Ketone Salts vs. Ketone Esters: What’s the Difference?
By: Dave Asprey
- Getting into ketosis with diet alone isn’t fun. You go through a period when your body clamors for carbs and you feel like crap.
- To get through that period and then to boost ketones once in ketosis, people have been experimenting with exogenous ketones — ketone supplements.
- Keep reading to find out the difference between ketone esters and ketone salts, and the third exogenous ketone option that will get you into ketosis faster.
I’ve tried every diet known to man, from raw vegan to strictly meat, eggs, and butter. At the time, I was fat, sick, and slow, and I wanted to find the magic pill to feeling human again.
After a lot of frustrating trial-and-error, I can now say without a shadow of a doubt that a low-inflammation ketogenic diet like the Bulletproof Diet is a powerful way to shed body fat and dial in your brain power.
Getting into ketosis with diet alone isn’t fun. You have a period of a few days to two weeks when your body clamors for carbs and you feel like crap. To get through that period and then to amplify results once in ketosis, people have been experimenting with exogenous ketones — ketone supplements.
Keep reading to find out the difference between ketone esters and ketone salts, and the third exogenous ketone option that will get you into ketosis faster.
What are ketones
Ketones, or ketone bodies, are chemicals that your liver makes when glucose (sugar) and glycogen (your body’s back-up carbohydrate stores) aren’t available for energy. You can read all about ketones here.
Your liver starts making ketones for two main reasons. If you’re diabetic, you make ketones when you don’t have enough insulin to get energy out of the glucose in your bloodstream. When ketones climb too high, diabetics go into ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening.
For everyone else, you start making ketones when you:
- Exercise through your glucose and glycogen stores
- Stop eating sugar and foods that metabolize into sugar — carbs
The three types of ketone bodies
Once you cut carbs or you’re over the hunger hump of a fast, your body starts making three types of ketone bodies: acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone. How many of each type of ketone you make depends on how long you’ve been restricting carbs or fasting.
When your body gets the signal that you’re low on carbs and it’s time to break down fat for energy, acetoacetate is the first type of ketone body your body releases. When you first start, you have more acetoacetate than the other types of ketones, and as you continue, your beta-hydroxybutyrate levels climb until you’re producing all three in steady, sustainable proportions.
When you urine test your ketone levels, you’re measuring AcAc.
How your body makes AcAc
In your liver, two acetyl CoA molecules (think delivery truck molecules for energy packages), will hook up to make one acetoacetate ketone body. Rinse and repeat, until your hunger quiets down and you feel your energy shoot through the roof.
From there, acetoacetate will either:
- Ship off to fuel cells
- React and break down into a different ketone called acetone
- Convert to beta-hydroxybutyrate (up next)
Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is the good stuff. It packs the highest energy potential of the three ketone types, and your body really starts pumping out BHB during an extended fast or after the first few weeks on a ketogenic diet.
Some brands of urine test strips claim they’re measuring BHB, but they’re actually using your AcAc levels to approximate your BHB levels. Test strips don’t detect BHB at all, though, so it’s not an exact indicator. Since BHB is #ketogoals, get yourself a blood keto meter and test the real thing.
Acetone is what you get when BHB or AcAc break down, and it’s the same acetone that goes into nail polish remover. Your body will use it for energy, but only if there’s an immediate energy need. It breaks down quickly and your body kicks it out fast. Acetone is the reason some people notice “keto breath,” a metallic taste that some people experience during the first couple of weeks on a ketogenic diet. That’s a sign that your body is releasing ketones, and you eliminate it through sweat, urine, and by exhaling.
When you measure ketones using a ketone breath analyzer, you’re detecting acetone. Again, the goal is BHB, and acetone is a proxy measure for BHB.
Exogenous ketones: ketone salts vs. ketone esters
Ketones from a bottle or capsule are known as exogenous ketones — ketones from an outside source.
Whether you want to sidestep the misery of the keto flu, take a shortcut to all of the amazing benefits of ketosis, or you want to ramp up the results you’ve seen already, you’ve started looking at hacks for getting your ketone levels up faster than you would on your own. So, do you supplement? Here are your options, and keep reading to find out why Brain Octane Oil is the safest and most effective exogenous ketone you’ll find anywhere.
Ketone salts are ketone bodies, bound to a mineral: calcium, sodium, or magnesium.
