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By Chelsea De Beer
We often get the question: “Does your body really need exogenous ketones to achieve maximal physical and mental performance?” We’ve broken down the answers for you, with the help of a solid foundation of empirical data and academically acclaimed expert opinion.
If you or a family member suffers from PCOS, epilepsy, ALS, Alzheimers or have experienced a traumatic brain injury, you may want to listen up.
Ketones Are Simple Molecules With Captivating Capabilities.
Scientific studies are increasingly investigating ketone bodies as potential therapeutic aids on a grand scale.
Although the power of ketones has fascinatingly been used thousands of years to control epilepsy seizures according to records, our methods of testing, deducing and corroborating have become a lot more advanced.
Because of this, science can investigate the benefits and drawbacks of hyperketonemia in a more complete, more accurate way.
Today, researchers are engaging with exogenous ketones’ potential in treating illnesses such as acne, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and are achieving positive results.
What Are Exogenous Ketones, Exactly?
Exogenous ketones are a substance you consume that contains ketones that are bio-identical to those our bodies make during ketogenesis.
These ketone bodies, like aceto-acetate, acetone and Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (goBHB), put you in a state of mild, acute ketosis.
They require no restriction of carbohydrates so you can eat a carb-rich diet and still benefit from the ketone bodies made outside the body instead of within it.
Endogenous ketones are made in the liver when we restrict carbohydrates. This process increases lipolysis (fat breakdown) and puts the metabolism in a state of ketogenesis.
This ultimately leads to hyperketonemia, where the ketone body Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) presence in the blood is higher than 0.5mM.
In this state, ketone oxidation occurs which fuels cells (very efficiently) in the body instead of glucose from carbs.
The fact that exogenous ketones require no carb restriction like the ketogenic diet can be immensely beneficial for cases like elderly patients, institutionalized patients, children, people with special dietary limitations or even in the military (in cases where having both glucose and ketones in the blood is an advantage).
If you are part of one of these communities it can be nearly impossible to follow a strict ketogenic diet and thereby are robbed of the opportunity to benefit from ketosis.
With exogenous ketones like goBHB that don’t need you to be in ketosis to receive the neurological, physical and mental effects.
Let’s Look At A Quick Case Study:
Dr. Brianna Stubbs, is a peak-performance, elite-level athlete who was motivated by her own performance goals to delve into the physiological effects of ketones salts and esters. What she discovered changed her results and her life.
During her time as a British International Rowing Team competitor, Stubbs became the youngest person in history to row across the English Channel and has been studying the effects of ketones of performance for nearly a decade as an Oxford scholar and now faculty member.
Her research has brought to light some fascinating and promising findings on athletic performance increase on exogenous ketones, as well as how they could help the brain.
How Did Exogenous Ketones Help Dr. Stubbs Achieve Gold-Standard Results In The Water And In Her Academic Research?
What researchers have discovered through methodical investigation is that muscle glycogen is spared during exercise when BHB ketone salts are taken before activity.
What this means is that instead of Dr. Stubbs’ body burning up vital carbohydrate stores in her muscles during high-intensity endurance rowing, she metabolized both ketones and glucose.
Another finding was that regular exercise-induced protein deamination during exercise showed a significant decrease, meaning the total muscle she lost during each work-out was less than if she had only had glucose in her bloodstream and no ketones.
Another strange but wonderful discovery has been that, although exogenous ketones taken on a high-carb diet inhibit lipolysis to a degree, Beta-Hydroxybutyrate significantly increased intramuscular fat oxidation – by 25% (Stubbs et. al, 2017).
In terms of cognitive ability, ketones like goBHB are small enough to easily cross the blood-brain barrier, providing respective neurons with a readily available, efficient energy source to learn, remember, articulate and perceive.
When you combine this with ketosis’s reputation for restoring GABA balance in the brain and its well-documented therapeutic value treating epilepsy, it becomes clear that ketone bodies have a very important role in the future of neuroscience.
Ketone Salts Aren’t Just BHB
Contrary to what you may have heard, Beta-Hydroxybutyrate and ketone salts are not the same thing. Like Aceto-acetate and acetone, BHB is a molecule created by ketogenesis.
However, the ketone bodies need a substrate to bind to in order for our bodies to be able to properly metabolize it.
In the case of ketone salts, BHB is bound to essential minerals like calcium, sodium or magnesium. These minerals all act ass electrolytes, keeping your body properly hydrated as ketosis makes you lose water weight.
The absolute best plan if you are considering giving BHB a go is to choose an exogenous ketone that contains ALL 3 electrolytes (magnesium, calcium, sodium) in one product.
Otherwise, you may find yourself with an imbalance and having to drink a boatload of salty spinach juice and take a handful of assorted mineral supplements to stay properly hydrated.
Are All Keto Supplements the Same? No Way!
Not all keto supplements are even exogenous ketones – be very wary of that when choosing a brand. Other supplements marketed to us keto-ers include:
Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil – an easy-to-breakdown dietary lipid source
Green Tea extract – with metabolism-boosting epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) leucine, isoleucine, and valine assist in protein synthesis
From a performance perspective, using a “keto supplement” that doesn’t actually contain any ketone salts, ketone esters or AcAc seems very counter-intuitive.
Also, if you’re considering taking a ketone supplement that also contains BCAAs, you have less control of your individual dosages. Opting for a separate, clean ketone supplement with Beta-Hydroxybutyrate and essential minerals is your primary goal.
Exogenous ketones show great promise and are already demonstrating their amazing abilities to boost mental and physical performance. However, the only real way to get fact-based, substantial answers to very important questions is research, research, research.
It’s really hard to deny the evidence reflected in such competent and well-corroborated studies. In terms of what that evidence suggests? We interpret the literature like this:
Exogenous ketones will change the world, or rather, they already are for those fortunate to know about them.
Cox PJ, Clarke K. Acute nutritional ketosis: implications for exercise performance and metabolism. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00848 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670148/
Extreme Physiology Med. (2014); 3:17. Epub 2014 Oct 29. Pinckaers PJ, Churchward-Venne TA, Bailey D, van Loon LJ. Ketone Bodies and Exercise Performance: The Next Magic Bullet or Merely Hype? Sports Med. (2017) Mar; 47(3):383-391. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27430501
Shimazu T, Hirschey M, Newman J, He W, Shirakawa K, Le Moan N, et al. Suppression of oxidative stress by β-hydroxybutyrate, an endogenous histone deacetylase inhibitor. Science. (2013) ;339:211–4. doi:10.1126/science.1227166.
Stubbs, B. J., Cox, P. J., Evans, R. D., Santer, P., Miller, J. J., Faull, O. K., … Clarke, K. (2017). On the Metabolism of Exogenous Ketones in Humans. Frontiers in physiology, 8, 848.
Veech RL, Chance B, Kashiwaya Y, Lardy HA, Cahill Jr GF. Ketone bodies, potential therapeutic uses. IUBMB Life. (2001) ;51(4):241–7. doi:10.1080/152165401753311780.
Wilder, R. M. The effects of ketonemia on the course of epilepsy Mayo Clin Proc. (1921) 2: 307-308 https://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/10019167655/en/
Wood T, R, Stubbs B, J, Juul S, E: Exogenous Ketone Bodies as Promising Neuroprotective Agents for Developmental Brain Injury. Dev Neurosci (2018). 40:451-462. doi: 10.1159/000499563 https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/499563#
By Chelsea De Beer
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Boise, ID 83706
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