“How do I use ketones to help me lose weight?” Great question. It’s worth the few minutes to understand how exogenous ketones can help people lose weight on a ketogenic diet, and not just jump to the conclusion that ketones = weight loss.
Breaking Down Ketone Weight Loss Misconceptions
The most common misconception (perhaps due to excessive marketing claims) is that taking ketone supplements will induce immediate weight loss. The purpose of this article is to explain how to use ketones as a piece of the puzzle in your weight loss lifestyle. Remember exogenous ketones are supplements. Very effective at what they do, but none the less, should be supplementary to a low carb/ketogenic style of eating that is geared towards weight loss (if weight loss is the goal). Ketones don’t cause weight loss, they help cause ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state where your body is using fatty acids for its primary source of energy. Just because you are using fat does not necessarily mean you are going to be losing weight or have a decrease in body fat percentage over an extended period of time. I have been in deep nutritional ketosis (>3.0mmol/dL) and had an increase in body fat percentage. I’ve also been in deep nutritional ketosis and had a decrease in body fat percentage. It all depends on how much fat and protein you are eating, in addition to being below a carb threshold that will induce ketosis.
Please don’t take this to mean starve yourself. It just means that the average male American has over 40,000 calories in stored body fat and can, therefore, afford to eat a lower calorie ketogenic diet, and still survive (and thrive!). Take home message: Exogenous ketones are a tool to get you into ketosis or to boost your energy levels while already in ketosis. If your motive is weight loss – exogenous ketones can get you to your starting point (a state of ketosis) so that you can then take the ketogenic diet to where you want to go (your weight loss goals).
Misconception – “The Faster I Lose Weight, the Better My Weight Loss Diet is”
Many people start diets with goals like losing 20 pounds in 2 weeks and think that the faster they shed weight, the healthier they are. The truth is that a biological organism like a human is not designed to drop weight rapidly. Our bodies are remarkable survival machines. I often wish people a slow weight loss journey, perhaps 0.5 lbs of fat per week. While people claim they want to drop 20 by next Tuesday, really the goal is to have that 20lb off, and live a much more healthful lifestyle for the rest of their life. The more effective approach is to lose that weight over a longer period of time, and get comfortable with the new habits you will form on a ketogenic diet. How do you set a goal of losing 0.5lbs of fat per week? The best way we know is using a calorie/macronutrient calculator, then getting familiar with eating approximately that much food (no need to obsess though! :)) The key is to eat the right amount of fat and calories and “turn the dial” on the calorie/macro knobs. If you are gaining body fat on a ketogenic diet – turn down the calorie knob by eating less dietary fat. If you are not in ketosis – turn down the carbohydrate knob to get into ketosis. If you are losing weight but feeling very depleted – turn up the calorie know by eating more fat. Also supplementing with exogenous ketones will help with lethargy. Moving beyond the misconceptions, using ketones to get into ketosis can be an awesome way to lose weight and feel fantastic. But just how do we do it?
Using Ketones and the Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss
Ketones help get you into ketosis, so tt’s a good idea to have an understanding of how ketosis works. Here are some important points about the ketogenic diet:
- A ketogenic diet is centered around bringing the body into a state of ketosis.
- Ketosis is a metabolic process in which the body burns fat for energy instead of its primary fuel, carbohydrates.
- When you drastically cut down on the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating, and there aren’t enough carbohydrates from food to burn for energy, the body switches to the state of ketosis.
- Once in ketosis, the liver uses the body’s fatty acids to make molecules known as ketones to burn for fuel.
So, why is this good for weight loss? That’s what we’ll cover next.
Benefits of Ketosis for Weight Loss
There are many benefits of ketosis for those looking to lose weight on a ketogenic diet, including:
INCREASED FAT BURN WITH KETOSIS
When you eat low-carb and your body starts burning fat as its primary source of fuel, you’re essentially in a fasting state where your body is using your fat stores directly for energy. Those experiencing stalls in their weight loss or having trouble getting rid of unwanted fat can benefit from a ketogenic diet for this reason.
HORMONE REGULATION WITH KETOSIS
Ketosis can help sustain weight loss by regulating hormones that affect weight. After you eat, the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) is released by your intestines. CCK is responsible for stimulating fat and protein digestion and inhibits the emptying of the stomach, which reduces appetite. This makes CCK a great regulator of food intake. For example, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed people injected with CCK stopped eating their meals sooner than those without it. On the flip side, losing weight can cause your body to secrete less CCK, leading to less satiety after a meal. But this is where ketosis can be helpful. The same study showed that just one week of being in ketosis was able to raise levels of CCK back to where it was before weight loss! That means eating a ketogenic diet can help you avoid cravings for food all the time after losing weight, reducing the chance of gaining the weight back.
APPETITE SUPPRESSION WITH KETOSIS
Ketogenic low-carb diets may be helpful in reducing appetite by altering the concentrations of hormones and nutrients that affect hunger. It’s no wonder ketosis is used as a strategy for weight loss; it removes the need to eat more or respond to cravings for unhealthy foods. This means you can better listen to your body’s true hunger signals without worrying about counting calories or going hungry.
BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION WITH KETOSIS
When you’re eating a ketogenic diet full of healthy fats and proteins plus an abundance of vegetables, you experience more stabilized blood sugar. This is much better than traditional diet foods that are usually high in refined sugars and other carbohydrates, leading to a spike in blood sugar that leaves you feeling hungry again soon after. As you can see, those on a ketogenic diet have an advantage over other forms of weight loss because they increase the chance of maintaining weight loss, reducing cravings, and eliminating the need to stress and obsess over every calorie or food portions.
Okay now that we know that ketosis is a great place to be if your goal is weight loss, let’s talk about how to use exogenous ketones to get there.
Take Ketones to Get Into Ketosis Quicker
Not everyone can follow a very strict, high fat, low carb diet. For those who have done ketosis before, they will know that when you get kicked out of ketosis, it can take awhile to get back in. Not anymore. You can use exogenous ketones to ramp your body back into ketosis quicker than it would on it’s own resources.
Using exogenous ketone supplements after a period of eating carbohydrates will tell your body that you want to be using ketones for energy instead of those carbs. Instead of eating very low carb for days, you can just take a scoop of exogenous ketones and get back into ketosis (provided you stop eating carbohydrates).
This makes it so you don’t have to go through the awful “keto flu” phase, which is where all the of the nasty side effects are.
Take Ketones to Avoid the Keto Flu
When your body transitions from using energy from carbohydrates to ketones, there can be a lot of nasty and unwanted side effects. These include low energy, bloating, irritability, headaches, and fatigue. This is because your body is “in between” burning carbs and burning ketones and hasn’t become efficient at burning ketones and producing them from your fat stores yet.
The good news is that you can use exogenous ketones to bridge the gap. While your body is getting used to using ketones, you can supply it with energy to eliminate all of these nasty side effects where it otherwise would be struggling to find efficient energy.
How To: Split into smaller doses of 1/3 – 1/2 scoop and spread throughout the day for 3-5 days while transitioning to ketosis.
Summary of How to Use Ketones for Weight Loss
Don’t: Take the easy way out of assuming that eating ketones = weight loss.
Don’t: Strive for the quickest, most dramatic weight loss regimen humanly possible.
Do: Make a plan of what and how much you want to eat for your goals
Do: Use ketones to help you on your ketogenic diet, if you are choosing to incorporate them.
Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
Over the last few years, he has treated thousands of patients with movement rehab, internal diagnostics, and natural interventions, including NFL, MLB and NBA champions. After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.