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What Are Exogenous Ketones and Are They Safe?

Published December 24, 2018 (Revised: November 23, 2019) Read Time: 6 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

Fact-Checked By: Ana Reisdorf MS, RD

exogenous-ketones
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/11/exogenous-ketones-thumbnail-0038.jpg" } }, "headline":"What Are Exogenous Ketones and Are They Safe?", "datePublished":"2018-12-24", "dateModified": "2019-11-23", "description":"Are exogenous ketones safe? And can they help me lose weight? Here's the answer to your most common questions.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/11/exogenous-ketones-thumbnail-0038.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What are exogenous ketones?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Imagine a supplement that can boost performance, make your transition to low-carb dieting smoother, and reduce the effects of a high-carb meal.<br>In a nutshell, that's what exogenous ketones are—a synthetically made supplement that can help compliment your low-carb diet.<br>In the past, exogenous ketones were only used for research. But due to their recently discovered health and performance benefits, they are growing in popularity in the low-carb diet community. <br>Let's look at what exogenous ketones are, their benefits, and answer 5 popular questions about taking them." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">Ketones vs. Exogenous Ketones</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Benefits of Exogenous Ketones</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Exogenous Ketones: FAQ</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Exogenous Ketones: Wrap Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Imagine a supplement that can boost performance, make your transition to low-carb dieting smoother, and reduce the effects of a high-carb meal<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670148/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>. </p> <p>In a nutshell, that's what exogenous ketones are—a synthetically made supplement that can help compliment your low-carb diet.</p> <p>In the past, exogenous ketones were only used for research. But due to their recently discovered health and performance benefits, they are growing in popularity in the low-carb diet community. </p> <p>Let's look at what exogenous ketones are, their benefits, and answer 5 popular questions about taking them.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/what-are-ketones-0038.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/what-are-ketones-0038.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/what-are-ketones-0038.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/what-are-ketones-LR-0038.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="what-are-ketones"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>Ketones vs. exogenous ketones</h2> <p><i>The short answer</i>: ketones are produced by the body. Exogenous ketones are manufactured synthetically and taken as a supplement.</p> <p>When your body runs low on glucose (carbohydrates), the body uses ketones—or enters ketosis—to supplement energy production. In ketosis, you burn fat as your primary fuel source<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup>.</p> <p>The three main ketones produced are<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21983804/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup>: <ul> <li>Acetoacetate</li> <li>Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)</li> <li>Acetone (produced in much smaller amounts than the first two).</li> </ul> <p><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/bhb-exogenous-ketones-and-the-keto-diet/" rel="noreferrer">Ketones</a> (natural chemicals produced by your liver) produced by the body are called <i>endogenous ketones</i>. Most people <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/87-things-to-avoid-on-the-keto-diet" rel="noreferrer">get into ketosis</a> by exercising, restricting carbs, or taking exogenous ketones, which we'll explain in the next section.</p> <p>While the body can produce ketones on its own, there are also synthetic ketones that can be taken as <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/best-keto-supplements/" rel="noreferrer">supplements</a>. These are known as <i>exogenous ketones</i>.</p> <p>There are two types of exogenous ketones: salts and esters. </p> <ul> <li>Ketone salts are much more available than ketone esters. You can order the salts online and easily mix them with water or another liquid. Esters are more often used for research purposes<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28599043" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup>.</li> <li>Salts and esters are also produced differently. Ketone salts are attached to a mineral like sodium or potassium. Esters, which are chemical compounds derived from acid, usually attach themselves to an alcohol molecule.</li> </ul> <p>If you're interested, you can order exogenous ketones online as part of our <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/6-week-challenge-offer/keto-support/" rel="noreferrer">keto supplement bundle</a>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>Benefits of exogenous ketones</h2> <p>Low-carb dieters use exogenous ketones for a few reasons. Here are 4 health and performance benefits.</p> <ul> <li><strong>May improve performance during exercise</strong>: Ketones are used for fuel during exercise, so taking them may give you a boost during endurance workouts<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27861911" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup>. A 2018 study in <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30531462" rel="nofollow noreferrer"><i>Current Sports Medicine Reports</i></a> reported that exogenous ketones shouldn't just be considered an alternative fuel source, but a potential recovery-booster and performance enhancer for endurance exercise.</li> <li><strong>May help you achieve ketosis faster</strong>: Synthetic ketones elevate your ketone levels in your blood, which may help you get into fat burning mode quicker. The journal <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29163194" rel="nofollow noreferrer"><i>Frontiers of Physiology</i></a> call exogenous ketones a practical and effective way to get into ketosis.</li> <li><strong>May help reduce symptoms of the keto flu</strong>: Symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue are all common side-effects when switching to a keto diet<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5858534/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup>. One reason this happens is due to a mineral imbalance brought on by a reduction of carbs. Since ketone salts are attached to these minerals, they may help mitigate these negative side-effects when you first go low-carb.