Take It or Leave It?
With the start of the new year, many people are trying keto for the first time, or coming back to the lifestyle after a break. It’s important to understand how nutritional ketosis really works, so you aren’t influenced by marketing from companies that only want to profit from your decision.
If you are hearing lots of talk about supplements that promise to accelerate the transition to ketosis and help you lose weight faster, read on. Be especially cautious about trusting these brands with your budget, and your health. While some nutritional supplements provide added benefits, most are not essential, and they can be expensive to purchase on a regular basis. A meal plan that is low in net carbs and focuses on fresh whole foods, plus some added electrolytes, is about all you need to experience success with the keto way of eating.
Here is our point of view on whether you should “take it or leave it” for six of the most popular types of supplements that come up in keto conversations:
- Exogenous Ketones (BHB)
- Collagen Peptides (Hydrolyzed Collagen)
- Electrolytes (Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium)
- MCT Oil and MCT Oil Powder
- Generic Multivitamins
- Protein Powders & Meal Replacement Shakes
Exogenous Ketones (BHB)
Exogenous ketone supplements, produced as ketone esters or ketone salts, can provide your body with pure ketones or the building blocks to make ketones. They are called “exogenous” because they come from outside the body, as opposed to “endogenous” ketones, which are produced inside the body in response to your macronutrient intakes.
Many people who are new to keto assume they need to take a ketone supplement to experience success. Although these products can increase your ketone levels temporarily, this doesn’t necessarily mean faster weight loss. The goal of nutritional ketosis is to teach your body how to burn stored body fat for fuel. By restricting carbohydrate intake, your body will make the ketones it needs naturally, without supplementation. We recommend logging your food and following your personal macros, as recommended by Senza’s built-in Macro Calculator.
Remember that slow and steady progress is the goal; instead of chasing ketones, chase results.
The verdict: Leave it
Leave the ketone supplements to athletes who are trying to optimize performance, and save your money to spend on high-quality, whole foods instead.
- Ketone Supplements: The Pros and Cons
- Nutritional Ketosis with Ketogenic Diets or Exogenous Ketones: Features, Convergence, and Divergence
- The Effects of a 6-Week Controlled, Hypocaloric Ketogenic Diet, With and Without Exogenous Ketone Salts, on Body Composition Responses
- Comparison of Ketogenic Diets with and without Ketone Salts versus a Low-Fat Diet: Liver Fat Responses in Overweight Adults
- On the nutritional and therapeutic effects of ketone body D-β-hydroxybutyrate
Collagen supplements have gained popularity over the past few years - and with good reason. Collagen has a unique combination of amino acids that make up the structural components of our bodies, including hair, skin, nails, joints, bones, tendons, and even the lining of your gut.
Collagen supplements can be derived from the bones and tendons of chicken, fish, beef, or just about any other animal. Traditionally, people consumed collagen in bone broths, but in modern times, it has been isolated and processed into powders and capsules. This processing allows us to enjoy the benefits of collagen in a tasteless and odorless supplement that mixes well with most liquids. Collagen also lends a flour-like texture to keto baking recipes, such as grain-free mug cakes and biscuits.
Protein is critical for maintaining and building muscle mass and also helps you feel full, but many people find it difficult to hit their target each day. For these reasons, many people benefit from taking a collagen supplement periodically. It can help to boost your protein intake, while also providing a unique amino acid profile that you won’t find in pure muscle meats or other protein sources.
Bone broth remains one of the best sources of collagen. You can make your own with a simple list of ingredients, and this also will help with electrolyte balance. However, when you’re on the go, looking for a tasteless protein boost, or wanting an easy add-in to smoothies or soups, collagen powder is useful to have in your keto pantry.
Collagen shouldn’t be used as a replacement for whole food protein sources like meat, seafood, and eggs, but only to enhance an already protein-rich diet. Look for brands that do not contain additives, fillers, or sweeteners. Perfect Keto, Ancient Nutrition, and Bulletproof are a few of our personal favorites (no affiliation to Senza).
The verdict: It depends…
If you’re not a fan of bone broth, or you’d like to do some keto-friendly baking, consider keeping a collagen supplement in the pantry.
- Benefits of Keto Collagen: Understanding Keto Diet Supplements
- Myths and media in oral collagen supplementation for the skin, nails, and hair: A review
- Daily oral supplementation with collagen peptides combined with vitamins and other bioactive compounds improves skin elasticity and has a beneficial effect on joint and general wellbeing
- Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance
Electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium
Are you familiar with the keto flu? Some of the most common side effects of switching into ketosis are flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness, disrupted sleep, and body aches. Although these problems most often happen during the transition to ketosis, electrolyte imbalance can strike at any time, even well into the keto journey.
So what exactly are electrolytes? Our bodies need certain minerals to regulate metabolism. When we transition to fat-burning mode after previously being in a sugar-burning mode, the body releases a significant amount of retained water, which flushes out key minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
Theoretically, these electrolytes can be found in many fresh foods, but the reality is that due to the way modern food is grown actual micronutrient levels vary widely from reported amounts. Following the advice of keto experts at Virta Health and elsewhere, we advise Senza users to take in the following amounts per day, from a combination of food and supplements:
- Sodium: 5000 mg (In addition to salting your food generously, have a cup of salty bone broth or an all-in-one supplement daily. The right amount of salt intake varies by the individual; talk to your doctor if you have hypertension or other medical conditions before increasing sodium.)
