For example, the popular Raspberry Ketones supplement is far different than what we have been discussing in this article. Raspberry ketones are unrelated to the ketones that are produced in the body and are not the same as the ketone salts that have been covered above. There are some limited studies that indicate raspberry ketones may be helpful for weight loss, but they are inconsistent. Raspberry ketones are the molecules that give raspberries their scent and flavor, and in some cases, aren’t even derived from raspberries at all.
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.
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.
“Though the small amount of carbohydrates in the diets may be more than balanced by the potential sugar production from the large amount of protein to keep the ratio of fatty acid to glucose below the generally accepted level of ketogenesis, the respiratory quotient data suggest another mechanism also” ß (most likely the CPT-1A mutation, which had not been discovered at that time)
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The keto-esters are more appropriate for delivering higher doses of BOHB, but with repeated dosing can push the limits of taste and GI tolerance. There has been fairly extensive research on a compound 3-hydroxybutyl 3-hydroxybutyrate that is converted via hydrolysis and liver metabolism to yield 2 molecules of ketones, presumably mostly D-BOHB (Clarke 2012 and 2014). In a study involving lean athletes, an approximate 50 gram dose raised blood BOHB levels to 3 mM after 10 min and reached 6 mM by 20 min. Submaximal exercise resulted in increased ketone disposal from 2 to 3 hours and contributed significantly to whole body energy use during exercise (Cox 2016). This product has been shown to significantly reduce appetite after a single dose (Stubbs 2018) but its effect on body weight in humans over a longer period of time has not been studied, nor has its effect on blood glucose control been reported in humans with type 2 diabetes. However a single dose prior to a glucose tolerance test in healthy humans reduced blood glucose area-under-curve by 11% and non-esterified fatty acid area-under-curve by 44% (Myette-Cote 2018).
Exogenous ketones (also known as ketone supplements) and well-formulated ketogenic diets share at least one thing in common. They both result in increased circulating concentrations of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BOHB), but ultimately are associated with very different patterns of ketosis, as well as differing metabolic and physiologic outcomes. In short, they should not be assumed to have equivalent effects simply because they achieve similar BOHB blood levels. Having said that, there are many reasons we should continue to study the various forms and potential applications of ketone supplements.
If you’re wondering how to get into ketosis in 24 hours, and whether it’s even possible with such a short turnaround time, then combining a keto diet with intermittent fasting is a must. I am a massive advocate of not only the ketogenic diet but also the practice of daily fasting – I swear by it! It’s not for everyone as it does require a lot of discipline to pull off. But if you can commit to it, the benefits in my opinion are well worth it. So you may be wondering what intermittent fasting is? Well, it’s the practice of performing a daily fast from food and (caloric) drinks for at least 16 hours of the day.
The effects of ketone drinks on endogenous insulin secretion are unclear. Whilst the small increase in plasma insulin after KE and KS drinks may have been due to the small quantity of dextrose in the diluent, it has been proposed that ketones could potentiate or even stimulate insulin secretion. Isolated pancreatic islets secreted insulin when stimulated by ketones at glucose concentrations of >5 mM (Biden and Taylor, 1983), and small amounts of insulin are secreted in vivo following exposure to exogenous ketones in animals (Madison et al., 1964; Miles et al., 1981). In response to an intra-venous 10 mM glucose clamp, ketone ester drinks increased glucose uptake and plasma insulin (Holdsworth et al., 2017). The increases in insulin with ketone drinks taken whilst fasted were small compared to the increases seen when the ketone ester drink was consumed with a meal and with consumption of a dextrose drink. Furthermore, the lack of difference in peak plasma insulin between the two latter conditions indicates that nutritional ketosis did not inhibit or increase normal carbohydrate induced insulin production.
Whereas ketone esters are 100% D- form, most ketone salts are a 50/50 mix of left and right-handed beta hydroxybutyrate, which is known as a racemic mixture. These beta hydroxybutyrate molecules are linked to a mineral, such sodium (Na), calcium (Ca), potassium (K), or magnesium (Mg). This kind of ketone supplement gets broken down to left and right-handed version of beta hydroxybutyrate along with the mineral.
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).
Recently, two published studies investigated the effects of ketone salts in athletes (total n = 22).8,9 Performance over a four-minute cycling time-trial and a 150 kJ ( ~11 mins) cycling time trial were compared between ketone salts vs. carbohydrate. In the four-minute trial there was no change in performance, and in the 150 kJ test, performance decreased by 7%. Blood BHB levels peaked at 0.6 and 0.8 mM in these studies.
This was a big surprise. We were at the very least expecting that drinking a ketone supplement would cause blood ketones to rise, but an average increase of 0.33 mmol/L is very small. The supplement associated with the highest average increase in blood ketones was Prüvit’s Keto-OS Max, but it was only an increase of 0.6 mmol/L. Brianna Stubbs, the ketone researcher I consulted with, agrees that an increase of below 2.0-3.0 mmol/L is unlikely to be of much use.
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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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