Let’s clear up something real quick.
Supplements are not a quick fix.
They are also not a replacement for healthy, whole foods.
Now we have got that out of the way – let’s discuss the role of supplements in your diet. Especially if you are following the ketogenic diet.
There are two reasons to take supplements:
- To avoid nutritional deficiencies
- To boost your results
No amount of supplement can fix a poor diet.
Your first step should always be to look at your diet, and see how you address those two specific reasons through micronutrient-dense foods.
Are you getting a wide variety of keto-friendly whole foods, including poultry, seafood, meat, low-carb vegetables, low-carb dairy, and eggs?
Are you making sure to include good amounts of fatty fish, leafy greens, and organ meats (some of the most micronutrient-dense keto-friendly foods)?
Once you have optimized your diet, you can then look to supplementation.
What supplements should you be taking, while on the keto diet?
Most of the supplements we discuss here aren’t necessary if you are meeting your nutritional needs through your diet – but they can still be beneficial in a variety of ways.
Adding supplements to your diet can help you to improve the results you are aiming for by following the ketogenic diet, such as faster fat loss, or increased energy.
Supplements can also help fill in any nutritional gaps (for example – magnesium is most often found in high-carb foods).
They can also help greatly in reducing the symptoms of the keto flu. The keto flu is caused by a lack of vitamins and minerals during the transition into ketosis. (Luckily this is only a short-term side effect.)
We will be discussing the following supplements:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Vitamin D
- MCT Oil
- Greens Powders
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Western diets are generally high in omega-6 fatty acids (which is found in vegetable oils and processed foods) and low in omega-3 fatty acids (which is found in fatty fish).
This imbalance can lead to inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body can lead to inflammatory diseases.
Taking omega-3 fatty acids in supplement form can improve this imbalance. Omega-3 fatty acids ins supplement form usually come from fish oil or krill oil. These oils are rich in the specific omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
EPA and DHA have been shown to lower risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, and prevent mental decline.
When choosing omega-3 fatty acid supplements, look for a reputable brand. You will want one that has at least 500 mg EPA and 1,000 mg DHA per serving.
To boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids through your food, add more salmon, anchovies, and sardines to your rotation of meals.
Taking a magnesium supplement will be beneficial to most adults (in fact – magnesium deficiency is relatively common among US adults), but even more so for those following the ketogenic diet.
Magnesium-rich foods tend to be high-carb (such as beans and fruit), so those following a keto diet will be more prone to be deficient. In addition, a low-carb diet increases the excretions of iron.
A daily dosage of 320 mg for women and 420 mg for men is recommended. You can get this through a combination a good quality supplement, and foods rich in magnesium. Avocados, high-fat yogurt, almonds, leafy green vegetables, and pumpkin seeds are all good sources.
Collagen is the supportive protein that gives bones, cartilage, and tendons their strength. It is one of the most abundant proteins found in your body and is essentially the ‘glue’ that holds your body together.
You can’t get collagen from food directly (but you can from supplements) – your body actually has to make it. Your body breaks down dietary amino acids (from protein-rich foods like chicken, meat, and dairy) and then it produces collagen.
The minimum effective dose appears to be 10g per day. An easy way to get increase your collagen is to buy a collagen powder. If you purchase a good quality collagen powder that dissolves easily, you can add it to almost any food or drink you can think of.
You can also add more collagen to your diet by drinking bone broth daily. This can be homemade or store bought. If you choose to go with store-bought, make sure it is a good quality brand.
Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods – these include fatty fish and certain mushrooms. You may find some dairy products are fortified with Vitamin D.
So how does our body get Vitamin D? From being exposed to sunshine! When the body is exposed to the sun directly, it produces high amounts of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is necessary for maintaining bone density and strength, helps the body absorb calcium and magnesium, and helps the body maintain optimal health.
It also plays a vital role in fitness as it increases muscle power and helps muscle growth.
Include a supplement to get 4000 IU/day of vitamin D3, in addition to adding more fatty fish to your diet and try to spend 20 minutes in the sun each day.
What makes MCT oil special? Because of how it behaves once you consume it.
MCT oil is made of a type of saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides. After you digest MCT oil, the fat goes straight to your liver – just the way carbohydrates do.
This means it is readily available to use very quickly. Once in the liver, it is converted into ketones and then sent to cells in the body for energy.
It is especially useful when you are first switching over to keto, as it will help reduce the ‘keto flu’ side effects.
MCT is not an essential supplement, but it can boost your diet in so many ways, it is highly recommended. You will find MCT’s in oil or powder form. Both can be added to your drinks or food.
While these are not a replacement for fresh veggies, a good quality greens powder is a great way to add a nutritional boost.
Look for a greens powder supplement that has a combination of healthy ingredients such as spirulina, green veggies (such as spinach, kale, wheatgrass, broccoli), and chlorella, for example.
The wide variety of vitamins and minerals can help fight inflammation, lower risk of disease, and help your body function optimally.
Spirulina is not actually a vegetable but is a blue-green algae. What makes it unique is that it is a complete protein – it contains all the amino acids that your body needs. It can help lower blood pressure, and also help reduce LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol. (LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol, and HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol.)
Spirulina can cause stomach upsets for some people when introducing it in small doses to your diet so your body can gradually get used to it.
Chlorella is also an algae. It contains GCF (Chlorella Growth Factor), which can help increase the energy transport between cells. It also helps fight fatigue – which is helpful when you are first starting to the keto diet.
You can take spirulina and chlorella in supplement form individually, but if you can find a good greens powder mix that includes both, it will be much simpler.