Usually, to enter ketosis, you have to increase your fat intake and severely cut carbs. Yet there's another means of getting into ketosis, and it's through a supplement called exogenous ketones. Can exogenous ketones such as BHB salts help you lose weight even if you're not on the keto diet?
On an empty stomach, exogenous ketones might reduce your appetite. They can also increase physical performance by a marginal amount. However, between their relatively high caloric content and the way exogenous ketones might slow down fat-burning, you're probably better off committing to the keto diet for weight loss than you are taking BHB salts.
If you're still unsure what we're talking about when we refer to exogenous ketones or BHB salts, read on, as we'll explain ahead. We'll also delve into what medical and scientific studies have said about the effectiveness of exogenous ketones for weight loss so you can decide what's best for your health.
What Are Exogenous Ketones? Understanding BHB Salts
As we mentioned in the intro, there is more than one way to enter ketosis. The keto diet is one such way, and fasting is another. You can also take supplements known as exogenous ketones.
The word "exogenous" is a word that refers to something that's made externally. It's the opposite of when you produce ketone bodies internally or endogenously, such as when you're on the keto diet.
Exogenous ketones contain beta-hydroxybutyrate or BHB. We're capable of producing BHB, but we only do it when our bodies lack sugar and carbs. In other words, you'd have to fast or be on the keto diet for your body to make BHB. With an exogenous ketone supplement, you feed the body BHB so it can enter ketosis even if you're not on the keto diet.
BHB salts are among the most popular type of exogenous ketone supplements, but some people opt for exogenous ketone esters instead. These liquid supplements are supposed to work the same way as ketone salts, but they're much harder to come by.
What's in BHB salts? Sources of electrolytes will act as the base of these salts, including sodium, magnesium, calcium, or potassium. Then ketones are added to the salts to give the product value as a supplement. You can consume BHB salts in powder form, which you can stir into foods or beverages. If you'd instead take yours as a pill, that's an option, as are BHB salt beverages.
Once you take an exogenous ketone, be it a BHB salt or an ester, your blood ketone levels will begin to rise. According to a 2019 publication of the Journal of Dietary Supplements, when a group of participants took BHB salt in a quantity of 12 grams, their blood ketone levels skyrocketed more than 300 percent.
As a caveat, the number of ketones in BHB salt will vary. Some supplements contain only around 8 or 10 grams of ketones, which can increase your blood ketone levels, but not to as great of a degree of a serving of 12 grams.
Do BHB Salts Help You Lose Weight?
Now that you're more familiar with exogenous ketones, BHB salt especially, it's time to address your most burning question. If you take BHB salts to enter ketosis rather than diet for the same effects, will you lose weight?
To answer this question, we combed through a variety of studies on the topic. To date, the only answer we can provide is that maybe you can lose weight by taking exogenic ketones, but you might not either. Let's delve further into the data now.
The Data in Favor of BHB Salts for Weight Loss
We'll start by discussing the studies that indicate that BHB salts and other exogenic ketones might be able to help you shed a few pounds.
The first such study comes from Frontiers in Physiology in a 2017 publication. In the study, 15 participants consumed ketone salts or ketone esters, consuming between 12 and 24 grams of BHB through a beverage. It didn't seem to matter whether the participants had BHB salts or esters, they were still able to enter ketosis just as easily.
Since ketosis is a state where your body burns fat instead of glycogen from food, the data from the study can suggest that weight loss might be possible through BHB supplements. However, the study itself does not say this specifically.
There is some belief that exogenous ketones might reduce your appetite. This comes from a 2018 study published in the journal Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.). This study also had 15 participants. These participants were all considered regular weight.
Some of the participants consumed a sugar-laden drink, and others had a ketone ester beverage. The ones who took an exogenous ketone supplement were less hungry by a noteworthy rate of 50 percent. However, we must mention that this study did not test the effects of BHB salts on appetite, only ketone esters. We'd assume that BHB salts would have the same influence on one's appetite, but without data to back this up definitively, it's hard to say.
How long would your appetite reduction last after taking exogenous ketones? While it depended on the participant, the effects described in the Obesity study went on for between two and four hours. That's long enough to get you through breakfast and even into lunchtime without noshing on an unhealthy snack or meal. Cutting back on the calories could lead to weight loss results for some.
As a caveat, it appears that if you eat before taking an exogenous ketone supplement, then the reduced appetite effects might be less pronounced.
That information comes from a 2017 edition of Sports Medicine. The participants who ate and then took exogenous ketones had lower blood ketone levels compared to those who didn't eat and then took the supplement.
You might see a boost in your athletic performance by taking BHB salts or esters, which can also benefit your weight loss efforts, as exercise is as much a part of losing weight as diet. Cell Metabolism, in a 2016 study, found that when you exercise intensely, your body can use the exogenous ketones for energy to sustain your physical fitness.
