If you’ve experimented with the keto diet then you know you need plenty of ketones to stay in ketosis. But did you know that there are two different types of ketones? While your body makes its own endogenous ketones, you can also take exogenous ketone supplements (powders, capsules and oils) to support your energy needs.
The goal of a high-fat, low-carb keto diet is to get you into nutritional ketosis, the metabolic state in which you produce ketone bodies from fat (rather than glucose or carbohydrates) to be burned for energy. To sum up a complex process, ketones are made from fatty acids by the liver when glucose isn’t available.
Read More: No, Low-Carb And Keto Are Not The Same Thing
To boost energy levels, supplementing with exogenous ketones can be beneficial to those following a keto diet. Plus, they have things to offer athletes and those following other diets, too. Here are four times when exogenous ketone supplements come in handy.
When To Supplement With Exogenous Ketones
1) During The “Keto Flu” Transition
When you’re just beginning the keto diet, your body is still adjusting to its new fuel source and the need to produce enough ketones to keep you energized. During this initial transition phase, which has been nicknamed the “keto flu,” you may find yourself struggling with some temporary symptoms if you’re not yet making and utilizing ketones as well as you could.
One of the most popular uses of exogenous ketones—including beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and other types—is reducing “keto flu” side effects. These may include fatigue, indigestion, brain fog, and headaches. By supplementing with an outside source of ketones, you’re essentially taking some of the pressure off your body to raise your ketone levels quickly.
2) If Your Carb Intake Is Too High
You may be making a strong attempt to cut carbs and up your fat intake, but it’s possible you’re still not quite low-carb enough. This might happen for several reasons. For example, if you have limited food options (let’s say when traveling) or if you’re not tracking your carb/fat intake carefully enough.
This is when ketone supplements can help make up the difference—by giving you some wiggle room in terms of nailing your macronutrient intake. If your body is struggling to get into ketosis and stay there, a supplement may be just what you need to take you over the ketosis edge. This can then help you gain more energy, control cravings for carbs or sugar, and perhaps experience more weight loss due to having more energy and better appetite control.
3) When You’re Endurance Training
For athletes looking to enhance their physical performance without necessarily eating a severely low-carb diet, taking exogenous ketones can be a good option.
Lower-intensity endurance exercise—called aerobic exercise—primarily relies on oxygen and some fats, rather than carbs, for fuel. This makes the keto diet popular among those looking to amp up their cardio.
Taking an exogenous ketone supplement about 30 to 60 minutes before beginning a tough workout can help to supply athletes with energy that can be better sustained even with lower oxygen utilization. Ketones can serve as a reliable and long-running fuel source for hardworking muscles, helping to prevent fatigue and giving athletes an extra push that they may not otherwise experience.
4) When You’re Feeling Fatigued
There might be times when despite your best efforts on the keto diet, you still don’t feel as mentally or physically sharp as you’d like. If you’re dealing with issues like lethargy, moodiness, lack of concentration, and poor mental performance, ketone supplements may be able to help.
The brain uses ketones differently than glucose to keep you alert, typically leading to fewer spikes and dips in focus when ketones are abundant. While not a miracle cure for low energy caused by sleep deprivation, many people find that supplementing with ketones (especially on an empty stomach, such as when fasting) can contribute to enhanced cognitive performance, focus, motivation, and decision making.
Choosing Exogenous Ketone Supplements
There are several forms of exogenous ketone supplements to choose from, including ketone salts (powders and capsules) and MCT oil. Here’s a breakdown of both options.
Read More: What To Look For In A Quality MCT Oil
Considered the most popular type, especially those made with BHB, these supplements are bound to electrolytes/minerals including sodium, calcium, magnesium, or potassium. These can offer additional benefits, since electrolyte needs can increase while on a very low-carb diet. Many people are attracted to BHB salts since they are generally well-tolerated, super versatile, and can be mixed with coffee, smoothies, and more.
MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil
Known as a super-convenient source of fat to add to your diet, MCT oil can help your body produce its own ketones. It’s not actually an exogenous ketone because it doesn’t contain BHB or other ketone bodies, however it’s used to support the body’s natural production of them.
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.