How do ketones work in the body?
You don’t have to understand ketosis to benefit from it. With ketosis, weight loss happens in all the right areas—including reducing the hard-to-eliminate visceral fat. It’s easier to manage blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. Ketosis is even therapeutic for some brain disorders.(1)
However, if you want to bump up your ketosis abilities, it might be worth the time to learn more about ketones. What are they? How do ketones work in the body? Most importantly, what can you do to boost your ketone levels and bring on a healthier you?
Four Must-Know Facts about Ketones
Understanding ketones is the key to working with them. The more you know about the process, the more you can work with your body to optimize ketosis and reach your goals.
Fact #1: Ketones are a source of energy produced in your own body
In our modern American culture, most people are used to getting their energy from glucose. The foods we eat provide glucose or blood sugar, that can be carried to any part of the body. We also have glycogen stores in our muscles, where glucose is stored for quick and easy access.
When you start a low-carb diet, you don’t have as much glucose in your blood stream. Your glycogen reserves are quickly depleted.
Your body still needs energy. When there’s no sugar to be found, it starts converting your body fat into ketones that can be used in place of glucose to fuel your life.
Three types of ketones
During the fat-burning process, three types of ketone bodies are produced:
- Acetoacetate (AcAc)
- Beta-hydroxybutyric Acid (BHB)
The molecules AcAc and BHB are used primarily in the energy production cycle. Acetone is mostly eliminated through the breath (it can give your breath a fruity scent) or through the urine.
Fact #2: Ketones can be used for energy instead of glucose—and they might be more effective
How do ketones work in the body to provide a healthier and more sustainable form of energy than glucose does?
Energy in our bodies comes in the form of a molecule called ATP. Ketones produce more ATP than glucose does. This means there’s more energy, molecule for molecule when your body relies on ketones.
This explains why many people on ketosis have more energy and experience better brain functioning.
The problems caused by using sugar as fuel
Too much sugar in the body can cause hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and blood sugar spikes. Together, these problems can result in many forms of diseases.
Here are some of the ways sugar damages the body:
- It can rewire your brain and set you up for depression
- It ages skin
- It increases your risk of stroke and heart attack
- It overloads your kidneys
- It causes inflammation which can make arthritis flare up
The benefits of using ketones for fuel
How do ketones work in the body to stop disease? One of the things ketosis does is stop and reverse the damage done by sugar. Burning fat for fuel also doesn’t cause any issues like the ones listed above.
New research shows that ketone esters might be a super-fuel for the human body. Athletes who ingested ketone esters were able to improve their performance by two percent.(2)
Fact #3: You can use ketones to achieve more than just weight loss—but some people have to be careful
How do ketones work in the body for issues beyond weight loss?
Did you know a ketogenic diet could help prevent depression and treat anxiety?(3) That it’s being used to help with cancer recovery?(4)That Alzheimer’s patients have improved cognition on a keto eating plan?
The research is ongoing, but the keto diet provides hope for many types of patients. There are a few people who have to be careful, though.
Ketosis has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.(5) However, people who have type 1 diabetes have to be more careful. They can develop diabetic ketoacidosis, which is when their blood becomes acidic because of too many ketones.
You’ve probably heard of keto flu. While it’s not dangerous and not chronic, it can be uncomfortable. Keto flu is the low-energy, brain fog feeling that you might get when you transition from burning sugar for fuel to burning fat and using ketones.
Keto flu is temporary. It can be relieved by supplementing your keto diet with MCT oils.
Fact #4: Taking in the right kinds of fats and oils can improve your ketosis experience—but eating the wrong kinds will slow you down
Eating high amounts of fat is a distinct feature of a ketogenic diet. This can include all kinds of dietary fat, but certain fats do work better than others.
The longer the carbon chain is on a fat molecule, the longer it takes to digest. Fats with long chains aren’t turned into ketones efficiently, and they can be stored in the body as fat.
On the other hand, medium-chain triglycerides are fats that go directly to the liver. They’re turned into ketones or used for energy immediately. No fat storage. Also, because they’re converted into ketones so quickly, they provide a nice energy bump and even out the brain fog caused by keto flu.
There’s some information showing that ingested ketone supplements can kick you into ketosis even if you’re not on a carb-restricted diet.(6)
How to use your new knowledge to optimize your ketosis experience
Now that you know what you know about ketones, what will you do to improve your keto diet? Here are three suggestions to get you going:
- Rethink your keto goals. If you’re the on-again-off-again type of dieter, take a look at the diseases that run in your family. Are you at risk for heart disease? Diabetes? Alzheimer’s? Consider letting these potential diseases motivate you to stay on your keto eating plan even if weight isn’t an issue.
- Tweak your keto diet plan. Try to switch out the fats you use from animal fats to healthier fats that include MCT oils. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil might be good choices. You could also go straight to MCT oils, which are derived mostly from these foods.
- Buy the best supplements for you. While not everyone will want or need to supplement, some products like Left Coast MCT oil, NOW Sports, Perfect Keto , Olimp, Nature’s Way or MiCkey T Eight can effectively bump up your ketone levels. It’s helpful for managing keto flu. It’s also great for getting back into ketosis quickly if you’ve had a day off your diet.
Conclusion: How do ketones work in the body?
Basically, they provide sustainable energy for brain function, exercise, and life.
Knowledge is power. Now that you know what ketones are and how they work, you’ll be more effective at choosing which foods and supplements to put into your body.