What if we told you that your body could be a fat-burning machine? That you could lose weight while feeling satiated and full of energy? We’re sure that would be something you’d like to know more about.
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We’re talking about <i>ketosis</i>, the “magic” behind how people are losing a ton of weight and changing their lives with the ketogenic diet. When your body is in ketosis, it is going through a process called “fat oxidation.” Fat metabolizes and creates ketone bodies in the blood, becoming your primary energy source, as opposed to glucose.
As the ketogenic diet has gotten more popular, <i>exogenous ketones</i> have emerged as a popular keto support. Many people on keto hear about ketone supplements such as ketone salts and ketone esters (more on these later) and wonder just how powerful they can be for weight loss. After all, if you could eat carbs (which transform into glucose during digestion) and still stay in fat-burning mode by simply drinking ketone supplements afterward, wouldn’t you want to do that during your ketogenic experience?
Unfortunately, keeping your ketone levels where they need to be while deviating from keto and eating a diet full of carbs, is not that simple. Still, exogenous ketones offer a lot of benefits for those on the ketogenic diet. In this article, we’ll take a look at what they are and how they work as you explore a ketogenic lifestyle.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is Ketosis? What are Ketones?</p></h4>
To understand ketone supplements, we’ll quickly review the basics of ketones and how your body use ketones for energy on keto.
Ketones are chemicals made by your liver to help burn fat as your primary fuel source. Ketosis is the state that ketogenic dieters strive to achieve as often as possible. When you are in a state of ketosis, your body is depleted of glucose (carbohydrates) and is burning your stored fat reserves for energy<sup>1</sup>.
Ketogenic dieters typically eat about 5 percent of their daily caloric intake in carbs, which is usually twenty-five to fifty grams. The rest of the diet is composed of high-quality fat sources and a moderate amount of protein.
Ketosis comes with other benefits besides weight loss like increased <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/ketosis-and-brain-function/">brain function</a>. Keto dieters regularly report an increase in energy and mental clarity while in ketosis.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What are Exogenous Ketones?</p></h4>
They are a man-made supplement that helps keep your body in ketosis even when you eat a non-keto-friendly (higher carb) meal<sup>2</sup>. The word <i>exogenous</i> means “created externally,” though exogenous supplements are simply a dose of beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB). BHB, found in ketone salts and ketone esters (ketone esters are the raw form of BHB without added salts), is the same ketone our body makes naturally that helps us get into fat-burning mode
The idea behind ketone salts and ketone esters is that deviating from the ketogenic diet won’t guarantee you’ll be knocked out of ketosis. Instead of going back to a sugar-burning state once you’ve started keto, the presence of exogenous ketones helps you <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/87-things-to-avoid-on-the-keto-diet/">stay in ketosis</a> and continue reaping the benefits of a low-carb diet and your ketogenic lifestyle.
Typically, the ketone supplements you add to your diet, that help the body increase BHB, whether as ketone salts or esters, are consumed in drink form. Companies sell bottled drinks and powders with the necessary doses of BHB, that can be mixed with water or other beverages.
Another type of keto supplement on the keto diet, though not necissarily referd to as “exogenous” are ketone oils such as MCT oil. MCT stands for “medium chain triglyceride,” which when broken down in the body, create energy from fat, and can help your body stay in ketosis. The main difference betwen taking an MCT oil supplement versus ketone salts or esters on your ketogenic journey, is that MCT has to be broken down in the body first, and doesn’t create as immediate an effect in energy production as the other supplments mentioned above.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">Keep This in Mind About Exogenous Ketones</p></h5>
Before we continue, it’s important to set realistic expectations about what ketone salts and ketone esters, when added to your diet, can do for you and your ketogenic health or fitness goals. If you have been reading carefully, you may be very excited at the prospect of things like ketone salts and esters in helping modulate your ketone levels.
After all, if you could eat carbs <i>and</i> stay within the appropriate ketone levels to stay in fat-burning mode during your ketogenic pursuits, that would be perfect.
Yes, supplements like ketone salts and ketone esters can keep you in ketosis, and help your ketone levels. And yes, they can serve as an <i>override</i> of sorts if you eat too many carbs once in a while on keto. But they aren’t a magic pill, and you shouldn’t expect a supplemental dose of ketone supplements to keep you burning fat if you eat cake for three meals in a row. In this case, you would no longer be in the keto-friendly zone, no matter how much BHB you add to your diet.
Just remember to keep your expectations realistic so you can learn how ketone supplements can actually help your body during your keto pursuits. They can serve a real purpose in BHB supplementation, but you have to remember that long-term weight loss and health goals are always achieved through consistency and hard work.
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<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">When Would You Use Exogenous Ketones?</p></h4>
Besides weight loss―that gets its own section―there are four instances where these supplements may be useful. Let’s take a look at each individually.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">1. Get into Ketosis Faster</p></h5>
Because everyone’s body is a little different, and ketone levels may differ, it might take between three and ten days to initially get into ketosis once you start with keto. Exercise, fasting, and eating a high-fat diet are proven methods for getting into ketosis faster.
