What Are Ketones? [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Keto is much more than just another diet—it’s a way of life. The ketogenic diet has proven to help people not only lose weight fast, but most importantly, maintain a healthy body and mind. But, what are ketones?
The success more and more people continue to have with the ketogenic diet in recent years is undeniable. With its remarkable success, the words “ketosis” and “ketones” are thrown around a lot in the health world. But, many people still aren’t aware of the details of this diet. What are ketones, what causes them, and what do they do in the body?
Understanding the fundamentals of the ketogenic diet will help you have a better understanding of the keto lifestyle and how to get the most out of it.
Ketones—Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy?
Unfortunately, when you begin taking advantage of the ketogenic diet, you will likely run into many misconceptions. However, many of these misconceptions are due to not fully understanding what it is and how it works.
There are legitimate concerns if you have type 1 diabetes. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of type 1 diabetes that happens when the blood sugar is too high and ketone levels are dangerously high. The average healthy adult won’t have to worry about this and will only discover the many benefits they have to offer.
Ketones are naturally produced when your body is using fat as its main energy source instead of sugar. When eating a low-carb diet and going through periods of intermittent fasting, the body no longer has a sufficient level of glucose available. When this happens, glycogen levels are depleted, insulin is lowered, and the body now needs an alternative source of energy—fat.
Fat has been found to be a much more effective and efficient energy source for the body than glucose, and the process produces a wide variety of benefits.
When the body begins the process of beta-oxidation, it is breaking down fat for energy, and in turn, ketones are formed. They are then used as fuel for the body and brain. Nutritional ketosis is the state the body is in when you are effectively using ketones as fuel.
Ketones are also known as “ketone bodies.” There are three different types of ketone bodies that become available to the body during ketosis.
These types are:
This is the first ketone created during the process of fatty acids being broken down and ketone bodies being formed. It is eventually either converted into BHB or acetone.
Beta-hydroxybutyric acid (BHB)
BHB is formed from AcAc and is responsible for transporting energy from the liver to other parts of the body.
This is the least-used form. Acetone breaks down quickly, and if not used for energy soon it will be removed from the body through the breath or urine.
Endogenous VS. Exogenous Ketones
If you have been asking yourself, “what are ketones?” On your search, you may have run into the words exogenous or endogenous ketones. Let’s clear up what these really are.
Endogenous ketones are made within the body by following a healthy ketogenic diet and fasting. These are the most essential.
These are made externally and are taken in the form of a supplement like pills, salts, or esters. Taking exogenous ketones and not strictly following a ketogenic diet will not give you the effective results associated with the keto lifestyle.
There are two ways you will start to see the results of ketones in the body. One is by following a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting, which puts your body in a state of ketosis.
The second way is to take ketone supplements. With the number of expensive exogenous products available on the market, it can be confusing as to what they are and if you need them.
The goal of making the switch to a better fuel source is to correct your diet and get healthier—to change your lifestyle. Taking supplements instead of committing to the ketogenic diet will not help you do those things. You may see that there are ketones in your blood or urine, but they likely aren't affecting your health by much—if any.
The way to effectively lose weight fast and reach your health goals is by forcing your body to create endogenous ketones. It takes an effort to enter ketosis on your own but the results are worth it.
Are Ketones Healthy?
Using ketones as fuel is a completely natural process. However, the body isn’t typically doing this unless you have deliberately made the switch from using fat instead of glucose as fuel. This is because the typical western diet promotes snacking and has an over-emphasis on carb-rich sugary foods, which causes the body to use sugar as its primary fuel source.
However, it is believed that our ancestors were naturally in a continual state of ketosis and used fat as a primary fuel source instead of glucose. Food was less available to our ancient ancestors. Eating meals three times a day and snacking simply wasn’t an option. They primarily ate meat that they hunted and vegetables and fruits that they foraged. When they couldn’t find food—they wouldn’t eat. It is thought that because of this, they naturally developed the ability to use fat as their primary fuel source.
Ketones are natural, healthy, and people have been utilizing them as a fuel source for centuries.
Sugar has numerous negative impacts on a person’s overall health. But, ketones provide benefits for the whole body—from fighting oxidative stress to reducing inflammation and much more. Running your body on ketones will help you burn more fat, keep you full longer, and control cravings. But, it’s not just for fast weight loss—although studies show it’s great for that too. Ketones have positive effects on mood as well as performance. They are also a powerful brain fuel. The ketone beta-hydroxybutyrate activates BDNF, which protects against neurodegenerative diseases and promotes a healthy brain.
Ketones and Cancer
While different diets claim to help fight cancer, many have not proven to be effective. Interestingly, there is some early research that suggests low-carb diets may make a difference. This leaves even more people asking, “what are ketones?” and “what is their correlation to fighting cancer?”
Many cancer cells feed off of blood sugar or carbs in order to grow and multiply. On the ketogenic diet, you are hardly eating any carbs, and your blood sugar levels go way down. This basically starves cancer cells of fuel causing them to grow more slowly, get smaller, or possibly die.
The future is bright with the possibility of ketone production helping to protect against and fight cancer cells. However, more research still needs to be done, and cancer patients should always consult their doctor before making any changes to their health regimen.
Testing Your Ketone Levels
You may be wondering, “what are ketone levels?” Many people who follow a low-carb diet will do regular tests to determine their level of ketones. There are different methods of determining these levels and various reasons why they would be either low or high.
Many people want to know what level of ketones indicates ketosis. A negative level is considered less than 0.6 mmol where a very high level would be greater than 3.0 mmol. However, even though a test may show you have negative levels, you may still be in ketosis.
The most popular method of determining a person’s levels is a urine test. With this method, a urine strip indicates the level by color. This is an affordable option, but it is not always very accurate.
When urine testing for ketones, the ketone acetoacetate is the only one tested for—not beta-hydroxybutyric acid or acetone. Once you have keto-adapted, you are converting more acetoacetate to beta-hydroxybutyric acid so it may not show up on the urine test.
What are ketones doing in your urine in the first place? Well, the excess of ketones is what causes ketones in urine. So, the test is only measuring the excess of them, not what is happening elsewhere in the body. If you are using all of your ketones, they won’t show up in a urine test.
Other ways of testing your levels can get pretty pricey. Possibly the best way to make sure you are in ketosis is to consider other factors like if you are losing weight and feeling good. Another way to be sure is to consume less than 20g of carbohydrates per day.
If you have been trying to get into ketosis for a month or less and you aren’t seeing any signs of it, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine changes you may need to make.
- Are you doing intermittent fasting? If not, start now.
- Are you getting enough sleep? You should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Are you eating too much protein? 3-6 oz. of protein is all you need each day.
- Are you exercising in the fasting window? Working out in the fasting periods can help improve ketosis.
Thrive with Ketones
As you can see, ketones contribute to fast weight loss and powerful head-to-toe health benefits. Don’t just start another diet—embrace a new lifestyle. With ketones as your fuel, you can thrive—healthier and happier than ever before. Learn even more about what the ketogenic diet has to offer through our thorough blog and videos. Check out our delicious recipes and easy meal plans for the inspiration you need to get started.
*Any comments on our blog or websites relating to weight loss results may or may not be typical and your results will vary depending on your diet and exercise habits.
***Always consult a professional before making any significant changes to your health.