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Article: A Beginner's Guide to Exogenous Ketones

A Beginner's Guide to Exogenous Ketones

A Beginner's Guide to Exogenous Ketones

The massive popularity of the keto and low carb diets is unquestionable. Millions of people attempt to make the switch yearly, but sadly, many fail to sustain the lifestyle.

This could be due to many things, but by far, compliance has to be the major one. The highly restrictive nature of these diets may leave you feeling deprived and trapped, craving the high carb diet of a previous life.

But what if, by using exogenous ketones you could give yourself a little more wiggle room? If you’ve never heard about them before, you’re going to want to read further.

Let’s take a look at what these exogenous ketones are, and what they can do for you.

What Are Ketones Anyway?

You've probably heard the term "ketones" floating around in conversations about diets and health. So what exactly are dietary ketones? 

At the most basic level, ketones are a type of molecule that your body can use as a source of energy. Your body typically relies on glucose, derived from carbohydrates, as its primary energy source. However, when your intake of carbohydrates is low—whether due to dieting, fasting, or certain metabolic conditions—your body switches to burning stored fat for energy. 


During this process, the liver breaks down fatty acids and converts them into ketones, which then serve as an alternate fuel source for your body.

In the context of diet, ketones become particularly relevant when we talk about ketogenic diets (hence the name). By being low in carbohydrates and high in fats, this diet induces a metabolic state known as ketosis. 

In this state, your body is essentially forced to produce ketones as its primary energy source because it doesn't have sufficient carbohydrates to convert into glucose. 

Dietary ketones, also known as exogenous ketones, are a little different. These are ketones that you consume through supplements, rather than the ones your body naturally produces (endogenous ketones). 

Some people believe that taking ketone supplements can help them enter a state of ketosis more quickly, thereby aiding in weight loss. Others use them as a way to provide their body with an immediate energy boost, particularly before intense physical activity.

However, while dietary ketones can indeed help elevate the levels of ketones in your blood, leading to a state of ketosis, they shouldn't be considered a magic bullet for weight loss or overall health. 

It's important to note that being in a state of ketosis doesn't automatically result in weight loss—this generally comes about as a result of creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise. But they can bring you much closer to achieving your goals.

Types of Ketone Bodies

The human body is a remarkable machine that can use various types of fuel to function effectively. While glucose is its preferred energy source, in circumstances when glucose availability is low, such as during fasting, prolonged exercise, or a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, the body has an impressive backup plan: ketone bodies. 

keto compounds

There are three primary types of ketone bodies: Acetoacetate (AcAc), β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and Acetone. Each plays a unique role in the body's energy metabolism.

Acetoacetate (AcAc)

Acetoacetate, or AcAc, is the first ketone body produced during ketogenesis, the metabolic process that occurs in the liver when the body begins to derive much of its energy from fat stores instead of carbohydrates. When carbohydrate intake is low or the body's stored glucose (glycogen) is depleted, fatty acids are broken down and converted into AcAc.

AcAc is then used as a fuel source by various tissues, including the heart and skeletal muscles. It can also be transported across the blood-brain barrier to provide energy for the brain during periods of low glucose availability. It's worth noting, though, that AcAc is not the primary ketone used by the brain – that's where β-hydroxybutyrate comes into play.

Interestingly, AcAc is also a precursor to the other two ketone bodies, β-hydroxybutyrate and acetone. A portion of AcAc is converted into β-hydroxybutyrate within the liver, while some AcAc spontaneously decarboxylates into acetone.

β-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB)

β-Hydroxybutyrate, or BHB, is technically not even a ketone due to its chemical structure, but it's still classified as a ketone body for its role in ketosis. When the liver produces AcAc, a portion of it is converted into BHB through a process that involves the enzyme beta-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase.

BHB is the most abundant ketone body in the bloodstream when the body is in ketosis, and for good reason. It's extremely efficient at delivering energy to tissues throughout the body, particularly the brain. 

