It was explained to me that exogenous ketones inhibit lipolysis (breaking down of fat cells), therefore triglycerides should be expected to go down. They theorize that ketones may promote transfer of triglycerides from blood into cells, which primes the pump for fat burning, but to verify would require conducting biopsies to measure blood versus tissue.
This may have been mentioned, I haven’t checked all comments, but glutamine causes gluconeogenesis so that may explain why it affects Ketosis. Whenever I took a glutamine powder supplement for gut healing, I noticed I would “feel” less Ketogenic and I knew it was affecting me adversely. Glycine (which is also in bone broth) also has this effect I believe. Apparently some amino acids are just more easily converted to glucose.
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 addition, the body regulates ketone production via ketonuria (peeing out excess ketones) and ketone-induced insulin release, which shuts off hepatic ketogenesis (the liver making more ketones when you have enough). The insulin from this process could be increasing glucose disposal which, when coupled with PDH activation, could drive glucose levels quite low.
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).
Effects of ketone supplementation on triglycerides and lipoproteins: Ketone supplementation causes little change in triglycerides and lipoproteins over a 4-week study. Graphs show concentrations at 4-weeks of total cholesterol (a), Triglycerides (b), LDL (c), and HDL (d). MCT supplemented rats had signfiicantly reduced concentration of HDL blood levels compared to control (p < 0.001) (b). One-Way ANOVA with Tukey’s post hoc test, results considered significant if p < 0.05. Error bars represent mean (SD)
To be in ketosis, you need to get very specific about the macronutrient ratios hanging off your fork. This means eating 75% fats, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates. It’ll see you getting 5-10% of your total calories from carbohydrates, which is roughly 25-30g of carbs per day, and diligently keeping this below the 50g threshold creates the ketosis that burns stored fat. Unlike the no-limit-protein option on the table when going low carb, eating more than 0.67-0.81g of protein per pound of bodyweight can hoof you out of ketosis because too much of it can be converted into glucose, blunting the benefits of the ketones. On the plus side, you will have a high fat intake, making your energy levels more balanced so you can train at higher intensities.
The ketone esters are, hands-down, the worst tasting compounds I have ever put in my body. The world’s worst scotch tastes like spring water compared to these things. The first time I tried 50 mL of BHB monoester, I failed to mix it with anything (Dom warned me, but I was too eager to try them to actually read his instructions). Strategic error. It tasted as I imagine jet fuel would taste. I thought I was going to go blind. I didn’t stop gagging for 10 minutes. (I did this before an early morning bike ride, and I was gagging so loudly in the kitchen that I woke up my wife, who was still sleeping in our bedroom.) The taste of the AcAc di-ester is at least masked by the fact that Dom was able to put it into capsules. But they are still categorically horrible. The salts are definitely better, but despite experimenting with them for months, I was unable to consistently ingest them without experiencing GI side-effects; often I was fine, but enough times I was not, which left me concluding that I still needed to work out the kinks. From my discussions with others using the BHB salts, it seems I have a particularly sensitive GI system.
How BHB turns into energy is a fairly simple process. As we’ve mentioned, beta hydroxybutryate eventually leads to energy production after you consume it or after your body breaks stored body fat down. It does this by going into the cell, entering the mitochondria (energy factories) at which stage it cleaves the carboxyl acid group and becomes acetoacetate (another “ketone body”). Acetoacetate turns into acetoacetyl-CoA, which then is cleaved to acetone (another “ketone body”) and acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is the whole reason we want BHB in the first place. This jumps into what is called the Kreb’s cycle (don’t you remember any of your biochemistry classes?) and is churned into ATP — the energy currency of your cells!
What is the reason for needing to keep our stress levels down? Well the body reacts to stress, whether physical or emotional, by dumping glycogen and potentially glucose in your bloodstream, thus elevating insulin levels. This in turn blocks our bodies from entering ketosis. To keep your mental and emotional stress to a minimum, it may be wise to meditate, sleep, relax, or do something that is fun and care-free.
Eating around 20 grams of net carbs a day is as a foolproof way to get you into ketosis a quickly as is humanly possible. However, having 50 grams of total carbs will also get you into ketosis within three days . This amount of carbs is enough to deplete glucose reserves. It's also low enough to prevent fat being used to make glucose and, instead, the body is forced to make ketones.
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.
