Do you need supplements on keto or can you get all the nutrients you need from keto-friendly foods?
The short answer is supplements can make your ketogenic diet significantly easier.
It can be challenging to obtain all of your nutrition while also trying to focus on getting the right amount of macros. So that’s where supplements come in.
What makes ketosis and the ketogenic diet healthy or not depends on the quality of macros and micronutrients you’re consuming.
To lead an optimal ketogenic diet, you need to understand supplements.
All your questions about using supplements on keto will be answered in this article:
- Why Supplements on Keto Matter
- The Top 9 Keto Supplements to Take
- Additional Functional Supplements You Might Need
- 5 Whole Foods to Use as Keto Supplements
The ketogenic diet is unique because it transforms your metabolism:
- Your default energy source is glucose from carbs.
- You take away this primary source of energy when you start a very low carb diet.
- Your body switches gears and shifts to an alternate energy source: fat.
- Your body starts ketogenesis: your gallbladder and liver release stored fats in your body, and, alongside fat intake, turn these fats into ketones, your body’s alternate energy fuel.
- From being a carb-fueled machine you shift to being a fat-fueled machine.
This change is huge, and like all changes, it will take some adjustment while your body settles.
Supplements help you go through this change with little to no pain.
While not always necessary on a keto diet, supplements can help in 3 ways:
#1: Reduce The Symptoms of The Keto Flu
The keto flu is often caused by a lack of vitamins and minerals during the transition to ketosis.
For example, as your cells use up all the glycogen stores in your body, you lose water and with it important electrolytes.
Having the right supplements, such as electrolytes, can help prevent the nutrient deficiencies that cause the keto flu and make your transition smoother.
#2: Fill Any Nutritional Gaps of Your Ketogenic Diet
Because the ketogenic diet doesn’t allow fruits and starchy veggies, you may not know where to get the vitamins and minerals you uses to get from those foods.
Supplements make the transition to keto easier because they can give you important vitamins and minerals as you get used to getting them from keto foods like red meat, eggs and low carb vegetables.
For example, taking a greens supplement can be helpful if you don’t like eating a lot of fresh kale and other leafy greens.
#3: Support Your Health Goals
Supplements can support the health goals you’re using the ketogenic diet for.
For example, fish oil can support better cognitive function, which is a benefit of the ketogenic diet, while MCT oil can support your weight loss efforts.
Using supplements on keto helps you be at your best, and understanding how certain supplements work makes it easier to know if you need them. So below are nine of the most crucial supplements to know about on the keto diet.
Below are the top keto supplements to use on a ketogenic diet, including why they matter and the best way to get them:
- Electrolytes: Sodium, Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium.
- Vitamin D
- MCT Oil
- Fish Oil
- Exogenous Ketones
- Keto Greens
#1. Electrolytes For Fluid Balance
While there are many health benefits of this diet, it’s possible to miss out on important minerals like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium that tend to come from foods avoided on keto. These electrolytes control nerve and muscle function, among many other things.
The low-carb nature of the keto diet causes the kidneys to dump excess water, excreting sodium and the other electrolytes with it that need to be replenished.
Low levels of these electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, can lead to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and constipation, also known as the keto flu.
By replenishing these important electrolytes through food or supplements, you reduce keto flu symptoms, or even avoid them altogether, while protecting yourself from long-term deficiency on keto.
Here are the four biggest electrolytes to be aware of:
A healthy balance of sodium in the body is necessary for nerve and muscle function. Sodium’s ability to retain water is also essential to keeping a balance of other electrolytes.
Most diets encourage less sodium, but you might need more on keto because sodium is lost with water loss, especially at the beginning of the keto diet.
How To Get Sodium
While you don’t need a sodium supplement, you’ll likely need to replenish any sodium lost on keto by:
- Adding salt to your food or drinks. Choose Himalayan sea salt.
- Drinking bone broth regularly.
- Eating more sodium-rich foods like red meats or eggs.
Note: Sodium has an impact on blood pressure. Monitor your intake if you’re concerned about or prone to hypertension. Many health organizations recommend sodium intake at not more than 2300 mg a day (one teaspoon)[*].
