Despite the recent growth of the ketone salt market, there is very little published work analyzing the effects of these products on any biomarkers or performance measurements in humans. Several studies have been carried out in rats,6,7 with blood BHB levels being relatively low (<0.5 mM) post-consumption of salt drinks. In humans, ketone salts provided peak D-BHB levels of 1 mM, whereas the same amount of BHB in a ketone ester (BD-BHB) raised blood BHB to 2.8 mM.5
BS, KC, and PC designed the research studies. BS, PC, RE, SM, and PS carried out the studies. SH provided the gas analyser used in the study on behalf of NTT DOCOMO Inc. BS, MS, and SM analyzed the data and performed statistical analysis in collaboration with JM. BS wrote the paper with help from KC, PC, and OF. KC had primary responsibility for final content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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.
I wrote this post at about the same time Germany won the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro in 2014. There’s been a lot of moving and shaking in the world of exogenous ketones since then, not to mention soccer. Looking back on my post, I still consider it relevant in terms of what exogenous ketones possibly can (and cannot) do for performance. In this case, to see if exogenous ketone esters provide me a “boost” by allowing me to do the same amount of work while expending less energy (and work at a relatively lower VO2) compared to no supplementation.
In conclusion, drinks containing exogenous ketones, in either ester or salt form, can raise concentrations of blood βHB in humans, although elevation of l-βHB lasts longer after racemic KS consumption. Both KE and KS drinks mildly altered acid-base balance. Exogenous ketones lowered blood glucose and lipids without inhibiting endogenous insulin secretion. The KE delivered highly repeatable blood concentrations of d-βHB, although ketosis was decreased by a meal. Uptake and elimination of d-βHB were similar when several drinks were consumed in succession. The dietary KE could maintain ketosis using drinks taken regularly around a normal meal pattern, or using a continuous infusion via a nasogastric tube. Therefore, ketone drinks are a viable and practical alternative to dietary strategies to achieve ketosis.
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.
The ketogenic journey should be more of a lifestyle than one that acts like a fad. So taking more than a day for your body to enter ketosis should not be the greatest of concern. It’s more important to stay discipline and to consistently keep your body in a fat-burning state. Although, if you are someone who has fallen out of ketosis after a cheat day, or rather somebody who is just starting out and finding it longer than expected to enter ketosis, then this article can definitely help in that respect. It’s nothing new, and it’s definitely no secret but strict dieting, fasting, exercise, controlling stress levels, sleep, and certain supplements can help you boost ketogenesis!
As for MCT oil (and oil powders), powder formulations tend to cause less digestive distress (e.g. probiotics), but some folks object to the additional ingredients like sunflower lecithin or soluble corn fiber). Even if you’d like to eventually settle on an oil, I’d recommend starting with a powder to see how you respond and to give your body the chance to adapt over time.
Core BHB™ provides pure goBHB™ in an all-natural formula with no artificial sweeteners, making ideal for those on the keto diet, athletes, and people who are health-conscious. Even if you’re on a high-carb diet, Core BHB™ will rapidly elevate blood ketone levels and help your body enter a state of ketosis (often with 30 minutes of consumption). In turn, you will experience increases in energy, fat loss, endurance, and mental acuity. With regular use of Core BHB™, you can also speed up the transition from a higher-carb diet to the ketogenic diet and reduce symptoms of the “keto flu”.
Recently, a friend of mine’s dad had high blood pressure. His doctor told him to stop consuming eggs and to avoid adding extra salt to his foods. That’s it. His recommendation was to rid a good, high-quality protein source, yet French fries, chicken nuggets, and even chicken noodle soup were all presumably okay. I’ll never understand some of these recommendations; nonetheless, they happen day in and day out, all over the world.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB): Nutrition strategies that rely on carbohydrates always leave us needing more food. On the other hand, the ketogenic diet relies on and taps into your body’s stored fat for longer, more stable energy with no bonking. Many keto-lovers adopt this lifestyle because they love the mental clarity, focus, and productivity that they experience while in ketosis. Whether you’re full-time keto or not, our Perfect Keto is designed to support ultimate mental performance.
