Keto supplements are useful tools that can help you get into and stay in ketosis.
I have personally tried keto supplements from all of the categories mentioned below, and found them to be particularly helpful at the beginning of my keto journey — as well as any time my routine changes due to travel or other life events.
The keto supplement market has exploded over the past few years, and there are numerous products to choose from. When I attended Paleo f(x) for the first time in 2019, I felt like every other booth had some sort of keto product to offer.
Keto Supplement Categories
There are tons of keto supplements on the market, but I have found products in the following categories to be the most beneficial.
- Keto Supplement Categories
- Electrolytes (Minerals)
- Keto Shakes & Exogenous Ketones
- MCT Oil
- Protein and Collagen
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Digestive Enzymes
- Green Powders
- Coffee and Tea
- Fiber supplements
- Meal Replacement Drinks
- Supplements to Boost Workout Performance
- Ingredients You Should Avoid
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Conclusion — Keto Supplements
Unfortunately, just because a supplement is labeled “keto friendly” doesn’t always mean it’s healthy. That’s why I highly recommend that you carefully read the label of each product before purchasing it.
Note that supplements, as the name implies, are meant to supplement a healthy dietary lifestyle. Don’t try to use these products to fill gaps in your diet that you could (and should) fix with real food.
That’s why I also include a list of ingredients I usually avoid when purchasing keto products. For a more comprehensive take on the subject, check out my ultimate guide to healthy eating.
Now that you understand what types of supplements can help you on your keto journey and what foods to stay away from, let’s go into more detail about each of the categories mentioned earlier.
One of the two most common mistakes people make when starting a ketogenic diet is failing to maintain proper electrolyte levels. If you don’t get enough sodium, magnesium and potassium from the foods you eat, you might feel crappy and fatigued, have brain fog, experience muscle cramps, or suffer from other classic symptoms of the so-called “keto flu.”
What most people don’t know is that the keto flu is mostly avoidable if you take care of your calorie and electrolyte intake. If you exercise regularly, which I highly recommend, you will likely need even more salts and minerals because you lose them in higher amounts while sweating.
I relied heavily on mineral supplements during the first few weeks of my keto journey. I could always tell, based on how I felt, if I was low on electrolytes.
At some point, I figured out which paleo-friendly and keto-friendly foods have potassium and magnesium, and I also started to use salt more liberally. I have always avoided adding salt to my diet because I was concerned about the health effects of consuming too much sodium.
Only recently have I learned that the government’s daily recommended value of sodium is much too low and based on flawed studies.
So if you eat clean and have a diet with little to no processed food, you’ll have to add salt to your food to support proper cell function. Just make sure to use a quality salt, such as Redmond Real Salt*.
Besides using an electrolyte supplement, you can include the following foods in your diet to increase your magnesium intake:
- Swiss chard
- Pumpkin seeds
Other magnesium-rich foods include:
- Brazil Nuts
- Swiss Chard
I eat avocado almost every day, and spinach is also a staple in our household. If you feel like you’re still short on magnesium, consider a supplement. However, be careful!
Oral magnesium supplements in clinically relevant dosages tend to have a laxative effect, which is why many people take magnesium if they’re constipated. If that’s an issue for you, consider using a product that gets absorbed via the skin.
Keto Shakes & Exogenous Ketones
The primary purpose of the keto diet is to enable your body to use ketones (or ketone bodies) instead of glucose for energy. Ketones are organic molecules that your liver can make from fat if there’s a lack of glucose and insulin in your bloodstream.
The three types of endogenous ketone bodies your body can make during the metabolic process known as ketogenesis are acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone. If you want to learn more about the biochemistry of ketogenesis, check out this article from the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Exogenous ketones aren’t made in your liver. Instead, you can get them from supplements.
Why would you do that?
There are two main reasons why people resort to exogenous ketones:
- They lessen the symptoms of the keto flu
- It makes it easier to get into nutritional ketosis (even if you’re not on a keto diet)
To find out how exogenous ketone bodies work, let’s first understand what type of ketone supplements exist. In a nutshell, there are two common forms of ketone supplements:
- Ketone esters: These are liquid ketones that are chemically bound to esters. These are often used in laboratories and aren’t readily available to consumers.
- Ketone salts: As the name implies, ketone salts are chemically linked to salts, such as sodium, potassium, calcium or magnesium. Most of the exogenous ketone supplements you can find in stores and online are of this type.
How Can You Prevent The Keto Flu?
So how can ketone salts support ketosis and prevent the Keto flu?
