What Are Ketones? How They Work & Their Health Benefits

What Are Ketones? How They Work

Starting A Keto Journey

With so many dietary methods to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the options. You’ve decided to learn more about ketogenic dieting. Ketogenic dieting is a great choice, yet you may have many questions.

Increasing your understanding of how ketones benefit your body and health will help you as you begin your journey. This article will help you understand what ketones are, how they work in your body, and how you can avoid potential risks.

What Are Ketones?

Ketones, pronounced (KEE-tone) are defined as organic compounds with a carbonyl (C=O) group, covalently bonded to a two-carbon backbone. That’s a technical definition. However, ketones are simply the byproducts of fatty acids that have been broken down in your body.

There are three types of ketones, called ketone bodies, which are produced in your liver. Acetoacetate, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyrate, abbreviated as BHB, are the three ketone bodies. Ketones are a potent signal to our genes that reduce oxidative stress in our bodies.

Ketones are formed in your body when it begins to metabolize fat as its primary source of energy. This process, called ketosis, occurs once your body’s glycogen stores have been depleted. Glycogen is the product of carbohydrates stored in your liver and muscle cells.

Health Benefits Of Ketones

Carbohydrates are your body's primary source for energy, because they are the simplest form of macronutrients to be converted to glucose. They are also your body's first energy substrate to be depleted, which is what causes your blood sugar levels to drop.

Carbohydrates are classified as monosaccharides, di-saccharides and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides, or simple sugars, provide immediate energy. Whereas polysaccharides and di-saccharides are more complex forms of carbohydrates, which require more time to be broken down and provide long lasting energy. However, your body's carbohydrate stores are limited, and fat is its preferred source of energy.

Your desire to learn how ketogenic dieting can increase your body's fat burning capability may have lead you to this article. Most people begin ketogenic diets with the goal of burning body fat more efficiently. This increased fat burning begins by going into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is common among people who intentionally eat "low carb" diets. It's also common among women during pregnancy, infants, and anyone during periods of fasting or starvation.

Keto High Saturated Fat Foods and Keto Benefits

The Health Benefits Of Ketones

Ketogenic diets can be very effective, and provide you with many health benefits if done safely. Scientific studies have proven that well-formulated ketogenic diets can greatly improve your energy levels. Studies have also proven that ketogenic dieting can lower blood pressure, reverse insulin resistance, and even improve your mood and cognitive functioning.

Well-formulated ketogenic diets have also been proven to be beneficial for endurance athletes. This is true because during long periods of aerobic activities, such as running marathons, your body will use a combination of stored glycogen and fatty acids. Once your body’s glycogen stores have been exhausted, your body then uses fat as its primary source of fuel. This will be very beneficial to you as an athlete, because your body can utilize fat more efficiently and you won't "hit the wall."

When you begin your ketogenic diet, you may experience a decrease in your performance and energy level for the first week or two. This is because your body is trying to adapt to the decrease in your carbohydrate intake. However, there have been studies performed over the course of six weeks that have proven that after this initial "adaptation phase," performance levels are usually restored by the third week.

In the beginning stages of your ketogenic diet, your body may feed on its lean body mass as a source of fuel. This is due to a process called gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis occurs when your body converts non-glucose compounds, such as amino acids, into glucose. Again, this occurs when your glycogen stores have been depleted.

Science has proven that having adequate levels of ketones in your body can do the following:

  • Improve your mood
  • Provide longer lasting energy
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reverse insulin resistance
  • Increase cognitive functioning
Low Carb Keto Diet Side Effects and Precautions

At this point, you know that your body and brain can both use fat as a fuel source. Nutritional ketosis is a healthy metabolic state. It’s not just about “cutting carbs.” Nor does it mean you should constantly count your calories. Eating to satiety is the key to success.

When planning your ketogenic diet, you'll need to have knowledge of food's nutritional content. Learning is a continuous process, so don’t worry if you don’t know it all as you’re getting started. Snack foods designed for keto can make getting started a little easier.

It's vitally important to obtain all of your essential vitamins and minerals, and more importantly, understand how they nourish your body. You'll also need to understand how inadequate amounts of specific nutrients can negatively effects your health. The more you understand how nutrition relates to cellular health, the more effective you will be when planning your ketogenic diet.

A well-formulated ketogenic diet will help you increase your body’s fat utilization, and help you feel satiated in the process. The key to success is making the right food selections. A good recommendation is to consume moderate amounts of protein, eat between 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates, and consume at least five servings of non-starchy vegetables per day. The remainder of your dietary consumption should come from fat.

Vegan Keto Diet

Foods That Support Ketogenic Diets:

  • Various Nuts and Seeds
  • Eggs
  • Unprocessed Meat & Dairy Products
  • Berries
  • Leafy Green Vegetables
  • Olive Oil
  • Homemade Broth

A well-formulated ketogenic diet will need to be personalized for you, because everyone responds to food differently. There are some medical conditions that would not support a ketogenic diet, especially when medication is involved. Therefore, keeping your doctor informed of your dietary changes is vitally important.

