One promising solution for individuals looking to lose weight and supplement a ketogenic diet is to turn to exogenous ketone supplements, which are simply supplements taken externally as opposed to being produced naturally by the body.
State of Ketosis
Exogenous ketone supplements greatly speeds up your body’s ability to get into and maintain a state of ketosis, making them a great addition to a keto diet. These supplements also have the added benefits of improving things like cognitive function, health, and longevity.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these supplements, how they work, and the best ones available.
What is this BHB I Keep Hearing About?
If you’re exploring the keto diet and supplements, you’ve probably stumbled upon something called BHB.
To clarify, BHB is an acronym for beta-hydroxybutyrate and is the key ketone found in exogenous ketone supplements. So when products market themselves as a BHB supplement, this is just another term for exogenous ketone supplement.
In the absence of carbs, our bodies instead produce BHB from fat, which leads to energy production. You’ll always want to be sure that any exogenous ketone supplements you purchase contain BHB, which the body can use most efficiently when paired with a keto diet.
Any supplement worth its salt should meet three basic criteria: it contains BHB salts, it’s made with only natural flavors, and contains no carbs! Basically, you want to ensure the product doesn’t contain any poor ingredients that do not directly improve your health.
Ketone Salts & Ketone Esters
As mentioned in the previous section, exogenous ketones typically come in the form of BHB, with the three types being ketone oils, ketone salts, and ketone esters.
Ketone Oils: One method used for boosting ketone levels, albeit indirectly, is medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) such as coconut oil. Our body’s cells break down MCTs to use them as fuel to produce ketones. While this is a very valid option to supplement the keto diet, this method of ketone supplementation is indirect. This means the ketones are not available right away like salts and esters are.
Ketone Salts: Ketone salts are naturally-derived compounds that mix sodium, calcium, or potassium with BHB to help improve absorption. All commercial supplements you find on the market currently are made up of ketone salts, which are also commonly labeled “BHB Mineral Salts” and “Ketone Mineral Salts”.
Ketone Esters: Unlike ketone salts, ketone esters are synthetically-made compounds that link a ketone body to an alcohol which is then metabolized in the liver to a ketone. At the moment, ketone esters are mostly only used in research for testing in raising ketone blood levels. They are also reported to taste very unpleasant!
While ketone esters are not currently available in products on the market today, research shows from a four week study on rats that ketone esters were more effective than ketone salts at reducing weight gain. However by week four, BHB salts paired with MCT oil had matched the body weight results of the ketone esters.
It’s also important to note here that raspberry ketones are not related to exogenous ketone supplements and BHB, as its name suggests. While a popular diet supplement in and of itself, raspberry ketones are a whole other animal and evidence shows they do not have much effect on fat loss.
So Which Ketone Supplement Works Best?
While they have a few negative side effects such as unpleasant taste and diarrhea, salts are by far the best and most popular delivery method for exogenous ketone BHB. For most people, ketone salts are an ideal way of supplementing with exogenous ketones. They are widely available for purchase and come in the form of drinks, pills, and powers.
While esters may appear to be a great choice in quickly boosting the body’s ketone levels, these supplements come with some unpleasant side effects such as a foul taste, gas, severe diarrhea, and bloating.
Oils are another great choice, but are typically paired with salts in boosting ketone levels rather then using them alone.
The Benefits of Exogenous Ketone Supplements
During a keto diet, your body will naturally produce three ketones during ketosis: BHB, acetoacetate, and acetone. Your body benefits from the extra ketones found in exogenous supplements when your body is not currently experiencing ketosis.
Realistically, there will be times when you’re unable to maintain a steady state of ketosis. The biggest benefit of ketone supplements is that they help get you back into ketosis instead of having to wait. You can take them before a workout for extra energy or in between meals for a nice extra punch of ketones.
As mentioned earlier in this article, ketone supplements can help improve cognitive function and your overall health, and supply even more benefits including:
- Quicker weight loss
- Reduced hunger
- More regulated blood glucose
- Reduce risk for disease
- Boosting mental focus
- Decrease in inflammation
 Shannon L. Kesl,corresponding author Angela M. Poff, Nathan P. Ward, Tina N. Fiorelli, Csilla Ari, Ashley J. Van Putten, Jacob W. Sherwood, Patrick Arnold, and Dominic P. D’Agostino (2016). Effects of exogenous ketone supplementation on blood ketone, glucose, triglyceride, and lipoprotein levels in Sprague–Dawley rats. Nutrition & Metabolism, 13(9).
 I.F. Gaunt, M. Sharratt, J. Colley*, A.B.G. Lansdown, P. Grasso (1970). Acute and short-term toxicity of p-hydroxybenzyl acetone in rats. Food and Cosmetics Toxicology, 8(4), 349-358.