The Ketogenic diet has taken the world by storm. Suggested to boost health and function, while also stimulating fat loss, it is fast becoming one of the most commonly implemented diets on the entire planet.
And with that has come the development of numerous ketogenic supplements, which have been designed to boost the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet in a very big way.
But do they work? And which ones offer us the most benefit?
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic Diet simply describes a specific way of eating that is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates (normally 10-50 grams per day). The rationale behind this way of eating is to get the body into a state of Ketosis – with ketosis being a specific process that can happen within the human body.
You see, your body has the ability to use both carbohydrates and fats for energy.
At any given moment, your body is using both fats and carbohydrates to provide energy for its many metabolic processes.
But, if the body has insufficient carbohydrates to meet its energy demands (for example, in the scenario where someone is following the ketogenic diet), it is forced to prioritise the breakdown of fats to meet those energy demands.
And a by-product of this fat metabolism are little compounds known as Ketones – which are an acidic substance that can also be broken down to produce energy in the brain.
So, taking all of this into consideration, Ketosis pretty much describes a state in the body were fats are being broken down and used for energy at a great enough rate to cause the accumulation of Ketones.
What are the Benefits of Ketosis?
Now there is a pretty good reason as to why we want to get into ketosis.
Firstly, the body becomes better at mobilizing fat from your adipose tissue, and then breaking it down to produce energy. This comes with a decline in the secretion of insulin, combined with an increase in the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Through the interaction of these two mechanisms, getting into a state of ketosis can help us stimulate fat loss in a very big way. With this comes an improvement in blood cholesterol levels, reductions in blood pressure, and lower resting blood sugar levels.
As a result, this can lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic disease, and obviously obesity.
Additionally, getting into a state of ketosis has also been shown to have an impact on the brain.
You see, the brain can actually use ketones for energy, but often uses glucose first as it is generally more readily available as a fuel source. But when glucose is in short supply and ketones are in abundance, your brain will start to prioritize the use of ketones for energy.
Interestingly, the brain receives more energy per ketone molecule than it does per molecule of glucose – which suggests that it is a more efficient source of fuel for the brain.
With this in mind, being in a state of ketosis has been shown to improve cognitive function and memory, while also helping treat neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
So, in short, ketosis is good.
Why Use Supplements to Support the Ketogenic Diet?
This is where some people seem to get a little confused – there are obvious benefits that come with getting your body into ketosis, and this can be done mostly through diet.
So where to supplements fit into the equation?
Well, there are a number of benefits we can receive by taking both ketogenic specific supplements, and supplements that help treat any dietary deficiencies associated with the ketogenic diet.
To provide a little bit more clarity around this, ketogenic specific supplements are those that actually help the body get into a state of ketosis. These supplements provide the body with both high quality fatty acids and physical ketones – which actually enhance the rate of fat metabolism within the body, while also increasing the number of ketones found within the blood.
Our other supplements aim to provide the body with any essential vitamins and minerals that might be missed when following a ketogenic way of eating. In doing so, they can ensure that a high degree of health and function is maintained across all of the body’s systems.
So in short, ketogenic supplements ensure you maintain optimal health and function, while simultaneously helping you into a state of ketosis.
Which Supplements Have the Most Evidence to Support their Use?
There are a number of supplements that have been shown to have some seriously positive effects for those individuals following a ketogenic diet. Through the two mechanisms mentioned above, these products can have some seriously wide reaching effects throughout the entire body.
With this in mind we have taken an objective look at the research to identify which supplements offer us the most benefit, and why. While these supplements are outlined in greater detail below, they include:
- MCT Oil
- Krill Oil
- Vitamin D
- Digestive/Fat burning Enzymes
- Exogenous Ketones
- 7-Keto DHEA
Best Supplements for the Ketogenic Diet
So you might be wondering exactly ‘how’ and ‘why’ do these supplements offer such an excellent addition to the ketogenic diet?
And this section outlines that in detail.