MCT oil has recently been used to induce nutritional ketosis although it produces dose-dependent gastrointestinal (GI) side effects in humans that limit the potential for its use to significantly elevate ketones (>0.5 mM). Despite these limitations, Azzam and colleagues published a case report in which a 43-year-old-man had a significant decrease in seizure frequency after supplementing his diet with 4 tablespoons of MCT oil twice daily . An attempt to increase his dosage to 5 tablespoons twice daily was halted by severe GI intolerance. Henderson et al. observed that 20 % of patients reported GI side effects with a 20 g dose of ketogenic agent AC-1202 in a double blind trial in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s patients . We visually observed similar gastrointestinal side effects (loose stools) in the rats treated with MCT oil in our study. Rats were closely monitored to avoid dehydration, and gastric motility returned to normal between 12–24 h. Interestingly, the BMS + MCT supplement elevated βHB similarly to MCT oil alone, without causing the adverse gastrointestinal effects seen in MCT-supplemented rats. However, this could be due to the fact in a 10 g/kg dose of BMS + MCT, only 5 g/kg is MCT alone, which is less than the 10 g/kg dose that elicits the GI side effects. This suggests that this novel combination may provide a more useful therapeutic option than MCT oil alone, which is limited in its ability to elevate ketones in humans.
If the claims about the benefits of exogenous ketones are accurate and true, then it’s fantastic news for people who are looking to enhance their keto lifestyle and who have the money to spend. But two of our core values are trustworthiness and goodness, and it is important to us to test assumptions made by marketing claims and help make sure that people are getting what they are told they are getting when they spend money on a product.
You may find a tiny amount here and there is ok (i.e., 2g of sugar with a meal full of fat may be ok). But if you are starting out I would recommend cutting all sugar from your diet, and most importantly avoiding any sugar consumption on an empty stomach. For best results track your ketone levels before and after meals to see the impact the food has on your ketone levels.
Personally, I think it is wise to include a regular carb meal in your diet if you are going to follow a ketogenic diet. Long term ketogenic diets do seem to downregulate your thyroid and metabolism, and a weekly carb meal (or carb day) can help avoid this. The Carb Nite diet by J. Kiefer is a good example of this. And BJJCaveman posted his labs showing how a weekly carb meal helped his thyroid HERE.
The difference in peak blood d-βHB concentrations between matched amounts of βHB as ester or salts arose because the salt contained l-βHB, as the blood concentrations of d- plus l-βHB isoforms were similar for both compounds. It is unclear if kinetic parameters of KE and KS drinks would be similar if matched d-βHB were taken in the drinks. Unlike d-βHB, blood l-βHB remained elevated for at least 8 h following the drink, suggesting an overall lower rate of metabolism of l-βHB as urinary elimination of l-βHB was in proportion to plasma concentration. Despite similar concentrations of total βHB, breath acetone was ~50% lower following KS drinks compared to KE, suggesting fundamental differences in the metabolic fates of D- and L-βHB. These findings support both previous hypotheses (Veech and King, 2016) and experimental work in rats (Webber and Edmond, 1977), which suggested that the l-isoform was less readily oxidized than the d-isoform, and is processed via different pathways, perhaps in different cellular compartments. It seems that l-βHB is not a major oxidative fuel at rest, and may accumulate with repeated KS drinks. However, the putative signaling role of l-βHB in humans remains unclear. In rodent cardiomyocytes, l-βHB acts as a signal that modulates the metabolism of d-βHB and glucose, Tsai et al. (2006) although no differences in blood glucose were seen here. Furthermore, L-βHB can act as a cellular antioxidant, although to a lesser extent than D-βHB (Haces et al., 2008).
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).
