So you found some pill, shake, or coffee that’s either got ketones or mct in it and one of its claims is burning fat. Sounds good right? You get the fat burning benefits of ketones without eating low carb!
Wrong. Ketones are not what burns fat, ketones are a by-product of fat burning. When you’re eating low carb or fasting your body will tap into body fat for energy. Breaking down and using this fat creates ketones. Ketones can then be used for energy.
So sure, those ketones supplement will technically put you into ketosis because you’ll have ketones in your bloodstream but that’s it. They aren’t burning fat.
(FYI: exogenous ketones = a ketone supplement. Endogenous ketones = the ones you’ve made yourself. Yay you!)
Those ‘keto coffees’? Don’t let the package mislead you – there are no ketones in them. They are basically Bulletproof coffee. They have (usually) mct and butter in them – the MCT’s can be quickly converted into ketones by the liver. I loooove fat – it’s really important, however, I’m not really a fan of drinking my calories. I’d rather fast and let my body use it’s fat stores. Since it is a drink high in fat it could allow you to fast longer and get the benefit of that longer fat burning fast. However, since you’ve given yourself a big hit of fat your body is going to choose to use that over stored body fat. So we can’t really tell if it does help you burn more fat. If weight loss is your goal then drinking fat calories could be counterproductive. This isn’t the case for everyone (because every body is different). But it’s worth exploring why you’re drinking your fat and what benefit it’s giving you. (Plus I’d prefer to use those calories to eat a nutritious meal!)
So does that mean ketone supplements are just a waste of money? Absolutely not. Context matters.
Ketone supplements have their place. Ketones are incredible for brain health. The ketogenic diet was being used in 1920’s as a tool to help children with epileptic seizures! The ketones severely reduced the amount of seizures they had. Since then medication has gotten more advanced and the ketogenic diet isn’t used as much but for some people it is still an effective tool for control in seizures.
Your brain loves to run on ketones! Studies have shown that it can run up to 70% more effectively on ketones than glucose. With a disease like Alzheimer’s it can be effective not only because the brain prefers ketones but also when you are using ketones you made (by being on a ketogenic diet, not using supplements) you have lower insulin. Alzheimer’s is sometimes called Diabetes Type 3 because it actually stems from insulin resistance in the brain! Supplementing with exogenous ketones can really be a powerful tool when it comes to brain health – enhancing the effects of a ketogenic diet.
Dr Dominic D’Agostino has done lots of research on ketones helping deep sea divers! It’s pretty amazing what ketones can do.
They can give you a boost of energy before a workout and help you push harder during the workout. They are also helpful for fasting. Because your body uses them as an energy source you can use them to fast for longer without breaking the fast. (Although I’ll still come back to the argument that you’re giving you’re body calories instead of burning your own fat. So if fat loss is the goal during fasting then using exogenous ketones may be counterproductive).
So when looking at keto supplements always ask yourself ‘what’s my goal and will this help?’. If you just want weight loss then I’d suggest just focus on your diet so you can make your own ketones!
I recently had the opportunity to try some exogenous ketones whilst I had a headache. I’ve tried them before out of curiosity. This time I went into it knowing I had a headache and knowing they may help. Within two hours my headache was gone. Could be entirely coincidental. Could be placebo. Based on what I’ve learnt about ketones and how they help the brain I don’t believe it was though. I will be buying a tub so I can play around with it! I’m interested in seeing how my body feels if I use them for a few days, if they increase brain power, and if they help a headache again.
As more research is done we’re going to see more benefits of ketone supplements. This may completely change what we know and we should always be opening to new and different information!
Keto is gaining a lot of attention right now. There are a lot of different products labeled as keto. I will remind you again that anything can be keto – it’s the quantity that matters. One slice of bread could fit into a keto diet. Always read the labels and ask yourself what the benefit is and if it’s something that can help you on your health journey.
I’ll always suggest coming at keto from a real food (paleo/Primal) approach. Keep the packaged keto foods to a minimum!