Magnesium is a unique type of micronutrient found throughout the human body. Within this, it is actually involved in a multitude of physiological processes that are absolutely integral to its ability to function on a daily basis.
There is evidence to suggest that having adequate levels of magnesium in the body is essential for regulating calcium, potassium, and vitamin D levels. As such, its consumption can have some serious implications for bone health.
Additionally magnesium has also been shown to be involved in the regulation of normal heart and muscle function, while playing an important role in the maintenance of kidney and brain health.
How Does Magnesium Help the Ketogenic Diet?
This is actually pretty simple.
When following a ketogenic way of eating, you essentially exclude all carbs from your diet – and considering that most magnesium rich foods (such as beans and fruits) are also high in carbs, it is very easy to become magnesium deficient.
Supplementing with magnesium is a simple way to avoid this.
With this in mind, it can help reduce the likelihood of muscle cramps, improve sleep quality, and even reduce irritability — all of which can be symptoms associated when first commencing the ketogenic diet.
What to Look for in a Magnesium Supplement?
When looking for a key magnesium supplement, your best bet is magnesium malate – a specific type of magnesium supplement that has been combined with malic acid.
Malic acid is a naturally occurring substance that actually aids in the production of energy during exercise. Interestingly, this unique acidic compound is also absorbed into the human body extremely easily.
As such, magnesium malate offers you the perfect way to supplement magnesium, as it greatly enhances its bioavailability and effectiveness.
Does Magnesium Have any Side Effects?
As far as supplements go, magnesium is one of the safest on the planet – however, if you consume too much of it can result in some side effects. These may include:
- A reduction in blood pressure
Moreover, people with intestinal disease, heart disease, kidney disease, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should not take a magnesium supplement before speaking with their health care provider
What’s the Optimal Dosage of Magnesium?
The recommended daily intake of magnesium for an adult female is around 350mg per day, while for males its around 420mg. With this in mind, using supplements that provide these recommended dosages is your best option.
Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of fat is are found naturally occurring in healthy oils (such as coconut oil). MCTs have made a bit of splash within the health industry of late, because they are actually metabolised differently to the long-chain triglycerides (LCT) found in most other foods.
You see, because of their shorter length, MCTs are broken down and absorbed into the body at an extremely rapid rate – after which, they are transported immediately to the liver.
Once they have arrived at the liver, these MCTs are immediately broken down for energy (which as we know, results in the production of ketones).
How Does MCT Oil Help the Ketogenic Diet?
Supplementing with MCT oil can rapidly help facilitate the positive effects of the ketogenic diet as they can rapidly increase your fat intake. In doing so, they have the ability to increase fat metabolism within the body, which increases ketone production, thus helping you stay in ketosis.
As an added bonus, MCT Oil has also been shown to enhance feelings of fullness, which enhances the weight loss effects of the ketogenic diet.
What to Look for in an MCT Oil Supplement?
First and foremost, MCT Oil derived from coconut oil specifically is arguably our best option. This ensures it is of a high quality and is full to the brim with medium chain triglycerides – which is imperative for those looking to enhance the impact of their ketogenic diet through MCT Oil supplementation.
As far as type of MCT oil supplement goes, we strongly recommend either MCT oil powder, or MCT oil capsules, as these are easy to take and offer practically zero side effects in completely healthy individuals.
Does MCT Oil Have Any Side Effects?
MCT oil powder is extremely safe for the vast majority of the population. However, in some individuals with extremely sensitive stomachs they may still result in certain side effects, including:
- Stomach discomfort
Furthermore, there is no real research surrounding the use of MCTs during pregnancy or during times of breast-feeding. As a result, we would recommend you err on the side of caution and avoid supplementation during these times.
And finally, MCTs should not be taken by individuals suffering from any form of liver disease.
What’s the Optimal Dosage of MCT Oil?
There is currently no recommended dosage for MCT oil, although it appears that servings of anywhere between 2 and 14 grams of pure MCT per day is enough to help you get into ketosis.
