and sent directly to the liver where they can positively affect metabolism. While other fatty acids require the production and utilization of bile in the body to be metabolized and absorbed, MCT does not. This is helpful to individuals who are unable to produce an adequate amount of bile.
Besides, MCTs provide health benefits. They possess antioxidant properties which is why coconut oil helps to reduce inflammation. This helps maintain heart health, brain health and prevent obesity. The journal Pharmacological Research also published a review of studies stating that MCT oil may help prevent metabolic syndrome, factors that increase the risk of diabetes and heart diseases. MCT oil is also found to combat viruses, fungi, bacteria and parasites. Hence, it is highly recommended to use this supplement whether you are following a Keto diet or not.
MCT oil is extracted from coconut or other whole food and converted into usable forms. I would recommend the liquid form of MCT oil. It is easy and fun to use. Some suggestions of how to use it is by simply drizzling it over your salad as dressing, adding to your Bulletproof coffee to thicken it, or even adding it to your smoothie. However, take note that too large or too quick doses may cause you problems like nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. Hence, if you face this problem, you should combat these symptoms by taking small doses at a time instead. For example, taking one tablespoon of the oil per day then slowly increasing the dosage over time as your tolerance increases.
MCT oil also comes in softgel and powder form. If you are someone who is always short on time and need something you can take on the go, MCT softgel is for you. It is convenient to carry around and consume as it is simply taken in oral dosages. MCT oil powder on the other hand are added into drinks, both hot and cold, adding a creamy texture. They are even sold in different flavours!
3. Exogeneous Ketones
Scientists have developed a way to increase ketone levels safely and fast without needing to fast – through exogeneous ketones. Exogeneous ketones are basically ketones that are not produced in the body but come from a synthetic source. The function is the same as the ketones produced by our bodies. They provide the body with fuel as the body burns ketones instead of carbohydrates.
There are two kinds of exogeneous ketones supplements, ketone salts and ketone esters. Ketone salts come typically in powder form. They consist of ketone molecules bound to mineral salts, such as magnesium, calcium, sodium or potassium.
Ketone esters come typically in liquid form instead whereby ketone molecules are bound to ketone precursors, such as glycerol. Ketone salts are the ones that have been heavily commercialized over ketone esters. Survey shows that those who take ketone salts experience weight loss, increased energy and focus and reduced hunger, all of which are the benefits of the Keto diet. Hence, exogeneous ketones serve as an enhancement to your Keto diet by speeding up the process of weight loss and all the other benefits.
Although some people may be sceptical about the artificial nature of exogeneous ketones, others have genuinely benefited from them. Ultimately, the choice is in your hands. There is no harm in trying it out for yourself and making the final decision.
About The Author
Losing weight has always been a hard thing for me. I would stick to a strict diet, eating as little as I possibly could to only lose a few pounds. Sadly, after a sweet buffet dinner, I would gain all the “lost” weight back. Keto Diet allows me to consistently lose and maintain my weight while enjoying the most fattening food I can possibly imagine. Let me show you how.