There is a new fuel on the market that everyone can’t get enough of. We are not talking about the fuel in your car, we are talking about the one that keeps your body firing on all engines to burn off stored fat!
If you have been searching for an effective low-carb diet you have probably come across the word “ketones” before. There are thousands of search results, each with a different opinion and testament to the keto diet. But there are many misconceptions surrounding the diet as well. Every person on the planet has ketones coursing through their blood, but depending on your diet and lifestyle, the level of ketones differs. We are taking a closer look at ketones to find out what they are and how they affect overall health.
What Are Ketones?
Ketones, which some commonly mistake for keytones, are chemical compounds that are produced by the liver when glucose is not readily available – “key tones” are something entirely different. An easy way to remember the difference is that one is a tone-deaf chemical (ketone) while the other (key tones) is a “titular pitch of a musical key.” Now that we know the meaning behind both, let’s dive into the science behind a ketone.
To put it simply, ketone molecules are a byproduct of lipid or fat metabolism. Fat metabolism is usually triggered when glucose reserves (glycogen) are low and the body starts to seek an alternative source of energy. In the case of a keto diet, dieters follow a strict meal plan in order to deplete these glucose reserves, which then forces the body to utilize the stored fats to produce more ketones for energy.
There are many misconceptions about this metabolic process, however, it is important to note that ketones are always naturally present in the body. Some organs such as the heart rely on fatty acids and ketones as the main source of fuel because they do not contain any glycogen reserves.
The body naturally produces three types of ketone bodies, namely beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone. The most common form of ketones is beta-hydroxybutyrate or BHB, which makes up 77% of the ketone bodies found in the blood. Acetoacetate is just as common as BHB, but not as prevalent because it only forms 20% of the total ketone bodies found in the blood. Acetone on the other hand only makes up 3% of the total ketone bodies found in the blood and is considered a byproduct of acetoacetate. Acetone that has not been used as energy is either broken down or expelled from the body as waste in the urine or through the breath. This is why some who follow a keto diet has the characteristics of a “fruity” scented breath.
While all three of these ketone bodies are naturally formed in the body, they are each produced in different ways at different times.
The Natural Formation Of Ketone Bodies
When there is a shortage of glucose, the liver begins to break down fat and converts it into fatty acid molecules and glycerol. The fatty acids are then broken down even further to create the first of the ketone bodies, acetoacetate. This complex process is called ketogenesis.
The body then converts the acetoacetate into BHB via beta-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase or acetone by non-enzymatic decarboxylation. As your body becomes more fat adapted, BHB ketone bodies become more prevalent in the blood and start to feed the brain and other muscles with fuel. The molecular unit of currency within ketones is so powerful that they are able to supply up to 70% of your brain’s daily energy requirements and up to 50% of your basal energy needs.
Ketogenesis vs Ketosis
Both these terms are commonly used when talking about the keto diet, and let’s face it, with all these ‘keto’ words, it can get a bit confusing. In simple terms, ketogenesis is the term used when your body starts to break down fatty acids in order to produce the three ketone bodies mentioned earlier. Ketogenesis is always occurring in the body, regardless of the number of carbs in your diet.
Ketosis is a metabolic state that the body shifts into when glucose reserves are completely depleted or there is an excess of fatty acids. The body can no longer rely on glucose for energy and starts to metabolize the excess fat in order to function properly. Ideally, on a keto diet, you want your body to maintain a healthy state of ketosis to utilize fats instead of storing them.
What’s The Deal With Exogenous Ketones?
Exogenous ketones are synthetic ketones found in many keto supplements today. They help shift the body into a state of ketosis in a shorter period of time and supplement the body with nutrients it may be lacking from a low carb diet. Approved Science Keto with exogenous ketones, have helped to make the transition into ketosis easier. Unfortunately, other brands are just marketed as a keto weight loss pill but don’t really help because they do not contain any exogenous ketones in the formula.
The most common form of exogenous ketones is BHB. The BHB compounds are usually bound to potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium. This is what is known as ketone salts. These ketone salts imitate the natural process of ketosis, which causes the level of blood ketones to increase. Exogenous ketones are also beneficial for replenishing electrolyte levels, improving cognition, fighting inflammation, improving athletic performance, and suppressing the appetite.
Taking Approved Science Keto with exogenous ketones can amplify weight loss results and stave off any side effects associated with the keto flu, because it contains the right ingredients and the right dosage.
The ingredients you should look for in a keto supplement are:
- Calcium BHB
- Sodium BHB
- Magnesium BHB
- Potassium BHB
- MCT Oil
Approved Science Keto includes all of these ingredients in its formula in order to successfully fire up your ketone production.