As such, we recommend you start your first week at 2-4 grams per day, and slowly increase by 2 grams per week until you are at a dosage of around 10 grams per day.
Krill oil is a specific supplement that come from Krill – a small crustacean that looks a lot like a shrimp. Krill oil contains an abundance of the two key Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA.
While it is very similar to fish oil in its fatty acid composition, there is recent research to suggest that krill oil actually has far more potent antioxidant properties than fish oil – suggesting that it may be even more beneficial for health.
How Does Krill Oil Help the Ketogenic Diet?
Western diets are typically quite higher in omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in high amounts in foods like vegetable oils and fried junk food. As a result, this same diet also tends to be lower in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in high amounts in fish.
Interestingly, an imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids has been shown to lead to inflammation and an increased risk of disease and illness.
With this in mind, krill oil supplements can be seriously beneficial for those on the ketogenic diet, as they ensure the maintenance of a healthy fatty acid ratio.
Moreover, there is research demonstrating that those individuals following a ketogenic diet who also supplement with krill oil experience larger improvements in health – which was represented by greater decreases in blood cholesterol, improved insulin resistance, and reductions in inflammation.
What to Look for in a Krill Oil Supplement?
Krill oil that has been obtained from harvesting Atlantic Krill specifically are often considered the most health positive, as these krill exhibit high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Moreover, those that provide around 1000mg each serve have been shown to be extremely effective.
Does Krill Oil Have Any Side Effects?
The most common side effects of krill oil are typically gastrointestinal in nature. These may include:
- Stomach discomfort
- Decreased appetite
Additionally, not much is known about the use of krill oil during pregnancy, or during times of breast-feeding. As such, we would recommend staying on the safe side and avoiding use in these scenarios.
What’s the Optimal Dosage of Krill Oil?
There is currently no established dosage of krill oil, however 1000mg per day appears to be safely tolerated in the vast majority of the population, while also being potent enough to provide all the associated health benefits for those on the ketogenic diet.
Vitamin D is one of the many essential nutrients that the human body needs to survive and thrive on a daily basis.
With this in mind, vitamin D is absolutely essential for numerous bodily functions, including assisting in the absorption of calcium – a key nutrient that is often lacking in the food promoted on the ketogenic diet.
Additionally, vitamin D also plays an important role supporting the function and efficiency of your immune system, regulating normal cellular growth and repair, managing bone health and bone mineral density, and assisting in lowering harmful inflammation.
How Does Vitamin D Help the Ketogenic Diet?
Similar to magnesium, supplementing with Vitamin D ensures that you have adequate amounts of the nutrient available within your body at all times.
As vitamin D deficiency is increasingly common in individuals following the ketogenic diet, its supplementation offers an excellent way to ensure optimal bone health and immune system function.
What to Look for in a Vitamin D Supplement?
Vitamin D supplements are actually very common – which is ultimately due to the fact that its supplementation can have some seriously positive effects throughout the body. Unfortunately, this also means that it can be purchased in a variety of different forms.
Considering this, the best Vitamin D supplement available (in our opinion) is Vitamin D3 – which is also known as cholecalciferol.
Vitamin D3 is absorbed extremely easily into the body and is readily available for use once in the body. This makes it the most effective and efficient means of supplementing with vitamin D.
Does Vitamin D Have any Side Effects?
While supplementing with Vitamin D is for the most part a very good thing, too much vitamin D is not a good thing – in which it can result in the following side effects:
- Kidney stones
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Frequent urination
What’s the Optimal Dosage of Vitamin D?
The US Institute of Medicine have suggested that that a daily intake of 400–800 IU is acceptable for most of population . However, there is also some evidence to suggest you need to take more if you aren't being exposed to sun very often (as sun exposure increases Vitamin D production in the body).
One study has also shown that a daily intake of 1120–1680 IU is completely safe, and can ensure optimal levels are maintained within the body without regular sun exposure.