With oral ketone supplementation, we observed a significant elevation in blood βHB without dietary restriction and with little change in lipid biomarkers (Fig. 1). Over the 4 week study, MCT-supplemented rats demonstrated decreased HDL compared to controls. No significant changes were observed in any of the triglycerides or lipoproteins (HDL, LDL) with any of the remaining exogenously applied ketone supplements. It should be noted that the rats used for this study had not yet reached full adult body size . Their normal growth rate and maturation was likely responsible for the changes in triglyceride and lipoprotein levels observed in the control animals over the 4 week study (baseline data not shown, no significant differences) [80, 81]. Future studies are needed to investigate the effect of ketone supplementation on fully mature and aged animals. Overall, our study suggests that oral ketone supplementation has little effect on the triglyceride or lipoprotein profile after 4 weeks. However, it is currently unknown if ketone supplementation would affect lipid biomarkers after a longer duration of consumption. Further studies are needed to determine the effects of ketone supplements on blood triglyceride and lipoproteins after chronic administration and as a means to further enhance the hyperketonemia and improve the lipid profile of the clinically implemented (4:1) KD.
I had heard horror stories about how bad ketone esters tasted (like “rocket fuel”!) so was prepared for the worst. I followed their instructions and drank the contents of the bottle in one gulp, then chased it with a sip of sparkling mineral water. While not the most pleasant aftertaste, the flavor wasn’t any worse than after a shot of well tequila. Within 15 minutes I was already well into therapeutic ketosis, and after 30 minutes my ketone meter displayed a “HI” error message (meaning my level was greater than 8.0 mmol/L)!
As stated above, there appears to be a difference between supplemental and dietary calcium intake, which can be important to keep in mind. One study found aggregate calcium intakes above 1400 mg per day (from dietary and supplemental intake combined) to be associated with higher death rates, cardiovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease in women. A 2014 meta-analysis found an association between dietary calcium intake and cardiovascular mortality. The meta-analysis actually found a u-shaped relationship, where dietary calcium intakes that were both lower and greater than 800 mg/day were gradually associated with increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
I’m fasting (5 days fast, 2 days food) in an effort to aggressively lose weight. For the most part, I’m not doing the water & salt-only kind of fast… as I will also drink coffee & bone broth… as well as take Perfect Keto Base. Would it be “gilding the lily” to also add MCT powder to my coffee? I’m in nutritional ketosis… ranging from 0.8 to 2.0 or thereabouts.
The effects of the two exogenous ketone drinks on acid-base balance and blood pH were disparate. In solution the ketone salt fully dissociates (giving a total of 3.2–6.4 g of inorganic cation per drink), allowing βHB− to act as a conjugate base, mildly raising blood and urine pH, as seen during salt IV infusions (Balasse and Ooms, 1968; Balasse, 1979). Urinary pH increased with the salts as the kidneys excreted the excess cations. In contrast, KE hydrolysis in the gut provides βHB− with butanediol, which subsequently underwent hepatic metabolism to form the complete keto-acid, thus briefly lowering blood pH to 7.31. Electrolyte shifts were similar for both KE and KS drinks and may have occurred due to βHB− metabolism, causing cellular potassium influx and sodium efflux (Palmer, 2015).
Blood d-βHB, pH, bicarbonate (HCO3-) and electrolytes measured in arterialized blood samples from resting subjects (n = 7) following a ketone ester or salt drink containing 3.2 mmol.kg−1 of βHB. Shaded areas represent the normal range. Values are means ± SEM. (A) Venous blood d-βHB. (B) Arterialized blood pH. (C) Blood bicarbonate. (D) Blood potassium. (E) Blood sodium. (F) Blood chloride. †p < 0.05 difference between KE and KS, *p < 0.05 difference from baseline value.
An alternative to the ketogenic diet is consumption of drinks containing exogenous dietary ketones, such as ketone esters (KE) and ketone salts (KS). The metabolic effects of KS ingestion have been reported in rats (Ari et al., 2016; Kesl et al., 2016; Caminhotto et al., 2017), in three extremely ill pediatric patients (Plecko et al., 2002; Van Hove et al., 2003; Valayannopoulos et al., 2011) and in cyclists (O'Malley et al., 2017; Rodger et al., 2017). However, the concentrations of blood βHB reached were low (<1 mM) and a high amount of salt, consumed as sodium, potassium and/or calcium βHB, was required to achieve ketosis. Furthermore, dietary KS are often racemic mixtures of the two optical isoforms of βHB, d-βHB, and l-βHB, despite the metabolism of l-βHB being poorly understood (Webber and Edmond, 1977; Scofield et al., 1982; Lincoln et al., 1987; Desrochers et al., 1992). The pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of KS ingestion in healthy humans at rest have not been reported.
