Going keto may sound easy; just stock your kitchen with pounds of bacon, pyramids of avocados, and a fridge full of heavy cream, and you'll have all the fat you need to go keto—at least for this week. Of course, in action, keto is much easier said than done.
To make your transition as smooth as possible, and to help the keto diet support your hard training for the long term, keep calm and keto on with support from these seven staple supplements.
1. Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine is the most extensively studied sports-nutrition supplement available today. Decades of research support its ability to positively impact strength, power, gym performance, and muscle mass.*
That's why everyone should consider taking it, but for keto dieters in particular, it has even more benefits. Because a ketogenic diet is moderate-protein rather than high-protein, your creatine levels may take a hit. This can mean subpar workout results and strength gains, at least compared to what you'd be able to do if your cells were fully stocked!
Dosage: There's no need to load with gargantuan doses to help you through those first weeks. Just take 3-5 grams daily, using a creatine dosage calculator as your guide, at a time most convenient for you.
If you're a coffee drinker, you know how groggy you can feel until you get your first cup. Now imagine feeling that way for days rather than minutes. That's a pretty good description of how many people feel during the first few weeks or "adaptation phase" on a ketogenic diet.
The keto-experienced swear by an extra coffee or caffeinated tea during this period. If training is on your schedule, you can also get your fix through a pre-workout supplement. Caffeine can provide additional benefits such as increased focus and even reduced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).*
Dosage: Caffeine dosage is very personal and based on tolerance. For training and athletic benefits, Krissy Kendall, Ph.D., recommends 150-300 milligrams 30-60 minutes before your workout.
Build Muscle on Keto!
Yes, you can train hardcore and add muscle on a keto diet. Pro bodybuilder and experienced ketogenic dieter Lawrence Ballenger can show you how.
You know that you'll be cutting carbs dramatically on this diet plan, but did you know that reducing carbs also means reducing the amount of fluids and sodium in your system? This combination can be a surefire way to bring on the "keto flu." Ketogenic dieter and bodybuilder Jason Wittrock included lack of electrolytes in his article, "5 Biggest Keto Mistakes" for good reason!
Fortunately, hydration supplements containing both sodium and potassium can help you minimize effects such as headaches, lack of focus, fatigue, and nausea. Catherine Saenz, CSCS, also recommends adding a dissolved bouillon cube or two to your daily diet. "Be careful with added carbohydrates in some brands, though," she warns.
Dosage: It's impossible to give a one-size-fits-all recommendation on something like sodium. A good approach is simply to prioritize it during your adaptation phase by adding electrolytes to most of the water you drink, salting your food, and drinking some broth on most days.
This mineral plays a role in hundreds of enzymatic reactions, including those involved with muscular contraction, protein synthesis, and energy production. And unfortunately, it's one of the most commonly deficient micronutrients for both athletes and the general population.
Crucially, magnesium also helps your body "activate" the vitamin D you get from the sun and supplements. This makes getting enough extra important. And that can be extra difficult on the keto diet.
Dosage: You can get magnesium by eating dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, all of which should be on the menu in your keto meal plan. If you have any doubt whether your intake is sufficient, Saenz recommends supplementing with 310 milligrams of magnesium per day for women and 400 milligrams per day for men.
5. Protein Isolate Powder
Protein powder can still be your post-workout friend if you're going keto, but not every protein will work!
If you opt for a whey protein powder, consider a whey protein isolate, which tends to have fewer carbohydrates than whey protein concentrate. Saenz suggests adding heavy cream or MCT oil to make it even more keto-friendly. You can also choose a meal replacement designed for the ketogenic diet to keep you full and recovering from your workout.
6. Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Ketones have a powerful protein-preserving effect, so a little dietary protein goes a long way. However, there's no doubt that amino acids play important roles in building and maintaining muscle tissue. Especially if you are pursuing keto with weight loss in mind, you should consider sipping fluids high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) during your workout.
Dosage: Be aware that drinking too much BCAA-enriched fluids—or drinking them too frequently—can unintentionally increase your insulin levels, which may jeopardize ketosis. "Keep your intake to 1-2 servings per day and 4-5 grams per workout," recommends Saenz.
7. Greens Supplements
You don't eat enough vegetables. It's that simple. I mean, let's face it, nobody eats enough vegetables, but the lack can be especially glaring when you open the fatty floodgates and embrace keto living. Take an honest look at your dinner plate and tell me I'm not right!
Step one to rectifying this, of course, is to look for ways to get greens in. Toss a handful of spinach into your eggs. Have a low-carb veggie juice with your cheese snack. Eat a salad every day with dinner. And then, consider adding a greens supplement, as well.
No, this isn't a replacement for a well-balanced diet, but plenty of hard-training athletes swear by them for a reason. A scoop in your protein shake makes perfect sense. Don't worry, you'll get used to the color.
Dosage: Greens supplements vary dramatically in dosages, ingredients, and even scoop sizes, so it's impossible to give an accurate one-size-fits-all dosage recommendation. Pick a balanced blend from a reputable company and follow the label directions.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.