- Potassium: 4000 mg (Try to get most of your potassium from food, and follow potassium supplement guidelines carefully, as too much can cause big problems; note that potassium supplements may be contraindicated for high blood pressure, kidney disease, and other medical conditions. Consult with your doctor.)
- Magnesium: 400mg (Note, since most people are deficient in this mineral, it’s best to take a supplement. Magnesium comes in various forms. Malate or glycinate generally are more absorbable than citrate.)
You can track and monitor daily sodium and potassium intake in Senza Trends. (Since so few companies include magnesium on their nutrition labels, we don’t track this or other micronutrients because it would be a misleading indicator of your overall intake.)
Several companies make all-in-one electrolyte brands specifically formulated for keto. Our favorites include Redmond Re-Lyte, available on Planet Keto, Keto Vitals, and Ultima Replenisher. Or you can check out our homemade electrolyte recipe! Whatever you do, avoid products that contain sugar, aspartame, maltitol, or acesulfame k.
The verdict: Take it
Track and supplement electrolytes, so you can avoid the keto flu.
- Why you need electrolytes on keto
- How to avoid the keto flu
- Do you need electrolyte supplementation on a low-carb or keto diet?
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, a special type of fat that the body can turn into ketones quickly, giving you an energy boost. Pure MCT oil is an odorless, tasteless oil derived from coconut or palm oil. Several companies now offer it as a powder or capsule, sometimes blended with collagen. Many people experiment with mixing MCT into their keto coffee drinks, and this can be a convenient source of nutrition while traveling, before workouts, and as a way to extend a fasting window. That said, these supplements are relatively pricey and not essential to your success with the keto way of eating. If you do decide to try MCT, remember that it’s best to start with a very small amount, as too much can cause an upset stomach.
The verdict: Leave it, for now.
Do you need a multivitamin to make up for your reduced intake of high-carb fruits and veggies? The truth is, most multivitamins contain artificial and synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals that are not readily absorbed by the body and end up getting excreted. This makes for some expensive urine!
Contrary to popular belief, you can get a variety of essential vitamins and minerals from keto-friendly foods, including red meat, organ meats, eggs, shellfish, cold water fish like salmon and sardines, dark leafy green vegetables (if grown in nutrient-rich soil), berries, butter, and coconut oil - to name just a few.
“But wait,” you say, “I’ve always heard that fruits and veggies are the best source of nutrients! How can meat, seafood and eggs possibly compare?” Don’t be fooled by plant-based rhetoric, as these ideas do not account for:
- Decline in soil quality due to industrial farming practices: Pesticides, herbicides, and conventional fertilizers used on row crops compromise nutrient density.
- Bioavailability: Can your body actually use the reduced levels of vitamins that are contained in conventionally raised plants?
- Antinutrients: Can your body tolerate the defensive mechanisms inherent in plants that cause inflammation in the body?
If you’re curious or concerned about micronutrient deficiencies, the best strategy is to get tested, and then address the issue(s) with nutrient-dense foods and specific vitamins and minerals from a trusted brand. Nordic Naturals, Thorne Research, and Pure Encapsulations are a few of the brands we use from time to time at Senza HQ.
Desiccated organ capsules, made by companies like Heart & Soil and Ancestral Supplements, are another way to address micronutrient concerns. These options are more expensive than your average multivitamin but much more effective in addressing gaps in nutrition from food.
So when it comes to conventional multivitamin supplements that you find in the big box stores, save your money for nutrient-dense foods and only buy high-quality vitamins if you’re lacking in something specific.
The verdict: Leave it
Forget the grocery store multi and take high-quality, single-nutrient supplements from a trusted brand, when needed.
- Don’t Waste Money On Multivitamins – Eat Liver Instead
- 9 tips to help you choose a quality supplement by “ingredientologist” Shawn Wells
Protein Powders & Meal Replacement Shakes
Protein is the most important macronutrient and the only target you want to hit each day. But it’s best to source your protein mainly from whole foods like meat, eggs, fish, dairy, and nuts - not from lots of protein powder supplements or meal replacement shakes. Protein supplements do not have the same makeup of fats and minerals that facilitate absorption in the body, and many of these products contain hidden ingredients like artificial sugars, preservatives and even vegetable oils, all of which can slow your progress with keto.
One case where you may want to experiment with a pure, unflavored whey powder is for low-carb baking projects, such as these Soul Bread Sesame Rolls by keto blogger, Carolyn Ketchum. Whey protein powder gives a similar texture to flour when making grain-free breads.
The verdict: Leave it
If you need an occasional protein boost, try a scoop or two of collagen, but make it the exception rather than the rule.
Are you curious about other types of supplements that are recommended for keto or wellness in general? Send us a message in the coaching window of the Senza app.
Content provided by Senza is not medical advice. It is intended for informational and educational purposes only.