Keto-adaption is a complex set of metabolic processes in which the body shifts from using primarily glucose for energy to using largely ketones and fat for energy. Achieving ketosis doesn’t mean the body is maximizing the use of these ketones; it takes longer than a few days for the body to get used to burning fat and ketones as its predominant fuels.
If you’ve done any reading about ketosis, you no doubt read at some point that ketosis is a “natural” state. You may have read on a bit more and learned what is meant by that statement or you may have simply skipped ahead to the keto success stories and decided to give it a try. But we’d like to direct your attention back to that little tidbit of information about keto being “natural” for a moment.
However, it's important to NEVER overlook the power of exercise and of course sticking to a proper routine to get the most optimized results. The most common mistake people make is by treating any keto supplement like a "wonder drug" that will help them shred weight in their sleep. Seriously... how is that even scientifically possible. So if you are thinking about trying out a particular supplement, I would suggest two things:
Full disclosure: after carrying out the background research, I was already, as you might imagine, feeling a little less neutral about these products. You may have noticed a hint of that in part 1 of the 2-part video series we made about the project (watch part 2 at the top of this page!). However, and although this was by no means a controlled scientific study under laboratory conditions, we designed the experiment in a very objective way. The aim was to give the supplements the best possible chance of showing the benefits they are claimed to have.
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.
Lastly, EK products in general are usually in the form of salts, which is why they are referred to as BHB Salts. The BHB ketones are bound to common salts such as sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium to improve absorption rate. These salts are also the core electrolytes your body needs to help you avoid feeling mentally drained and physically lousy during the keto-flu transition period.
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?
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.
This research is a good reminder to discuss with your doctor before taking any supplements. Given the widespread use of calcium supplements, more research is required before any final conclusions can be drawn. Several ketone companies have tried to avoid the large sodium loads but instead relied on a bump in the calcium content from the BHB ketone salts, seemingly without consideration for the aforementioned results. Calcium BHB will likely absorb slower compared to sodium BHB due to digestion and absorption kinetics. For those looking to optimize brain uptake of ketones, this probably isn’t the best strategy (as uptake is directly proportional to the levels in the blood). Be cautious of supplements running from the sodium and chasing the calcium BHB instead, and make sure you factor that into your overall daily needs.
Considering both the broad therapeutic potential and limitations of the KD, an oral exogenous ketone supplement capable of inducing sustained therapeutic ketosis without the need for dietary restriction would serve as a practical alternative. Several natural and synthetic ketone supplements capable of inducing nutritional ketosis have been identified. Desrochers et al. elevated ketone bodies in the blood of pigs (>0.5 mM) using exogenous ketone supplements: (R, S)-1,3 butanediol and (R, S)-1,3 butanediol-acetoacetate monoesters and diester . In 2012, Clarke et al. demonstrated the safety and efficacy of chronic oral administration of a ketone monoester of R-βHB in rats and humans [49, 50]. Subjects maintained elevated blood ketones without dietary restriction and experienced little to no adverse side effects, demonstrating the potential to circumvent the restrictive diet typically needed to achieve therapeutic ketosis. We hypothesized that exogenous ketone supplements could produce sustained hyperketonemia (>0.5 mM) without dietary restriction and without negatively influencing metabolic biomarkers, such as blood glucose, total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. Thus, we measured these biomarkers during a 28-day administration of the following ketone supplements in rats: naturally-derived ketogenic supplements included medium chain triglyceride oil (MCT), sodium/potassium -βHB mineral salt (BMS), and sodium/potassium -βHB mineral salt + medium chain triglyceride oil 1:1 mixture (BMS + MCT) and synthetically produced ketogenic supplements included 1, 3-butanediol (BD), 1, 3-butanediol acetoacetate diester/ ketone ester (KE).
The second ketone ester compound was developed at the University of South Florida. This is a diester of AcAc and BDO. In rodents, this ketone ester raises blood D-BHB to 1-4 mM and blood AcAc to up to 5 mM.19 There is one published study of this ketone ester in humans; results showed a 2% decrease in 31 km cycling time trial performance.16 This may be due to the high rate of side effects of this ester studied. Other factors may have been low levels of BHB (<2 mM), the short, high-intensity time trial used, or the use of AcAc vs. BHB.
I don’t think we even need a drumroll here… Based on my background research into ketone-supplement companies, the survey of Diet Doctor users and the experiment itself, we cannot recommend taking these supplements. I can personally think of many more beneficial ways to invest money in my health, such as buying grass-fed meat and organic vegetables, or even buying a bicycle and riding it outside in the sunshine.