There are enticing anecdotes of supplemental ketones being used to boost human physical performance in competitive events, notably among elite cyclists. Given that BOHB can deliver more energy per unit of oxygen consumed than either glucose or fatty acids (Sato 1995, Cox 2016, Murray 2016), this makes sense. But what we do not know is if there is any required period of adaptation to the use of exogenous ketones, and thus how to employ them in training. It is clear that exogenous ketones decrease adipose tissue lipolysis and availability of fatty acids, the exact opposite to what happens on a well formulated ketogenic diet. This distinction between exogenous ketones and ketogenic diets on adipose tissue physiology and human energy balance underscores an important reason why these two ketone-boosting strategies should not be conflated.
Even though endurance athletes can train in a carb depleted state, they will generally consume carbohydrates in the lead up to a race (the athlete is seeking to increase the ability to run off fats by training in a carb depleted state, then benefiting from both fats AND carbs come race day). Likewise, with the brain, even though the brain can function off ketones, does it mean it’s the best state for brain function?
Hi all…thanks for your articles and info. I am currently on a paleo diet, but want to lose more weight and bring it up a notch w/ ketogenic diet and be in ketosis. Not sure which product is best? Do you take the MCT oil and also a ketone powder. I know it may be difficult at first, but I am up for the challenge as we start the new year and would like to loose 40 lbs by May/June. Please advise as to what products are best so I can purchase. THANKS
Exogenous Ketones have been shown in performance studies of both humans and animals to improve metabolic efficiency, which in essence means that your body is using better fuel that burns more efficiently over longer periods of time, and decreases the amount of fuel you need while performing. Where glucose fails (glycogen depletion), ketones pick up the slack!
Plasma glucose, free fatty acids (FFA), triglycerides (TG) and urinary d-βHB were assayed using a commercial semi-automated bench-top analyzer (ABX Pentra, Montpellier, France), and insulin was measured using a commercially available ELISA assay (Mercodia, Uppsala, Sweden). Both the pure liquid KS and KE, and a subset of plasma (n = 5) and urine (n = 10) samples from a subset of participants in Study 1 underwent analysis using GC-MS and a chiral column, and the concentrations of l-βHB was calculated using the enzymatically determined concentration of d-βHB and the ratio of the d/l-βHB peaks obtained through GC-MS. Acetoacetate was assayed using an enzymatic method (Bergmeyer, 1965), and breath acetone was measured using GC-MS (Study 1) or with a handheld electrochemical device (Study 2; NTT DOCOMO, Japan) (Toyooka et al., 2013).
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).
Anti-cancer potential: Recent research suggests that ketogenic diets can blunt malignant tumor growth. This is due to the fact cancer cells can’t metabolize ketones effectively to nourish their growth and replication. Astonishingly, one study found that supplementing with BHB salts increases odds of survival in mice with systemic cancer by up to 70% in comparison to mice who didn’t receive exogenous ketones.
While exogenous ketones (EK) are a newer supplement, having entered the market for consumers in just the past few years, scientists have been synthesizing ketone bodies in a lab since the 1960’s. They were useful for scientists studying their use for specific disease conditions, most notably childhood seizure disorders, though they were prohibitively expensive for consumers (1, 2).
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.
Hypoglycemia: why not to be concerned – Taking exogenous ketones can drive blood glucose levels quite low, but you are not likely to feel the typical symptoms of hypoglycemia. This is because when ketone levels are high enough, they dominate as fuel in the brain; hence, you will feel just fine despite having low blood glucose. A highly-cited study by George Cahill, found elevated ketone levels could protect fasted participants when they were administered insulin to induce hypoglycemia.
There are three types of ketones produced when you’re on ketogenic diet: acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and acetone. The kinds that you’ll find in your supplements are BHB because your body can readily use and absorb them. This means that not all ketones are created equal and there are several different types, each with unique properties that are worth considering when shopping.
The benefits of intermittent fasting translate to untrained overweight and obese individuals as well. One study published in Obesity Reviews found that eating fewer calories is effective for fat loss, but it does come with some muscle loss. However, if the subjects fasted for 24 hours and ate as much as they wanted on the next day for a period of 12 weeks, they lost significantly less muscle mass.
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If you are trying to lose weight, following a ketogenic diet can help you burn fat fast. However, trying to get into ketosis can be a frustrating experience. Am I eating too many carbs, not enough fat, too much protein? Getting into ketosis usually takes 3 to 5 days at least, and can take people up to two weeks. Recently I have discovered a simple and easy way to get into ketosis very quickly. I went from eating lots of carbs one night, to in ketosis 24 hours later.
However, with the ketone esters, the effects are nearly immediate, and my entire body was humming throughout the entire day, but not in a jittery way. I was full of mental and physical energy that lasted without any sort of crash (it was a gradual taper). During my cognitive tests, things felt almost effortless as I played the various games. After my experiment was complete I continued writing code for several hours, then went to the gym to work out. I did forget to each lunch though, so there must be some suppressive effect on appetite.
