I’m getting an increasing number of questions about exogenous ketones. Are they good? Do they work for performance? Is there a dose-response curve? If I’m fasting, can I consume them without “breaking” the fast? Am I in ketosis if my liver isn’t producing ketones, but my BOHB is 1.5 mmol/L after ingesting ketones? Can they “ramp-up” ketogenesis? Are they a “smart drug?” What happens if someone has high levels of both glucose and ketones? Are some products better than others? Salts vs esters? BHB vs AcAc? Can taking exogenous ketones reduce endogenous production on a ketogenic diet? What’s the difference between racemic mixtures, D-form, and L-form? What’s your experience with MCTs and C8?
Your body is trained to use glucose as its main energy source, but when you decrease your consumption of carbs, your body turns to another source of energy that is naturally produced by our own bodies--fat. Therefore, a great way to lose weight faster is to consume low-carb fruits, vegetables and other food that are specially designed for a low-carb diet.
We will go deep in the science behind this fascinating diet and then review some of the best exogenous ketone supplements out there in the market. Because without the knowledge and the right information about exogenous ketones that you can properly follow, you might never reach your goals and you may as well keep eating that mashed potato for dinner and club sandwich for lunch.
If you’re wondering how to get into ketosis in 24 hours, and whether it’s even possible with such a short turnaround time, then combining a keto diet with intermittent fasting is a must. I am a massive advocate of not only the ketogenic diet but also the practice of daily fasting – I swear by it! It’s not for everyone as it does require a lot of discipline to pull off. But if you can commit to it, the benefits in my opinion are well worth it. So you may be wondering what intermittent fasting is? Well, it’s the practice of performing a daily fast from food and (caloric) drinks for at least 16 hours of the day.
For whatever reason, many patients won’t attempt a ketogenic diet—even if the evidence is clear that it could help. Doctors are often hesitant to recommend dramatic dietary shifts—even if they believe in their efficacy—to patients who are already dealing with difficult health issues. If you’ve got a picky kid with epilepsy, a pickier adult with Alzheimer’s, or a cancer patient who refuses to give up the familiar-yet-non-ketogenic foods that give him some small manner of comfort in this trying ordeal, exogenous ketones could make a big difference.
Consuming exogenous ketones isn't the same as following a ketogenic diet–the ketones in the blood haven't been naturally produced by the breakdown of fat stores. However, scientists believe many of the health benefits of the keto diet and fasting (aside from weight loss) are triggered by ketones. Therefore, raising ketone levels through either endogenous or exogenous ketosis could help to improve health and performance by:
Although several studies have linked calcium supplementation with an increased risk of heart attack and heart disease, other studies have not found the same association. For example, a study on calcium supplementation (1000 mg/day) in postmenopausal women indicated a reduced risk of hip fracture, but no increase in cardiovascular disease or mortality in the supplement group, compared to the placebo group. Another study found no effect from calcium supplementation (600 or 1200 mg/day) on abdominal aortic calcification.
After a minimal amount of internet "research," I decided to try my first exogenous ketones. I have used the ketogenic diet off and on for at 15 years and my body is pretty efficient at fat adapting. (Usually by the end of 2 strict days, I am in ketosis, but not without symptoms and intense cravings.) I can consistently fast from carbs for 20 - 24 hours and do this consistently. However, around hour 20, my mind begins to negotiate that intermittent fasting is advantageous too and that I can afford to have some carbs once a day. Hence the yo-yo effect.
Again, there are very interesting animal studies plus some single case reports and small uncontrolled trials of humans with neurodegenerative disease and cancer given ketogenic diets and/or exogenous ketones (Murray 2016, Poff 2015, Roberts 2017, Newport 2015, Cunnane 2016). In some cases where the patient does not have the cognitive resources to comply with a well-formulated ketogenic diet, or where target blood levels of BOHB that work in animals are hard to achieve in humans by diet alone, supplemental ketones may have an important role to play in the prevention, management, or reversal of these disease categories.
Possible GI distress (flatulence) at exceptionally high doses – In the studies referenced in this article, exogenous ketones taken in large doses occasionally resulted in GI distress, especially flatulence. However, the cause of this is hypothesized to be due to the fact that ketones were mixed in a milky fluid that wasn’t very palatable. If you’re taking a nominal dose of exogenous ketones the likelihood of GI distress is rather low. Moreover, if some GI distress is prevalent, it should improve as you become accustomed to taking ketones.
Of course, there may be some people who choose to take these supplements because they genuinely do feel they benefit from them. This is of course your choice and this article in no way aims to shame or criticize anybody. However, I do think that, for most people, eating a low-carb diet based on real foods is a lot more likely to be associated with the benefits that the supplements claim to provide than the supplements themselves.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only, it is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by your physician or any other medical professional. You should not use the information contained on this site for diagnosing or treating a health problem, disease, or prescribing any medication. Please read product label before use. Best results are only achieved when combined with diet and exercise program. Results not typical for any or all claims.
No this is wrong. Your body will use your own fat and any fat you eat as fuel. This counts as exogenous ketones. It won’t stop burning your fat. The same logic would say that if eating any fat your fat loss would stall and that is not true. It can help get you back into ketosis because you have certain monocarboxylic acid transporters that are upregulated when ketones are present. The evidence is physiology.
The chart below shows my ketone and glucose response to consuming 40g of KetoneAid’s ketone esters, which had been calculated to be my optimal serving size based on my weight (170lbs) and type of activity (I am moderately active/athletic, but cognitive experiments are a “low” physical activity). Normally, for increased physical performance ketone esters are consumed along with some glucose, but since I was only focusing on cognitive performance I did not consume any glucose.
Other ingredients: Many of the supplements contain large amounts of caffeine – the supplement we tested from Prüvit contains the same amount as a 16 oz cup of coffee! Some supplements also contain malic acid, which is “known for its ability to increase energy and tolerance to exercise”. This leaves the nagging doubt: if the experiment shows an increase in energy and physical performance, for example, how do we know it is the (expensive) BHB causing the effect and not the (inexpensive) other ingredients?
For the ketone esters, on the other hand, repeated doses of 20-30 grams in any one day may be possible. Thus these products may be able to maintain a modest level of ketonemia without dietary carbohydrate restriction. Thus some of the cardiac and brain fueling benefits may follow, not to mention the epigenetic effects limiting oxidative stress and inflammation. But given the recent observation that administered ketone esters markedly reduce circulating free fatty acids (Myette-Cote 2018) — possibly due to an insulin-tropic effect or direct suppression of lipolysis (Taggart 2005) — their sustained use in people with underlying insulin resistance may compromise their long-term benefits by promoting weight gain unless combined with carbohydrate restriction.
Exogenous ketones are becoming more popular as advancements in scientific research continue to show how they work to improve both health and performance. At first, the only options for delivering exogenous ketones were unpalatable ketone esters; however, exogenous ketones can now be taken in the form of ketone mineral salts that are more palatable and easily blended in water. Making ketone mineral salts involves combining beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) with mineral salts such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, or potassium. Before considering whether ketone supplements are a good option, most people immediately look at the salt load, and rightfully so. It is important to take into account the nutritional and health impact of not only the BHB but the minerals that are used to make the product.
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.
In addition to the Weir coefficients being potentially off (which impacts EE), the RQ interpretation may be incorrect in the presence of endogenous or exogenous ketones. As a result, the estimation of fat and glucose oxidation may be off (though it’s directionally correct). That said, the current interpretation seems quite plausible—greater fat oxidation when I had to make my ketones; less when I got my ketones for “free.”
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