The ketogenic (keto) diet has gained mass popularity in the last few years as millions of individuals have shown successful weight loss results from low-carb, high-fat diets. However, while the diet may benefit followers, it also comes with challenges. Following the diet requires adhering to a rigorous schedule to stay in ketosis and maintain proper ketone levels. There are some products aiming to help you with this. In this article, we will dig deeper whether drinking ketones is safe, the health effects, potential risks, and things to know.
Taking ketone supplements can increase your ketone levels in the blood and lead you into a state of ketosis if you can't produce enough naturally.
Ketone supplements can help you to regulate your appetite and hunger and satiety cues.
While ketone esters are more potent and work more quickly than ketone salts, they are significantly more costly and often have an unpleasant taste.
While some individuals can produce ketones naturally, others can benefit by supplementing. Luckily, there are alternatives to raising ketone levels for maximum efficiency.
What are ketones?
The body naturally uses blood sugar to provide daily energy needs. But first of all, we need to uptake the sugar in the blood into our cells to use. We have a key hormone for this purpose. Insulin binds specific transporters in the cellular membrane and helps glucose enter the cell.
If your body needs energy, for example, basal energy expenditure for organ functions or physical exercise, the glucose that has entered into cells is used in order to release energy. However, if you don't need energy, in the case of sedentary life, increased nutrition intake, or decreased physical activity, the glucose that has entered the cells is stogged.
That's why it is all about calorie deficiency when it comes to weight loss. However, several dietary approaches may speed up the process or help when you struggle in the process. The ketogenic diet is one of those approaches.
When our bodies don't have enough carbohydrate sources, we use fat as an alternative energy source, and the liver produces ketones. This production occurs during fasting, long periods of exercise, or when your body lacks carbohydrates (i.e., while on the keto diet).
What are ketone drinks?
Two types of ketones provide energy: endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous ketones are naturally produced within the liver, which occurs with carbohydrate restriction and low glucose levels.
Conversely, exogenous ketones are synthetic ketone bodies that you can get by consuming supplements, effectively raising your ketone levels.
Exogenous ketones are a supplement form of ketones that you can consume, which are found in liquid, powder, or pill form. Ketogenic supplements such as ketone drinks are designed to help you stay in ketosis states without following a very strict keto diet or in addition to it.
Do ketone drinks work?
While every keto supplement can vary from product to product, ketone esters and salts have proven effective according to your aim by using ketone supplements. If your aim is to increase your ketone level in the blood, then these supplements may be highly effective for you. But if you want to increase your athletic performance, there are still ongoing debates in the literature.
Some studies even show its beneficial effects on athletic performance. Individual responses can differ, and it's essential to consider other factors, such as overall diet and health goals.
Can I take ketones every day?
Supplementing with ketones daily is accepted as safe, and the ingredients used in the drinks are generally FDA-approved. But first of all, it depends on your health background, your physiology, and your body's needs. Therefore, you should consult your doctor before starting the ketogenic diet and ketone supplements. These kinds of products can also cause several side effects, such as stomach upset, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. You might consider starting with a low dose until your body adjusts.
Potential benefits of ketone drinks
The keto diet is very popular because it has helped many people shed weight by altering their bodies' metabolism. However, though weight loss is the biggest draw, ketones provide the user with various other reasons for changing their diet.
1. May suppress appetite
The keto diet has been shown to be effective for weight loss in various studies. Researchers became curious about how the keto diet and ketone supplements (ketone drinks included) may be such an effective tool for weight loss, and they started to focus on its effects on appetite regulation
Following an overnight fast, 15 healthy-weight subjects who consumed ketone esters beverages experienced 50% less hunger than other participants drinking a calorie match control drink prepared with dextrose, a carbohydrate source.
As a result of this study, researchers found that ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP‐1), and peptide YY (PYY) levels were significantly lower after ketone supplement consumption compared with carbohydrate source consumption. But what are these hormones and peptides function on appetite, you may ask:
- Ghrelin is well-known as the "hunger hormone" because it is one of the strongest stimulants for hunger feeling and appetite. It is released from the stomach and signals the brain to increase food intake especially when the stomach is empty.
- GLP-1 has multiple functions, including the stimulation of insulin release, slowing down gastric emptying, and promoting feelings of satiety. GLP-1 also acts on the brain, reducing appetite and promoting a sense of fullness.
- PYY is released from the gastrointestinal tract, particularly intestines, in response to food intake. It acts on the hypothalamus to reduce appetite and inhibit further food intake.
2. May help you to reach ketosis state
Supplementing with ketone drinks can be helpful (especially on the keto diet) because it supplies your body with a direct source of ketones, easily used as fuel. However, using the drinks to transition can help you in a few different ways
So, for those who aren't keen on going full keto but still want to experience the added benefits of a low-carb diet, ketone drinks can help your body transition into ketosis (as long as you maintain low-carb levels).
3. May improve your athletic performance
Some studies showed the beneficial effects of ketone supplements on endurance performance, recovery, and overreaching, although many studies have failed to observe the benefits of acute nutritional ketosis on performance or recovery.
Despite the mechanistic bases for the potential beneficial effects of ketone supplements, the evidence at present is overwhelmingly against ketone supplements being an ergogenic aid for athletic performance.
Yet questions remain about whether ketone supplements may provide a performance benefit, and in the near future, we will find answers to these questions with new studies.
Possible side effects of ketone drinks
Noticing when your body begins to produce ketones is a vital step. You can check for ketones in your blood or urine and listen to your body changes for any possible side effects, including:
- Electrolyte imbalance. High levels of ketones in the body make some individuals to feel more thirsty than usual and cause dehydration. Many ketone salt beverages contain added electrolytes in their products to help with the imbalance.
- Hypoglycemia. You should be careful while you are following a ketogenic diet because your blood sugar levels may drop too low. It can also make you feel fatigued or lethargic.
- Digestive issues. High blood levels of ketones can often cause an upset stomach, leading to loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting.
- Bad smell. One of the common side effects of ketosis, especially if you are in the initial stages, is distinctive smells in the breath, sweat, and urine. These smells are often described as having a fruity or acetone-like odor.
The last words
Whether you've splurged on the weekend and fallen out of ketosis or just started your keto journey, ketone drinks can help your transition into ketosis. Exogenous and endogenous ketones are both effective, but you may need to supplement if you're not producing enough ketone naturally. You should consult your doctor first to examine the benefits or risks of the ketogenic diet for you.
It's important to note that ketones alone won't directly lead to weight loss. If you plan on supplementing with ketones, you will still need to make lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and regular exercise.
When is the best time to drink ketones?
Several studies have used it before meals to see the appetite suppression effects of ketone supplements. But there are other approaches, such as using ketone supplements before, during, and after exercise, depending on the aim of the intervention.
How do I know if I need to supplement with ketones?
First of all, you should consult your doctor. After you decide on your health journey with the ketogenic diet, a quick blood test is the best way to check your keto levels. This will tell you if your levels are running low, and you can decide to supplement from there. Then, once your body becomes more accustomed, you can get on a more consistent schedule regarding when to take them.
Which ketones are best: salts or esters?
While they both serve the same purpose, ketone esters are more effective because they are bioidentical to endogenous ketones and work more quickly than salts. On the downside, they are far more expensive and taste terrible.