BHB is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and provide the brain with the energy it needs when glucose is scarce.

Besides its role as an energy source, BHB also has signaling functions. It can influence processes such as inflammation and oxidative stress, contributing to cellular health and function. Recent research also suggests that BHB may have neuroprotective effects, potentially aiding in the management or prevention of neurodegenerative conditions, although more research is needed to fully understand these potential benefits.


Acetone is the third ketone body, and it is produced from the spontaneous breakdown, or decarboxylation, of AcAc. Unlike AcAc and BHB, acetone isn't used as a significant fuel source by the body. It's found in much smaller quantities in the blood compared to the other two ketones and doesn't provide a substantial amount of energy to the brain or other tissues.

Instead, most of the acetone in the body is excreted, primarily through the lungs. This is why a characteristic "fruity" breath odor is often noticeable in individuals in a state of ketosis – it's the smell of exhaled acetone.

While acetone isn't a significant energy source, its presence can be used as an indicator of ketosis. Certain devices can measure the concentration of acetone in the breath, providing a non-invasive way to monitor whether the body is in a state of ketosis.

What’s Better: Ketone Salts Or Esters?

Ketone Salts

Ketone salts, often referred to as just BHB salts (beta-hydroxybutyrate salts), represent a type of exogenous ketone supplement that combines a ketone body with a mineral. These minerals are typically sodium, potassium, calcium, or magnesium. The binding of the ketone body to a mineral aids in the body's absorption of the ketones, allowing them to be used more effectively as a fuel source.

The most common form of exogenous ketone found in the marketplace, ketone salts, are generally favored due to their relative affordability and ease of consumption, often incorporated into drinks, capsules, or powders. They've been popularized for their purported benefits, which include increasing blood ketone levels, enhancing athletic performance, and aiding in the transition into a state of ketosis for those following a ketogenic diet.

However, it's essential to understand the potential drawbacks that come with the consumption of ketone salts. The binding of ketones with minerals means that consuming high quantities of these salts could lead you to far exceed the recommended daily intake of certain minerals. 

This can potentially lead to side effects like dehydration, nausea, and gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Furthermore, while ketone salts can indeed elevate the level of ketones in your blood, some studies suggest that they may be less effective at inducing a state of ketosis compared to other types of exogenous ketones, such as ketone esters.

Ketone Esters

Ketone esters, on the other hand, are often seen as the more potent form of exogenous ketones. These supplements link a ketone body to an ester compound, which is then metabolized in the liver to release ketones into the bloodstream. As such, ketone esters can have a more dramatic impact on blood ketone levels than ketone salts, potentially inducing a state of ketosis more rapidly.

Notably, ketone esters have been associated with a variety of potential benefits. Studies have pointed towards their potential to enhance athletic performance, improve cognitive function, and provide therapeutic benefits for certain health conditions. For athletes or individuals looking to improve mental clarity, ketone esters may prove beneficial.

However, ketone esters are not without their limitations. Their potent nature and fast-acting effects often lead to a bitter taste, which some consumers find unpalatable. Furthermore, their rapid metabolism can cause gastrointestinal distress in some individuals. The relatively high cost and limited availability of ketone esters also make them less accessible than other exogenous ketone types.

Ketone Oils

Ketone oils, primarily medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, offer a third type of exogenous ketone (though not technically ketones themselves). These oils contain fats that are quickly absorbed and metabolized into ketones by the liver. Given their ability to raise ketone levels and help maintain ketosis, they are a popular addition to ketogenic diets.

MCT oil supplement

MCT oils offer flexibility in terms of usage. They can be incorporated into drinks, used in cooking, or consumed directly, making them a straightforward option for increasing your intake of exogenous ketones. They are also more readily available and affordable than ketone esters.

Nevertheless, MCT oils have potential drawbacks. Like other types of exogenous ketones, they can cause gastrointestinal distress if consumed in large quantities. Plus, while they do raise ketone levels, the rise is typically less dramatic than that seen with ketone salts or esters.

