Too much cortisol tells the liver that you are in physical danger and need a lot of energy fast. The brain doesn’t understand the difference between physical danger and emotional stress. When emotionally stressed, the brain thinks you’re in a life-and-death situation, so the liver comes to your rescue and gives you the glucose you need to fight off your attacker.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a dietary math savant to cash in on these rewards because the supplement eggheads took the liberty of creating exogenous ketones, which act as direct substitutes to the ones your body creates. Unlike other fat burners that give you the skits jitters, these are actually helping exercisers reach new personal bests while getting leaner, and are totally legal. Here’s what you need to know to get a slice of the action safely.
But going keto takes work. You have to overhaul your diet, restrict certain classes of foods, and pay close attention to what you eat. People prefer to avoid work if they can. They like shortcuts. Exogenous ketone supplements promise a shortcut—swallow this pill or mix this powder into your water and see your ketones skyrocket without changing the rest of your diet.
There are several ways to approach the “intermittent” part of food restriction. One of the most common is limiting the window in which food is consumed to about eight hours a day. Another is fasting for a full 24 hours once a week, or once a month. Fasting beyond three days can be stressful on the body and should be done with medical advice and supervision.
I had heard horror stories about how bad ketone esters tasted (like “rocket fuel”!) so was prepared for the worst. I followed their instructions and drank the contents of the bottle in one gulp, then chased it with a sip of sparkling mineral water. While not the most pleasant aftertaste, the flavor wasn’t any worse than after a shot of well tequila. Within 15 minutes I was already well into therapeutic ketosis, and after 30 minutes my ketone meter displayed a “HI” error message (meaning my level was greater than 8.0 mmol/L)!
Neuroprotective benefits: A natural part of the aging process is neurodegeneration, which is largely responsible for cognitive defects like Alzheimer’s disease. Recent research suggests that exogenous ketone supplementation can drastically slow neurodegeneration and the resulting decrease in mental function. However, the mechanism behind this finding remains to be elucidated; though, researchers suggest exogenous ketones act to reduce brain inflammation. Glucose, on the contrary, may actually accelerate inflammatory response in the brain.
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.
Individuals who have clinically unregulated blood sugar, such as those with diabetes, are cautioned to consult their trusted healthcare provider before choosing to use exogenous ketones. While it can be done safely, especially in the presence of a well-formulated ketogenic food plan, there may be a risk of blood sugar dropping unexpectedly low. There may be therapeutic value in this application, but close monitoring is key.
Supplemental BHB’s are ideal for people new to the ketogenic way of eating. The changes that happen in your brain and body when adapting to a VLC diet are both immediate and profound. For example, our kidney’s start processing minerals salts much more efficiently. Ironically, after years of being advised to decrease our intake of salt (sodium), it turns out that for people transitioning away from the Standard American Diet (SAD diet) towards a lower carb or ketogenic diet there is actually a need to increase dietary mineral salts such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium. During the process of becoming keto-adapted, it is very important to increase your intake of these essential minerals, in order to prevent the onset of unpleasant symptoms (known as “keto flu”).
As stated above, there appears to be a difference between supplemental and dietary calcium intake, which can be important to keep in mind. One study found aggregate calcium intakes above 1400 mg per day (from dietary and supplemental intake combined) to be associated with higher death rates, cardiovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease in women. A 2014 meta-analysis found an association between dietary calcium intake and cardiovascular mortality. The meta-analysis actually found a u-shaped relationship, where dietary calcium intakes that were both lower and greater than 800 mg/day were gradually associated with increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
I also concluded that post by discussing the possibility of testing this (theoretical) idea in a real person, with the help of exogenous (i.e., synthetic) ketones. I have seen this effect in (unpublished) data in world class athletes not on a ketogenic diet who have supplemented with exogenous ketones (more on that, below). Case after case showed a small, but significant increase in sub-threshold performance (as an example, efforts longer than about 4 minutes all-out).
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Medical Disclaimer: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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