The blood levels of BOHB that can be achieved with the salts or ester formulations are in the 1-3 mM range, similar to what can be achieved with a well-formulated ketogenic diet in insulin sensitive humans, but well below levels achieved after a 4-7 days of total fasting (Owen 1969). In more insulin resistant humans, the ester formulation may deliver higher blood levels than a sustainable diet (as opposed to short term fasting). For example, in the Virta IUH Study of over 200 patients with type 2 diabetes, blood ketone mean levels were 0.6 mM at 10 weeks and 0.4 mM after 1 year.
Though research involving ketone supplements is still in the early stages, it seems promising. One study published in February 2018 in Obesity suggests exogenous ketone esters lower hunger hormones and act as appetite suppressors. That can lead to weight loss because “if we don’t feel hungry, gosh, we probably aren’t going to eat like we were,” Griffin says.
Taking exogenous ketones not only eliminates the need to follow a strict ketogenic diet to achieve ketosis (so you can have your high carb cake and eat it too), it can also help users get there faster. “They can expedite the process of getting into ketosis and becoming fat adapted,” Davis explains. “They can also help people push past the keto flu and potentially experience more mental energy and clarity than from diet alone.”
I had the chance to interview Dr. Ryan Lowery, Ph.D. about this in person. He performs some (not peer-reviewed) research on different brands of ketone salts and is listed as one of the “specialists” on Prüvit’s website. He suggested that we had perhaps ran the tests too long after the supplements were taken, stating that blood ketones tend to peak at 30 minutes. This is, however, not what Prüvit themselves state in their article on the 59-minute test, or the promise to reach ketosis in 60 minutes on the Kegenix Prime packaging. Plus, do you really want to spend up to $390/month on a product that gives you the benefits of ketosis for half an hour?
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Methods and Results: In the first study, 15 participants consumed KE or KS drinks that delivered ~12 or ~24 g of βHB. Both drinks elevated blood D-βHB concentrations (D-βHB Cmax: KE 2.8 mM, KS 1.0 mM, P < 0.001), which returned to baseline within 3–4 h. KS drinks were found to contain 50% of the L-βHB isoform, which remained elevated in blood for over 8 h, but was not detectable after 24 h. Urinary excretion of both D-βHB and L-βHB was <1.5% of the total βHB ingested and was in proportion to the blood AUC. D-βHB, but not L-βHB, was slowly converted to breath acetone. The KE drink decreased blood pH by 0.10 and the KS drink increased urinary pH from 5.7 to 8.5. In the second study, the effect of a meal before a KE drink on blood D-βHB concentrations was determined in 16 participants. Food lowered blood D-βHB Cmax by 33% (Fed 2.2 mM, Fasted 3.3 mM, P < 0.001), but did not alter acetoacetate or breath acetone concentrations. All ketone drinks lowered blood glucose, free fatty acid and triglyceride concentrations, and had similar effects on blood electrolytes, which remained normal. In the final study, participants were given KE over 9 h as three drinks (n = 12) or a continuous nasogastric infusion (n = 4) to maintain blood D-βHB concentrations greater than 1 mM. Both drinks and infusions gave identical D-βHB AUC of 1.3–1.4 moles.min.
MCT oil is extracted primarily from coconut oil, and derives unique benefits from its shorter fatty acid chain length. Most dietary fat contains 12 carbons in the fatty acid chain, while MCTs are only 6 - 12 carbon chains in length. Shorter chain length allows for easier absorption and rapid conversion to energy in the liver, specifically caprylic (C8) and capric (C10).
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.
Caveat emptor: the following post doesn’t come close to answering most of these questions. I only document my experience with BHB salts (and a non-commercial version at that), but say little to nothing about my experience with BHB esters or AcAc esters. But it will provide you will some context and understanding about what exogenous ketones are, and what they might do for athletic performance. We’ll likely podcast about the questions and topics above and cover other aspects of exogenous ketones in more detail.
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