In this post, I will talk about Exogenous Ketones (BHB) and weight loss, even though we know BHB has a ton of benefits from increased energy, appetite suppression, improved physical and mental energy to therapeutic benefits (read more on the benefits of Exogenous Ketones here).
This article is specifically about using Exogenous Ketones (BHB) for weight loss. For a long time, I thought that short term weight loss will be inhibited or minimized by supplementing with BHB; I have now completely changed my view in this… Although this might be a technical article, I am going to do my very best to give this to you in the simplest way possible.
If you are in the Keto space you will know the name Dr Dominic D’Agostino. Many people following Keto today have Dr Dom and the work that he has done in this industry to thank. I am one of them. About four years ago I listened to a podcast that Dr Dom did on the Tim Ferris show. It was a lengthy podcast, but few things have intrigued me the way that the information Dr Dom was sharing did. I have to also, embarrassingly, admit that I didn’t understand much of what Dr Dom was discussing with Tim Ferris and had to pause the podcast and look up some of the big words Dom was using. In the last couple of years, I have listened to that particular podcast several times over and continue to eagerly consume everything else Dr Dom shares via Youtube, his website or other podcasts.
Dr Dominic D’Agostino is a leading researcher in the field of the Ketogenic Diet, Ketones and Ketone Supplements. The original research of Ketone Esters dates back approximately 10-15 years. Ketone Esters were developed and researched to enhance the physical performance of Special Military Operators like the Navy Seals. His lab continues to leverage the research done for the Navy to further studies for these diseases and others such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson. Read more on Exogenous Ketones and its benefits here.
Another podcast that I recently listened to was one he did in 2016 on Dr Pompa’s show. This podcast led me to change my view on the use of exogenous ketones, especially when it comes to fat loss. Allow me to explain.
Ketone supplementation has only been around since about 2015. Studies are still being done and long term effects and benefits are not well known yet.
Lipolysis is the breakdown of fats and other lipids by hydrolysis to release fatty acids. In plain and simple language, it’s when the body is breaking down body fat to be used as energy. This is the big reason why we have seen the Keto Diet gain a tremendous following over the last two to four years globally; following the Keto Diet puts you in this magic metabolic state called ketosis where your body burns your own body fat for energy.
However, many people (I was one) are of the (flawed) opinion that if you drink exogenous ketones it will turn off your body’s ability to burn fat storages. This argument can make sense as one would think that since you are taking exogenous ketones, it might slow down your body’s need to produce ketones, which in return will repress lipolysis. In other words, the body doesn’t have to break down fat (lipolysis) to produce ketones for energy, as you are already getting ketones from an external source – exogenous ketones.
As mentioned, I have come to have a bit of a different perspective; in fact, I now believe that if your goal is to burn fat, that you should supplement with exogenous ketones. Let me break down Dr Dom’s Podcast and explain why I am convinced that supplementing with Exogenous Ketones is a must for anyone wanting to amplify the beneficial weight loss effects of the Keto Diet.
As I said, I used to think that taking BHB could slow down your own ability or temporarily stop your body from burning fat, but it turns out it is not entirely correct.
Let’s face it; as much as the Keto Diet is so much more than just losing weight, most people join the Keto-craze to lose weight. And since most people who will read this article will be one them, it is vital that we understand the mechanics of the Keto Diet, and what we can do to ultimately be successful in our quest to shed a few pounds, and more importantly, live a much healthier life.
Drinking BHB will increase your odds to succeed significantly in three ways: firstly it helps you deal with the glucose-withdrawal and its flu-like symptoms. Secondly, it significantly reduces cravings while suppressing your appetite, and lastly, it speeds up the process by almost teaching your body to use fat and produce ketones (energy) from the stored fat – a more fancy way of saying that is it upregulates and create these pathways to burn fat and produce ketones for energy. Let’s dig a little deeper…
You will note that I said Ketones are energy – so, first, we need to acknowledge that ketones are a calorie-containing metabolite. Almost like a fourth macronutrient that can provide energy, just like carbs can provide energy (more about macros here). However, whenever you are ingesting anything, especially carb-rich foods, you essentially turn fat burning off. Why? Well, you don’t need to break down your fat stores to produce ketones to supply you with the energy you need, because you have enough available glucose from the higher-carb meal you just ate. Remember carbs is cheap energy and easily digested to use as energy, so the body won’t go through all the effort to break down fat (lipolysis) for energy.
This is where my flawed view of BHB and fat loss come from (and that of many other so-called experts): One might think that when you ingest BHB you may also temporarily turn off fat burning to a small degree for the same reason as above; since you have available Ketones from the BHB supplement, you won’t need to break down fat to produce ketones for energy. This makes logical sense, right? … wrong! According to Dominic D’Agostino, this is not entirely true. He highlights four distinct and very helpful areas why BHB must form part of your weight loss journey. Especially if you start out for the first time, or if you have started again after falling off the wagon.
