Geek note: Technically speaking, beta hydroxybutyrate is NOT a legitimate ketone body. Ketone bodies, or ketones are technically molecules with carbonyl carbons which are bonded to two additional carbon atoms. One carbon has four available bonds. When that carbon is double bonded to oxygen and also has two single bonds to carbon, we have a ketone body. If you have a carbon atom that is double bonded to an oxygen (carbonyl group), which is also bound to an -OH group instead of two different carbon atoms, that would be a carboxylic acid, but that really doesn’t matter in this case. For all intents and purposes of the ketogenic diet, betahydroxybutyrate should be considered one of the three ketone bodies and a “ketone” nonetheless. Your body uses BHB pimarily for energy in the state of ketosis, so it’s a ketone, okay?
This is probably one of the most understood notions of a true ketogenic diet (and the difference between a keto diet and a low carb diet). An optimal ketogenic diet will be low in carbohydrates AND protein. Many people who have experimented with low carb dieting simple reduce carbs and increase protein. A big reason behind this is due to the misconception that ‘’excess fat is bad – which is untrue, more on this HERE). However, excess protein can be converted to glucose (blood sugar) through a process called gluconeogenesis.
Until there is more definitive information on the necessary blood levels and the differing proportions of BOHB an AcAc to optimize cellular and organ functions, it will be difficult to specify the dosing and duration of supplemental ketones. However for fuel use, and very likely for exercise performance as well, sustained blood levels of BOHB in the range of 0.5 mM to 1.0 mM are likely to be required. This is achieved physiologically by an estimated ketone production of 50-100 grams per day in a keto-adapted human.
Ketogenic Diets and Physical Performance – Impaired physical performance is a common but not obligate result of a low carbohydrate diet. Lessons from traditional Inuit culture indicate that time for adaptation, optimized sodium and potassium nutriture, and constraint of protein to 15–25 % of daily energy expenditure allow unimpaired endurance performance despite nutritional ketosis. (http://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-1-2)
If you truly want to optimize health and performance, magnesium should not be neglected. There is still more research to be done on its potential. Good sources of magnesium include whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, green leafy vegetables, and supplements. However, be careful about taking too much magnesium at one time, or else you might end up running to the bathroom in a hurry.
Exogenous ketones don’t seem to improve high-intensity, glucose-intensive exercise, increasing fat burning during steady state exercise but dropping top-end high-intensity performance. Another study found that ketone dieters reduced 50-minute time trial performance in cyclists, though another group of researchers have criticized the methods. Even when a ketone ester didn’t improve performance in the shuttle run to exhaustion and 15 meter sprint repeats, it did reduce the drop in brain function following the exercise.
A growing number of people are giving it a try, thanks to exogenous ketone supplements that claim to launch your body into a state of ketosis within two and a half days—even if you’ve been living on pasta and cookies instead of following a low-carb diet. How can that be, though? And can that kind of rapid transformation actually be safe? Here’s what you should know.
Exogenously delivered ketone supplements significantly altered rat weight gain for the duration of the study (Fig. 6). However, rats did not lose weight and maintained a healthy range for their age. Rats have been shown to effectively balance their caloric intake to prevent weight loss/gain [97–99]. Due to the caloric density of the exogenous ketone supplements (Table 1) it is possible for the rats to eat less of the standard rodent chow and therefore less carbohydrates while maintaining their caloric intake. Food intake was not measured for this study. However, if there was a significant carbohydrate restriction there would be a signifcant change in basal blood ketone and blood glucose levels. As the hallmark to the KD, carbohydrate restriction increases blood ketone levels and reduces blood glucose levels. Neither an increase in basal blood ketone levels nor a decrease in basal blood glucose levels was observed in this study (Fig. 7). Additionally, if there were an overall blood glucose decrease due to a change in food intake, this would not explain the rapid reduction (within 30 min) in blood glucose correlated with an elevation of blood ketone levels after an intragastric bolus of ketone supplement (Figs. 2, ,33 and and44).
Effects of ketone supplementation on triglycerides and lipoproteins: Ketone supplementation causes little change in triglycerides and lipoproteins over a 4-week study. Graphs show concentrations at 4-weeks of total cholesterol (a), Triglycerides (b), LDL (c), and HDL (d). MCT supplemented rats had signfiicantly reduced concentration of HDL blood levels compared to control (p < 0.001) (b). One-Way ANOVA with Tukey’s post hoc test, results considered significant if p < 0.05. Error bars represent mean (SD)
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.
Some think so because higher ketone levels imply increased fuel for the brain and heart (that prefer ketones), and increased protection against inflammation and oxidation. But are the health benefits coming from the ketones themselves, or are they coming from the state you have to put your body in to actually produce them? And if you're kicking yourself out of ketosis by ingesting ketones would you still get the same benefits?
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.