If you remember, the keto flu is primarily the result of insufficient calorie intake or an electrolyte imbalance. Keto salts provide the electrolytes your body might be missing. Plus, they provide the fuel (ketones) your body needs for energy. The latter is particularly useful if you haven’t fully transitioned into ketosis yet, or if you’re eating too many carbs and not enough fat.
A word of caution: Studies have shown that supplementing with exogenous ketones can increase your blood ketone levels without being on a ketogenic diet. In my opinion, that’s tricking your body into ketosis, and it misses the point of why you should be doing keto in the first place.
Ketogenic supplements are meant to support an otherwise healthy lifestyle and to help us out when our modern life gets in the way of doing the right thing.
To learn more about exogenous ketones, their benefits and downsides, check out my ultimate guide to keto shakes.
Keep in mind that the body is an incredibly complex machine with thousands of chemical processes working in balance. I have never seen a shortcut — like eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) while supplementing with ketone salts — achieve the desired effects (e.g.,, improved health or weight loss) in the long run.
Still, I used exogenous ketone bodies a lot during my first few weeks on the keto diet, and I highly recommend buying a container from a reputable source before you start your journey.
Oils and powders that consist mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are incredibly popular in ketogenic and low-carb diet circles because your body can use them easily to make ketones and boost brain function.
Why is that?
Some MCTs bypass your digestive tract and go straight to your brain to be used for energy.
Most manufacturers derive MCT oils from coconut oil. Occasionally, some use palm oil.
Each source of fat (including coconut oil) has several types of fatty acids, including four strains of MCTs:
- Caproic acid (C6): Turns into ketones quickly, but can cause an upset stomach — and it tastes terrible.
- Caprylic acid (C8): Has potent antimicrobial properties, and it’s the fastest MCT to metabolize in the brain.
- Capric acid (C10): Slower to metabolize and cheaper to make than C8.
- Lauric acid (C12): Slower to metabolize because it needs your liver’s help.
While we can call all four fatty acids MCTs, they are not equally beneficial from a ketogenic and overall health perspective. Specifically, lauric acid (C12) is the weakest MCT in the group. That’s why it’s essential to look for MCT oils and supplements that contain C8 and C10, instead of C6 and C12.
Considering that MCT oils are often made from coconut, wouldn’t it be easier to eat a spoonful of coconut oil instead? It would surely be less expensive, right?
Did you know that the C stands for carbon and the # indicates the number of carbon atoms a fatty acid has? Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) have fewer than six carbon atoms. Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) have six to 12. And long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs), the most abundant form of saturated fatty acids, have 12 to 21. Technically, MCTs consist of two to three MCFAs, but many people incorrectly use both terms interchangeably.
While you can get all of the above MCTs from coconut oil, it’s critical to understand their concentrations in regular coconut oil:
- Caproic acid (C6): Negligent amounts
- Caprylic acid (C8): *6% of coconut oil
- Capric acid (C10): *9% of coconut oil
- Lauric acid (C12): *50% of coconut oil
As you can see, regular coconut oil has high amounts of the less-effective C12 and only moderate amounts of C8 and C10. That’s why it’s much easier and more effective to use MCT oils that have higher concentrations of C8 and C10.
Protein and Collagen
The general advice is to eat moderate amounts of protein while on the keto diet. Depending on your dietary habits and the amount of exercise you do, that might mean increasing or decreasing your protein intake.
I do CrossFit five times a week and need to provide my body with sufficient protein to grow lean muscle tissue. Except for the amino acids in my pre-workout supplement, I usually get all my protein through my diet. That means pastured meats, seafood, nuts and seeds.
Did you know that collagen is the most abundant protein in the body?
However, my wife and I also regularly use high-quality protein powders, including collagen supplements. Unlike other protein supplements, collagen has an incomplete amino acid profile. However, the body can absorb it incredibly quickly and can use it to repair and build connective tissue in your skin, hair, nails and joints.
Additionally, supplementing with collagen stimulates the body to produce its own collagen, which counters aspects of the natural decline caused by aging.
When picking a protein or collagen supplement, make sure it comes from grass-fed/grass-finished sources and that it was carefully processed so as not to damage its amino acids.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in particular — have numerous scientifically-proven health benefits, including:
- Fight depression and anxiety
- Can improve eye health
- Promote brain health during pregnancy and early life
Natural sources of omega-3 include certain fish, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies. Unfortunately, most of us don’t eat enough seafood, instead opting for foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids.
From a practical perspective, you could consider omega-6 fatty acids to be the antagonist of omega-3. You can find omega-6 fatty acids predominantly in vegetable oils, which is one of the reasons why they are so unhealthy, and you should stay away from them.
While omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, omega-6s are inflammatory and studies have shown that a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio increases the risk of obesity.
Other studies suggest that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 to omega-3 at a ratio of 1:1, compared to the 10+:1 ratio of the modern American diet.
If you suspect an unfavorable omega-3 to omega-6 balance in your diet, try to change your dietary habits and consider supplementing with krill or fish oil. Some studies have shown that people on a keto diet who have supplemented with krill oil experienced improvements in blood lipid (triglycerides), insulin and inflammatory markers.
Many people who start a ketogenic diet think that fruits (and some veggies) are off-limits because of their high sugar content. As a result, you might have trouble getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive.
While it’s true that certain fruits and veggies are better than others when it comes to your blood sugar, based on their so-called glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL), you don’t have to avoid eating them entirely.
Completely cutting out an otherwise healthy food group is one of the classic mistakes some people make when starting a ketogenic diet.
It took me a while to figure out what fruits I could eat without getting kicked out of ketosis. During that time, I supplemented with a high-quality multivitamin product to cover my daily needs.
Your stomach and small intestine use various digestive enzymes to break down food before passing it on to the large intestine.
Did you know that digestion starts in your mouth?
That’s right! Your saliva glands start producing an enzyme called salivary amylase even before you take your first bite.
Lipase helps with the breakdown of lipids (fats), and protease with the breakdown of proteins.
When making radical changes to your diet — like when switching from a high-carb to a high-fat diet — your body might need some time to adjust. To help with that adjustment, you could consider supplementing with certain pancreatic enzymes, such as lipase, protease and trypsin.
In a perfect world, non-starchy vegetables should take up most of the space on your plate. By following that advice, you ensure that you’re getting enough micronutrients (such as polyphenols and fiber) as part of your diet.
Unfortunately, life isn’t always perfect.
I travel a lot and sometimes end up having dinner in places that don’t offer a wide variety of nutritious, organic vegetables. That’s where green powders can help.
Green powders are supplements that provide a dense supply of micronutrients via dozens of individual, primarily plant-based ingredients. Some of these green powders have just a few calories while others can replace a full meal.
Coffee and Tea
The withdrawal symptoms from a high-carbohydrate diet and the keto flu often feel like they suck all the energy out of you. Plus, changes in your dietary habits can often cause an upset stomach.
That’s where coffee and tea can help! Besides caffeine, both coffee and tea are rich in polyphenols, which are plant-based compounds that can positively affect your health and gut microbiota.
I love black coffee and usually enjoy two cups in the morning. My wife adds a homemade paleo-friendly creamer to her coffee because she doesn’t like it black.
If you don’t like the taste of black coffee either, I’ve got great news for you…
…there are plenty of high-fat creamers to choose from that are made with healthy ingredients!
By adding a keto creamer, MCT oil, or grass-fed butter to your coffee, you can quickly increase your fat intake without having to worry about cooking. Alternatively, you can choose from several, ready-to-drink coffee beverages that already have MCT oil as part of the mix. I recently tried some while at Paleo f(x) and loved them.
High-quality tea has so many health benefits that I can’t mention them all in this article. But here are just the most important ones as they relate to the keto diet:
- Suppressed appetite. I’m on an intermittent fasting protocol, and tea helps me to suppress my appetite. Specifically, the catechins in green tea can lower ghrelin levels (which is also known as the hunger hormone).
- Improved gut health and digestion. Tea is prebiotic, which means it can provide fuel for the good bacteria in your gut.
- Sustained energy. Much like coffee, some tea has caffeine. But unlike coffee, tea provides a less of an energy spike, which makes it a more sustainable source of energy.
You can learn more about the importance of getting enough fiber from your diet in this article. Based on scientific research, we believe that our Paleolithic ancestors ate up to 100 grams of fiber per day, which is significantly higher than the current government recommendation of 25 to 30 grams.
If you’re struggling to get enough fiber from keto-friendly sources, you can use fiber supplements while you fine-tune your eating habits.
Meal Replacement Drinks
Sometimes, adding additional electrolytes or protein to your diet isn’t enough, and you have to replace a full meal. That’s where keto meal replacement drinks can come in handy.
I often use meal replacement drinks while traveling, or when I don’t have time to prepare (or access to) a healthy meal. In comparison to keto shakes, meal replacement drinks have enough fat and protein to replace a full meal — or at least a good-sized snack.
To learn more about keto meal replacement drinks and my experience with them, check out this in-depth review.