Being deficient in magnesium is fairly common, and even more so in people eating low-carb. Blood testing is the best way to know for sure about your levels, but muscle cramps and fatigue are common signs of magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium helps maintain a normal heart rhythm, healthy immunity, and nerve and muscle function. It works with calcium to keep healthy bones, and assists more than 300 total bodily reactions including regulating sleep and maintaining proper testosterone levels [*,*].
How To Get Magnesium
You can get magnesium from keto sources like pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocados, leafy green vegetables, and high-fat yogurts. But these foods contain carbs and it might be hard to consume enough to reach your magnesium needs without exceeding your carb macros, so you might need a supplement too.
For women, 320 mg is ideal, while men need 420 mg of magnesium per day.[*]
Potassium helps the body keep a normal blood pressure, fluid balance, and regular heart rate. It also helps break down and use carbs and build proteins.
How to Get Potassium
Supplementing with potassium is often discouraged, as too much is toxic. Best to get it from whole food keto sources like nuts, leafy greens, avocados, salmon, and mushrooms.
Calcium has many roles in the body. Strong bones is just half of it. Calcium is also responsible for proper blood clotting and muscle contraction.
How to Get Calcium
Keto sources of calcium include fish, leafy greens like broccoli, dairy, and non-dairy milks (just make sure they’re unsweetened and zero carb). You still might need to supplement with calcium to cover your bases. High quality calcium supplements include vitamin D, which is needed for absorption.
Both men and women need around 1000 mg of calcium per day[*].
Read about avoiding imbalances in your electrolytes here:
#2. Vitamin D for Strength and Healthy Hormones
Vitamin D acts as both a nutrient and a hormone in your body. Many food products are fortified with vitamin D because it’s hard to get enough from food alone. You can get it from sun exposure, but only in places that are sunny enough — plus, extended sun exposure puts you at risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, magnesium, and other minerals[*]. It’s also necessary for maintaining strength and muscle growth, bone density, healthy testosterone levels, and for supporting cardiovascular and immune system health [*,*,*].
Despite these crucial functions, about ⅓ of Americans are low in vitamin D. The restrictive nature of foods on the ketogenic diet might put you at a higher risk of deficiency[*].
How to Get It
You can get vitamin D from some types of mushrooms and fatty fish, but that’s about it on the keto diet unless you also eat fortified dairy products. Supplementation with 400 IU per day is a recommended[*]
#3. MCT Oil for Fat Efficiency
MCTs stands for “medium-chain triglycerides,” and they’re a type of fat the body can use for energy right away instead of storing them as fat [*]. MCTs help produce ketones in your body, which are necessary to enter and stay ketosis, because they’re a more efficient energy source than glucose (which comes from carbs).
The immediate usage of MCTs for fuel makes them a great keto diet supplement for keeping you in a fat-burning energy state and meeting your daily macros for fat intake.
How to Use It
MCTs are found in coconut oil, butter, cheese, and yogurt, but the best way to get a concentrated dose the body can easily digest is by supplementing with MCT oil (in the form of softgels or liquid MCT oil) or MCT Oil Powder.
#4. Fish Oil for Heart and Brain Health
Your body needs three types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA, DHA and ALA.
Fish oil provides the body with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two omega-3 essential fatty acids that we must get from either diet or supplementation.
The other type of omega-3, ALA or alpha-linolenic acid, is found in plant foods like walnuts, vegetable oils and chia seeds.
Your body is able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate is very low. That’s why it’s better to supplement with EPA and DHA.
While the keto diet can contain omega-3s naturally, a lot of keto foods are also high in omega-6’s, which can cause inflammation in excess amounts [*].
Most people eat way too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s, so you should strive to achieve a ratio of 1:1 like our ancestors likely ate.
Omega-3s are crucial for brain and heart health in many ways. Supplementing with omega-3s from fish oil can help:
- Fight inflammation in the body
- Ease depression symptoms
- Lower triglyceride levels in the blood (high triglycerides are linked to increased cardiovascular disease risk).[*,*]
- Increase the lowering of triglycerides more than by simply following a ketogenic diet, along with lowering total and LDL cholesterol, body fat and BMI.[*]
Fish oil is also beneficial for athletes and other active people on keto. A study done on ten healthy men taking 3g of fish oil per day for 13 weeks showed an average 38% decrease in triglyceride levels[*].
