I’m getting an increasing number of questions about exogenous ketones. Are they good? Do they work for performance? Is there a dose-response curve? If I’m fasting, can I consume them without “breaking” the fast? Am I in ketosis if my liver isn’t producing ketones, but my BOHB is 1.5 mmol/L after ingesting ketones? Can they “ramp-up” ketogenesis? Are they a “smart drug?” What happens if someone has high levels of both glucose and ketones? Are some products better than others? Salts vs esters? BHB vs AcAc? Can taking exogenous ketones reduce endogenous production on a ketogenic diet? What’s the difference between racemic mixtures, D-form, and L-form? What’s your experience with MCTs and C8?

Two ground-breaking studies have recently been published on the effects of intermittent fasting on males. One group of researchers studied the effects that 16 hours of intermittent fasting had on males that lift weights. They found that muscle mass stayed the same, fat mass decreased significantly, and the males who fasted for 16 hours a day burned more fat for fuel compared to the control group that only fasted for 12 hours.
Besides cutting carbs, it's important to increase your fat intake, and be moderate with protein. The fat you eat will keep you feeling energized and support ketone production. Protein is also important but if you go overboard with it, your body could enter into a process called gluconeogenesis. In gluconeogenesis, your body makes glucose from protein, and you want to avoid that.
Once the body is able to generate energy with the help of exogenous ketones which are present in the bloodstream, it would start looking for other sources of ketones. This would encourage the body to tap into the vast reserve of fat which is accumulated in the body. Thus, the process of ketosis is accelerated when you consume extra exogenous ketones. This also leads to quicker weight loss and the body entering ketosis faster.
There have been studies done on long term ketogenic diets. This 2004 paper inn Experimental & Clinical Cardiology titled ‘Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients’ concluded that obese patients following a ketogenic diet for 24 ‘reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients. Furthermore, it decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol. Administering a ketogenic diet for a relatively longer period of time did not produce any significant side effects in the patients. Therefore, the present study confirms that it is safe to use a ketogenic diet for a longer period of time than previously demonstrated.’
To determine the reason for the differences in blood d-βHB concentration, the KE and KS drinks were analyzed for enantiomeric purity. The KE contained >99% of the d-isoform, whereas ~50% of the KS βHB was the l-isoform (Figure ​(Figure1D).1D). Plasma samples from participants who consumed the high dose KS drink (n = 5) were analyzed to reveal higher l-βHB than d-βHB, the total βHB Cmax being 3.4 ± 0.2 mM (Figure ​(Figure1E),1E), with a total βHB AUC of 549 ± 19 mmol.min. After 4 h, plasma l-βHB remained elevated at 1.9 ± 0.2 mM; differences in urinary excretion of the two isoforms could not explain this observation as both d- and l-βHB were excreted in proportion to their blood AUCs (Figure ​(Figure1F).1F). Therefore, in order to determine the time required for l-βHB elimination, a follow-up experiment was undertaken in which subjects (n = 5) consumed 3.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB as KE and KS with hourly blood and breath sample collection up to 4 h, plus additional samples at 8 h and 24 h post-drink. l-βHB was found to be 1.1 ± 0.1 mM at 4 h, and 0.7 ± 0.2 mM after 8 h, but undetectable after 24 h (Figure 1G). Low amounts of d-βHB (0.3 ± 0.1 mM) were present at 24 h, presumably due to endogenous production. Both ketone drinks significantly increased breath acetone concentration, but at a slower rate than blood d-βHB, reaching a peak after 3 h that was twice as high following the KE (87 ± 9 ppm) than the KS (44 ± 10 ppm), suggesting that d-βHB was readily converted to acetone, but l-βHB was not (p < 0.005, Figure ​Figure1H1H).
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).
If you truly want to optimize health and performance, magnesium should not be neglected. There is still more research to be done on its potential. Good sources of magnesium include whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, green leafy vegetables, and supplements. However, be careful about taking too much magnesium at one time, or else you might end up running to the bathroom in a hurry.
If you are new to ketosis and don’t know much about it, it is a metabolic state, where your body preferentially uses ketones (instead of glucose) for energy. This can lead to a host of different health benefits. If you’d like to learn more about ketosis, what ketones are, and how to benefit from these, feel free to read through our guides: What is Ketosis? What is the Ketogenic Diet? What Are Ketones?
Although most of the research has been done utilizing ketone esters, ketone salt supplementation has the potential to provide additional benefits through the extra electrolytes/nutrients that are required to make the ketones. While ketone esters are expensive due to the manufacturing process involved in making them, ketone salts might be a more convenient option for both inducing a state of ketosis and elevating blood ketone levels for various reasons we will discuss in another article.
For the ketone esters, on the other hand, repeated doses of 20-30 grams in any one day may be possible. Thus these products may be able to maintain a modest level of ketonemia without dietary carbohydrate restriction. Thus some of the cardiac and brain fueling benefits may follow, not to mention the epigenetic effects limiting oxidative stress and inflammation. But given the recent observation that administered ketone esters markedly reduce circulating free fatty acids (Myette-Cote 2018) — possibly due to an insulin-tropic effect or direct suppression of lipolysis (Taggart 2005) — their sustained use in people with underlying insulin resistance may compromise their long-term benefits by promoting weight gain unless combined with carbohydrate restriction.
