For years, fat and salt have been wrongly demonized, while sugar has been over-consumed. However, salt is an essential electrolyte that helps nerve conduction and maintains balance in the fluids that surround cells. When following a ketogenic diet, the body uses fat from the diet and body fat instead of glucose as its primary energy source. This leads to lower insulin production, which in turn causes the kidneys to release more water and electrolytes.
This can lead to side effects such as headaches, drowsiness, low energy levels, irritability, muscle cramps, nausea and constipation. Fortunately, there are many forms of magnesium supplements available on the market, such as magnesium glycine, magnesium citrate and topical magnesium. Magnesium glycinate is magnesium bound to glycine, making it easier to digest. Magnesium citrate comes in powder form and is taken mixed with water.
Topical magnesium is massaged into the skin, completely avoiding the need for digestion. In addition to magnesium supplements, other supplements such as medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and omega-3 fatty acids can increase the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet and help people achieve their desired fat ratio. As the ketogenic diet eliminates many different foods, supplements can be used to fill any nutritional gaps. Magnesium, electrolytes and fiber may be especially important.
Certain supplements such as electrolytes, digestive enzymes and L-theanine can help minimize symptoms caused by the ketogenic diet. MCT oil is a type of fatty acid found in coconut oil that is metabolized by the liver into a fuel source. It can be taken alone or mixed with food or smoothies. A standard dose is 1 teaspoon; however, a higher starting dose can cause diarrhea. Magnesium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that is abundant in the body and needed for many processes such as food metabolism, nerve signal transmission, fluid balance and maintaining bone and muscle health.
While some ketogenic foods are high in magnesium, other magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, beans and dairy products are eliminated from the diet. If a person doesn't get enough magnesium from food while following the ketogenic diet, they may need a supplement. A supplement may also be beneficial for those suffering from constipation. Studies suggest that many people are at high risk of suffering from a magnesium deficiency due to chronic diseases, medications and decreased levels of magnesium in food crops. If diarrhea does not occur when taking a supplement, the dose can be gradually increased up to 400 mg per day unless advised otherwise by a doctor. As the body adapts to a ketogenic diet, it can excrete more water which can lead to an imbalance in electrolytes including magnesium, potassium, chloride, phosphorus and sodium.
Taking an electrolyte supplement can help rebalance these minerals; however it's important to read labels to make sure they are not consuming too many of these minerals. Fiber is an indigestible part of plant foods that is important for keeping the digestive system healthy. While some ketogenic foods contain fiber such as nuts, seeds, avocados and leafy greens; if a person focuses on meat, seafood, eggs and dairy products they may not get enough fiber on the ketogenic diet. Fiber supplements may be helpful if people become constipated while following the ketogenic diet; however they should look for a ketogenic formula that doesn't contain sugar. It's also important to drink plenty of water which helps digestion work smoothly; taking fiber supplements without adequate water intake could worsen constipation. Eating enough omega-3 can have health benefits such as helping to prevent weight gain; however omega-6 is found in many conventionally raised grain-fed meats and some vegetable oils such as corn and cottonseed oil. If a person on the ketogenic diet doesn't eat grass-fed meat or seafood they may want to consider taking an omega-3 supplement which vary in dosage and source. People taking medications that affect blood clotting should consult a doctor before using omega-3 supplements; people who are allergic to fish or seafood should avoid supplements that contain fish oil or krill oil.