Unless you’re eating wild, fatty, well-sourced fish like sardines, salmon, and mackerel, tons of leafy green vegetables each day, and emphasizing grass-fed beef, you likely need some additional omega-3s.
How to Get It
Fish oil with a high concentration of EPA/DHA of 3000-5000 mg per day is great. But note this: fish oil is a supplement you want to splurge on.
Many low-quality fish oil supplements out there may contain heavy metals and other contaminants that can have negative and dangerous effects on the body, including brain and nervous system disorders.
To make a good choice, look for fish oil with the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) five-star rating and stamp of approval for sourcing from Friends of the Sea (FOS), like these.
#5. Exogenous Ketones for Getting Into Ketosis
Exogenous ketones are an external form of the ketones your body makes in ketosis.
Taking exogenous ketones can help you get into ketosis (or back into ketosis) faster and provide immediate additional energy , whether you’re in ketosis or not. They are the perfect supplement for a keto diet.
Benefits of using exogenous ketones include:
- Increased focus
- Increased weight loss [*]
- Higher energy levels
- More energy for better athletic performance
- Decreased inflammation
How to Get It
The best exogenous ketone product has no fillers, additives, sugars or carbs and is made with high-quality beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).
You can take Perfect Keto Base anytime you need the additional support, such as before a workout, while fasting, in between meals or after eating carbs. Plus, you have four delicious flavors to choose from.
#6. Keto Greens for Full Nutritional Support
Taking a bunch of individual vitamins and minerals supplements can be hard, and most multivitamins won’t give you the right combination for keto. A high-quality greens powder is a good way to cover all your nutritional bases.
How to Use It
Perfect Keto Micronutrients Greens Powder contains 4 different blends for maximum antioxidant and nutritional support on a ketogenic diet:
- A greens blend (4000 mg)
- An antioxidant blend (950 mg)
- A berry blend (500 mg)
- An absorption blend (300 mg)
Use one scoop in your favorite beverage up to three times per day.
Although these supplements aren’t as widely crucial as the ones above, they can help make your transition to ketosis easier and continue to support you on the diet.
- Grass-Fed Collagen
#1. Keto Pre-Workout for Energy and Better Workouts
Eating low-carb can sometimes make exercise more of a challenge, at least until your body becomes keto-adapted. A keto-friendly pre-workout can help power you up when you need the extra energy, whether it’s for a workout, staying up later than usual, or just getting through the day.
How to Get It
Look for a pre-workout free of junk that will support your fitness on a keto diet. Perfect Keto Perform was created for this exact reason and includes the following recommended supplements:
- Caffeine from green tea for increased focus and mental acuity.
- BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) to support muscle building and maintenance on a moderate-protein keto diet.
- Creatine monohydrate, a sports supplement with extensive research showing its positive impact on muscle mass, strength and exercise performance [*].
- Beta-alanine to prevent feelings of burnout while exercising on a keto diet.
It also includes BHB ketones, MCT oil powder and calcium and magnesium. Take one scoop in your favorite drink or plain water before or workout or whenever you need extra energy.
#2. L-Glutamine for Cell Health and Exercise Recovery
The low-carb nature of the keto diet cuts down on fruit and vegetable consumption, which are rich sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for fighting toxic free radicals that form in the body.
L-glutamine is an amino acid that also acts as an antioxidant, so supplementing with it can provide additional support for fighting cellular damage [*].
It’s also a great choice for anyone who does intense exercise, which can naturally reduce glutamine stores [*]. Supplementing can help build them back up after each workout to protect the body and support better recovery time.
How to Use It
L-glutamine is available in capsule or powder form and typically taken in 500-1000 mg doses before each workout.
Also known as 7-keto, 7-oxo-DHEA is an oxygenated metabolite (a product of a metabolic reaction) of DHEA. Research shows it may enhance the weight loss effect of the keto diet.
One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that 7-oxo-DHEA, combined with moderate exercise and a reduced-calorie diet, significantly reduces body weight and body fat compared with exercise and a reduced-calorie diet alone[*].
In other words, it can boost your metabolism and weight loss efforts.
