Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
“What are exogenous ketones and how do I use them?”
Exogenous ketones are a bit of a controversial subject among keto dieters. Are they necessary for ketosis? Can they stall weight loss?
All valid questions and the short answer is: You don’t need exogenous ketones to get into ketosis, but they can help. And they absolutely do not stall weight loss.
Since most people are interested in the ketogenic diet because of its weight loss benefits, it’s important to know the facts about exogenous ketones and how exactly they work in your body.
Read on to learn all the potential benefits and how to take exogenous ketones for energy, appetite suppression, and more.
Exogenous ketones are a supplemental variation of the ketones that you produce in your body during carbohydrate restriction or starvation.
Ketones, or ketone bodies, are energy molecules produced by your liver when blood glucose is low as a result of fasting, carbohydrate restriction, or the ingestion of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Ketones made inside your body are referred to as endogenous ketones (endo- means internal), while ketones made outside of your body are exogenous (exo- means external).
It is important to note that simply consuming this supplement is not the same thing as following the keto diet, but it can provide some support to a healthy keto lifestyle. That might mean boosting your energy before a workout, improving cognitive function, and increasing overall energy.
The main ketone in exogenous ketone supplements is BHB, or beta-hydroxybutyrate. During nutritional ketosis, BHB is the main energy source your body runs on.
When you take exogenous ketones, your blood ketone levels increase slightly — even if you’re not in nutritional ketosis. This increase in blood ketones provides some of the benefits of actual ketosis, including increased energy, mental clarity, appetite suppression, and more.
However, taking exogenous ketones doesn’t mean you’re in ketosis. And you can’t take them along with a ton of carbs consistently and expect to see the long-term benefits of ketosis. That said, there are many ways that exogenous ketone supplements can support healthy weight loss and more.
Exogenous ketones have three strategical uses:
#1: They Mimic Nutritional Ketosis
The main goal of exogenous ketones is to mimic a state of nutritional ketosis. A common misunderstanding is that ketone salts or esters can get you into ketosis. That’s not exactly true. Instead, they temporarily raise the levels of ketones in your blood, resulting in some of the physical and mental benefits of nutritional ketosis.
By temporarily raising your blood ketones, BHB powder or capsules can:
- Increase mental clarity and focus
- Boost your energy
- Aid in weight loss by suppressing appetite and increasing energy
#2: Supporting Your System After a Carb Binge
Not everyone can follow a very strict, high-fat, low-carb diet 24/7. But anyone who’s been in ketosis for a while knows that when you get kicked out of ketosis, it can take a while to get back in.
Exogenous ketones can help. Because ketone salts and esters can boost your energy and lessen your appetite, taking a scoop or two of exogenous ketones can help mitigate some of the symptoms that come after a carb binge.
If you eat too many carbs or go on a weekend bender, use Perfect Keto Base to support your energy as you transition back into ketosis.
#3: Supporting Keto Flu Symptoms
When your body transitions from using energy from carbohydrates to ketones from fat, there can be a lot of unwanted side effects. This is called the “keto flu” and usually includes symptoms like:
- Low Energy
- And more
This happens for a couple of reasons. One is dehydration and the corresponding electrolyte loss. But another reason is that your body is in between burning carbs and burning ketones and hasn’t become efficient at producing ketones from your fat stores yet.
The good news is that you can use exogenous ketones to bridge the gap. While your body is getting used to making its own ketones, you can supply it with exogenous ketones to lighten keto flu symptoms.
One common misconception is that taking ketone supplements will induce instantaneous weight loss. The truth is that while they’re helpful, ketones are only one piece of the puzzle in your weight loss journey.
Remember exogenous ketones are supplements, and therefore should be supplementary to a low-carb ketogenic lifestyle.
Exogenous ketones don’t trigger weight loss and they won’t put you into ketosis. Only a low-carb diet or fasting will do that. However, they can temporarily increase your blood ketone levels and provide some physical and mental benefits for the short term.
Some of these benefits are helpful when it comes to weight loss.
It’s also important to mention that being in a state of ketosis doesn’t automatically mean you’ll lose weight. Before you give up entirely and start binging on bread, read on …
Why You May Not Be Losing Weight With Keto Salts
A ketogenic diet can help you lose fat and maintain or gain muscle. But your weight loss success depends on factors other than being in a ketogenic state.
You can be in deep nutritional ketosis (>3.0mmol/dL) and experience an increase in body fat percentage. You can also be in deep nutritional ketosis and have a decrease in body fat percentage. It all depends on your activity levels, macronutrient ratios, and calorie intake.
Exogenous ketones are an effective tool to temporarily raise your blood ketone levels and boost your energy. More energy and a decrease in appetite (another happy side effect of exogenous ketones) can help you lose weight.
But they aren’t a one-stop-shop. In order to lose weight sustainably, you’ll need to follow a healthy ketogenic diet, focus on nutrient-dense foods, exercise, and manage your stress levels and sleep quality.
If you’re doing everything right, taking exogenous ketones, and still don’t see any weight loss, you may want to try tweaking your macros:
- When gaining body fat on a ketogenic diet: Eat less dietary fat or look at your caloric intake.
- If you are not in ketosis and not losing weight: Eat fewer carbs and increase fat and protein.
- You’re losing weight but feeling fatigued: Eat more protein and fat and make sure you’re getting enough calories.
Supplementing with exogenous ketones can also help by increasing energy levels and curbing cravings.
The bottom line is, when you understand how exogenous ketones work and have realistic expectations about them, they can help you lose weight and be healthier.
Ketones help with your transition into ketosis because they mitigate some of the nasty symptoms of the keto flu. But they won’t “get you into ketosis.” Instead, use ketone salts and esters to support your healthy transition into nutritional ketosis.
Here’s how it works:
- You start by restricting carbs and adopting a ketogenic diet.
- As you’re transitioning into ketosis, you can take an exogenous ketone supplement to support your energy levels and help suppress appetite.
- Once you’re in ketosis, it’s likely you’ll start losing weight — a lot at first due to water weight loss, then a steady amount of stored body fat over time.
- If you’re not losing weight, you can try tweaking your macronutrient ratios.
- When you start losing weight, it’s because your body is burning through your fat stores, making ketones for energy.
- When you’re in ketosis, you can still use exogenous ketones in between meals, as a pre-workout drink, or for more mental clarity.
Exogenous ketones can support your ketogenic diet and your health goals, but they’re not a quick fix or a complete solution in and of themselves.
Use them in addition to a properly formulated, healthy ketogenic diet, not as a standalone supplement.
- Don’t take assume taking ketones will induce weight loss by itself.
- Do use ketones to help you on your ketogenic diet if you’ve done your homework.
- Do make a plan of what and how much you want to eat for your goals–and stick to it.