Tips & Advice

Do Keto Supplements (Exogenous Ketones) Work?

No doubt you’ve seen adverts for keto supplements in the form of pills and powders (also known as exogenous ketones, i.e. synthetic ketones produced outside the body) which claim to help you burn fat by putting your body into ketosis. (Ketosis is the state your body enters after an extended period of carb-deprivation where it produces ketone bodies – an alternative energy source derived from fat – and begins to burn these for energy instead of carbs. The result? Accelerated fat/weight loss).

So people often ask, “Which keto pills work?”, “What was the keto pill on Shark Tank?”, “Which keto supplement is best?” People are so concerned about “which keto tablets are the best” that they forget to ask the first question: do these ketone supplements even work in the first place? The short answer is, basically, no. At worst these supplements are expensive snake oil, at best they’re unnecessary.

It’s true, ketone supplements can produce an increase in blood ketone levels – but this is simply an imitation of ketosis. It’s not true ketosis, not the ketosis we’re aiming to trigger under the keto diet when we deplete our body’s carb reserves. 

Here’s a quick analogy. You can make a man pregnant!… Well, you can make a man test positive in a pregnancy test. Big difference. You can inject a man with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), wait 30 minutes and then have them pee on a pregnancy test stick. It will be positive. Therefore, the man is “pregnant”. You see how that’s ridiculous? (By the way, if a man tests positive in a pregnancy test, it could be a sign of testicular cancer – some tumours secrete hCG – and he should see his doctor as soon as possible).

This is exactly what happens when you take exogenous ketones. Tests will show the presence of ketones in your sample but that doesn’t mean you’re in ketosis. It just means you have ketones in your urine or blood.

Keto supplements and ketosis

Adhering to an an extremely low-carb diet for 3-4 days will generally trigger ketosis. When your body enters ketosis, it produces more keto acids, or ketones, in the blood than usual. What’s happening is your liver is converting fat into ketones for your body to use as energy. That’s why the keto diet truly turns your body into a fat-burning machine.

Now, the idea behind keto tablets is the same — to increase levels of ketones in the blood – and they do this, no argument. The way ketone supplements work is that they contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs are a type of saturated fat and it’s this fat that the liver breaks them down into ketones.

So, yes, on the surface, ketone supplements increase the ketone levels in your blood. However, this doesn’t mean ketone supplements will help you lose weight. And even if they did, they do not provide all the other benefits derived from authentically following a keto diet.  

A ketogenic diet does more than just stimulate ketone production,” notes Barbara Gower, a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Ketogenic diets also lower circulating insulin, and often glucose, which arguably may have more benefit than the ketones themselves.” 

In addition, the FDA has not recognised keto pills’ ability to help people lose weight. 

Keto supplements will sabotage your weight loss

Ketone tablets may suppress your hunger (through a cocktail of chemicals) and may give you an energy boost (due to high levels of caffeine) but if your goal is to burn fat and lose weight, using one of these products will actually work against you.

Not only do keto pills they have no effect on your metabolism whatsoever, but they also provide you with no nourishment beyond a few trace elements. But worst of all (when it comes to weight loss) is that any ketones in your system will bring your body’s fat burning process to an immediate and premature stop. When your body detects sufficient ketone levels in your blood, it will stop burning fat and begin (re-)storing fatty acids and glucose. It will do this until all the ketones have been used. You’ve sabotaged yourself by introducing artificial ketones into your body that stops the very thing it claims to promote – ketosis.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, these ketones actually cause your insulin to spike, which is the last thing you want on a ketogenic diet, when you’re trying to lose weight.

So, if you’re trying to lose weight, avoid ketone supplements at all cost – they run completely counter to what you’re trying to achieve (i.e. they produce insulin, kill the fat burning process, store fat and store carbohydrates)!

“Expensive urine”

Keto supplements have been referred to as expensive urine. They really do nothing that following the keto diet properly won’t already do for you. Not only are they expensive but they are also unregulated. You really don’t know what you’re taking and whilst it’s unlikely to be dangerous, it’s also unlikely to be particularly healthy.

A lot of supplements are high in caffeine to mimic some kind of energy-giving effect. Yet we all know how caffeine can leave you with headaches, insomnia, nausea and anxiety.

The bottom line is keto supplements are unnecessary. In the end, eating the right foods is the best way to safely follow a ketogenic diet. The results of studies on keto supplements are inconsistent, and marginal at best.


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