Benefits Of Exogenous Ketones

Weight Loss

Exogenous ketones have garnered significant attention for their potential role in weight loss. 

They can help the body achieve a state of ketosis more quickly and efficiently, even without the stringent carbohydrate restrictions that a ketogenic diet entails. The introduction of these ketones could potentially prompt the body to use more fat for fuel, thereby supporting weight loss.

They also assist with weight loss through several supporting actions on appetite control and maintaining energy levels, for example, which will be discussed in greater detail a bit later.

However, while these benefits seem promising, it's essential to approach exogenous ketones with a balanced perspective. While they can be a helpful tool in a broader weight management strategy, they are not a "magic bullet" for weight loss. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight involves a combination of a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management.

But are these ketones a magic bullet? Not at all. If you fail to keep up your end of the bargain as it relates to physical activity and sound nutrition, there won't be much to expect when it comes to results.

Combine the use of exogenous ketones with Radiance collagen peptides; a keto friendly high protein structural protein supplement and see an even greater bump in your metabolic rate!

Enhancing Athletic Performance

Enhancing athletic performance is one of the primary reasons many people consider using exogenous ketones. The relationship between exogenous ketones and athletic performance can be traced to the way our bodies use fuel for energy, which is essential for any physical activity.

In general, your body uses glucose, derived from carbohydrates, as its primary energy source. This glucose is broken down and used to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that provides energy for nearly all of our cellular functions, including muscle contractions during exercise. 

However, our bodies only store a limited amount of glucose in the form of glycogen. During long-duration exercise, these glycogen stores can be depleted, leading to fatigue and a decrease in performance.

This is where exogenous ketones come into play. Ketones provide an alternative fuel source. When carbohydrate availability is low, such as during prolonged physical activity, the body naturally produces ketones from stored fat. However, these levels can be further augmented through the consumption of exogenous ketones.

The central belief driving the use of exogenous ketones in athletics is the idea that ketones are a more sustainable energy source. Ketones are energy-dense molecules and can provide more energy per unit of oxygen consumed compared to glucose. This greater efficiency in energy production can be particularly advantageous during endurance events, where sustaining energy levels is crucial.

In addition to serving as an efficient fuel source, ketones have other benefits that may enhance athletic performance. For instance, ketones have been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can improve recovery following strenuous exercise. Moreover, ketones can also preserve muscle glycogen stores, sparing these for use when they are most needed.

Exogenous ketones can provide an immediate source of ketones, without requiring the dietary restrictions associated with a ketogenic diet or the physical strain of prolonged exercise. This means athletes can potentially access the benefits of ketosis, including sustained energy and enhanced recovery, irrespective of their dietary choices.

Supports Brain Health and Cognitive Function

Exogenous ketones, taken as dietary supplements, can have a profound impact on brain health and cognitive function. The human brain typically uses glucose as its primary source of energy. However, during periods of carbohydrate restriction, the body produces ketones from the breakdown of fats in the liver. 

the brain on ketones

These ketones—specifically the beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)— cross the blood-brain barrier and serve as an alternative, and in many respects more efficient, energy source for the brain. When supplemented exogenously, these ketones can offer the same energy benefits even without strict carbohydrate restriction.

The impact of ketones on brain function is multifaceted. Firstly, as mentioned, ketones are a more efficient fuel than glucose, producing more energy per unit of oxygen consumed. This high-energy yield can enhance cognitive function, improve focus, and potentially even boost memory recall. 

The brain's utilization of ketones leads to increased mitochondrial efficiency and production of the energy molecule ATP, ultimately resulting in less oxidative stress and fewer free radicals, which are harmful molecules that can cause cellular damage. 

Secondly, ketones impact brain health by altering the levels of certain neurotransmitters, namely glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, while GABA is inhibitory. 

