A whole new line of products has hit the market claiming to put your body into an instant state of ketosis to help you lose weight faster, and avoid the “keto flu”. So what’s the truth? Do exogenous ketone supplements really help?
First, let’s start with the basics.
What is Ketosis?
Put simply, it’s the state achieved when your body starts converting “fat” into “glucose” (literally, using fat for muscle and brain fuel).
Your body enters this state, typically, when you starve it of carbs and force it to use fat as the primary energy source, instead. In the keto world, this is the “holy grail”. It means you’ve successfully convinced your body to use fat as fuel (both the fat you eat, AND the fat you have stored).
Put another way, ketones are an “alternative fuel” that your body uses for energy when glucose is in short supply. The are made in the liver, and a direct byproduct of broken-down fats.
It’s also important to note that “diet” (not eating carbs) isn’t the only way to achieve ketosis. Endurance athletes often enter mild states of ketosis after they’ve depleted their current muscle fuel (glycogen) and are forced to switch to using stored-fat as energy.
How do you know if you’re in ketosis?
There are currently three methods available.
- A breath test (you blow into a machine) that senses the ketones being expelled.
- A urine strip test (you pee on a stick) that senses the presence of ketones in your pee.
- A blood test (similar to a glucose meter, used by diabetics) which can tell you how many ketones are floating around in your blood stream.
So if these tests are positive, then I’m burning stored fat for fuel?
These tests will tell you if you have ketones in your body. That is an indication that you are using ketones as energy. But it will NOT tell you where those ketones came from.
If the ketone test is positive, there are three possibilities:
- Stored fat is being converted to energy. If this is the case, then you are burning stored fat for fuel. GREAT job!
- You are converting fat that you recently ate into energy, but you aren’t necessarily losing weight or “burning” stored fat.
- You have been drinking ketones. You aren’t losing weight, and you aren’t using fat as fuel. (But your body will use the ketones that you drank as a fuel / energy source).
Note that it is impossible to tell which of these three things is going on, by using a ketone tester.
Will ketone supplements get me into ketosis?
In short: No. But they will make a ketone test show positive, because your body is using the ketones that you drank as the energy source.
In other words, drinking ketone supplements will give you a “false positive” in a ketone tester. It will say you are “in ketosis”, when in fact, all you’ve done is prove that you have ketones in your body. (Of course you do — you drank ketones).
Will ketone supplements help me burn fat?
No. In fact, your body will no longer need to burn fat, as it will be using the ketones you drank as its energy source. (Fat burn will stop, or slow down, as your body no longer has any need to get energy from stored fat).
In other words, drinking ketone supplements will actually make your body LESS likely to burn fat.
Will ketone supplements give me energy?
Yes! They are GREAT for “keto athletes”!
If you’re an athlete doing a ketogenic diet, your body is probably not going to be able to convert “fat to energy” fast enough to be of any significant value over a long period of time. (Think ultra-marathoners, who run 12 to 36 hours, non-stop). The body simply cannot convert that much fat to usable fuel.
In instances where you need ADDITIONAL energy in a short amount of time, beyond what your body can reasonably provide from stored fat, then a ketone supplement is a great way to get that energy, without needing to rely on carbs / sugar.
But again, with the caveat that if you are drinking them as an energy source, then your body doesn’t need to use stored fat anymore.
Will ketone supplements help me avoid “keto flu” ?
Probably not. (Though some will).
Keto flu is actually the result of dehydration, as your body dumps water to compensate for not having any carbs. Take an electrolyte supplement (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) for a few days after starting a keto diet, and you will not experience the “keto flu”.
(Some ketone supplements do help with this, since they contain electrolytes. This you are not avoiding the keto-flu because of the ketones. You are avoiding it because the supplement contains other things that help — as mentioned above).
Ketone supplements are extraordinarily expensive, they do nothing of value to the non-endurance-athlete trying to lose weight, and may actually make it MORE difficult to burn stored fat. They will fool a ketone tester, and make you THINK you’re in ketosis when you are not.
They are the ultimate scam in the keto world. Stay away. Stay far, far away.