While all of the micronutrients that are critical your health during a keto diet can be found in the food you eat, it may be difficult to maintain optimal levels of some of these micronutrients while restricting carbohydrates.
Supplementing can be an easy, effective way to maintain optimal levels of micronutrients, help the body convert fat into energy, and transition smoothly into ketosis.
The following micronutrients are often taken as supplements on a keto diet:
1. Beta Hydroxybutyrate
This is the first ketone produced in the liver when the body’s supply of glycogen (or sugar) runs dry. Beta Hydroxybutyrate is very important for converting fat into energy and can both help ease symptoms of the keto flu and keep energy levels high. The period of time between glycogen depletion and ketosis can be difficult to say the least. However, by giving the body a boost of ketones (which allow for the conversion of fat into energy), this transition can be made less stressful and uncomfortable.
2. Electrolytes (Sodium, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium)
Because the keto diet can have a natural diuretic effect on the body, it’s important to stay hydrated; however, with increased water intake comes a need for increased electrolyte consumption. Electrolytes are vital to proper nerve and brain function, blood pressure, ph balance, and hormone regulation. Potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium are four of the most important electrolytes you should consider supplementing.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, which is critical for both muscle health and the absorption of calcium and magnesium, is deficient in almost one-third of Americans. Because of the importance of magnesium and calcium to a ketogenic diet, it’s a great idea to supplement with vitamin D to ensure proper absorption of these key micronutrients.
It’s a good idea to take your vitamin D supplement with a meal--especially dinner. One study found that vitamin D absorption was improved by an impressive 50% if taken at dinner time.
4. Chromium and Alpha Lipoic Acid (r-ALA)
For those who find it difficult to enter or maintain a deep state of ketosis, ALA and Chromium can be a tremendous help. These supplements increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin (also known as the fat-storing hormone!), which results in lower insulin levels and a smoother transition into ketosis.
Alpha lipoic acids have the added benefit of protecting and preserving the mitochondria--the energy factory of your cells. R-ALA also has the unique property of being both water and fat soluble, making it easy to absorb throughout the body.
5. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs are found naturally in protein sources like eggs, dairy, and meat. For those who use the keto diet to help them achieve physical fitness goals, BCAAs can be taken pre or post workout to preserve muscle mass and improve recovery without leaving ketosis.
If you are only lightly active during a ketogenic diet, you may not need additional BCAAs, since you will likely get all the branched-chain amino acids you need from the protein you eat.
6. Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oils
Coconut oil is the most popular and prevalent source of MCTs and helps maintain energy levels, particularly during exercise or physical activity. MCT oils also boost ketone production and help improve mental clarity, particularly while making the transition into ketosis. Unlike many molecules, MCTs have the unique ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and provide easy, direct fuel for brain cells.
Whether you choose to supplement or strive to gain all of your critical micronutrients from natural food sources during a ketogenic diet, it’s important to stay vigilant and intentional when it comes to supplying your body with the materials it needs for energy production, nutrient absorption, and general health.