If you’re reading this article, you probably want to know the best supplements to take on Keto.
But you want objective information. Not banner ads that haunt you for three months after you accidentally leave a bottle of fish oil in the shopping cart.
Yes, the Keto supplements industry is mostly marketing. And not only is this marketing tenacious, but it’s often persuasive too.
This post, however, isn’t trying to sell you anything. It’s an evidence-based look at the best Keto supplements. And it won’t follow you around after you finish reading it.
Do You Need Supplements On Keto?
The short answer is: It depends.
It depends on the supplement, the quality of your Keto diet, your biology, and even the time of year.
Most people, for instance, will benefit from getting more electrolytes on Keto. Exogenous ketones? Maybe not.
Dietary composition also matters. If you’re regularly eating salmon and sardines, you’re probably consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids to skip the fish oils.
The overarching principle is to get as many nutrients as you can through food, then make up any shortfalls through supplementation. Let’s start with perhaps the most common Keto shortfall: Electrolytes.
Electrolytes are minerals—sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and bicarbonate—that conduct electrical charges in your body. They literally help power your nervous system.
Of the main electrolytes, Keto folks are often deficient (or inadequate) in sodium, potassium, and magnesium. There are two main reasons for this:
- By lowering insulin levels, low-carb diets increase sodium and potassium excretion through urine.[*]
- Low-carb diets are naturally low in sodium, potassium, and magnesium-rich foods. (Sometimes calcium-rich foods too, if dairy is eliminated).
Fruit, for instance, is an excellent source of potassium. But most fruit contains too many carbs to be Keto.
Sodium is another example. When folks transition to a clean Keto diet, they typically drop the salty processed foods, and their overall sodium intake plummets.
So fewer electrolytes in, more electrolytes out. It’s a recipe for deficiency. Unfortunately, this deficiency can lead to “keto flu” symptoms like headache, fatigue, cramps, irritability, and insomnia.[*]
To get enough electrolytes, eat electrolyte-rich foods like leafy vegetables, drink bone broth, use the salt shaker, and supplement.
How much should you supplement? Tricky question, because it depends on your dietary intakes. (Use an app like Carb Manager to track this). In total, the evidence suggests you should shoot for around 3 to 5 grams of sodium, 4.7 grams of potassium, and 300-500 mg magnesium per day on your Keto diet.[*],[*],[*]
#2: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, most commonly found in marine life, have a wide range of functions in the human body, from regulating inflammation to supporting cognitive health.[*]
You’ve probably heard of EPA and DHA, the two primary omega 3s. Several formulations of these fatty acids (like Vascepa) have been FDA-approved to treat high triglycerides, a major heart disease risk factor.[*]
In Keto dieters specifically, omega-3 supplementation reduced triglycerides, insulin levels, and several inflammatory markers compared to controls.[*]
How much omega-3 should you take? Unless you’re supplementing for a therapeutic reason, a gram or two per day should be plenty to support basic needs.
This dosage has a very low probability of adverse effects.[*] But be sure to check with your doctor, because fish oil can interact with certain drugs.
Your omega-3 strategy will also depend on your fatty fish intake. A can of sardines, for example, has about a gram of omega-3s, and this needs to be factored in.[*]
Be careful shopping for fish oils. With the exception of the FDA-approved drugs, most fish oils are unregulated, and the potential for rancidity is real. Make sure you trust the company (some form of third-party testing is ideal), and that the pills don’t have a strong fishy smell.
Finally, for the vegans among you, you can also get EPA and DHA from algae-derived sources. It’s a solid, if not pricey, workaround.
#3: Vitamin D
Vitamin D regulates over 1,000 human genes. It’s so important, it’s considered a hormone!
According to one estimate, about 50% of the global population are deficient in vitamin D.[*]This should be taken seriously, considering vitamin D deficiency has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmunity, and—incontrovertibly—bone density issues.[*]
The best natural source of vitamin D is the sun. What about diet? Not so much.
So for folks at Northern latitudes (or who work inside all day), supplements are the best way to keep D levels up. Especially during the winter.
The Endocrine Society recommends adults get 1500 to 2000 IU of vitamin D daily.[*] If you’re not getting much sun, taking this dose of vitamin D is a cheap way to support your health, Keto or otherwise.
#4: MCT Oil
Medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT oil) is a form of saturated fat, derived from coconuts, that elevates blood ketones levels. When you consume this oil, it travels quickly to the liver for ketone production.[*]
Basically, MCT oil is a simple hack to enhance ketosis and provide a quick burst of energy.
Be warned, however, that MCT oil can have a laxative effect. To prevent an unfortunate situation from developing, start slow with one teaspoon per day and work your way up to several tablespoons as tolerated.
#5: Exogenous Ketones
MCT oil isn’t the only ketone-boosting supplement on this list. You can also consume ketones directly.
These exogenous ketones (exogenous = outside your body) come in two forms: Ketone salts and ketone esters. Both can elevate ketones, but on Amazon, you’re typically looking at the salts.
Potential benefits of exogenous ketones include enhanced workout performance, cognitive enhancement, and reduced blood sugar levels.[*],[*]To be clear, however, taking exogenous ketones isn’t the same as entering ketosis nutritionally. Especially when it comes to fat metabolism.
You’ve probably seen ads for “keto pills” that promise instant fat burning. Well, here’s an inconvenient fact: Exogenous ketones actually decrease lipolysis or the breakdown of body fat.[*]
This is your body saying: “Hey, ketones are getting high! We need to shut down fat burning.”
So while exogenous ketones appear to have benefits (most studies use around 10 to 25 grams BHB per dose), enhanced fat-burning likely isn’t one of them. Keep this in mind if you’re considering this supplement.
#6: Greens powder
Vegetables, organ meats, and other nutrient-dense foods can help you cover your micronutrient bases through diet. But you need a lot of them.
For example, you need to eat 3-4 cups of spinach per day to hit the RDA for magnesium.[*]
Life doesn’t always allow for all those veggies. And when it doesn’t, consider taking a well-formulated greens powder.
Think of greens powder as insurance against micronutrient deficiency. Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, iodine—even small deficiencies in these nutrients can cause big problems down the road.
These problems may not show up for years. According to Dr. Bruce Ames’ Triage Theory, at suboptimal micronutrient intakes, your body “triages” nutrients towards short-term survival needs.
This, unfortunately, comes at the expense of longer-term functions, like DNA repair and bone calcification. For example, a subclinical vitamin K deficiency could manifest as osteoporosis twenty years down the road.[*]
The Best Keto Supplements
On any diet—Keto included—food should be your #1 source of nutrition.
But you can’t always tick all the boxes with food. And when you can’t, you supplement.
Let this article be your guide to supplementing on Keto. Bookmark it, and refer back as often as you like. See you soon.