There’s debate raging about which dietary tactic is the god particle for making you leaner, faster and healthier. How the ketogenic diet option squares off against the low carb route is vital for understanding the ways in which exogenous ketone supplements work. To get into ketosis the natural way, you need to keep your carb intake low enough for long enough for your body to begin using use fat as fuel. Your liver then converts a portion of that fat into energy molecules called ketones. These work together with glucose as a fuel source, but can actually kick in faster, allowing your body to operate more economically during lengthy, high-energy exercise efforts.


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.

It’s hard to say. Achieving a natural state of ketosis (as in, by eating a ketogenic diet) is thought to be beneficial in the short-term. But experts don’t know the long-term effects, Palumbo says. And some suspect that it could lead to problems like kidney damage or an increased risk for heart disease (and day-to-day keto diet side effects are, at this point, well-documented). Assuming that ketone supplements do work identically to natural ketones, taking them long-term could have similar health effects.
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BS, KC, and PC designed the research studies. BS, PC, RE, SM, and PS carried out the studies. SH provided the gas analyser used in the study on behalf of NTT DOCOMO Inc. BS, MS, and SM analyzed the data and performed statistical analysis in collaboration with JM. BS wrote the paper with help from KC, PC, and OF. KC had primary responsibility for final content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

“Imagining that everyone is going to go on a ketogenic diet is very unlikely. I’ve done it myself, and it is hard as a diet to sustain for a long period of time,” said Verdin. “The interest for us in BHB is [if] can we recapitulate all the beneficial effects that we are seeing from the ketogenic diet simply by administering BHB as a food or as a drug, whatever you want to call it.”
88. Yost T, Erskine J, Gregg T, Podlecki D, Brass E, Eckel R. Dietary substitution of medium chain triglycerides in subjects with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in an ambulatory setting: impact on glycemic control and insulin-mediated glucose metabolism. J Am Coll Nutr. 1994;13(6):615–22. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1994.10718457. [PubMed] [CrossRef]
The protocols carried out in these studies were approved by the the South West Frenchay NHS REC (15/SW/0244) (Study 1) and London Queen's Square REC (14/LO/0288) (Study 2 and 3). The studies were carried out in accordance with the recommendations of the Declaration of Helsinki, apart from pre-registration in a database. All subjects gave written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.
Do I still follow a ketogenic diet? Not anymore. I was strict keto for 12 weeks – enough time to experiment and learn about it. I did enjoy parts (lots of fat!) but I don’t see it as a sustainable way of eating, nor did I benefit from it health or sports performance wise (more on this in an upcoming article). But, I was following a strict keto diet – sans carbs. I think if I were to follow a ketogenic diet AND incorporate a regular carb refeed then the results may be different.
When the results for the supplement and the placebo were within 0.2 (either % or mmol/L) of each other, we classed the supplement as neither “better” nor “worse” than the placebo. We gave a “winning brand” sticker to the brand that scored highest against the placebo for each marker, but not for physical performance, since none of the supplements performed better than the placebo for that marker.

Since beta hydroxybutyrate is transported throughout the body via the blood, the best way to check your true BHB levels is through a blood test. The good news is that you can just use a simple finger prick and an at home method that is very similar to how diabetics check their glucose. The bad news is that it can be pretty expensive. Each strip and time you test can be around $4-6.


Remember how important it is to measure ketone blood levels accurately? Same goes for food tracking. A food tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, provides insight into macronutrient intake and thus the ability to tweak the diet to achieve ketosis. Tracking diet (inputs) and measuring ketones levels (outputs) delivers the best shot at optimizing the keto diet plan.
Why is this desirable? Think about energy production in your body much like macro energy consumption on a planetary level. Coal is gross and dirty and messes tons of different things up. You need to continue to burn it to get energy. Solar power is free, clean and pretty much limitless. This is pretty much the same story when you are burning carbs (coal) versus fats (solar) for energy.
Hi Acadia, just want to clear up a few things you noted in your post: The manufacture of BHB salts involves ionic bonding of an anion (beta-hydroxybutyrate) with a cation (Na+, K+, Ca+, Mg+). At least one of the exogenous ketone products you listed does in fact contain potassium ions. People taking potassium-sparing drugs need to know this and that raises concerns about leaving it off your chart. Some people are genuinely sodium sensitive even to small amounts of salt added to otherwise healthy foods. This can hold true even for those following ketogenic diets. The term you’re looking for… Read more »

You may find a tiny amount here and there is ok (i.e., 2g of sugar with a meal full of fat may be ok).  But if you are starting out I would recommend cutting all sugar from your diet, and most importantly avoiding any sugar consumption on an empty stomach. For best results track your ketone levels before and after meals to see the impact the food has on your ketone levels.

Anti-cancer potential: Recent research suggests that ketogenic diets can blunt malignant tumor growth.[5] This is due to the fact cancer cells can’t metabolize ketones effectively to nourish their growth and replication. Astonishingly, one study found that supplementing with BHB salts increases odds of survival in mice with systemic cancer by up to 70% in comparison to mice who didn’t receive exogenous ketones.[6]


77. Volek JS, Sharman MJ, Gomez AL, Scheett TP, Kraemer WJ. An isoenergetic very low carbohydrate diet improves serum HDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations, the total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio and postprandial pipemic responses compared with a low fat diet in normal weight, normolipidemic women. J Nutr. 2003;133(9):2756–61. [PubMed]

Effects of ketone supplementation on body weight: Rats administered ketone supplements gained less weight over the 4-week period; however, did not lose weight and maintained healthy range for age. KE supplemented rats gained significantly less weight during the entire 4-week study compared to controls. BMS + MCT, BMS, and BD supplemented rats gained significantly less weight than controls over weeks 2–4.MCT supplemented rats gained significantly less weight than controls over weeks 3–4, Two-Way ANOVA with Tukey’s post hoc test, results considered significant if p < 0.05. Error bars represent mean (SD)

If you do the same calculations as I did above for estimating fat oxidation, you’ll see that EE in this case was approximately 13.92 kcal/min, while fat oxidation was only 67% of this, or 9.28 kcal/min, or 1.03 g/min. So, for this second effort (the test set) my body did about 5% less mechanical work, while oxidizing about 25% less of my own fat. The majority of this difference, I assume, is from the utilization of the exogenous BHB, and not glucose (again, I will address below what I think is happening with glucose levels).

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