Exogenous Ketones 101

Ketones are all the rage among low carbers. To say that exogenous ketones are an increasingly popular nutritional/ dietary supplement is an understatement.

Since exogenous ketones were introduced in 2014, like with any new supplement of interest, though, there tends to be a lot of misinformation that you have to sift your way through to find the reliable data.

Let’s start with defining the two key words: exogenous and ketones.

So what are ketones?

Ketones are organic compounds produced by your body without the presence of glucose in the blood. Ketones are a byproduct of ketosis caused by the process of converting fat to fuel. Your body makes them when it’s in a calorie or carb restricted state.

These ketones are an ideal and even superior fuel source for your body and your brain. Studies have suggested that when your body is in a ketogenic state, it utilises oxygen more efficiently in the generation of energy.

So your body loves ketones and runs better on ketones.

What are exogenous ketones?

The word exogenous describes something that is developed from external factors; something outside of the usual production.

So regarding ketones, this means that exogenous ketones are synthetic: created outside of your body by scientists and ingested by you, instead of being produced in your body.

Essentially, exogenous ketone body supplements provide users with an instant supply of ketones to utilise, even if you’re not necessarily in a state of ketosis before ingestion (such as when eating a higher-carb diet).

So in a nutshell, you can take ketone supplements to induce a ketosis state without actually restricting anything.

What can exogenous ketones do?

Like most things in nutrition and performance, scientists have found a way to get them in supplement form, so we don’t have to do much of the actual work.

I am confident that the more you learn about exogenous ketones, the more you will be tempted to brand it as a “magical” supplement.

So far, the researchers have learned that exogenous ketone supplements may provide a multitude of benefits, ranging from athletic performance enhancement, more effective weight loss, cancer prevention, cognitive improvement, anti-inflammatory properties, and more.

Keto brain hack: Energy & cognitive improvement

Most people report on the experience of improved energy levels and focus when taking exogenous ketone.

The major role of mitochondria is to process the intake of food and oxygen and produce energy from that.  An increase in the mitochondrial function equates to more energy for your cells – which leads to more energy for you.

So for an effective brain fuel, exogenous ketone definitely works.

With better mental focus, you just feel better, less stress and less anxious.

Athletic enhancement

Exogenous ketone supplementation has a promising outlook for enhancing athletic performance for a variety of reasons, especially endurance athletes. Firstly, ingested ketone bodies induce an acute ketosis that lasts for several hours (between 3- 5 hours) and mimics the physiology of starvation. Secondly, exogenous ketones present a way to elevate ketone levels without having depleted muscle glycogen stores (low muscle glycogen is well known to impair sustained physical performance).

Exogenous ketone provides a discernible extra burst of speed, more overall energy, and The higher your ability is to hit higher performance levels without dipping as deep into anaerobic territory, the less stressful overall on the body and the quicker the recovery is.

Exogenous ketone is a good performance booster on its own.

Weight loss

The majority of people turn to Ketogenic diet for weight loss. The benefits of exogenous ketone in weight loss is the most nuanced and misunderstood aspect of the supplement regime.

In short, plenty of people do lose weight on the supplement. A longer discussion is included here.

Cancer treatment

The research between cancer treatment and Ketogenic diet is exploding.

Scientists know that cancer cells need to keep dividing. The cells do not go through apoptosis, programmed cell death. Cancer cells have dysregulated metabolism. Across cancer types, cancer cells have a high upregulation of glucose intake and lactate production. The simpler way of explaining is that cancer cells are primarily fueled by the burning of sugar anaerobically. Without sugar, most cancer cells simply lack the metabolic flexibility to survive.

Cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to burn fat and this why a healthy high-fat diet appears to be such an effective anti-cancer strategy.

The study of exogenous ketones for cancer treatment is new. Currently, exogenous ketones have had a therapeutic effect in a wide variety of seizure models.

Other benefits

There’s also the potential for ketones being anti-inflammatory. Sure enough, exogenous ketones seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, suppressing expression of an inflammasome involved in various disease states. Some research shows that blocking the inflammasome by deleting the gene responsible for it protects against arthritis in rodents.

The list goes on.

I am sure, in the near future and sooner rather than later, there will be broad applications of exogenous ketones. I’d imagine that we will be able to walk into a local supermarket to buy a loaf of ketone fueled bread.

Top Exogenous Ketone Products

Currently, there are two types of exogenous ketones in the market: Ketone salt and Ketone ester.

Ketone ester is more expensive and is only available limitedly for sport and medical application.

Ketone salt, also known Beta Hydroxybutyrate or BHB, is much cheaper and is currently available. Two top products are KetoCana and KETO//OS.

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My thoughts

Let’s get back to the basics. You are reading this because you want to take charge of your health.

First of all, be an informed consumer. 

Find out and consider what scientific studies have been done on the safety and effectiveness of any of the supplements that interest you.

Before using any supplement, make sure you find out about potential side effects or interactions with any current medications you may be taking.

Each of us reacts to the supplementation differently. So, a word of advice. Listen to your body. Only you can know if something is helping you. If you don’t feel well on a supposed beneficial product, listen to your body and STOP taking it! Knowing when not to take something is a big part of taking responsibility for your health.

A Better Approach

Fix your diet and get into actual ketosis if that’s your goal. But again, that would require your body to do some real work.

Exogenous ketone supplementation is clearly a good performance booster on its own, but I think it should be complemented by a foundation of fat and keto-adapted eating which provides a robust infrastructure set up to handle ketones.

Longer-term fat-adaptation is the powerful trigger for mitochondrial biogenesis so that you have the extra mitochondria necessary to wring every last drop out of those ketones. You need to look at the big picture here.

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