Ketone supplements contain exogenous ketones—synthetic ketones made in a lab. Most use a type of ketone called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which is the same as the ketones the body produces naturally. “We’re literally biohacking," says Amie Heverly, who began taking a ketone supplement called Prüvit last year and now works as a promoter selling Prüvit products. "You’re not adding a foreign substance to your body, because BHB is identical to what your body would naturally produce,” she explains.
Hi! My question is, how low must my current daily carb count be in order to benefit from taking your exogenous ketones? I am a 33 year old female, keeping total carbs at 100-125 grams per day. My priority is fat loss, and I do HIIT training 4-5 days a week. I’ll soon be adding in heavier strength training. I don’t function well eating less than 100 total carbs a day. Could this even benefit me? And if it will benefit me, would the befits outweigh the sodium content? I keep my sodium at 2,000 mg a day, as I’m trying to avoid water weight.
But some people chose to use supplements to benefit from ketosis (Therapeutic Ketosis), and finally there is the MCT Ketogenic Diet – which in a form of nutritional ketosis (ULC, limited protein, high fat) with a twist – about 30-60% of the fat intake in the diet comes from MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) fats. Sources of MCT fats include Pure MCT Oil, Coconut oil and coconut products. The MCT Ketogenic Diet is often used with epilepsy suffers, as the high levels MCT oil create a higher level of ketones in the blood – which helps prevent seizures.
I simply use this to attempt to reduce the symptoms of the "keto-flu" when I'm entering ketosis after blowing my carbs out. The holidays are particularly bad for falling off the keto band-wagon. I've used this three times now to transition back into ketosis and I can report that it does seem to reduce the effects of the keto flu (headache, weakness) that I'd normally experience transitioning back into a low-carbohydrate diet. I typically take it for 3 days and then stop because by that time I'm in ketosis again, but I'd imagine you could take it longer.
Though research involving ketone supplements is still in the early stages, it seems promising. One study published in February 2018 in Obesity suggests exogenous ketone esters lower hunger hormones and act as appetite suppressors. That can lead to weight loss because “if we don’t feel hungry, gosh, we probably aren’t going to eat like we were,” Griffin says.
Exogenous ketones provide the body with another fuel to employ. Think about it like an electric car that runs on both gas and electricity: by consuming ketones along with carbohydrates, the body will preferentially burn the ketones first, saving the carbohydrates for later. Exogenous ketones allow us to enter a metabolic state that wouldn't occur naturally: the state of having full carbohydrate stores, as well as elevated ketones in the blood. This could be advantageous to athletes looking to boost their physical performance.
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.
The metabolic phenotype of endogenous ketosis is characterized by lowered blood glucose and elevated FFA concentrations, whereas both blood glucose and FFA are lowered in exogenous ketosis. During endogenous ketosis, low insulin and elevated cortisol increase adipose tissue lipolysis, with hepatic FFA supply being a key determinant of ketogenesis. Ketone bodies exert negative feedback on their own production by reducing hepatic FFA supply through βHB-mediated agonism of the PUMA-G receptor in adipose tissue, which suppresses lipolysis (Taggart et al., 2005). Exogenous ketones from either intravenous infusions (Balasse and Ooms, 1968; Mikkelsen et al., 2015) or ketone drinks, as studied here, inhibit adipose tissue lipolysis by the same mechanism, making the co-existence of low FFA and high βHB unique to exogenous ketosis.
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Do you need carbs to train? No. Again this is an anecdote only, but I have done numerous training sessions in a carb deprived state. Heck some of my best training sessions where done in a fasted, carb deprived state. And there are a lot of endurance athletes who are using a ultra-low carb/ketogenic diet and putting up some great times (more on this below).
When your body is done using up a certain substrate to create energy (acetyl-CoA) after eating carbohydrates, it will start to find creative ways to get the job done. This is something that you want to happen. This is the switch to ketosis. If you didn’t do this, you’d be dead after fasting for a very short period of time. Under normal circumstances, the liver will start making beta-hydroxybutyrate from long chain and medium chain fatty acids that are liberated from your fat tissue. You are turning fat into fuel. Good work. This is why people can fast for months at a time and still function like normal humans.
MCT oil is extracted primarily from coconut oil, and derives unique benefits from its shorter fatty acid chain length. Most dietary fat contains 12 carbons in the fatty acid chain, while MCTs are only 6 - 12 carbon chains in length. Shorter chain length allows for easier absorption and rapid conversion to energy in the liver, specifically caprylic (C8) and capric (C10).
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.
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