For the first part of my experiment, I would simply record my blood ketone and glucose levels over a period of two hours after taking the ketone esters. While I am already fairly keto-adapted and can attain nutritional ketosis fairly easily (> 0.5 mmol/L), it wasn’t until the end of my Five-day Fasting Mimicking Diet that I was even close to reaching therapeutic ketosis levels (>5.0 mmol/L).
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
Background and aims: Currently there is considerable interest in ketone metabolism owing to recently reported benefits of ketosis for human health. Traditionally, ketosis has been achieved by following a high-fat, low-carbohydrate “ketogenic” diet, but adherence to such diets can be difficult. An alternative way to increase blood D-β-hydroxybutyrate (D-βHB) concentrations is ketone drinks, but the metabolic effects of exogenous ketones are relatively unknown. Here, healthy human volunteers took part in three randomized metabolic studies of drinks containing a ketone ester (KE); (R)-3-hydroxybutyl (R)-3-hydroxybutyrate, or ketone salts (KS); sodium plus potassium βHB.
Taking exogenous ketones not only eliminates the need to follow a strict ketogenic diet to achieve ketosis (so you can have your high carb cake and eat it too), it can also help users get there faster. “They can expedite the process of getting into ketosis and becoming fat adapted,” Davis explains. “They can also help people push past the keto flu and potentially experience more mental energy and clarity than from diet alone.”
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And now, you can take ketone supplements (salts and esters), known as exogenous ketones, without actually restricting anything. According to those promoting this nasty-tasting supplement, that means you can have a brain and body fuelled by ketones, along with all of the supposed health benefits that come with running on fat. Well, don't fall for it.
Before that though, I do want to touch on MCT oil and it’s impact on ketone levels. MCT – or Medium Chain Triglyceride – are fatty acids that bypass the liver – and become quick energy for the brain and muscles. As they are a fat based energy source (and not a carbohydrate) they are quickly converted into ketones. This means MCT oil is a great way to boost ketone levels in the body.
In fact this was one of the biggest surprises I had when exploring ketosis. For years I have been following a cyclical lower carb diet. For years I wouldn’t consume a carb until later in the afternoon (ala Carb Backloading style). After eating 5 days without any carbs I tested my ketone levels… they were 0.1 mmol. This reading was done first thing in the morning (10 hours fasted) after 5 days without a carb in my diet.
BHB isn’t just an energy source for the brain–it has other effects which promote brain health. BHB can trigger the release of chemicals called neurotrophins, which support neuron function and synapse formation. One of these neurotrophins is called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is a protein in the brain associated with cognitive enhancement, alleviation of depression and reduction of anxiety.10
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