Why BHB must form part of your weight loss journey:
- BHB helps your body become better at burning fat
- BHB could eliminate glucose-withdrawal
- BHB suppresses appetite and reduces cravings
- BHB could assist in deleting the psychological emotional connection we have with food
BHB Helps Your Body Become Better At Burning Fat
When we start the Keto Diet, our liver is not yet optimised for producing ketones; it takes time for your body to transition from burning glucose for energy to burning fat for energy. I cover Ketosis in depth in one of my FREE Guides: The Ultimate Guide to Ketosis.
Supplementing with BHB, especially during the early phases of adapting to the Keto Diet could actually stimulate the pathways necessary for using ketones as fuel. In other words; BHB can actually enhance your body’s ability for transporting fatty acids. Due to the fact that you now have extra ketones in your system, the body will actually upregulate the transport system for that. In simple words; BHB helps your body become better at burning fat.
Also, the longer you do the Keto Diet and sustain Ketosis to some degree (without BHB), the easier it becomes. Here’s why:
- You are upregulating the enzymes that transport these ketones. In other words, the enzymes responsible for the transportation of ketones increase over time making you more efficient in burning fat to produce these enzymes.
- Due to this upregulation (increase) of these enzymes, your liver’s ability to produce ketones increases.
- Over time you have enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis and sufficiency, which means that the cell’s mitochondria increase in mass, and become more efficient in glucose uptake into the muscle cells. To make it even more simple; your body becomes better at removing glucose from your blood and using it.
However, when supplementing with BHB you can activate the above processes almost immediately that will fats track the body’s ability to burn fat while starting off on the Keto Diet.
Note: When we follow a Ketogenic Diet our ketone levels increases due to being in ketosis (read more on this here). These ketones are regulated by our own body; the body will release small amounts of insulin to regulate the rise in ketones – which in return also lowers blood glucose. That is why patients with type-2 Diabetes can benefit greatly from using BHB because of this glucose-lowering effect.
BHB Could Eliminate Glucose-Withdrawal
When you just start out on the Keto Diet you get what is called glucose-withdrawal. Your brain, which has been reliant on glucose, sends a stress response to your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). Your SNS activates an adrenaline response, cortisol is released. This causes adverse symptoms, very much like getting flu. This state is also known as Keto Flu, and seem to be more prevalent in women. Read more on Keto Flu there. This glucose-withdrawal can be mitigated with Ketone Supplements (BHB).
BHB Suppresses Appetite And Reduces Cravings
The Keto Diet helps you control your appetite and reduce cravings. Ketones themselves have a satiating effect – that is why your cravings disappear when you are in Ketosis. If you keep the brain happy with enough energy or fuel (from the Ketones), it doesn’t have that awful stress response of cravings. This is all great, but here is the kicker, if you are starting out on Keto, it takes time for you to transition into Ketosis where these cravings don’t exist. Keep in mind that a calorie rich and high carbohydrate diet (life before Keto) causes the body to want to eat more, and more often. This makes transitioning into sustainable Ketosis so much more difficult – this is probably also the biggest reason why so many people fail at any diet where they need to lower their carbs. Trying to veer off those intense cravings is not for everyone. Unless you supplement with BHB where you will instantly benefit from the appetite suppressing benefits of being in ketosis while your body transitions into ketosis.
BHB Could Assist In Deleting The Psychological Emotional Connection We Have With Food
Oftentimes when someone is overweight, there is some or other form of emotional eating or emotional connection to food (I guess there’s nothing like a piece of chocolate when you have a tough day, right?). Sadly, for some of us, this emotional connection can be so intense that it really becomes our Achilles Heel resulting in failure upon failure in our attempt to lose weight – to the point where some of us just give up.
Being in ketosis is a way by which the body creates a state of “restriction”; you are just not hungry. So, following any other diet where you are not promoting ketosis, this state of “restriction” disappears, making it difficult to stick to that diet; especially if you find comfort in some high carb foods. It is this state of “restrictions” that automatically start deleting this psychological emotional connection we have with food. Think about it; if you have no desire for food, wouldn’t it be easier to disconnect from that piece of chocolate (or should I say, a slab of chocolate) that you desperately need at the end of a tough day? Very soon we get to a place where we, for the very first time, feel like we have more control and more will power. BUT, unless you know what enemy to fight, some of us are fighting a losing battle. This is where BHB can be a lifesaver; as we have seen, to get into ketosis and experience this state of restriction, takes time. And for many of us, this bond we have with food is so strong that we can not afford not to be in the state from the very beginning. The only way you can get to this state of “restriction” immediately after starting out on the Keto Diet is to supplement with BHB.
Just a little segway here. Drinking Exogenous Ketones is not a remedy for a bad diet. You cannot eat junk food and drink exogenous ketones expecting to have all the benefits of Nutritional Ketosis. Nutritional Ketosis and Exogenous Ketones are also two very different things and as always, I recommend that using Exogenous Ketones in conjunction with at least a low carb diet, would be optimal.