Whether you’re new to the keto diet or a seasoned veteran, ketone supplements can help you get there, too. Adding the supplement to your diet could be paired with something like intermittent fasting (eating your meals in an eight-hour window, then not eating for sixteen) to expedite sugar burning.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">2. Avoid (or Mitigate) Keto Flu Symptoms</p></h5>
The length of time for achieving ketosis differs. So, too, can the experience. The initial adjustment from sugar burning to fat burning as you embark upon a keto lifestyle can be tough on some people. The <i>keto flu</i> can leave you with headaches, irritability, and low energy as your body adjusts to ketones.
With exogenous ketones, you may feel more energy and experience fewer symptoms early on. Adding ketones to your body and bloodstream might alleviate or eliminate a few days of suffering as you become a fat burner.
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<h5><p style="color: #000000">3. Improve Performance</p></h5>
People often wonder if the keto diet is perfect for athletes or active people who are already full of energy. For example, is it possible to run long distances and support your body without eating a ton of carbs on keto?
The short answer is yes, though it may take some time for your body to adjust while your ketone levels are changing. Long-term, athletes that use the ketogenic diet are rewarded with benefits like <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/can-ketosis-reduce-inflammation/">less inflammation</a> and higher levels of energy.
In the short term, though, while adjusting to keto, workouts may suffer. This is another time ketone supplements might help you. A pre-workout exogenous ketone drink might help your body feel more energy and get you through your tougher sessions.
Even if you aren’t perfect at following the keto diet, or you don’t follow it at all, some evidence suggests exogenous ketones can improve your performance<sup>3</sup>.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">4. Cognitive Benefits</p></h5>
The truth is, your brain is the biggest energy sucker in your body. What’s more, it’s used to running off carbohydrates. Because of this, you may feel a bit sluggish or a mental fog in the early days of following the ketogenic diet.
Once you’re adjusted to keto, however, ketosis actually seems to have <i>positive effects</i> on brain function. Ketone supplements, then, can help bridge the gap to cognitive benefits like improved focus, memory, and performance<sup>4</sup>.
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<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Can Exogenous Ketones Help with Weight Loss?</p></h4>
Now, let’s answer the million dollar question that many of you are asking:
<i>Can exogenous ketones help with weight loss?</i>
The answer, in short, is <i>yes</i><sup>5</sup>. Perhaps not in the way you may think, however. The science shows that ketone supplements that include BHB help keto dieters stay in ketosis after eating a few too many carbs. They can also help decrease appetite as you strive to re-enter a fat-burning mode on keto.
However, they are not the end-all-be-all of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-keto-supplements#section1">ketogenic supplements</a>. As we’ve already said, it’s important to set realistic expectations about what ketone supplements can and cannot do. This is true with all supplements. At the end of the day, consistency and hard work on your part is the key to achieving your keto health goals. But using a BHB supplement may help you get there faster.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Potential Downsides of Exogenous Ketones</p></h4>
To this point, we’ve looked mostly at the benefits of exogenous ketones on keto. There are also some negatives to keep in mind.
For one, ketone supplements and products can be quite expensive. In fact, if money is tight, you’re probably better off just buying high-quality ingredients for making tasty <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/">keto meals</a> than supplemental products like ketone salts or esters. A two-week supply of a BHB supplement can cost more than $50. You could buy a lot of keto-friendly <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/organic-produce-vs-conventional-produce/">organic vegetables</a> and quality meats with that money.
Furthermore, many users say that ketone supplements in drink form taste poorly. This is because they usually come in the form of ketone salts or ketone esters. Whether they are added into a drink or consumed with just water, most people report the experience as unpleasant. The premade drinks can also exceed 100 calories per serving, which is something to keep in mind.
Finally, not everyone should use exogenous ketones during their keto process. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that people with high blood pressure should not use ketone supplements at all<sup>2</sup>.
<h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Wrap-Up: Can Exogenous Ketones Help Me?</p></h4>
If you scrolled through the article and are just looking for fast answers, here’s the scoop on exogenous ketones and how they could help you during your keto health or fitness journey.
Ketone supplements may be useful to add to your diet to help you get into a fat-burning state quicker on keto. They can help you lose weight, improve brain function, and avoid symptoms of the keto flu early on as you adjust to a high-fat, low-carb diet.
They are not, however, a wonder supplement. Thinking of them that way is bound to result in disappointment. For example, if you conclude that taking supplements with BHB can “cancel out” a high-carb meal (and glucose production), keeping you in a state of fat oxidation all the time, you’d be mistaken.
Simply put, you have to do the hard work. Ketone supplements are a tool for your toolbox that can help you be more efficient and increase the likelihood that you achieve your keto health goals such as weight loss and positive effects on your energy. Stick to high-quality, high-fat, and low-carb meals, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/">exercise</a>, and consider adding in exogenous ketones along the way.
<h5><p style="color: #000000">Resources</p></h5>
1. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/qa/what-are-ketones">What are ketones?</a>
2. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/ketogenic-diet/diet/exogenous-ketone-supplements-are-they-safe-they-work/">Should You Use Exogenous Supplements?</a>
3. <a target="_blank" href=https://www.healthline.com/health-news/can-ketone-drinks-boost-workouts/">Can Ketone Drinks Really Boost Your Workouts?</a>
4. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670148/">On the Metabolism of Exogenous Ketones</a>
5. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/exogenous-ketones#supplements">What Are Exogenous Ketone Supplements?</a>