The ketone supplements were associated with a 5.4% decrease in physical performance while the artificially-sweetened, non-caffeinated beverage I used as a placebo was associated with a 20.3% increase: a big difference in favour of the placebo. Before you go rushing out to buy some, remember that this experiment was not performed under fully-controlled, laboratory conditions, and we were working with too small a group to prove that the placebo caused an increase in physical performance. But what we can say is that we couldn’t find any correlation between ketone supplements and an increase in physical performance in this experiment. According to Brianna Stubbs, some of the work currently being done on new kinds of ketone salts is starting to show more promise in relation to physical performance, so there may be better news on this down the line.
In a nutshell… WOW! The chart above shows each of the games/categories I played, showing my prior 5-day averages compared to the day I took the ketone esters. Compared to my baselines, my scores increased across the board, with the biggest improvements in spatial orientation (+32.2%), working memory (+23.7%), quantitative reasoning (21.5%), task switching (+14.9%), and information processing (+14.9%). Below are more detailed comparisons:
Increased levels of BHB in the body were found to be associated with greater cognitive performance through better performance in memory recall tests12 on a study of 20 subjects with Alzheimer’s disease or demonstration of a mild cognitive deficit. Similarly, BHB ketone esters helped to reverse symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease in one clinical case study.13 More research in humans is needed, but the various hypotheses are backed up by strong animal data.
Before that though, I do want to touch on MCT oil and it’s impact on ketone levels. MCT – or Medium Chain Triglyceride – are fatty acids that bypass the liver – and become quick energy for the brain and muscles. As they are a fat based energy source (and not a carbohydrate) they are quickly converted into ketones. This means MCT oil is a great way to boost ketone levels in the body.
Hybrid strategy: A hybrid strategy is to follow a low-carb/high-fat ketogenic diet to induce nutritional ketosis and use ketone supplements strategically. Supplements like Ketone salts or MCT oil can help ease the transition into ketosis, they can be an effective tool when we are knocked out of nutritional ketosis and they can help push ketone levels higher in the body for added benefit.
It was like getting the benefits of a five-day fast in just 15 minutes! As my body and brain began sucking up the ketones, I felt a rush of energy and my mind became very sharp and focused in ways beyond what I attain doing an extended fast. But in this case it was the 40g of ketones I had just consumed. Even at the two-hour mark, when I took my last reading, I was still in deep ketosis.
In addition, the body regulates ketone production via ketonuria (peeing out excess ketones) and ketone-induced insulin release, which shuts off hepatic ketogenesis (the liver making more ketones when you have enough). The insulin from this process could be increasing glucose disposal which, when coupled with PDH activation, could drive glucose levels quite low.
The concentrations of blood d-βHB after KE drinks were highly repeatable whether consumed whilst fasted or fed (Figures 4F,G). The d-βHB Cmax values ranged from 1.3 to 3.5 mM when fed and 2.3 to 4.7 mM when fasted. There was no significant effect of visit order on d-βHB kinetics, with the maximal difference in d-βHB Cmax reached by one individual being 1.2 mM when fed and 1.9 mM when fasted. Approximately 61% of the variation in the data was attributable to feeding (fed vs. fasted), <1% to visit order, 16% to inter-participant variability, and the residual 24% variability due to non-specific random effects.
Eating around 20 grams of net carbs a day is as a foolproof way to get you into ketosis a quickly as is humanly possible. However, having 50 grams of total carbs will also get you into ketosis within three days . This amount of carbs is enough to deplete glucose reserves. It's also low enough to prevent fat being used to make glucose and, instead, the body is forced to make ketones.
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.
Instead of being bound to a mineral (like ketone salts), the ketone molecule (BHB or AcAc) is bound to a ketone precursor (e.g. butanediol or glycerol) via an ester bond. While there aren't as many esters on the market as salts, there is still some variance–especially when looking at the ketone molecule in these products. Before selecting the best one for you, it's important to gather all the necessary information to make your decision.
The two compounds commonly referred to as ‘ketone bodies’ (BOHB and AcAc) are produced and used for multiple purposes across nature from algae to mammals, but seldom in concentrations useful for extraction as human food. For this reason, the source of most exogenous ketones is chemical synthesis. Furthermore, most current research and use of ketone supplements focuses on BOHB. That is because AcAc is chemically unstable – it slowly breaks down to form acetone by releasing of one molecule of CO2.
Let’s take a look at some of the facts and misconceptions about three of the minerals used to make ketone mineral salts: sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Potassium is very hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs water very easily. Therefore, it is only feasible that it can be utilized in liquid formulations. Thus, one should be cautious if companies say they have potassium BHB salt powder in their product. I’d be very surprised if that’s actually the case.
Are you ready for a very basic metabolism overview? Most modern humans break down carbohydrates into glucose and this then breaks down further and enters mitochondria to produce ATP, which is the energy system of your cells. In other words, you use carbs for energy. When you are on a ketogenic diet, you are breaking down fats into things called ketone bodies, and this is how you provide your body with energy, instead of via carbohydrates. So, you’re either using carbohydrates for fuel or fat for fuel.
The ketone esters are, hands-down, the worst tasting compounds I have ever put in my body. The world’s worst scotch tastes like spring water compared to these things. The first time I tried 50 mL of BHB monoester, I failed to mix it with anything (Dom warned me, but I was too eager to try them to actually read his instructions). Strategic error. It tasted as I imagine jet fuel would taste. I thought I was going to go blind. I didn’t stop gagging for 10 minutes. (I did this before an early morning bike ride, and I was gagging so loudly in the kitchen that I woke up my wife, who was still sleeping in our bedroom.) The taste of the AcAc di-ester is at least masked by the fact that Dom was able to put it into capsules. But they are still categorically horrible. The salts are definitely better, but despite experimenting with them for months, I was unable to consistently ingest them without experiencing GI side-effects; often I was fine, but enough times I was not, which left me concluding that I still needed to work out the kinks. From my discussions with others using the BHB salts, it seems I have a particularly sensitive GI system.
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