Interestingly, the effects of exogenous ketones on blood substrate concentrations were preserved with the metabolic stimulus of a mixed meal. Following KE drinks, FFA and glucose fell and remained low in both fed and fasted subjects, despite higher insulin throughout the fed arm, suggesting that there was no synergistic effect of insulin and βHB to further lower blood glucose or FFA. In agreement with previous work, the threshold for the effects of βHB on glucose and lipids appears to be low (<1 mM), as there was no significant dose-response relationship between increasing blood βHB and the small changes in plasma FFA, TG or glucose across all of the study drinks (Mikkelsen et al., 2015).
First and foremost, one of the most important factors is to be discipline when following the ketogenic diet. This means heavily restricting your carbohydrate intake, while switching to high-fat foods and moderate proteins. The general rule of thumb when it comes to splitting your macros out should look something like this: 5% (carbs)/ 80% (fats)/ 15% (proteins). Although if you’re just starting out, I wouldn’t focus too heavily on macros but rather place more importance in restricting your carbohydrate intake to 20 grams or less. Depending on the individual, most keto diets will allow approximately 20g-70g of net carbs as part of your overall daily intake, but if you’re asking the extreme question of ‘how to get into ketosis in 24 hours?’ then let’s focus on the absolute limit. For a more detailed breakdown, please see my keto shopping list article.
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.
Second, there are inherent metabolic differences between boosting ketones via diet and boosting ketones via supplements. On a ketogenic diet, ketones go up because you’re converting body and dietary fat into ketone bodies. A rise in endogenous ketones means you’re burning fat and building the requisite machinery to metabolize the new energy source. On exogenous ketones, ketones go up because you ate some ketones; conversion of body and dietary fat into ketone bodies goes down if anything.
Directions — — As a dietary supplement, mix 1 scoop of ketone powder with 8-12 oz of water To avoid gastrointestinal discomfort, start with 1/2 scoop (or even less) and gradually increase to a full serving. Best consumed prior to exercise to enhance performance. Do not exceed 3 scoops per day. As a dietary supplement take 1 serving of PX Ketotropin twice daily. Ideally the 1st servings (4 capsules) should be taken prior to the first meal of the day. Consume 2nd serving 30 minutes prior to strenuous physical activity. If no physical activity is performed please consumer 2nd serving prior to afternoon meal. Additional servings can be taken in between meals throughout the day if needed. Do not consume more than 6 servings of PX Ketotropin
Some people follow more of an Ultra Low Carb diet approach. This is generally around 50g or less of carbs per day. A ULC is more supportive of reaching a ketogenic state, but again total carbs are not the only variable when it comes to reaching ketosis (other factors such as types of carbs, protein consumption, portion size, ingredients, supplements used etc. all play a role and will be covered in more detail below).
We will go deep in the science behind this fascinating diet and then review some of the best exogenous ketone supplements out there in the market. Because without the knowledge and the right information about exogenous ketones that you can properly follow, you might never reach your goals and you may as well keep eating that mashed potato for dinner and club sandwich for lunch.
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.
Remember how important it is to measure ketone blood levels accurately? Same goes for food tracking. A food tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, provides insight into macronutrient intake and thus the ability to tweak the diet to achieve ketosis. Tracking diet (inputs) and measuring ketones levels (outputs) delivers the best shot at optimizing the keto diet plan.
Of course, there may be some people who choose to take these supplements because they genuinely do feel they benefit from them. This is of course your choice and this article in no way aims to shame or criticize anybody. However, I do think that, for most people, eating a low-carb diet based on real foods is a lot more likely to be associated with the benefits that the supplements claim to provide than the supplements themselves.
Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is a ketone body produced by the liver, from fat, for energy when glucose isn’t available. It ultimately becomes the body and brain’s primary source of energy. Since the liver naturally produces BHB during ketosis, the process can take quite some time, often resulting in symptoms of fatigue, hunger (cravings for sugar, a faster energy source), and mental cloudiness. That’s why supplementing BHB on a keto diet can have a profound positive impact.
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