Supplements to Boost Workout Performance
Some people complain about a lack of performance and general fatigue while working out on the keto diet. That can have numerous causes, including:
- Keto flu
- Carbohydrate withdrawal
If you experience the symptoms of the keto flu, I recommend upping your caloric intake from fat and making sure you’re getting sufficient electrolytes.
Additionally, you should consider supplementing with products that have been scientifically proven to boost your exercise performance. I wrote an in-depth article on that topic if you’re interested.
However, in a nutshell, consider the following types of supplements:
- Individual amino acids (BCAAs, glutamine, beta-alanine, etc.)
Ingredients You Should Avoid
The good news is that virtually none of the keto supplements I have seen contain refined carbs, which are often the primary offenders on my list of unhealthy ingredients.
In a nutshell, I recommend steering clear of the following ingredients:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Sugar alcohols
- Dairy (except for ghee or milk fat)
Want the best results from your keto diet? Learn which supplements will help kick your body into ketosis (and keep it there) — and which ones to stay away from.
Sweeteners and Sugar Alcohols
Unfortunately, you’ll see plenty of artificial and quasi-artificial sweeteners on the ingredient list of many keto products, including Sucralose and erythritol (sugar alcohol). To learn more about why certain sweeteners are detrimental to your health, check out my in-depth analysis of the topic.
Dairy is a staple food of many ketogenic diets. But…
…here is why you should stay away from it:
Dairy has lactose (milk sugar), and a protein called casein. Bovine (cow’s) milk has casein beta A1, which can wreak havoc on your gut microbiota by widening the so-called tight junctions in your gut and allowing toxins and inflammatory compounds to leak into your bloodstream.
As a result, I’d recommend limiting your dairy consumption to milk fat or ghee, which has neither lactose nor casein. Alternatively, you can use goat or camel milk (or cheese). The latter contains casein beta A2, which is much less inflammatory.
From a supplement perspective, whey protein isolate is relatively safe as it contains only trace amounts of lactose.
Of course, always make sure the manufacturer used dairy from grass-fed/finished animals.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have tried to answer most of the questions I frequently hear keto newcomers ask in the article above. However, for the sake of clarity, below is a summary of the most common questions about keto supplements (and their answers).
The answer to this question largely depends on your requirements and dietary needs. However, for my keto journey, I have found electrolytes to be the most helpful, followed by exogenous ketones and fiber.
Supplements, as the name implies, should only support an otherwise healthy dietary lifestyle. As long as you follow that rule, there’s nothing wrong with using them.
I found keto supplements particularly useful in the first few weeks after starting the keto diet, as well as when I’m out of my routine (for example, when I’m traveling).
Like I said above, that depends on your individual circumstances.
If you don’t eat a lot of processed food, chances are you’ll need some extra electrolytes. If you’re new to high-fat eating, you might also benefit from exogenous ketones and MCT oil to get you on the right track to ketosis.
See how you feel, and don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. None of the supplements mentioned above are harmful if you consume them responsibly.
Yes. Based on scientific research, exogenous ketones can raise your blood ketone levels, thus providing your body with a fat-based source of fuel.
Plus, many ketone products include essential minerals that you’ll likely need when starting on a keto diet!
Probably! If you already eat healthily and you continue doing so on keto, you might be OK without supplementation.
However, it’s essential to understand that due to soil depletion and the use of chemicals in the farming industry, many foods are not as nutrient-dense as they were just 100 years ago.
Additionally, if you factor in poor eating habits, chances are that you’re not getting sufficient micronutrients from your diet. Thus, supplementation with a high-quality multivitamin makes sense.
I have written in depth about the need for vitamin and mineral supplements in this article, so check it out if you’d like to learn more.
Conclusion — Keto Supplements
One of the mistakes many people make before starting a keto diet is a lack of preparation.
I started keto after having been on a high-fat/low-carb paleo diet for over three years. The switch to keto was no big deal for me. I just started measuring my ketone levels and cut out a few starchy paleo snacks and fruits. Instead, I introduced healthy keto snacks that better suit my low-carb lifestyle.
However, if you’ve been on a Western diet for the past few years, starting keto might require some preparation to improve your chances of success. Having the right keto supplements can help you on your journey and dramatically improve your results.
It’s also essential to define your goals before you start your journey. My goal with the ketogenic paleo diet is to improve my health and reduce the chance of developing a chronic disease.
Your goals might be more short-term, such as weight loss. Whatever your goals might be, I encourage you to stick to this diet in the long-term and make it a way of life.
What are your favorite keto products and supplements? Let me know by leaving a comment below!