Next, BHB salts are the only supplement that elevates BHB levels while muscle glycogen remains at capacity (low muscle glycogen can drastically impede long-duration athletic performance). In short, athletes who consume carb-based diets, and those on low-carb diets, stand to benefit from exogenous ketone supplements taken prior to training/exercise.
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.
Ketone Esters: Synthetically-made compounds that link an alcohol to a ketone body, which is metabolised in the liver to a ketone. Ketone esters are used primarily in research for testing their efficacy in elevating ketone body levels (below is a generic structure of a BHB ester). Yet, the first commercial Ketone ester drink will be available in 2018 by HVMN. Research esters are reportedly very unpleasant tasting which HVMN hopes to change.
If you are having a weight loss plateau and you’ve been at the same weight for 3 or more weeks, try changing something to get back to that stable weight loss rate, like a ketone supplement. It would be exciting to lose more than that each week, but our bodies don’t adjust to dramatic changes well, and a slower rate of loss leads to more of the weight staying off in the future.
So I’ve been primarily on a Keto diet for almost 6 months. During this time, I have fine tuned a lot to get my ketone levels up (Eating more fat and less protein). Most recently, I have used blood measurements for my ketone levels and I fluctuate between .6 and 2.6. The higher readings I get on the days I workout in the morning (about 5 hours before I draw blood and take a reading). I don’t have any problems sticking to the diet. It only seems to get easier. I’ve also incorporated 16 hour fasts which also are becoming easier over time. My priority and motivation for doing a keto diet is first and foremost weight loss. So far I have lost 40 pounds and I need to lose about 20 more. I do however want to improve my performance (running) and strength (I am doing the Stronglifts 5×5 program now).
Some general side effects of your body producing beta hydroxybutyrate is essentially the lull in time it takes to switch from carbohydrate metabolism to fat metabolism, which can take 3-4 days. This can lead to mood swings, fatigue, and general low energy. If you want to skip that step, we recommend taking exogenous BHBs to switch your body over effortlessly.
This is another point that Brianna Stubbs put me onto: often, ketone-salt companies use terms such as “technology developed by Dominic D’Agostino” as a tool to market their products. Dom D’Agostino holds the patent for the technology being used but is not associated with the products and does not necessarily promote them. In many cases, this feels like a marketing strategy that name-drops a famous keto expert in order to make a product sound more legitimate. There is an example of this on Real Ketones’ website.
This fasting process will not only activate autophagy in your cells, it will also increase your ketones much more quickly than if you were just eating a standard ketogenic diet. If you start implementing intermittent fasting and activities (like walking, cycling, or lifting weights) together, you can raise ketone levels and increase autophagy more than you would with intermittent fasting alone. This suggests that intermittent fasting would be a great addition to your life, but it is important to be familiar with the negative symptoms that can arise before you start.
Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. – Glucose is the brain’s principal energy substrate. In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), there appears to be a pathological decrease in the brain’s ability to use glucose. Neurobiological evidence suggests that ketone bodies are an effective alternative energy substrate for the brain. Elevation of plasma ketone body levels through an oral dose of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) may improve cognitive functioning in older adults with memory disorders. On separate days, 20 subjects with AD or mild cognitive impairment consumed a drink containing emulsified MCTs or placebo. Significant increases in levels of the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (beta-OHB) were observed 90 min after treatment (P=0.007) when cognitive tests were administered. beta-OHB elevations were moderated by apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype (P=0.036). For 4+ subjects, beta-OHB levels continued to rise between the 90 and 120 min blood draws in the treatment condition, while the beta-OHB levels of 4- subjects held constant (P<0.009). On cognitive testing, MCT treatment facilitated performance on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-cog) for 4- subjects, but not for 4+ subjects (P=0.04). Higher ketone values were associated with greater improvement in paragraph recall with MCT treatment relative to placebo across all subjects (P=0.02). Additional research is warranted to determine the therapeutic benefits of MCTs for patients with AD and how APOE-4 status may mediate beta-OHB efficacy. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15123336)
In the second of these posts I discuss the Delta G implications of the body using ketones (specifically, beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB, and acetoacetate, or AcAc) for ATP generation, instead of glucose and free fatty acid (FFA). At the time I wrote that post I was particularly (read: personally) interested in the Delta G arbitrage. Stated simply, per unit of carbon, utilization of BHB offers more ATP for the same amount of oxygen consumption (as corollary, generation of the same amount of ATP requires less oxygen consumption, when compared to glucose or FFA).
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