Where do supplements fit on the ketogenic diet?
Supplements can fill in gaps in your diet, make your life more convenient, and deliver better results. Some supplements can even provide amazing health benefits, but no supplement can replace a proper diet, consistent exercise regimen, and healthy lifestyle.
If you’ve already dialed in your keto approach, supplements can boost your results. You can use them to accelerate ketosis, prevent keto side effects, enhance fat-burning, and prevent nutrient deficiencies on the keto diet.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of supplements on the keto diet, the best keto supplements, and how to use them to maximize your results.
Why Should You Take Keto Supplements?
Not everyone needs supplements to get good results on keto. And plenty of supplements on the market are all hype with no real benefit.
However, certain supplements can definitely enhance your results, particularly if you do your homework and take them with a specific purpose in mind. Here are some reasons people use supplements on the ketogenic diet:
- Getting into ketosis faster
- Decreasing appetite and cravings
- Staying in ketosis after a carb meal
- Dealing with the “keto flu” and other keto side-effects
- Ensuring sufficient mineral intake
- Promoting recovery and increasing lean muscle mass
- Healing injuries
- Speeding fat loss
In the next section, you’ll learn the best keto supplements and how to use them. Additionally, most of these supplements can be beneficial even if you aren’t in ketosis.
9 Research-Backed Keto Supplements
1. MCT Oil or Powder
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a unique dietary fat blend derived from palm oil or coconut oil. The carbon side-chain in these fatty acid molecules have between 8-12 carbon atoms. MCT oil contains C8 (caprylic acid), C10 (capric acid), and C12 (lauric acid).
Your body can use MCTs more rapidly compared to other forms of fat. They’re a highly efficient fuel for your brain and muscles, whether or not you’re on the keto diet.
Research shows that MCTs can boost your energy levels, reduce your appetite, heal your gut, and increase the amount of fat you burn for fuel. [1, 2, 3] Not only that, they also help you achieve ketosis more quickly. 
Medium-chain triglycerides are sold in oil and powder forms. The oil is less expensive, but it’s not very portable, and some people may experience an upset stomach when using it. Emulsified MCT powder is easier on your stomach and more convenient for travel, but make sure you buy a low-carb version without unnecessary fillers. 
The oil form works well for at-home use and can be incorporated into salad dressings, or you can use MCT powder for baked goods and other recipes.
Either way, MCTs offer a lot of bang for your buck–they’re a safe, effective, easy way to speed up weight loss and boost your health and well-being to boot.
If you decide to try it, begin with 2-3 teaspoons of oil and work your way up to 1-2 tablespoons gradually. Should you go the MCT powder route, you can use between 10-30 grams.
2. Exogenous Ketones
On the ketogenic diet, your body makes three ketones: beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate, and acetone. These energy molecules are responsible for many of the anti-inflammatory health benefits of keto, and they also provide your brain with an energetic boost. [6, 7]
Exogenous ketones are identical to what your body produces during ketosis, but in supplement form. They raise your blood ketone levels even if you aren’t in ketosis. As a result, you can achieve ketosis faster (or re-enter more easily it after a carb-heavy meal). 
People also use exogenous ketones to prevent the “keto flu.” Keto flu isn’t actually a flu–it’s the name for side effects some people experience when they first start the ketogenic diet, like fatigue, headache, cravings, and irritability.
If you aren’t on the keto diet, you can still use exogenous ketones to provide your brain and muscles with a healthy, clean fuel source. For example, in aging brains, ketones are a more efficient brain fuel compared to glucose, and may reverse or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 
Ketone Esters vs. BHB and Keto Salts
There are two different types of exogenous ketones.
Ketone esters, also called “raw” ketones, absorb the fastest but taste raunchy. They’re not widely sold, because most people can’t stand the taste.
Keto salts are a ketone (usually beta-hydroxybutyrate) bound to another molecule like sodium, potassium, or magnesium. This form of exogenous ketones still absorbs rapidly and tastes better than raw ketones.
Magnesium is especially helpful on the ketogenic diet. That’s because when you cut carbs out completely, it’s common to lose quite a bit of water weight early on. But as a result, your body can also lose electrolytes like magnesium, which contributes to dehydration.
Replacing any magnesium you’ve lost is essential, especially if you exercise or sweat a lot. This mineral also helps ease cramps associated with the keto flu.
Magnesium glycinate is easier on your stomach compared to magnesium citrate or magnesium chloride. The threonate form of magnesium is more expensive, but research shows that when it’s bound to threonine, more magnesium reaches your brain. 
Along with magnesium, going keto can deplete other electrolytes like sodium, calcium, potassium, and chloride when you first start. That’s a problem because electrolytes play key roles in muscle contraction, heart function, temperature regulation, and brain function.
You can get enough electrolytes through diet–just eat avocados, mixed nuts, fatty fish, and add sea salt to your food.