What usually happens during high-intensity exercise is that your muscles become deprived of oxygen after a while. The muscles then make lactic acid, which indicates to the body that it's time to start using glucose from food as an energy source. If too much lactic acid accumulates while you exercise, your muscles will get tired and sore, and you could have cramps.
The presence of exogenous ketones in the body can lessen the amount of lactic acid your muscles produce so you can exercise longer. The Cell Metabolism data says you might be able to increase your physical performance at a rate of two percent. This might not sound like much, but it's certainly better than nothing!
The Data Against BHB Salts for Weight Loss
As promising as the results of those studies may seem, we mentioned before that the jury is still out on whether BHB salts can help you lose weight. Let's talk about the data that suggests that taking exogenous ketones might not aid you in achieving your weight loss goals.
The ketone bodies you make through exogenous ketones are short-lasting. When you urinate, you begin excreting the BHB salts or esters. It's for that reason that if you decided to commit to an exogenous ketone supplement routine, you'd need to take supplements throughout the day.
At about 100 calories per BHB salt serving and roughly 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbs, you have to watch your consumption like you would track keto macros. On the keto diet, you're advised to stick within the range of 20 to 50 grams of total carbs per day. It would only take five servings of BHB salt to reach an allotted 20 grams of total carbs.
Overdoing it on the carbs can knock you out of ketosis. How many carbs one needs per day to stay in ketosis varies from person to person. We discussed this very subject on the blog not too long ago, so go back and give it a read if you missed it!
Here's another downside of taking exogenic ketones for weight loss. As you ingest BHB salts, your ketone blood levels can increase to the point where your blood is now highly acidic. To keep this from happening, your body will limit how many ketones are in your system at a time by ceasing further production, says a different 2017 report from Frontiers in Physiology.
What this does is curtail how much fat your body will burn. With less fat-burning occurring, it sort of defeats the purpose of taking exogenic ketones in the first place.
What Are the Side Effects of Exogenous Ketones?
If you do decide that taking exogenous ketones is right for you, specifically BHB salts, you should be aware that some side effects exist. Let's talk about these now.
We'll get the most severe side effect out of the way first, which is an electrolyte imbalance. Although imbalances can occur when you're deficient in electrolytes, you're also considered electrolyte imbalanced if you've ingested too many electrolytes.
The symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance might include tingling or numbness, headaches, confusion, muscle weakness and cramping, stomach pain, and vomiting. You may also experience seizures, convulsions, and a high heart rate.
In those with liver conditions especially, overdoing it on the electrolytes can be very dangerous. We'd recommend seeing your doctor before you start taking exogenous ketones.
Some users report an upset stomach when on exogenous ketone supplements, which might be tied to an electrolyte imbalance or could be due to ingesting the supplement on an empty stomach or after a meal when you're full. You might want to consider taking BHB salts at a different time and seeing if your symptoms abate.
Constipation or Diarrhea
Changes in your bowel movements might also follow after you begin an exogenous ketone routine. You might be constipated or have diarrhea. Make sure you're only taking a single dose of BHB salt at one time.
Exogenous ketones like BHB salts allow you to enter ketosis without fasting or otherwise restricting your diet. Whether regularly taking these supplements will lead to weight loss is not as clear, with some evidence pointing to yes and other evidence pointing to no.
If you're interested in trying BHB salts, this supplement shouldn't harm your health, so give it a try! We recommend this product by Perfect Keto at the moment. Just don't necessarily expect weight loss to follow.
High blood pressure or hypertension can be asymptomatic in some people, which is scary considering that untreated high blood pressure might cause stroke and/or heart attack. Will taking BHB salt increase your blood pressure?
Here's what a 2018 study from the University of Toledo as published in ScienceDaily says,
"by increasing the body's supply of beta-hydroxybutyrate, a chemical produced predominantly by the liver, it is possible to regulate high blood pressure without reducing sodium intake or increasing exercise."
However, considering BHB salts are at least partly sodium, the BHB benefits could be canceled out by the sodium content. It's a good idea to see your doctor if you have concerns about your blood pressure and you want to take exogenous ketones.
You worry about the safety of BHB salts and other exogenic ketones. Is a supplement like this perfect for your health? Absolutely. The above-mentioned side effects could occur, and we do once again caution you to see your doctor before taking BHB salts, especially if you have or had a liver condition.
Yet when taken in the correct dosage, there should be no concerns about the safety of exogenous ketone supplements.
You've decided to try BHB salts. How do you take them and when? It's recommended you don't take the supplement with a meal since the food will provide glucose to your body that can counteract the ketone-burning effects of BHB salts, as we talked about before.
Some users will start their day with a serving of the supplement. Others will take BHB salts in between a meal, and others still will drink theirs down ahead of a workout, while exercising, or immediately after.