How to Use Exogenous Ketones for Weight Loss
If you’ve come to this article with the expectation that exogenous ketones will magically make you lose fat, now is a good time to get that idea out of your head.
While it would be pretty awesome if exogenous ketones did make you lose weight without any extra effort, that’s simply not how they work.
However, the good news is that exogenous ketones can, in fact, help you lose weight in conjunction with a proper exercise and diet regimen. In other words, exogenous ketones serve as an adjunct, or “tool”, to propel your weight loss efforts.
There’s a variety of scientific mechanisms behind exogenous ketones and how they can enhance weight loss, which we will cover in detail throughout this article.
We will also discuss common misconceptions about exogenous ketones and weight loss, as well as how to properly use exogenous ketones on your weight-loss plan.
If you’re unfamiliar with ketones and how they work in your body, we recommend checking out our Guide to Ketones which goes in depth to teach you all the neat science behind these molecules. This article will focus primarily on the weight loss aspects of exogenous ketones.
Clarifying Common Misconceptions about Weight Loss and Exogenous Ketones
This is arguably the most common myth behind exogenous ketones, likely as a result of overzealous marketing claims from supplement companies. It can’t be stated enough that exogenous ketones are not a panacea for poor dietary habits and lack of exercise; they are simply a supplement for your low-carb/ketogenic lifestyle.
Don’t misconstrue this to mean that exogenous ketones aren’t effective for enhancing weight loss because they certainly are.
The key is that you are on a healthy diet and exercise regularly; when those two things are in place, exogenous ketones will definitely accelerate weight/fat loss.
Short Answer: Exogenous ketones will help you lose body fat quicker in conjunction with a healthy low-carb/ketogenic diet and consistent exercise plan. They do this primarily by helping you achieve a deep ketosis. However, they will not instantly make you lose weight on their own and you should be wary of companies that make such claims.
Another rather baseless supposition behind exogenous ketones is that they intensify weight loss in a dose-dependent manner. In non-nerd terms, this idea suggests that as you increase the dose of exogenous ketones, the more dramatic the weight loss effects become (which is simply not the truth).
Much like any other supplement, exogenous ketones have a limit to their benefits once a certain “saturation” dose is reached.
For most people, about 12 grams of BHB salts is the max recommended dose at a time. This dose is enough to get most people to greater than 3.0mMol/dL of BHB in the blood, which is considered a deep nutritional ketosis.
Going beyond that, you drastically increase the risk of side effects, especially things like gut distress, nausea, and foul breath. Moreover, once your body has too much BHB in the blood, it works rapidly to excrete the excess (meaning you’re basically wasting the exogenous ketones).
Short Answer: Taking superfluous amounts of exogenous ketones to increase weight loss is an exercise in futility. Your body will simply excrete the excess ketones, rendering the “extra” dose worthless. Stick to 12 grams of BHB salts or less at a time for max benefit.
Most people who begin a ketogenic diet are under the impression that rapid weight loss is best. While losing weight as quickly as possible may seem great on paper, it’s not the best in reality.
Note: You have to remember that weight loss is not the same as fat loss; in fact, the two are vastly different in terms of health and longevity.
When your body is severely deprived of energy (calories), it resorts to breaking down both fat and lean tissue (such as skeletal muscle) to generate fuel. Intuitively, the goal of a ketogenic diet is to increase body fat breakdown so it can be burned as fuel, but when you greatly restrict your calorie intake, you significantly increase lean tissue breakdown as well.
Remember, measuring your body composition (body fat percentage) is a far more accurate assessment of your general health than simply weighing yourself. There are highly fit individuals who carry large amounts of muscle mass that are considered “obese” by body mass index (BMI) standards. By the same token, some people may be considered to have a “healthy” BMI but be severely over-fat (which is still just as dangerous as being clinically obese).
Short Answer: Your goal should always be to improve your body composition; this means you should be trying to either lose fat and maintain as much muscle tissue as possible or aim to build muscle tissue without gaining (excessive) body fat.
Exogenous ketones can actually be a useful adjunct for either of those goals. Also, keep in mind that weight loss on a ketogenic diet is typically greater during the initial few weeks since total body water content drops significantly; this is because carbohydrates are water-attracting molecules.
Exogenous Ketones for Weight Loss
Exogenous ketones serve as a means of getting your body into a deep nutritional ketosis. As such, it’s pertinent to quickly summarize what ketosis is and how it works; here are the main points:
- Ketosis is a natural metabolic process whereby your body uses fat for energy in lieu of carbohydrates.
