Taking MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride) or coconut oil (contains 60% MCT) can help boost ketone production. This is because your body absorbs MCT very quickly as it bypasses the gallbladder and into the liver to be processed into ketone bodies. Make sure you’re getting unprocessed versions of coconut oil that is labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘extra virgin’. This, along with grass-fed butter, is what I add into my ‘bulletproof’ coffees.
Caveat emptor: the following post doesn’t come close to answering most of these questions. I only document my experience with BHB salts (and a non-commercial version at that), but say little to nothing about my experience with BHB esters or AcAc esters. But it will provide you will some context and understanding about what exogenous ketones are, and what they might do for athletic performance. We’ll likely podcast about the questions and topics above and cover other aspects of exogenous ketones in more detail.
We designed a test for each of the chosen benefit claims and enlisted the help of four of our Diet Doctor teammates to try out the supplements and go through the testing. They were Jonatan and Giorgos from the video team, Emőke from the recipe team and Erik from the IT team. We had a mix of people who were naturally in endogenous ketosis during testing, and people who were not.
It's also a smart idea to start slowly with this supplement. We can thank Dave Asprey for the term “disaster pants” which has been used by those who try MCT oil at too high a dose when they first start using it. There is a chance that you can experience the same unpleasant gastrointestinal effect with exogenous ketones if you start with too high a dose, or if you maintain a higher carbohydrate diet while using this supplement. Used in appropriate doses, it gets absorbed through your stomach into your liver, then sent out to the rest of your body.
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).
Effects of ketone supplementation on blood glucose. a, b Blood glucose levels at times 0, 0.5, 1, 4, 8, and 12 h (for 10 dose) post intragastric gavage for ketone supplements tested. a Ketone supplements BMS + MCT and MCT significantly reduced blood glucose levels compared to controls for the duration of the 4-week study. BMS significantly lowered blood glucose only at 8 h/week 1 and 12 h/week 3 (b) KE, maintained at 5 g/kg, significantly reduced blood glucose compared to controls from week 1–4. BD did not significantly affect blood glucose levels at any time point during the 4-week study. Two-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 other potentially important distinction between nutritional ketosis and chemically-induced ketosis is the potential metabolic role played by liver AcAc production and redox status. Although the ratio of BOHB to AcAc in venous blood is typically 80% to 20%, classic studies by Cahill (1975) have observed important hepatic vein and peripheral arterio-venous gradients for this ratio in keto-adapted patients. What these observations imply is that the liver produces a higher proportion of AcAc than is found in the peripheral blood, and that this is due to uptake of AcAc in peripheral cells (principally muscle) with re-release as BOHB. In the process, the reduction of AcAc to BOHB produces NAD+, which is beneficial to mitochondrial redox state and mitochondrial function (Verdin 2015, Newman 2017).
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.
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).
I began by simply playing all of the games over and over again (each game many dozens of times over the period of a week) to remove any “learning effect.” I then selected two games from each category (for a total of 10 games) and for a period of five days prior to “ketone-day” played each game five times each day. My “before ketones” baseline scores put me in the top 4% of all Lumosity users, so I was already in a good place. But could I improve even more, just one hour after consuming the ketones?
A common question is why BHB is the go-to ketone body for exogenous ketone supplements. The likely reason is a combination of its efficient conversion into energy and its ease of formulation. In other words, that it is easier to formulate BHB into a nutritional supplement. And the body efficiently converts BHB to acetoacetic acid, which effectively raises blood ketone levels.
Hi Mark, sorry this is off topic but not sure where to send a question for a future Ask Mark. I’m about to go into my yearly physical and I am wondering if there is any specific bloodwork that you like to do for your annual check up. I’m 47 year’s old and the than the basic blood work like lipid panel, etc..I’m going to ask my doctor to test my testosterone, HbA1C, fasting insulin, and Vitamin D levels. I’m also going to ask my doctor to do a stool test to check for parasites or other infections I may have picked up from open water swimming for triathlons. Can you recommend any other blood work that might be useful? Thanks!
If you have already mastered the Very Low Carbohydrate (VLC) or ketogenic way of eating, and/or are eating at a caloric deficit, exercising or fasting you are naturally creating the optimal conditions for your body to produce ketones and put your body into nutritional ketosis. By strict adherence to a well-formulated ketogenic diet (complete with higher levels of mineral salts) you should be able to produce all the ketones you need naturally (endogenously). If you are new or inexperienced in ketogenic eating however; or if you or a family member struggles to adhere to a ketogenic diet, then supplementation with exogenous ketones may be very beneficial. Not only will ketone supplements help to mitigate hunger and carb cravings, but they will also help you stave off carb flu symptoms (see below), giving you the best possible chance of long-term success.
Humans in the hunter-gatherer era survived thanks to metabolic flexibility — the body’s ability to use different fuels for energy depending on the nutrients available. This adaptation was vital during a time when the source, quantity, and frequency of food was uncertain[*]. Most of the time, people were fasting, so their bodies ran on ketones, not glucose.
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