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Ketone supplements: are they a groundbreaking boost to a low-carb diet, or should you be wary of the broad claims that companies make about their benefits? In this article you’ll learn all about exogenous ketone supplements and, what’s more, you’ll read about the experiment we ran on the supplements at our head office in Stockholm. How did ketone supplements perform when we put them to the test? Do they work? Read on to find out our verdict!
I think almost everyone agrees with me when I say that the ketogenic diet is probably one of the most complex and difficult eating plans out there. Even when you’re not on a diet or trying to lose weight you still have to bring a lot of attention to detail. Getting into ketosis isn’t as important as we would think, but there are still 5 simple steps we can make to get into a ketotic state.
A common question is why BHB is the go-to ketone body for exogenous ketone supplements. The likely reason is a combination of its efficient conversion into energy and its ease of formulation. In other words, that it is easier to formulate BHB into a nutritional supplement. And the body efficiently converts BHB to acetoacetic acid, which effectively raises blood ketone levels.
Funding. This work supported by an Industrial DPhil Fellowship to BS from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. JM was supported by the EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre and Prize Fellowship; Ref: EP/M508111/1. The funding sources were not involved in the design, conduct or analysis of this study. TΔS Ltd. provided the ketone ester, ΔG®, and NTT DOCOMO Inc. provided the acetone meter for the study.
Keep these studies in mind as your body tries to play tricks on you during your first day of fasting. Even after three days of fasting, health complications are highly unlikely. However, it is important to know about the possible issues that can be caused by fasting. If you choose to incorporate fasting into your daily diet, you typically want to eat every day as well. Occasionally going on a longer period of fasting.
Another important difference between endogenous and exogenous BOHB is that most synthetic BOHB used in dietary supplements is a mixture of the two ‘D’ and ‘L’ isomers, whereas endogenously produced BOHB consists of just the D-isomer. Metabolically, the two isomers are very different, and current published information indicates that most of the energy and signaling benefits of BOHB derive from the D-form. This is potentially problematic because the L-isomers are not metabolized via the same chemical pathways as the D-forms (Lincoln 1987, Stubbs 2017), and it remains unclear whether humans can convert the L-form to the D-form.
The final graph, below, shows the continuous data for only VO2 side-by-side for the 20 minute period. The upper (blue) line represents oxygen consumption under control conditions, while the lower line (red) represents oxygen consumption following the BHB ingestion. In theory, given that the same load was being overcome, and the same amount of mechanical work was being done, these lines should be identical.
To determine the reason for the differences in blood d-βHB concentration, the KE and KS drinks were analyzed for enantiomeric purity. The KE contained >99% of the d-isoform, whereas ~50% of the KS βHB was the l-isoform (Figure (Figure1D).1D). Plasma samples from participants who consumed the high dose KS drink (n = 5) were analyzed to reveal higher l-βHB than d-βHB, the total βHB Cmax being 3.4 ± 0.2 mM (Figure (Figure1E),1E), with a total βHB AUC of 549 ± 19 mmol.min. After 4 h, plasma l-βHB remained elevated at 1.9 ± 0.2 mM; differences in urinary excretion of the two isoforms could not explain this observation as both d- and l-βHB were excreted in proportion to their blood AUCs (Figure (Figure1F).1F). Therefore, in order to determine the time required for l-βHB elimination, a follow-up experiment was undertaken in which subjects (n = 5) consumed 3.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB as KE and KS with hourly blood and breath sample collection up to 4 h, plus additional samples at 8 h and 24 h post-drink. l-βHB was found to be 1.1 ± 0.1 mM at 4 h, and 0.7 ± 0.2 mM after 8 h, but undetectable after 24 h (Figure 1G). Low amounts of d-βHB (0.3 ± 0.1 mM) were present at 24 h, presumably due to endogenous production. Both ketone drinks significantly increased breath acetone concentration, but at a slower rate than blood d-βHB, reaching a peak after 3 h that was twice as high following the KE (87 ± 9 ppm) than the KS (44 ± 10 ppm), suggesting that d-βHB was readily converted to acetone, but l-βHB was not (p < 0.005, Figure Figure1H1H).
Recently, two published studies investigated the effects of ketone salts in athletes (total n = 22).8,9 Performance over a four-minute cycling time-trial and a 150 kJ ( ~11 mins) cycling time trial were compared between ketone salts vs. carbohydrate. In the four-minute trial there was no change in performance, and in the 150 kJ test, performance decreased by 7%. Blood BHB levels peaked at 0.6 and 0.8 mM in these studies.
The way you make an exogenous BHB is by attaching it to some type of other compound (sodium, potassium, calcium, or magnesium) so that your body can process the molecule by cleaving the bond between the salt and the beta hydroxybutyrate. BHB + bound to a salt = BHB salts, which is what most people in the ketosis community call exogenous ketones. There are also things called esters, which are basically unbound BHB molecules. These are really disgusting and cause massive digestive issues, so I like to ignore them until we can produce them in a more appealing way.
BHB Salts and exogenous ketone supplements are literally changing the supplement industry. These products are pretty new and a little more expensive than other supplements. But I’d rather pay for something that works then spend tons of money chasing products that claim to work. One of the most popular ketone supplements is Pruvit’s Keto OS. You can check out our review here.
Skipping breakfast on a keto diet is a popular way to boost ketone levels. Despite the age-old myth that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, research shows that breakfast skipping is not only safe but beneficial. Skipping breakfast causes intermittent ketosis and also suppresses appetite . Make sure your next meal of the day isn't too late in the evening as studies show that eating meals late at night causes weight gain and impairs fat metabolism .
Most people confuse thirst for hunger, and it's crucial to not make that mistake when you're dieting. Try to drink water first before heading to the fridge to get some snacks--you might realize that you're not really hungry at all and you are, in fact, only thirsty. Training yourself to spot the difference between hunger and thirst will help you induce ketosis faster.
Personally, I think it is wise to include a regular carb meal in your diet if you are going to follow a ketogenic diet. Long term ketogenic diets do seem to downregulate your thyroid and metabolism, and a weekly carb meal (or carb day) can help avoid this. The Carb Nite diet by J. Kiefer is a good example of this. And BJJCaveman posted his labs showing how a weekly carb meal helped his thyroid HERE.
Ketosis supplements made in poor quality have proven to lead to side-effects such as constipation and increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in men. Women may also experience amenorrhea or other disruptions to the menstrual cycle. This is why it is essential to know what combination of compounds you are consuming while you are on this very strict diet. The wrong balance can mess with you in the long term and won't give you the results that you are looking for.
BHB isn’t just an energy source for the brain–it has other effects which promote brain health. BHB can trigger the release of chemicals called neurotrophins, which support neuron function and synapse formation. One of these neurotrophins is called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is a protein in the brain associated with cognitive enhancement, alleviation of depression and reduction of anxiety.10
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Medical Disclaimer: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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