Should I take vitamins or supplements on a ketogenic diet?

By Dr. Stephen Phinney and the Virta Team

It is well known that whole foods should be emphasized over dietary supplements because essential vitamins and minerals found in foods are usually better absorbed than those found in supplements (Lichtenstein, 2005). By nature, the ketogenic diet is best comprised mostly of whole, unprocessed foods that meet most of, if not all your nutritional needs. Thus, if you make the right food choices and eat an appropriate number of calories, you will be at a low risk of nutrient deficiencies.

As for others, here are a few nutrients that deserve attention to ensure you are adequately consuming them (Volek, 2012):

  • Sodium: Unless a person has high blood pressure requiring continued medication, it is recommended to start right out consuming 4-5 grams per day to prevent symptoms of “keto flu”, and then continue this sodium intake as long as you are following a ketogenic diet. You can easily increase your sodium intake by salting your food and drinking 1-2 cups of broth or bouillon.
  • Magnesium: An important mineral for nerve and muscle function that is found in meats, leafy greens and nuts. If you experience any muscle cramps, fatigue, and possibly an abnormal heart rhythm it may be time to add in a magnesium supplement.
  • Potassium: An important mineral that is also an electrolyte, potassium has several functions including maintenance of blood pressure, fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve function. While potassium is notably found in bananas it is also found in meat, non-starchy vegetables, and avocados! Just be sure to keep the broth/drippings from your meat and to steam veggies rather than boil because potassium (and magnesium) can leach out into the liquid while cooking.
  • Omega-3 Fat: This is an essential fatty acid that is required for normal well-being and function. Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines are great sources of omega-3s, as are omega-3 rich eggs. It is generally recommended to consume fish 3 times a week or 2 omega-3 rich eggs daily. If you do not regularly eat fish or purchase these specialty eggs you may want to consider taking a fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement.

Dr. Phinney on supplements and vitamins on a ketogenic diet


Lichtenstein AH, Russel RM. Essential Nutrients: Food or Supplements? Where Should the Emphasis Be? JAMA. 2005; 294(3):351-358.

Volek JS, Phinney SD.  The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.  2012. PP 78-85.  Beyond Obesity Publishing, Miami FL.   

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  1. Avatar
    Daniel Saunders November 4, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you for all your information and wonderful books. In closely monitoring my food intake I notice that in addition to the minerals listed above I continuously run low on vitamin D levels. I have two other friends who are using your guidelines on a performance level and are having the same problem. Have you run across this before? Do you find the need for vitamin D supplementation?


    1. Avatar

      Many people are low on Vitamin D, particularly people of color or people who don’t get much sun. You can try taking a daily multivitamin to ensure you’re getting enough!


    2. Avatar

      Ask your doctor for a Rx for Vitamin D 50,000
      . You take them once a week. Helped me BIG TIME!


  2. Avatar

    Thanks for sharing such a great blog!! Blog like this will surely help everyone in keeping everyone healthy and fit.


  3. Avatar

    Please do a post on all the things you can do to address Charley horses at night. I am making home made broth, taking keto 1000 and natural calm, multi vitamin, adding salt to everything, including the above supplements, eating green leafy vegetables. I am ready to quit this way of eating.


    1. Virta Health

      Hi Fran, That sounds extremely frustrating. It sounds like you are already familiar with sodium and potassium needs, but I always recommend reading this post for a refresher:

      Also know that there are certain medications, like diuretics, that can cause muscle cramps or charley horses as well.


  4. Avatar

    Dear Sir,

    My names is Alberto, I am a Spanish physicist who recently became interested in nutritional ketosis.

    For many people, the main downside of nutritional ketosis is the increased difficulty to gain muscle mass and produce muscular hypertrophy in a carbohydrate restricted diet.

    Speaking from personal experience, I have found it difficult to gain muscle mass, weighting currently 60 kg and eating 2200 calories per day, at 110 grams of protein and 35 grams of carbohydrate.

    I have found that alpha lipoic acid has very interesting properties in this regard, since it has been found to stimulate glucose uptake via GLUT4 in muscle tissues.

    It seems like the supplement allows the uptake of glucose into muscle cell without need for insulin.

    I was wondering if maybe this effect could be used to increase the carbohydrate allowance of the nutritional ketosis. Maybe by means of the supplement 70 grams of carbohydrate would be tolerated by anyone, making it more easy to gain muscle under ketosis. I am thinking of self experimenting by taking 60 grams of carbohydrate in the form of boiled potatoes 3 hours and a half before a work out, together with 300 mg of alpha lipoic acid. This should direct the glucose to the muscle cells, without knocking the body out of ketosis.

    I am sharing this just in case you find it interesting or decide to further research on the value of the supplement for nutritional ketosis. Another use would be inducing ketosis in the initial stage of the diet.

    The supplement is unexpensive and extremely safe for human consume, as has been shown many times. The toxic dose is very high.

    Thank you in advance for your reply!

    Kind regards,


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