An imbalance, with excess glutamate and insufficient GABA, can lead to over-excitation of nerve cells, potentially causing migraines, seizures, or other neurological conditions. Ketones have been found to increase GABA production in the brain, restoring the balance between these two critical neurotransmitters and providing a calming, stabilizing effect.

The use of exogenous ketones and the resultant state of ketosis have been particularly beneficial in managing neurological conditions, such as epilepsy. 

Few people realize that the ketogenic diet was actually originally developed in the 1920s as a way to mimic the biochemical effects of fasting, a known treatment for epileptic seizures at the time. 

When fasting or on a ketogenic diet, the body switches to using ketones for energy, and this metabolic shift has been associated with a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of seizures in many epilepsy patients. 

While the exact mechanism is still being studied, researchers believe it involves the stabilization of neurons and regulation of the neurotransmitters described above.

Moreover, preliminary research has shown promise in the use of exogenous ketones in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. These conditions are characterized by impaired glucose metabolism in the brain. Providing an alternate fuel source with ketones can potentially bypass these metabolic deficiencies and sustain neuronal function.

Even with their potential benefits, it's essential to understand that exogenous ketones are not a cure-all and should not replace any prescribed treatment. As always, they should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional, particularly when being utilized for their potential therapeutic benefits in managing neurological conditions. 

Furthermore, research into the effects and potential benefits of exogenous ketones on brain health and neurological conditions is an ongoing field, so use with caution.

Management of Metabolic Disease

Metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and even obesity, have been a growing global health concern. These conditions are often characterized by insulin resistance, impaired glucose metabolism, and the overproduction of glucose by the liver. 

Intriguingly, emerging research suggests that exogenous ketones might yet play a significant role in managing these metabolic disorders, primarily through their influence on glucose control and insulin sensitivity.

metabolic disease

So, how do exogenous ketones intersect with metabolic disorders? To understand this, we first need to delve into the underlying issues associated with these conditions. In type 2 diabetes, for example, the body becomes less responsive to insulin, the hormone that enables cells to take in glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy. 

This results in high blood sugar levels, which can lead to a host of health complications. Similarly, in obesity, impaired metabolism can lead to excessive fat storage, which further exacerbates insulin resistance.

Exogenous ketones, when introduced into the body, provide an alternative energy source that doesn't rely on glucose or insulin. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with insulin resistance, as it allows the body to maintain energy levels without exacerbating high blood sugar levels. 

Moreover, by reducing the body's reliance on glucose for energy, exogenous ketones could help to lower blood glucose levels, thus reducing the demand on the pancreas to produce insulin.

Research has suggested that exogenous ketones can help improve insulin sensitivity too. In a state of ketosis, less insulin is required to help the body utilize energy, potentially improving insulin efficiency and promoting better blood sugar control. 

Some studies have even suggested that exogenous ketones can help regulate the overproduction of glucose by the liver, a common issue in type 2 diabetes, further contributing to better glucose management.

Then there’s obesity;  often linked to inflammation, and interestingly, exogenous ketones might also possess anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation can interfere with the body's metabolic responses, and by reducing inflammation, exogenous ketones could potentially improve metabolic health.

And let’s not forget the fact that exogenous ketones can help with weight management, a critical aspect of managing metabolic disorders. In a ketogenic state, the body is more efficient at burning fat for energy, which could contribute to weight loss. 

While these ketones are a great intervention;l strategy, it does not take away the need for you to still use your prescribed medication for management. They merely hasten your path to recovering your damaged metabolic machine.

Appetite Suppression

Appetite control is a huge factor when it comes to managing your weight and overall health. One of the interesting benefits of exogenous ketones is their potential ability to suppress appetite. This particular benefit is an active area of research, with various theories proposed to explain the underlying mechanisms. 

appetite control hormones

To understand how exogenous ketones may affect appetite, it's important first to understand how hunger and satiety work. Your body's feelings of hunger and fullness are regulated by a complex system involving various hormones, including ghrelin, leptin, insulin, and peptide YY (PYY). 