So if your high-fat diet includes a high amount of roasted seeds or roasted nuts, nut butters, heated oils such as heated coconut oil or heated extra virgin olive oil, barbecued meats or meats cooked at very high temperatures, then your triglyceride count is going to go up. You should have triglycerides that are less than 150mg/dL, and a triglyceride to HDL ratio that is no more than 4:1, and in most of the healthiest people I’ve worked with, triglycerides are under 100 and the triglyceride to HDL ratio is less than 2:1. If your ratio is whacked, your ketogenic diet isn’t doing you any favors.’
We demonstrated that therapeutic ketosis could be induced without dietary (calorie or carbohydrate) restriction and that this acute elevation in blood ketones was significantly correlated with a reduction in blood glucose (Figs. 2, ​,33 and ​and4).4). The BMS ketone supplement did not significantly induce blood hyperketonemia or reduced glucose in the rats. The KE supplemented rats trended towards reduced glucose levels; however, the lower dose of this agent did not lower glucose significantly, as reported previously in acute response of mice [59]. MCTs have previously been shown to elicit a slight hypoglycemic effect by enhancing glucose utilization in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients [86–88]. Kashiwaya et al. demonstrated that both blood glucose and blood insulin decreased by approximately 50 % in rats fed a diet where 30 % of calories from starch were replaced with ketone esters for 14 days, suggesting that ketone supplementation increases insulin sensitivity or reduced hepatic glucose output [89]. This ketone-induced hypoglycemic effect has been previously reported in humans with IV infusions of ketone bodies [90, 91]. Recently, Mikkelsen et al. showed that a small increase in βHB concentration decreases glucose production by 14 % in post-absorptive health males [92]. However, this has not been previously reported with any of the oral exogenous ketone supplements we studied. Ketones are an efficient and sufficient energy substrate for the brain, and will therefore prevent side effects of hypoglycemia when blood levels are elevated and the patient is keto-adapted. This was most famously demonstrated by Owen et al. in 1967 wherein keto-adapted patients (starvation induced therapeutic ketosis) were given 20 IU of insulin. The blood glucose of fasted patients dropped to 1–2 mM, but they exhibited no hypoglycemic symptoms due to brain utilization of ketones for energy [93]. Therefore, ketones maintain brain metabolism and are neuroprotective during severe hypoglycemia. The rats in the MCT group had a correlation of blood ketone and glucose levels at week 4, whereas the combination of BMS + MCT produced a significant hypoglycemic correlation both at baseline and at week 4. No hypoglycemic symptoms were observed in the rats during this study. Insulin levels were not measured in this study; however, future ketone supplementation studies should measure the effects of exogenous ketones on insulin sensitivity with a glucose tolerance test. An increase in insulin sensitivity in combination with our observed hypoglycemic effect has potential therapy implications for glycemic control in T2D [40]. Furthermore, it should be noted that the KE metabolizes to both AcAc and βHB in 1:1 ratio [29]. The ketone monitor used in this study only measures βHB as levels of AcAc are more difficult to measure due to spontaneous decarboxylation to acetone; therefore, the total ketone levels (βHB + AcAc) measured were likely higher, specifically for the KE [14]. Interestingly, the 10 g/kg dose produced a delayed blood βHB peak for ketone supplements MCT and BMS + MCT. The higher dose of the ketogenic supplements elevated blood levels more substantially, and thus reached their maximum blood concentration later due to prolonged metabolic clearance. It must be noted that the dosage used in this study does not translate to human patients, since the metabolic physiology of rats is considerably higher. Future studies will be needed to determine optimal dosing for human patients.
I heard a rep from Perfect Keto on a podcast and your Exogenous Ketones. I ordered and received it the other day. I see from this article that I should not do a full scoop at once, but break it up in a day. Good to know. I had about a half scoop before I worked out this morning and could tell I had more energy. Loved that. Just curious….any ideas how long it will take me to get back into ketosis and fat burning?? (I know it depends on what I eat, but a general idea that I promise not to hold you too! (I’m actually missing having ‘keto breath!)
It is a good idea to weigh the pros and cons before deciding to add a calcium supplement to your diet. This includes exogenous ketone supplements. If you have any risk factors for osteoporosis, have low bone density, or have issues that prevent you from consuming a nutrient-rich diet, then the benefits of calcium supplements will likely outweigh the risks. But don’t forget that there are other avenues to improving your bone density, like strength training, and, more importantly, a well-balanced diet.

I am a little confused. I can see how EK’s can help up the state of ketosis, but as far is weight loss is concerned, aren’t the ketones you produce naturally created by the breaking down of your own fat? If I supplement with exogenous ketones, will that slow the natural creation of ketones? Especially if I am eating a higher amount of carbs. Would exogenous ketones speed fat loss, or slow it?
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.
I interviewed Dr. Brianna Stubbs, a ketone researcher with a Ph.D. in Metabolic Physiology from the University of Oxford who is now Research Lead at HVMN, specializing in developing ketone esters. She told me that in terms of science on the ketone salts and their effect on physical performance, one of the most-cited benefits of ketone salts, the scientific studies that have been done show at best no effect on physical performance and that, currently, there is no peer-reviewed scientific research on the ketone salt products on the market.
Increased levels of BHB in the body were found to be associated with greater cognitive performance through better performance in memory recall tests12 on a study of 20 subjects with Alzheimer’s disease or demonstration of a mild cognitive deficit. Similarly, BHB ketone esters helped to reverse symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease in one clinical case study.13 More research in humans is needed, but the various hypotheses are backed up by strong animal data.

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