If you’re on a ketogenic diet or plan to, chances are you’ve heard about exogenous ketones. They are substances that help the body to reach the state of ketosis without the need to restrict food as much.
Ketosis is a process in which the body uses fat as a source of energy when there is no amount of glucose available in the body. This is the mechanism used by certain diets, such as the ketogenic diet .
This diet is a high-fat, restricted-carbohydrate diet that encourages ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body burns stored fat for energy. In this process, ketones appear as by-products that provide energy for the body.
Despite being quite effective in stimulating fat burning and weight loss, the ketogenic diet is not easy to follow. If you know how it works and what the ketone diet menu is, you will see that it takes a lot of effort and dedication to achieve ketosis.
Therefore, there are exogenous ketone supplements that help to reach the ketosis state in an easier way. So know what they are, how to take them and understand if they really work or if this type of supplement is bad for you.
Exogenous ketones: what are they
The idea behind exogenous ketones is that just by ingesting the supplement, the body understands that it has entered a state of ketosis and starts burning fat more easily and effectively.
In addition to helping with weight loss, exogenous ketones seem to improve performance in physical activities and mental performance in tasks that use focus and concentration.
But not everything is as simple as it sounds. Let’s see how they work and whether the use of this type of supplement is good for your health or bad.
Types of exogenous ketones
Ketone bodies can be synthesized by our own body (endogenous source) or obtained from an external source (exogenous), such as supplements.
There are several types of exogenous ketones, but the best known are ketone esters and ketone salts.
1. Ketone Esters
Ketone esters are the most potent type of exogenous ketones. They can result in long periods of ketosis and are therefore very effective.
But all this effectiveness comes at a high price. Such supplements are very expensive and have a strong flavor that many people have no taste for.
2. Ketone salts
Ketone salts are more affordable supplements and are available in various forms such as drinks, powders or pills. They are produced by binding a ketone to a mineral such as magnesium, calcium, sodium or potassium.
Although they are cheaper and easier to find, their effectiveness is not as high as that of ketone esters. That’s because ketone salts induce ketosis very quickly, but the ketosis state doesn’t last very long.
Also, use this supplement with caution as high levels of sodium or other electrolytes in the body can be harmful, increasing the risk of heart problems and kidney disease, for example.
3. Supplements with similar effects
There are also products that promise an effect similar to exogenous ketones. Examples are medium chain triglycerides (MCT) , which are rapidly absorbed by the body and converted by the liver to ketones.
However, this type of supplement only works if the person follows a ketogenic diet or takes some exogenous ketone to induce the ketosis state and thus burn more fat.
How to take exotic ketones
It is possible to find exogenous ketones at supplement stores or on the internet. In addition to following the dosage guidelines found on the label or guided by a nutritionist, you need to know the right time to take the supplement.
There are no studies that prove this is the only right way to take it, but most people who follow a ketogenic diet use fasting ketone supplements because it is already capable of inducing ketosis.
Others prefer to ingest the supplement before training in order to improve athletic performance.
Are exotic ketones bad?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American body that regulates food and pharmaceutical products, does not approve the use of exogenous ketones.
That is, the FDA has not tested or evaluated important aspects of the supplement with respect to its purity, efficacy and safety. Not even researchers are sure about the effectiveness and action of exogenous ketones in the body.
Therefore, it is not possible to know whether ketones taken in the form of supplements will have the same effect on the body as naturally produced ketones.
But is it safe? Do you have any side effects?
Some people may experience severe stomach pain when taking exogenous ketones. It is also possible to have other side effects such as:
- Bad taste in the mouth.
In addition, another risk of using the supplement is electrolyte imbalance that can occur from ingesting ketone salts, which can alter some electrical signals in the body and interfere with heart rate and blood pressure.
Finally, ketosis can also cause dehydration and hypoglycemia, triggering symptoms such as weakness and lethargy.
Do exogenous ketones work?
A recent survey published in 2019 in the Journal of Dietary Supplements showed that the consumption of 12 grams of exogenous ketones was enough to increase the amount of ketone bodies in the blood by more than 300%.
According to a 2016 study in the journal Cell Metabolism , this increase in blood ketones is beneficial for those who want to achieve ketosis without having to follow the ketogenic diet or in less time than normal.
Another reason people use a ketone supplement is to reduce the unpleasant symptoms that a ketogenic diet can bring, such as constipation, bad breath, headache, diarrhea and muscle pain.
As for athletic performance, it is already known that prolonged physical activity can lead to a shortage of oxygen to the muscles, causing an increase in the production of lactic acid, which, in turn, leaves the muscles weak, tired and sore.
However, exogenous ketones act as an alternative energy source and can contribute to the reduction of lactic acid synthesis, thus improving physical performance.
Lastly, ketone supplements can reduce your appetite and therefore help with weight loss.
Some research published in 2005 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and in 2016 in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that very high levels of ketones in the blood can cause the body to produce less ketones naturally, making it harder to burn body fat.
Another controversial point is that exogenous ketones also have calories. To stay in ketosis for a long time, you need to take supplements several times a day, which increases your daily caloric intake.
So is it worth using?
Exogenous ketones can actually help induce the ketosis state to encourage weight loss or improve athletic performance. But it is necessary to combine the use of the supplement with a ketogenic diet.
It’s no use and it doesn’t make sense to try to put the body in ketosis, but at the same time ingest carbohydrates that will give the body a fast source of energy, which is glucose.
Even though we guarantee high levels of ketosis in the blood, our body will prefer to use whatever minimal source of glucose it is to obtain energy more easily and quickly.
So it’s only worth using exogenous ketones if you’re really committed to your ketogenic diet and just want extra strength to reach your goals.
Be aware that research on the effectiveness of exogenous ketones is still ongoing and the results released so far are too few to be sure that they are beneficial.
If you want to take the risk, use exogenous ketones to support your efforts, but be sure to follow a diet that suits your goals. And of course, always count on the support of a good nutritionist.