Ketones Vs Glucose – Which Energy Source Is Better?
By default, the body uses glucose as the primary source of energy for most cells and organs in the body. Glucose, which is derived from the Greek word meaning “sweet” is a monosaccharide, or otherwise known as a simple sugar. When we eat carbohydrate-dense foods, the digestive system breaks down complex carbohydrates into glucose, fructose, and other monosaccharides. The glucose or blood sugar is then transported via the blood and used by active cells for energy. The reason why the body uses glucose as the main source of fuel by default is that it can be broken down into energy much faster than any other source of fuel, but this comes with a few negative side effects.
In order for the body to balance the spike in blood sugar levels, it triggers the pancreas to release insulin. When insulin is present in the body, it can be a saving grace, however, for some, the pancreas does not release enough insulin to offset the glucose. When blood sugar levels are high, it becomes a slow-acting poison that can damage cells and cause serious health conditions like atherosclerosis. Even if your blood sugars are at an optimal level, the process of burning sugar for energy causes harmful compounds such as reactive oxygen species to be released in the body.
Unlike glucose, ketones are not a simple sugar, meaning that when they are burned for fuel, they do not release any harmful oxidative molecules. Instead, they inhibit the production of free radicals by increasing the levels of glutathione within the powerhouse of cells, the mitochondria. Glutathione is an antioxidant that prevents damage to the cells caused by reactive oxygen species. Studies have also revealed that using ketones as the body’s main energy source may have positive effects on the brain function and can have an impact in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The Relationship Between Ketogenesis And Gluconeogenesis
Now that we know that ketones are a more efficient source of energy, it’s important to note that the body cannot survive on ketones alone, there are some cells in the body that depend solely on glucose in order to function properly. However, glucose does not need to be sourced from carbohydrates, the body has another clever way of making its own “sugar.”
While the liver is breaking down fatty acids to create ketones during the ketogenesis process, it is also breaking down these fatty acids to form glycerol. The glycerol is then converted into glucose. This metabolic process is called gluconeogenesis. Glucose is also formed from the amino acids found in protein-rich foods and the lactate produced by the tissue and muscles.
When carbs are restricted from the diet, the body starts the gluconeogenesis process in order to regulate blood sugar levels and provide energy for the liver and red blood cells, while the ketones are used to fuel the kidneys, heart, brain, and muscles.
Gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis go hand in hand, which is why it is so important for keto dieters to get their macronutrient ratios right. A standard keto diet entails eating foods that are low in carbohydrates but high in healthy fatty acids in order to produce ketones, and a moderate amount of protein in order to produce glucose. If you do not get enough protein in your diet, the body will start to break down muscle tissue to make the glucose it needs to survive, which can lead to an array of problems. But on the other side of the scale, if you eat too much protein, the high levels of glycogen in the blood may prevent your body from entering a state of ketosis.
Getting your macros right is the ultimate hack to achieving your weight loss goals in a sustainable and healthy way.
Reaping The Rewards Of A Low Carb Diet
Other than losing weight, resetting your body’s factory settings to run on ketones is beneficial for many reasons.
Cholesterol and Blood Sugar, And Type 2 Diabetes
A study on the long term effects of a low carb lifestyle like the ketogenic diet in obese patients has shown positive results in decreasing cholesterol and blood sugar levels. After 24 weeks of following a low carb diet, there was a significant increase in high-density lipoprotein HDL (the good type) cholesterol and a significant reduction in low-density lipoprotein LDL (the bad type) cholesterol. The study also showed that the level of triglycerides (fatty acids) had also decreased after following the treatment. Since ketones have a positive effect on reducing blood sugar levels and LDL cholesterol, a well-formulated keto diet also helps patients who are type 2 diabetic.
Many studies have pointed towards evidence that ketones have neuroprotective effects. Results have shown that ketones aid in preserving nerve cells as they age. Ketones may also beneficial for regenerating the nervous system in patients who have suffered a severe brain injury.
Losing muscle mass is a common side effect of aging. However, ketones may be the answer to preventing your muscles from deteriorating as you get older. Research has shown that higher levels of ketones in the blood may have a positive effect on the preservation and longevity of the muscles.
As mentioned before, ketones improve antioxidant levels in the body by inhibiting the release of reactive oxygen species and free radicals. Antioxidants prevent damage to the cells, slows down premature aging, and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Helps to reduce acne
- Reduces the risk of certain cancers
- Reduces seizures in epileptic children
- Has a positive effect on women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome
Is Ketosis Safe For Everyone?
Since everyone naturally produces ketones, it safe to say that ketones are not dangerous or harmful. Producing higher levels of ketones, as you would in a state of ketosis is also safe for the majority of people. However, high blood ketone levels can pose a potential risk to those who suffer from type 1 diabetes.