The ketone supplements were associated with a 5.4% decrease in physical performance while the artificially-sweetened, non-caffeinated beverage I used as a placebo was associated with a 20.3% increase: a big difference in favour of the placebo. Before you go rushing out to buy some, remember that this experiment was not performed under fully-controlled, laboratory conditions, and we were working with too small a group to prove that the placebo caused an increase in physical performance. But what we can say is that we couldn’t find any correlation between ketone supplements and an increase in physical performance in this experiment. According to Brianna Stubbs, some of the work currently being done on new kinds of ketone salts is starting to show more promise in relation to physical performance, so there may be better news on this down the line.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a dietary math savant to cash in on these rewards because the supplement eggheads took the liberty of creating exogenous ketones, which act as direct substitutes to the ones your body creates. Unlike other fat burners that give you the skits jitters, these are actually helping exercisers reach new personal bests while getting leaner, and are totally legal. Here’s what you need to know to get a slice of the action safely.
As Dr. Ryan Lowery pointed out to me, ketone supplements could play an important role in the future for elite sports performance, for example, or for people with brain injuries who cannot metabolize glucose properly. I am encouraged that scientists are working to develop these possibilities and, as long as plenty of peer-reviewed scientific research is done into the products being developed, I could feel more positive about the ketone salts in the future. For now, that scientific support is lacking.
The second ketone ester compound was developed at the University of South Florida. This is a diester of AcAc and BDO. In rodents, this ketone ester raises blood D-BHB to 1-4 mM and blood AcAc to up to 5 mM.19 There is one published study of this ketone ester in humans; results showed a 2% decrease in 31 km cycling time trial performance.16 This may be due to the high rate of side effects of this ester studied. Other factors may have been low levels of BHB (<2 mM), the short, high-intensity time trial used, or the use of AcAc vs. BHB.
Serial drinks or a continuous NG infusion of KE effectively kept blood ketone concentrations >1 mM for 9 h (Figure (Figure6).6). With drinks every 3 h, blood d-βHB rose and then fell, but had not returned to baseline (~ 0.1 mM) when the next drink was consumed. There was no significant difference in d-βHB Cmax between drinks 2 and 3 (3.4 ± 0.2 mM vs. 3.8 ± 0.2 mM p = 0.3), as the rate of d-βHB appearance fell slightly with successive drinks (0.07 ± 0.01 mmol.min−1 and 0.06 ± 0.01 mmol.min−1 p = 0.6). d-βHB elimination was the same after each bolus (142 ± 37 mmol.min, 127 ± 45 mmol.min; and 122 ± 54 mmol.min). When KE was given via a nasogastric tube, the initial bolus raised blood d-βHB to 2.9 ± 0.5 mM after 1 h, thereafter continuous infusion maintained blood d-βHB between 2–3 mM. Total d-βHB appearance in the blood was identical for both methods of administration (Serial drinks AUC: 1,394 ± 64 mmol.min; NG infusion AUC: 1,305 ± 143 mmol.min. p = 0.6).
Full disclosure: after carrying out the background research, I was already, as you might imagine, feeling a little less neutral about these products. You may have noticed a hint of that in part 1 of the 2-part video series we made about the project (watch part 2 at the top of this page!). However, and although this was by no means a controlled scientific study under laboratory conditions, we designed the experiment in a very objective way. The aim was to give the supplements the best possible chance of showing the benefits they are claimed to have.
Human's ability to produce and oxidize ketone bodies arguably evolved to enhance survival during starvation by providing an energy source for the brain and slowing the breakdown of carbohydrate and protein stores (Owen et al., 1967; Sato et al., 1995; Marshall, 2010). The brain is normally reliant on carbohydrate as a substrate, being less able to metabolize lipids, despite adipose tissue representing a far larger energy store than muscle and liver glycogen. Therefore, during starvation, lipids are used for hepatic ketogenesis and, via ketone bodies, lipids sustain the brain. Endogenous production of the ketone bodies, d-β-hydroxybutyrate (βHB) and acetoacetate (AcAc), increases slowly, driven by interactions between macronutrient availability (i.e., low glucose and high free fatty acids) and hormonal signaling (i.e., low insulin, high glucagon and cortisol). Produced continuously under physiological conditions, blood ketone concentrations increase during starvation (Cahill, 1970), when consuming a “ketogenic” (low carbohydrate, high-fat) diet (Gilbert et al., 2000) or following prolonged exercise (Koeslag et al., 1980).
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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