How to Use It
Current research suggest that it’s effective and safe to take 200-400 mg daily in two divided doses of 100-200mg [*].
#4. Grass-Fed Collagen
Collagen makes up 30% of the total protein in your body, yet it’s the one most people are deficient in. That’s why supplementation is important.
Collagen can help your hair, nails, and skin grow and become healthy, and can even heal leaky gut.
The problem is, taking a regular collagen supplement can kick you out of ketosis, so a keto-friendly collagen is the way to go.
Keto collagen is essentially a blend of collagen and MCT oil powder. The MCT oil powder slows down the absorption of collagen in the body, so it can be used for healing and recovering instead of quickly turning into glucose.
How to Use It
One scoop of Keto Collagen provides 10g of pure collagen, an effective dose that many studies recommend. You can take it daily mixed in a meal or drink, like soup, coffee, smoothies or raw energy balls.
There are some functional whole food options for supplementing your keto diet too. Consider adding these to your daily routine.
- Bone Broth
- Dandelion Root
#1. Spirulina for Lower Cholesterol
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that contains all the amino acids your body needs, making it a complete protein. It also contains potassium, iron, magnesium and other nutrients and has antioxidant properties [*].
Daily intake of spirulina has also shown positive results on blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol [*].
How to Use It
Spirulina can be taken in capsule or powdered form and mixed into a smoothie or just plain water. Take 4.5 g (or almost one teaspoon) per day.
Spirulina is also included in Perfect Keto Micronutrient Greens.
#2. Chlorella for Fighting Fatigue
Like spirulina, chlorella is another green algae superfood.
Chlorella is especially helpful in the beginning stages of keto if you experience fatigue. It contains Chlorella Growth Factor, a nutrient containing RNA and DNA that can help increase energy transport between cells [*].
How to Use It
Chlorella comes in capsule, tablet or powder forms. Make sure it’s been tested for heavy metal contamination. It can be mixed in a smoothie, water or other drink daily. Chlorella is also included in Perfect Keto Micronutrient Greens Powder.
#3. Bone Broth For Electrolyte Intake And Overall Health
Drinking bone broth daily is an efficient whole foods way to increase your intake of electrolytes often deficient on a keto diet and reduce or eliminate keto flu symptoms. Bone broth is insanely good for you and has anti-aging properties, too.
Some of the most impressive benefits include:
- Keeping your intestinal barrier healthy
- Boosting your immune system
- Increase collagen levels in your body — which improves your skin, joint, bone, eye, heart and brain health.
How to Use It
You can make your own bone broth, but to save time there are some good pre-made brands out there like Kettle and Fire. You can enjoy it at anytime, sipping it straight or using it in cooking. It can be an especially soothing end to your day just before bedtime.
#4. Dandelion Root For Fat Absorption
The sharp increase in fat intake on a keto diet can initially cause digestive upset for some people. Dandelion helps stimulate bile production in the gallbladder, which supports better digestion and absorption of fats, your main source of energy in the ketogenic diet[*].
How to Use It
Dandelion can be purchased in tea bags or in bulk to be consumed as needed as a tea. If using in bulk, take 9 to 12g (2-3 tsps) per day.
Dandelion is also included in our Keto Micros Greens Powder.
#5. Turmeric To Combat Inflammation
Some lower-quality animal products can be inflammatory. If you aren’t able to splurge on higher-quality meats and dairy products are much as you’d like, taking extra anti-inflammatory measures is a good idea.
Besides fish oil, turmeric is a potent natural anti-inflammatory food. It contains curcumin, which helps counteract inflammatory foods.
How to Use It
Cook with it or combine it with ghee or full-fat coconut milk, coconut oil and cinnamon to make a turmeric tea! Use 2 to 4g (0.5-1 teaspoon) daily.
Using Supplements To Make Keto Easier
Although it may be possible to get all the nutrition you need on a keto diet, most of us can’t be perfect eaters all the time.
The supplementation options above help you fill in the gaps and even boost your performance while eating a keto diet and living the keto lifestyle.
Fact-checked by Dr. Anthony Gustin, DC, MS.
Written by Joanna Cailas
Joanna is a food and health writer and content manager for USource Digital.