How Can Ketones Be Measured?

During your ketogenic dieting, it's very important to know what your ketone levels are. Therefore, you must be able to effectively measure them. Knowing your ketone levels will help you maintain ketosis.

How can you measure your ketone levels? There are 3 methods.

  • Urine tests
  • Breath tests
  • Blood tests
Go Into Ketosis To Lose Weight

These tests are performed similar to the way diabetic tests are performed.

Urine tests measure your acetoacetate levels. These tests are performed with urine strips, which are widely available in drugstores and online. Urine tests are a cost-effective way to test your ketone levels.

Acetoacetate is the first ketone to be produced in your body. Acetoacetate can eventually be broken down into acetate. However, most of what is tested on urine strips is excess acetoacetate that has been expelled your body.

Breath tests will measure your acetone levels. These tests can be performed with a breath meter, usually priced around $50. Acetone expelled from your body through your breath.

Blood tests measure your beta-hydroxybutyrate levels by using blood glucose meters. Blood testing is the most accurate way to test ketone levels. This method is the most financially expensive of the three testing methods, yet the most valuable. This is because beta-hydroxybutyrate is your useful ketone.

A blood glucose meter can test ketone levels by following 3 simple steps:

  1. 1
    Draw a blood sample from your finger tip using a lancet pen.
  2. 2
    Apply blood to test strip and attach to the meter.
  3. 3
    See results.

When measuring your ketone levels, the method you choose depends on what you feel will work best for you.

Products To Increase Ketone Production

If you’ve read this far, you now have a better understanding of what ketones are, how your body makes them, and how they work inside your body. Now that you understand what endogenic ketones are, let's shift our focus to products that can increase your ketone production.

You've probably heard of, or seen, ketogenic products on the market. Television, news articles, magazines and internet advertisements all promote "keto." Step into any health food store, or even common grocery stores, and you’ll see products claiming to increase ketone production.

Some products on the market are natural ketone salts. These are called exogenous ketones. These ketone salts combine acetoacetate or BHB with sodium, potassium, and in some cases, calcium. They may be beneficial for you as you’re getting started with ketogenic dieting, because these are minerals you may not get enough of when beginning your new diet.

Studies show that ingesting ketone salts may increase your ketone levels. The only drawback is that as you ingest more ketones, your body will produce less of its own. 

Checking Fat & Weight Keto Waist

You may have seen MCTs, which is an abbreviation for medium chain triglycerides, on the market. Medium chain triglycerides are not ketones. They are, however, natural fats that are broken down into ketones once ingested. This benefits you because your liver converts MCTs to ketones even if your body is not in ketosis.

MCTs are absorbed directly by the liver where ketone conversion begins. This happens regardless of your diet. Therefore, it's extremely helpful if you are beginning a ketogenic diet.
MCTs are naturally found in coconuts, and coconut products. The most potent MCT is caprylic acid (C-8), because it's easily digested and converted into ketones more quickly than other MCTs. 

MCT oil is versatile. It can be ingested alone, or added to meals. You can also obtain it naturally or in supplement form. Moderation is key to avoiding side effects when using MCT supplements. 

MCTs provide great benefits. However, they are not recommended for people with diabetes. This is because they rapidly increase ketone production due to their quick digestion rate. Therefore they increase the risk of ketoacidosis, which is a potentially fatal condition.

Risks Of Ketoacidosis

Our bodies require a constant supply of energy at the cellular level. However, some people cannot absorb glucose. If our cells cannot absorb glucose, they will begin to metabolize fat and protein. This eventually leads to muscular atrophy, emaciation, and weakness. These are all common characteristics of Type I diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin.

Insulin resistance can also prevent cells from absorbing glucose. This may lead to excessive accumulation of body fat, especially abdominal fat. This is a characteristic of Type II Diabetes. Both conditions can lead to ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis occurs when the body overproduces ketones to extremely high levels.

When your body breaks down fat very rapidly, without insulin to regulate this breakdown, your body will produce and excessive amount of ketones. This excessive presence of ketones can first be detected by a disagreeable sweet smell in your breath.

Elevated ketone levels in your body can also be detected in your urine. Abnormally high ketone presence in urine is called ketonuria. Ketonuria promotes osmotic diuresis, which is an increased urination rate. This increased rate of urination is caused by the presence of ketones in your kidneys.
This flushes sodium and potassium from your body, and creates electrolyte deficiencies that can lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, and neurological dysfunction.

Ketones are acidic, and excessive amounts will lower the pH of your blood and cause ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis depresses the nervous system and may cause diabetic coma, and possibly death.

Worried about Ketoacidosis? Check With Your Doctor First

Final Summary and Thoughts

Ketones are a potent signal to our genes that reduce oxidative stress in our bodies. Ketogenic diets can be very effective, and provide us with many health benefits. The key to reaping the wonderful benefits of ketogenic dieting is to make sure you do it safely. That means educating yourself, keeping your doctor well informed, follow their advice, and enjoy the process.

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