</li> <li><strong>May reduce hunger</strong>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/best-keto-supplements/" rel="noreferrer">Ghrelin</a>, a hormone that makes you feel hungry, is reduced when exogenous ketones are taken<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813183/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup>. Since appetite is one of the main factors that influence weight loss and maintenance, this could be a huge benefit for achieving long-lasting results<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5108589/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup>.</li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exogenous-ketones-ketosis-0038.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exogenous-ketones-ketosis-0038.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exogenous-ketones-ketosis-0038.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exogenous-ketones-ketosis-LR-0038.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="exogenous-ketones-ketosis"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>Exogenous ketones: FAQ</h2> <h3>1. Do exogenous ketones put you in ketosis?</h3> <p><i>The short answer</i>: Yes, because they elevate blood ketone levels.</p> <p>Ketosis is measured by the amount of ketones in your body, usually blood, urine, or breath<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5097355/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup>. Since synthetic ketones elevate the amount of ketones in your body, you'll start burning fat as a fuel source quicker.</p> <p>That isn't to say you can just take the supplement and stay in ketosis forever while eating a high carb diet. Studies show the benefits may only last up to 4 hours, and are removed from your body after 24<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670148/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup>.</p> <p>A better, more sustainable approach is to adhere to a low-carb diet like the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-101-a-beginners-guide-to-keto" rel="noreferrer">ketogenic diet</a> and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/" rel="noreferrer">exercise regularly</a>.</p> <h3>2. Is MCT oil an exogenous ketone?</h3> <p><i>The short answer</i>: No, but MCT oil can also help you produce ketones.</p> <p>MCT oil, or medium chain triglycerides, are fatty compounds found in <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-benefits-and-how-to-of-coconut-oil-coffee" rel="noreferrer">coconut</a> and some dairy products like butter. Studies show MCT oil can increase ketone production in the liver an hour after consumption<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1245892" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup>.</p> <p>However, MCT oil and exogenous ketones are not the same thing.</p> <p>The main difference is how they are digested. MCTs must be digested by the body before they can be used for energy. Although they digest faster than other fatty acids, this separates them from exogenous ketones, which can be used immediately<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18326600" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a></sup>.</p> <h3>3. Do exogenous ketones help with weight loss?</h3> <p><i>The short answer</i>: As part of a low carb diet, yes<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670148/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a></sup>.</p> <p>As mentioned above, exogenous ketones help reduce the hormones that make you feel hungry, and not being hungry all the time can help you lose weight.</p> <p>They also help you get into ketosis faster, and may reduce blood glucose levels after eating a big or carb-heavy meal.</p> <p>Exogenous ketones aren't a "magic bullet" solution by any means. But used as part of a healthy routine and a low-carb diet, they may help you lose weight over time.</p> <h3>4. Are exogenous ketones safe?</h3> <p><i>The short answer</i>: Yes. </p> <p>According to one 2012 study, exogenous ketones are considered a safe supplement. Administered orally, blood ketones stayed elevated without any adverse side-effects<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22561291" rel="nofollow noreferrer">15</a></sup>.</p> <p><i>Do</i> remember, though, that exogenous ketones are bound to minerals like salt and potassium. So in theory, taking the supplement could elevate your electrolyte levels. </p> <p>Another study, published in 2014 in the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24598140" rel="nofollow noreferrer"><i>Journal of Lipid Research</i></a> called exogenous ketones "safe, convenient, and versatile" supplements, also citing their belief that could be beneficial or therapeutic for fighting some diseases.</p> <p>As always, though, you should speak with your doctor before taking any new supplement. </p> <h3>5. When should you take exogenous ketones?</h3> <p><i>The short answer</i>: It depends on your goals. </p> <p>Exogenous ketones offer several benefits, all of which vary. Therefore, timing really depends on your goals and how long you've been following a low-carb diet. </p> <p>For example:</p> <ul> <li>If you want to boost your performance during a workout, take them before training.</li> <li>If you know you're having a carb-heavy meal later in the day, take them before you eat to reduce the effects.</li> <li>If you're new to low-carb dieting, you might take exogenous ketones with meals during the first few days to mitigate "keto flu" symptoms.</li> </ul> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>Exogenous ketones: wrap up</h2> <p>Exogenous ketones can be beneficial, but they're also not a magic wand you can wave to get results. You can't, for example, eat unhealthy foods for days at a time and use synthetic ketones to "offset" the effects. </p> <p>However, they might be good for blunting the effects of one meal or for getting in a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/push-yourself-to-the-limit-full-body-workout" rel="noreferrer">killer workout</a>.</p> <p>Remember, the job of any supplement is to <i>add</i> to what you're already doing. Focus on the fundamentals of healthy living and weight loss, like eating well and exercising, and then consider exogenous ketones if they fit your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/how-to-set-realistic-fitness-goals-you-can-achieve" rel="noreferrer">specific goals</a>.</p> <p>There are many varieties to choose from, and they are easy to mix with water or other liquids. At this point, far from where they started as a science-lab-only substance, they're even <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/6-week-challenge-offer/keto-support/" rel="noreferrer">available online</a>. Exogenous ketones might make a great addition to your health and fitness routine.</p> </section> </article>

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