- Thus, ketogenic diets are very low in carbohydrates; you need to deprive the body of glucose (its primary energy source) to reach ketosis.
- After you restrict carbohydrates long enough, the liver starts to metabolize fatty acids more efficiently. As a byproduct of this process, you synthesize ketone bodies (ketones).
- Ketones serve as an alternative energy source for your body, specifically mitochondria – the ‘powerhouse’ of cells.
Naturally, you might ask, “So why are exogenous ketones useful?”
In short, using an exogenous ketone supplement provides your body with an instant supply of ketones to utilize and help you reach nutritional ketosis rapidly. Basically, exogenous ketones make the transition to ketosis much quicker and less harsh.
With that in mind, let’s cover the main benefits of ketosis for weight loss.
Beneficial Properties of Ketosis (and Ketones) for Weight Loss
Exogenous Ketones Enhance Insulin Sensitivity
Exogenous ketones can drastically increase your insulin sensitivity, resulting in better blood glucose control and energy levels. When you’re highly insulin sensitive, your body is more efficient at utilizing carbohydrates for energy (and less likely to store them as body fat).
For gym-goers and health enthusiasts, using exogenous ketones to increase insulin sensitivity will benefit not only weight loss but also muscle building; your body will be apt to partition nutrients (carbohydrates) to energetically demanding tissues like skeletal muscle instead of adipose tissue.
Ketosis Increases Body Fat Burning
When your body is in ketosis, it prioritizes body fat stores (and ketones) as energy sources. Basically, you are in prime position to melt fat off when you don’t have glucose in your bloodstream. This suggests high-carb diets are likely inferior for weight loss purposes.
As such, supplementing with exogenous ketones prior to cardiovascular exercise is a great way to increase energy and potential fat burn while you work out.
Ketones Enable You to Train Longer and Harder
Researchers at the University of Oxford studied the effects of a carbohydrate-only beverage and a carbohydrate + exogenous ketone beverage on cyclists’ performance. Fast-acting carbohydrates, including dextrose, fructose, and maltodextrin, made up the carbohydrate-only beverage.
The researchers made sure to use isocaloric drinks (meaning they have the same amount of energy).
The results show that cyclists drinking the ketone + carbohydrate beverage are able to cycle significantly further in a given timespan than cyclists who drink a carbohydrate-only beverage. Moreover, lactate buildup was less than 60% as high in the ketone plus carbohydrate group as it was in the carbohydrate-only group.
This demonstrates that ketones not only increase energy reserves and enhance glucose uptake, but that they also significantly reduce lactate accumulation in the blood as exercise persists. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Ketones Reduce Your Appetite
Being in ketosis modulates your endocrine system in a manner that decreases food cravings (primarily by elevating activity of the hormone cholecystokinin/CCK). CCK works as an appetite regulator and is secreted in response to consuming fats and proteins; it stimulates digestion and delays stomach emptying.
When you’re in a calorie deficit, CCK tends to decrease; this makes a weight loss diet almost unbearable when food intake is very low. Research demonstrates that being in ketosis actually elevates CCK levels even while in a calorie deficit. Thus, exogenous ketones and ketogenic dieting is a great way to curb your appetite on a fat-loss diet.
Ketosis Appears to Elevate Metabolic Rate
There is growing evidence that ketosis increasing mitochondrial uncoupling protein (UCP) activity., Uncoupling proteins are part of the inner membrane of mitochondria that regulate oxidative phosphorylation and act as proton carriers. UCPs are activated by free fatty acids and enhance respiratory rate; the energy consumed (or lost) when UCPs dissipate the proton gradient generates heat (thus UCPs are linked to thermogenesis).
Hence, consuming a high-fat diet (like the ketogenic diet) and being in a state of ketosis will increase metabolic rate (by elevating UCP activity).
Exogenous ketones are a dynamic supplement for enhancing your fat-loss regimen. Most products available use beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) salts as their source of ketones.
BHB is the best ketone body to supplement with for a variety of reasons; be sure to give our BHB article a read to learn more about the many benefits of this powerful ketone!
Ultimately, if your goal is to shred fat and be lean, a ketogenic diet is a superb option. Exogenous ketones are a great adjunct to your weight loss diet, and for your overall low-carb lifestyle.
Not to mention, the benefits of ketones go far beyond weight loss. Just remember, ketones don’t do all the work for you, but they certainly help with the right diet and exercise plan in place.
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