Many of us have heard the saying, “Don’t blame the butter for what the bread did.”  Similarly, don’t blame the sodium for what the fries did.  Sodium has been shown to help maintain fluid balance, normal muscle and nerve function, and blood pressure and volume[1]. The movement of sodium ions and other electrolytes across cell membranes helps to facilitate muscle contraction and nerve impulses. Electrolytes also help to maintain fluid balance across intracellular and extracellular spaces and blood volume.
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.
With single doses of the D-BHB ester as a sports drink, gastrointestinal (GI) side effects are rare. Some studies have reported mild GI side-effects of HVMN Ketone drinks at extremely high doses (4x serving size) or when given in a thick, meal replacement formulation.10,13 However, other studies of athletes reported there were no side-effects of ketone ester drinks hindering sport performance.11,14
That said, there also remains the question of the relative benefits of AcAc versus BOHB, both as independent signaling molecules and as redox modulators in peripheral (aka non-hepatic) tissues. Seen from this perspective, AcAc generated in the liver acts as a NAD+ donor for the periphery, whereas pure BOHB taken orally, to the extent that it is retro-converted to AcAc (Sherwin 1975), potentially deprives the periphery of NAD+.
Plasma glucose, free fatty acids (FFA), triglycerides (TG) and urinary d-βHB were assayed using a commercial semi-automated bench-top analyzer (ABX Pentra, Montpellier, France), and insulin was measured using a commercially available ELISA assay (Mercodia, Uppsala, Sweden). Both the pure liquid KS and KE, and a subset of plasma (n = 5) and urine (n = 10) samples from a subset of participants in Study 1 underwent analysis using GC-MS and a chiral column, and the concentrations of l-βHB was calculated using the enzymatically determined concentration of d-βHB and the ratio of the d/l-βHB peaks obtained through GC-MS. Acetoacetate was assayed using an enzymatic method (Bergmeyer, 1965), and breath acetone was measured using GC-MS (Study 1) or with a handheld electrochemical device (Study 2; NTT DOCOMO, Japan) (Toyooka et al., 2013).
Personally, I do this on Friday night to Saturday night, so if something happens and my hunger hasn’t crashed by Sunday morning, I have another day that I can go zero carb to keep the momentum going. While the body will trigger ketosis as soon as you run out of glycogen, hunger is attached to your triglyceride and insulin levels, which might take an extra day to normalize.
Getting enough sleep not only helps in the production of growth hormones vital for muscle growth, but it plays a particular role as already discussed. If you’re intermittently fasting then sleep is crucial is helping you sustain the fast. 6-10 hours of your day will be dedicated to sleep, helping you to reboot and not think about food during this time. That means less time for you to actually be fasting! Stress is another factor – if we don’t get enough sleep, we’ll tend to feel more stress and agitation throughout the day. Ensuring that we’re well rested plays a huge part in keeping down cortisol levels so that are insulin and blood sugar levels don’t spike.
It is important to define what it means to be “in ketosis”. If being “in ketosis” means having ketones in your blood, then of course ketone supplements get you into ketosis. But that is different from being in an endogenous ketogenic, fat-burning state as a result of following a ketogenic diet. Getting this distinction right will go a long way towards stopping ketone salts companies from using misleading marketing about the issue. We need to reach a consensus about what being “in ketosis” means and then force companies to use that definition.
These studies were approved by external Research Ethics Committees (London Queen's Square: 14/LO/0288 and South West Frenchay: 15/SW/0244) and were conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki (2008). Studies took place at the University of Oxford between September 2014 and September 2016. Participants were healthy, aged 21–57, non-smokers and had no history of major illness. Female participants were using oral contraception to minimize the effects of menstrual phase on results. Participants provided written informed consent prior to inclusion, and completed a confidential medical screening questionnaire to determine eligibility. Anthropometric characteristics are shown in Table ​Table1.1. Sample sizes were chosen following an estimated power calculation based on the effect size in previous work using KE drinks (Clarke et al., 2012b; Shivva et al., 2016).
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?

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