Ghrelin is often referred to as the "hunger hormone" because its levels increase before meals and decrease after eating. On the other hand, leptin, insulin, and PYY are hormones that promote feelings of fullness and satiety.

Exogenous ketones, particularly beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), may interact with this hormonal system and modulate the appetite response. Preliminary research indicates that supplementation with exogenous ketones can result in lower levels of ghrelin, thereby reducing feelings of hunger. 

It's believed that this could be linked to the way ketones affect metabolic pathways and hormone production.

Additionally, exogenous ketones might enhance feelings of fullness by influencing the levels of leptin, insulin, and PYY. For instance, there's evidence that ketone bodies can stimulate the release of cholecystokinin (CCK), another hormone that promotes satiety. However, this interaction is still not entirely understood, and more research is needed to confirm these effects and their implications.

Exogenous ketones may also affect appetite through their impact on the central nervous system, particularly the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that plays a pivotal role in regulating hunger and satiety. Ketone bodies can cross the blood-brain barrier and exert neuroactive effects, potentially modulating neuronal activity related to appetite regulation.

It's also been suggested that ketones can influence appetite by modulating the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome, the community of bacteria living in the gut, plays a significant role in various aspects of health, including appetite regulation. Some research indicates that ketones can alter the composition of the gut microbiota in ways that could potentially affect appetite signals.

Despite these promising theories and early research findings, it's important to note that the relationship between exogenous ketones and appetite suppression remains complex and not fully understood. 

The exact mechanisms and extent of these effects may vary based on individual factors like diet, lifestyle, and metabolic health, so there is the need to take its potential with a grain of salt.

Potential Drawbacks Of Exogenous Ketones

While these supplements can be helpful for most individuals and specific uses, there are also some potential drawbacks associated with their use. Here are some to keep an eye out for: 

  • Gastrointestinal Discomfort: One of the most common side effects reported with the use of exogenous ketones, particularly when starting, is gastrointestinal discomfort. This can include symptoms such as nausea, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. These symptoms are typically related to the dosage and can often be mitigated by starting with a smaller dose and gradually increasing as your body adjusts.
  • Taste: Many exogenous ketone supplements, especially ketone esters, have been reported to have an unpleasant taste. Although manufacturers have attempted to mask this with various flavorings, the bitter or unusual taste can be a deterrent for some people. This could potentially affect adherence to a supplementation regimen and limit the potential benefits.
  • Cost: Exogenous ketones, particularly ketone esters, can be quite expensive, which may make them unfeasible for long-term use for some people. The cost factor becomes especially important when considering that exogenous ketones should be used as part of a comprehensive approach to health and wellness that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
  • They May Not Work for Everyone: While they can effectively raise ketone levels in the blood, this does not guarantee that they will provide the desired benefits for everyone. Some individuals may not experience the enhanced energy, improved cognitive function, or weight loss that others report. Various factors, including individual metabolic differences and the quality of the supplement, can influence the effectiveness of exogenous ketones.
  • Reduced Effectiveness Over Time: Some research suggests that the effectiveness of exogenous ketones may decrease over time. The body is an adaptive system and may adjust to the continual influx of ketones by enhancing its ability to utilize them for energy or by excreting excess ketones. As a result, you may find that after using exogenous ketones for a period, the same dose does not produce the same effects as it initially did. This could potentially result in needing to take higher doses for the same effects, increasing the cost and the risk of side effects.

Final Words

Overall, the use of exogenous ketones carries great promise, and the likelihood is high that you stand to benefit in one way or another from consumption. However, it is important to keep in mind that they don’t just “magically work” just by drinking them.

You still need to put in the work, which means making conscious changes to your dietary and lifestyle habits.

Give them a try and see how it goes- they might help make you an ardent supporter of the low carb lifestyle.

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