Nutritional ketosis induced with the KD has proven effective for the metabolic management of seizures and potentially other disorders [1–26]. Here we present evidence that chronic administration of ketone supplements can induce a state of nutritional ketosis without the need for dietary carbohydrate restriction and with little or no effect on lipid biomarkers. The notion that we can produce the therapeutic effects of the KD with exogenous ketone supplementation is supported by our previous study which demonstrated that acutely administered KE supplementation delays central nervous system (CNS) oxygen toxicity seizures without the need for dietary restriction . We propose that exogenous ketone supplementation could provide an alternative method of attaining the therapeutic benefits of nutritional ketosis, and as a means to further augment the therapeutic potential of the KD.
The CNS cannot use fat as an energy source; hence, it normally utilizes glucose. After 3–4 days without carbohydrate consumption the CNS is ‘forced' to find alternative energy sources, and as demonstrated by the classic experiments of Cahill and colleagues4 this alternative energy source is derived from the overproduction of acetyl coenzyme A (CoA). This condition seen in prolonged fasting, type 1 diabetes and high-fat/low-carbohydrate diets leads to the production of higher-than-normal levels of so-called ketone bodies (KBs), that is, acetoacetate, β-hydroxybutyric acid and acetone—a process called ketogenesis and which occurs principally in the mitochondrial matrix in the liver.6
Intense exercise — more than just fidgeting or pacing — uses ketones, when glucose is in short supply, which means the body has to create more ketones to replace what you use. This is great for those who are used to a moderate to intense activity level, but intensity is a fine dance between encouraging ketone production and elevating cortisol for the rest of us.
Ketone Esters: These are not normally found in the body, but exogenous ketone esters convert into BHB once it is in the body. They are also synthetically (lab) made compounds that link an alcohol to a ketone body, which can then be metabolized by the liver into a ketone. They are like ketone salts on steroids as they have 5-10 time more BHB per serving/maximum daily intake than ketone salts. To date, pure ketone esters have been very expensive to produce and have only been available to researchers, elite athletes (Tour de France cyclists), and the US Department of Defense (people have spent more than $20,000 to have an independent lab produce a single serving!).
You see, when someone says ketosis is a natural state, they mean that ketosis is the body’s backup plan for those times when there isn’t any food to eat. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that developed over hundreds of thousands of years and springs from a time when our distant ancestors often had to go many days between decent meals. Fortunately, these days actual starvation is pretty rare so most people will never be in ketosis. But the physiological mechanism is still there, lurking in the background, readily accessible to anyone who is willing to trick their body into thinking it’s starving.
Meanwhile Brinkworth, et al., in their 2009 paper "Long-term Effects of a Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet and a Low-Fat Diet on Mood and Cognitive Function" looked at the effects on ketogenic diet on cognitive function and mood. The study participants ate a ketogenic diet for a year and the researchers found that mood levels decreased when compared to a group eating a high carb/low fat diet. They go on to remark “there was no evidence that the dietary macronutrient composition of LC and LF diets affected cognitive functioning over the long term, as changes in cognitive function were similar for both diets”.
Uncontrolled diabetics may face some risks in using exogenous ketones. This is because when the body is unable to produce insulin (type I diabetics and extreme type II diabetics), it is unable to get sugar or glucose into the cells. Therefore, the body will start producing ketones. If these individuals do not use an insulin injection, they can overtime build up unsafe levels of ketones (6).
There are things you can do to get into ketosis faster. We explain how to get into ketosis and ways to make transitioning into ketosis easier. But first, we go over some facts about ketosis you need to understand before you start your keto journey. We will also explain the science behind ketosis, including how long it realistically takes for your body to make the switch.
I eat one meal a day during a one-hour window and fast 23 or more hours every day. I want to use your ketones to get back into ketosis faster after that meal. Will that work? I am confused, because say at the end of my hour eating window I drink your ketones, sure there are lots of ketones suddenly in my body but I also have a big meal in my stomach. My body has to digest and use that food energy, so how do exogenous ketones help me in that case?
Ketone supplements contain exogenous ketones—synthetic ketones made in a lab. Most use a type of ketone called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which is the same as the ketones the body produces naturally. “We’re literally biohacking," says Amie Heverly, who began taking a ketone supplement called Prüvit last year and now works as a promoter selling Prüvit products. "You’re not adding a foreign substance to your body, because BHB is identical to what your body would naturally produce,” she explains.
All of the data I’ll present below were from an experiment I did with the help of Dominic D’Agostino and Pat Jak (who did the indirect calorimetry) in the summer of 2013. (I wrote this up immediately, but I’ve only got around to blogging about it now.) Dom is, far and away, the most knowledgeable person on the topic of exogenous ketones. Others have been at it longer, but none have the vast experiences with all possible modalities (i.e., esters versus salts, BHB versus AcAc) and the concurrent understanding of how nutritional ketosis works. If people call me keto-man (some do, as silly as it sounds), they should call Dom keto-king.
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