One of the questions that many people have when considering following a low carb diet is whether or not it is possible to still remain active, and keep energy levels high.
It’s true that making an adjustment from a ‘normal’ diet (which, let’s face it, is normally one that is high in sugar and carbohydrates) can cause a shock to the system, as the body adjusts to a mode where we burn fat for fuel instead of energy.
It is normal to feel at least some level of lethargy as our bodies get into ketosis – and this is certainly nothing to worry about.
The good news is that there are a number of different health supplements on the market that are suited to a low-carb diet and can help with energy levels, boost performance, and give you the vital nutrients that you need when following a restrictive diet.
Let’s take a look at some of these.
Taurine is thought to amplify the effects of insulin, allowing for more efficient utilization of carbohydrates, which means that better performance can be achieved when exercising in a carbohydrate depleted state – which is what we are most certainly aiming for when following a ketogenic diet. This is backed up by study by Lampson, Kramer and Schaffer (1983) in which Taurine was revealed to stimulate glycolysis.
Other purported benefits of taking taurine are that it can help to improve both athletic performance and mental performance, as well as treating heart-failure and liver disease.
Cold-water fish such as salmon and cod provide the best food sources of taurine, but if you want to make sure you’re getting enough taurine, then consider taking it in supplement form.
Recommended Supplement: Thorne Research – Taurine (500mg) 90 Capsules
Branched Chain Amino Acids (or BCAAs)
It is not uncommon to experience some lean muscle loss when following a low-carb, ketogenic diet. This is due to the lack of glucose in your body, inhibiting the uptake of amino acids – and therefore slowing muscle recovery and repair.
Taking branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) helps to slow down the process of muscle breakdown. This is because they appear rapidly in the bloodstream after consumption (as the enzymes responsible for their breakdown are low in our bodies). This means that our muscles are exposed to high concentrations very rapidly, ‘flooding’ the tissues and ultimately stalling muscle breakdown and stimulating muscle synthesis.
Also, when taken prior to a fasted exercise session (like you might do when you want to kick-start ketosis), it is widely purported that BCAAs may improve utilization of stored fatty acids as fuel.
Recommended Supplement: Optimum Nutrition BCAA Capsules
Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil, or Coconut Oil
MCT oil, unlike other dietary fats, is utilized almost immediately after consumption – similar to the way that sugar is. This makes MCT oil a great supplement to take when you are adjusting to a low-carb, ketogenic diet – because it provides your body with a much-needed energy boost, especially during periods of high-intensity training.
You can take 2 or 3 tablespoons of MCT oil half an hour before you work out – either by itself, or as part of a cup of Bulletproof Coffee. This will aid with energy and performance levels while you exercise, and will make the transition into ketosis a little easier, as you will be less likely to ‘burn out’ during periods of exertion.
Recommended Supplement: Nature’s Way Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil
When you begin your low-carb, ketogenic diet, aside from shedding stored carbohydrate, your body will also start to excrete water and sodium. As a result of this, your blood pressure can drop – and this can add to the feeling of fatigue that is most commonly attributed to the lack of carbohydrate in your diet.
Light-headedness and malaise are common ‘side-effects’ that can occur, so it is important to ensure you are consuming adequate amounts of sodium. This can be done by monitoring your food intake more carefully – but for an easier alternative you could try taking electrolyte capsules each day.
Recommended supplement: SaltStick Caps Electrolyte Replacement Capsules
Low-Carb Protein Powder
Protein shakes are pretty much a staple for anyone training or doing regular exercise, particularly if the primary aim is to build muscle. The problem for low-carb dieters when it comes to protein powders, however, is the fact that many of the varieties on the market contain high levels of carbohydrate – usually in the form of sugars and flavourings to make the shakes taste better.
Choosing a low-carb protein powder is crucial if you want to maintain a state of ketosis, so it’s imperative that you check the nutritional information on the pack before purchasing a protein powder.
Look for a protein powder that yields a high amount of protein per portion (or ‘scoop). This can be calculated by using the following equation:
(Grams of Protein Per Scoop x 100) / Serving Size
So – a protein powder that contains 20g of protein per 29g scoop, would give a 69% yield.
This is an important thing to consider when choosing a protein powder for a low-carb diet – because it means the remaining 31% is made up of ‘other’ ingredients (bulking agents, additives, flavourings and carbohydrates).
The best way to ensure you’re getting a good quality protein powder is to choose one with a high protein yield (anything above 75% is usually considered to be pretty decent quality), and a low carbohydrate amount per serving (typically less than 2.5g).
Recommended Supplement: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein
It is perfectly acceptable to get all of the vitamins your body needs from low-carbohydrate foods. However, this can be difficult if you don’t research your foods and then plan your meals thoroughly (which not many of us do).
Taking multivitamins ensures that you do not drop below the recommended levels of vitamins that our bodies need to function properly. While short-term nutrient deficiencies won’t harm your health (many of us do not get all of the proper nutrients we need every single day even when we aren’t following a low-carb diet), taking a multivitamin supplement every day is a simple way to ‘cover all bases’ and ensure you’re getting the right vitamins in your diet.
Recommended Supplement: Nutri-Align Low-Carb Multivit
Do you supplement your ketogenic diet with any of those listed above? If so – we’d love to hear about your experiences.
Please feel free to leave a comment below!