So you’ve joined the ketogenic crew and you’re losing weight, feeling great and learning all the keto lingo like “keto flu” and “ketosis.” Now you may be looking to further optimize your health on this high-fat, low-carb diet through supplementation.
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If you’re somewhat new to keto or considering getting on board, first understand that this popular diet calls for the extreme cutting of carbs. This means your body will be forced to run on ketones, which come from stored fat.
The stored fat is then used for fuel — the main goal. Unfortunately, this is where flu-like symptoms arise, says Ryan Gebo, registered dietician, fitness trainer and owner of Gebo Performance Nutrition. The good news is that supplementation can help reduce keto dieting’s negative symptoms, such as drowsiness, muscle aches, nausea and irritability, and give your body vital nutrients it may be missing.
While you should always aim to fill as much of your daily nutrient quota from the foods you eat, here are seven different supplements you may want to consider if you find yourself falling short in certain areas. Remember: Always talk to your doctor before you start taking any dietary supplements.
Lipase is a naturally occurring enzyme that helps break down fat in the foods people eat into smaller components, making it easier to digest, says Gebo.
Because ketogenic dieters often experience symptoms of inadequate fat breakdown, such as gastrointestinal stress (often in the forms of diarrhea and bloating), lipase can help their bodies better tolerate the additional fat intake and assist in using the energy from fat more efficiently.
To help ease these symptoms, Gebo recommends 4,500 to 6,500 FIP (the standard unit for measuring the potency of an enzyme) of lipase taken with meals.
2. MCT Oil
Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are unique fatty acids with benefits that include improved blood sugar control, improved weight control and reduced appetite, says Gebo.
MCTs can very rapidly (and easily) convert to ketones in your body due to their ability to bypass certain areas of digestion, unlike most other naturally occurring fats. Incorporate one to three tablespoons of high-quality MCT oil into your daily diet from a source like organic, extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil.
3. & 4. Potassium and Magnesium
During the first one to three weeks of ketosis there’s a rapid flux of fluids in your body that can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium, explains Anthony Gustin, D.C., M.S., of Gebo Performance Nutrition.
So make sure that your daily intake of potassium is 3.5 to five grams and your magnesium intake is about 400 milligrams. Sodium repletion can easily be done through regular table salt, says Gebo, but magnesium needs to be in supplement form.
One caveat to this, Gebo warns, is that those with kidney dysfunction, heart disease or high blood pressure should consult with their physician before supplementing with additional electrolytes.
5. A Quality Multivitamin
Most dieters could benefit from a daily multivitamin, says Gebo, especially because many aren’t always eating balanced meals that deliver optimal energy. With carbohydrates eliminated, certain micronutrients (e.g., thiamin, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc) that are abundantly found in those foods can be lacking in your diet.
Gebo explains that taking a multivitamin will ensure that any micronutrient gaps are filled. Try to aim for an organic, non-GMO, whole foods-based vitamin for best absorbability and quality.
Read more: The 10 Best Supplements
Just because you’re on the keto diet doesn’t mean you can forget about fiber. Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system, aiding in healthy weight management, lowering bad cholesterol and helping you feel full.
Unfortunately, the best fiber sources come from foods that don’t make the keto-approved list (think whole grains and fruits). Sure, keto dieters eat veggies, but to get the recommended daily value, you may go over your carb allowance.
It’s recommended by the Institute of Medicine that women get 25 grams of fiber daily and men get 38 grams, so this is where fiber supplements come into play. Some great fiber supplementation options are psyllium husks, ground flaxseed and acacia powder, all of which can be purchased at your local health food or supplement store.
7. Fish Oil
Don’t worry, you don’t have to experience fishy burps when taking these supplements, as there are now plenty of fish oil pills that provide no aftertaste or even a refreshing lemon taste!
Fish oil contains the very important omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are essential fatty acids, Gebo says. Your body can’t make them on their own, so you need to consume them.
Fish oil has a host of benefits, namely the reduction of high triglyceride levels in the body. Ketogenic dieters occasionally experience what Gebo refers to as “taste bud fatigue” from large amounts of fish during the diet (because it’s a great source of healthy fats and protein).
While there’s currently no official recommendation on dosage for omega-3s, 250 to 500 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA is generally enough for most adults to reap the benefits.