But if you’re feeling dehydrated, are physically active, sweat a lot, or haven’t quite nailed getting electrolytes from your diet yet, electrolytes are a fantastic choice for a keto supplement.
5. Kelp Powder
Kelp is a natural, healthy, whole food source of iodine. It doesn’t take much–just a single capsule of NOW Kelp has over twice the recommended daily allowance of iodine (mine has lasted for over 2 years now).
Iodine is necessary for healthy thyroid function. Deficiencies of iodine leads to thyroid problems, which can cause weight gain and lethargy.  If you eat keto or paleo and don’t use processed, iodized table salt, you might need to take iodine supplements.
But don’t overdo it. Too much iodine can also cause thyroid problems and raise your thyroid hormones to unhealthy levels.  A single capsule of kelp once every 1-2 days is plenty.
You can also get enough iodine by eating seaweed a few times a month, or by eating fatty fish several times per week.
6. Omega-3 Supplements
According to US dietary guidelines, you need to eat at least half a pound of fatty fish each week for healthy omega-3 levels .
There are several options for omega-3 supplements: fish oil, cod liver oil, algae (a vegan option), and krill oil.
One issue with most fish oils is that they go rancid easily. An analysis of commercial fish oils found that up to three quarters of them were rancid, which increases inflammation in your body (the opposite of what you want!). [21, 22, 23]
Krill is a fish oil alternative that has phospholipids, antioxidants, folate, and vitamins A, E, and B12. 
Although it’s more expensive than fish oil, krill oil absorbs better and has a longer shelf-life than fish oil thanks to the phospholipids and antioxidants it contains.  That makes it comparably cost-effective, and safer because it’s less likely to be rancid. Neptune or Perfect Keto are both brands I recommend.
7. Digestive Enzymes
If you go keto, you’ll definitely be eating a lot of fat as well as animal proteins. While this strategy is effective for weight loss and leads to all the other health benefits of ketosis, it’s not always an easy transition.
Some people experience issues because they just aren’t used to eating that much meat or following a high-fat diet. This can result in nausea, diarrhea, or constipation.
The solution? A blend of digestive enzymes with proteolytic ingredients that break down protein, plus lipase for easier fat digestion.
Some enzyme supplements need to be refrigerated, so be sure to read the label. If you travel frequently, opt for a shelf-stable enzyme formula that doesn’t require refrigeration.
8. Whey Protein, BCAAs, and Collagen
Keep in mind that keto is already relatively high in protein (between 25-30% of overall calories), so you don’t need to drink multiple protein shakes every day. Whole foods are generally a better choice for meals, so save the protein powder for during or after your workout.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
There’s also good evidence that branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) can improve your performance and recovery if you’re active, especially in conjunction with whey. [27, 28, 29] Whey protein by itself is effective enough for most people, but if you want an extra edge, you can drink BCAAs during training, then follow them up with a whey shake post-workout.
Collagen Protein Supplements
Maybe you’re not into strength training or aren’t concerned about retaining lean muscle during weight loss. Is there any point in buying protein powder if that’s the case?
Absolutely. If that description fits you, you don’t need to spend money on whey or BCAAs, but you should know about collagen protein.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It’s what holds your skin, tissues, and skeletal system together. When you take powdered collagen protein supplements, they absorb quickly and go straight to your joints and skin, where they promote healing. 
Side Effects of Protein Supplements
Overall, protein powder is safe. The idea that eating more protein causes kidney issues is a myth–that only happens if you’re severely dehydrated or already have renal problems. 
If you have dairy sensitivities, stay away from whey concentrate. However, you may be able to tolerate whey isolate, and collagen is dairy-free. 
The most common side effects from protein supplements are upset stomach and other GI issues. These often go away once your body gets accustomed to the extra protein.
No protein supplement is essential on a keto diet. It’s easy to get enough protein from whole foods, and you can even get extra collagen by making or buying bone broth. That said, the benefits of protein powders for recovery, performance, and healing are undeniable.
9. Green Tea and Caffeine
Caffeine can boost your metabolism all by itself, but green tea is even more effective at upping your calorie burn.
Catechins from the Camellia sinensis plant like EGCG have thermogenic effects, meaning they increase how many calories you burn.  Caffeine and other xanthines in green tea work synergistically with catechins to speed up your metabolism. 
Just be sure you stop drinking green tea or other caffeinated beverages well before bedtime. Caffeine makes it easier for your body to run on less sleep, so you’ll feel less sleepy, and could end up sleep-deprived in the long run.  (Sleep deprivation alters your glucose metabolism and raises your blood sugar, which runs counter to the goals of the keto diet! )
The main benefits of supplementation on the keto diet are reaching ketosis earlier, reducing cravings, preventing side-effects, boosting recovery, and accelerating fat loss.
If you’re diligent with diet, exercise, and other healthy lifestyle measures, you can use supplements to take your results to a new level. However, they won’t help unless you do your part.