An overproduction of ketones in type 1 diabetics can lead to a rare but serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. Ketones are acidic, and when they build up in the bloodstream it can cause adverse side effects such as stomach pain, confusion, dehydration, nausea, and vomiting. If you do suffer from type 1 or 2 diabetes, you must speak to your doctor before starting a low-carb diet.
Is There A Way To Test Ketone Levels?
There are three ways to test the level of ketones in your body. Ketones can be detected using a urine test, a breath meter, or blood test. Urine tests are the most common method used, however, the results are not as accurate because excess ketones are expelled from the body in the urine. Keto breathalizers or breath meter devices give a slightly more accurate reading than urine tests. The problem is that they only test the acetone levels – the ketone that is not very prominent in the body. There are a few products on the market for breath testing, however, they do come at a hefty price depending on the brand.
The most accurate way to test BHB ketone levels is to do a blood test. There are small home-test devices on the market that allow you to prick your finger and test the level of ketones using a specialized strip. Like the breath meter, blood test meters also come with a hefty price tag.
If you don’t feel like rushing out to find an expensive device there are other ways to tell if your body has entered a state of ketosis.
These are a few telltale signs:
- A bad or “fruity” breath
- Increased concentration and focus
- Increased energy
- Increased thirst
- Temporary changes in digestion
- Temporary changes in sleep patterns
- Temporary muscle cramps
- Temporary headaches
Some of the symptoms do seem undesirable, but they are just temporary side effects of the keto flu.
How To Beat The Keto Flu
There are many benefits of going keto, but there is one downside to the diet. The keto flu! It is not like getting a common cold, it’s just your body’s way of adjusting to the major changes that are happening. For years the body has been relying on carbohydrates for glucose, but now there is a shift in the balance. Think of it like a smoker who has just quit and is going through nicotine withdrawals. When you first start the keto diet, the body goes through the same type of withdrawals, but from carbohydrates instead.
The withdrawal symptoms usually include fatigue, drowsiness, muscle cramps, irritability, and nausea. These symptoms are a natural reaction and don’t last forever. Eventually, your body will adapt to the new lifestyle and start functioning better than before. The keto flu is different for everybody but there are ways to alleviate some of the symptoms and make the transition into ketosis easier.
Prepare Your Body For The Change
Making the decision to follow a keto lifestyle is exciting, but don’t jump headfirst into the meal plan. Start off slow and steady. Start eliminating carbs from your diet one day at a time. For example, on the first day, cut out bread and pasta, on the second, eliminate a few other carbohydrate-dense foods like fruits, beans, and grains. Continue this process until you are comfortable enough with only eating 30 to 50 grams of carbs per day.
Dehydration is one of the main reasons behind headaches, nausea, and muscle cramps. While your body is transitioning, it’s crucial to stay hydrated in order to stave off these symptoms. Keep a reusable water bottle nearby and refill it as much as possible.
A diet as restrictive as the keto diet can have an impact on your mineral intake and electrolyte levels. It is important to replenish any lost nutrients with a good quality keto supplement. As mentioned before, look for supplements that contain sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These ingredients will help the body retain more water and replenish any electrolytes that have been flushed from the system. The magnesium is especially beneficial for improving sleep cycles, your mood, and alleviating muscle cramps.
Exercising may be the last thing you want to do when you are feeling weak and tired, but it can actually help give you a boost of energy. We are not talking about an intensive work out. Just a few minutes of light exercise such as walking, swimming, or yoga will do the trick. The exercise will also help speed up the carb to fat transition.
MCT oil or Medium-Chain Triglycerides is a fatty treasure that should be considered a keto pantry essential. In order to stave off most of these keto flu symptoms, it is important to increase the amount of fat in your diet and MCT oil is the perfect way to get a quick fat fix. MCT oil helps to rev up ketone production, burn more calories, suppress hunger, and improves cognitive function. It is so versatile and can be used in salads, smoothies, and even in coffee.
Our Takeaway On Ketones
Ketones, which is often misspelled as keytones, forms an essential part of the human body. These chemical compounds are used for energy when glucose is not readily available. While there are many misconceptions about ketones and the keto diet, it is a completely natural metabolic process. Every individual naturally has ketones present in the blood to fuel the kidneys, heart, and brain. For most, the keto diet is perfectly safe, however, it’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional if you suffer from type 1 diabetes.
Starting out on the keto diet can be tricky, especially when your body starts to experience carbohydrate withdrawals. However, with the right supplements and adequate hydration, you can transition into ketosis without experiencing many of the side effects.