Usually, you’ll find that manufacturers’ ketone body of choice is BHB, because it is more stable than AcAc, and because BHB is the ketone most available in the bloodstream when you’re naturally in deep ketosis.
Ketone salts were the first type of exogenous ketone available to the public. Early on, the keto community jumped all over the opportunity to boost ketones with a supplement, not knowing that there are problems with ketone salts. The main issue here is that they’re not bioidentical, which means your body may not use them the same way that they would use ketones that you made on board.
Since ketone bodies are attached to a mineral, they generally taste better and are easier to mask with flavor than ketone esters. Ketone salts raise your blood ketones, but they don’t raise your ketones as efficiently as ketone esters do. Plus, ketone salts are still new to the supplement game, so we’re still learning about the effects — good and bad.
Instead of attaching to a mineral, ketone esters are ketone bodies, usually BHB, bound to 1,3 butanediol, an alcohol molecule that chemists happen to use to make polyurethanes. By the time they get into your bloodstream, ketone esters are chemically the same as the ketones your body makes, so your body knows what to do with them. Research shows that ketone esters raise your blood ketones far more efficiently than ketone salts do.
Being bioidentical is a huge plus, but there are a couple major drawbacks to ketone esters. From a practical standpoint, ketone ester supplements are expensive — you’ll pay about $5 a day. If you make it past the sticker shock, you still have to deal with the taste factor. The taste is rough, and I mean rough. Imagine knocking back a fruity cough syrup that morphs into grandpa’s moonshine as you swallow. It’s like that.
Raspberry ketones (aka pretend ketones)
Companies started making “ketones” out of fruits, namely raspberries, that are supposed to make you lose weight. Save yourself time and frustration, and wipe raspberry ketones from your radar. They’re not real.
Raspberry ketones are lab-created and not the same compound that your body recognizes or knows how to use. Plus, you need close to 100 lbs of raspberries to make one day’s worth of raspberry ketones. What a waste of delicious polyphenols.
If you tried raspberry ketones and your blood ketones went up, you’ve been duped. Some sneaky companies fake a rise in blood ketones by mixing MCT oil into their formula. The effect isn’t from raspberry ketones – it’s from the fat. More on why that works, coming up.
The most effective ketone supplement
There’s an easier way. You can raise your ketones, crush cravings, and shoot your energy through the roof with a hack that doesn’t involve taking shots that taste like disinfectant. Quite the opposite — you’ll look forward to your ketone hit every morning.
I’m talking about Brain Octane Oil. Brain Octane Oil is a coconut-derived medium-chain triglyceride that bypasses normal metabolism steps and converts directly into ketones that your body can use right away. It’s made of triple-distilled caprylic acid, which is so efficient at producing ketones that it raises ketones four times faster than diet alone. A UCSD study found that the type of medium-chain triglyceride that caprylic acid raised ketones more efficiently than any other type of MCT, and Brain Octane Oil is 100% caprylic acid.
Because Brain Octane Oil is a fat, your body recognizes it as food and your metabolism knows exactly how to use it to make ketones.
Since brain Octane Oil is made from coconuts, you don’t have to worry about possible adverse reactions from a lab-created substance. Even better, it’s flavorless, and you can blend it into a delicious Bulletproof Coffee to power up your day.
Can you get a ketone boost with regular MCT oil? If you’re following a keto diet to the letter and you wake up fasted and take a generic MCT oil, you might see a moderate elevation in ketones.
Stick with the good stuff, though. Brain Octane Oil is pure caprylic acid, so it produces ketones more efficiently than other fat sources. It’s so efficient that it works even if you’ve had some carbs the night before.
Ketosis and carbs — can you have both?
Technically, exogenous ketones can pump ketones into your bloodstream while you’re in the glycolytic (sugar-burning) state. But, is that a good idea?
First, no situation in nature would make that happen. If you went back a few centuries to your hunter-gatherer ways, ketones and glucose wouldn’t course through your bloodstream at the same time. You’re built to fuel with sugar first, then with ketones when you’re all out of sugar.
Second, having carbs and exogenous ketones in your bloodstream at the same time will likely give you the same glucose and insulin spikes and crashes as you would have with a standard diet, and the resulting hunger and distraction you aim to avoid. Except this time, you have ketones in your blood, too. Since there’s glucose available, you won’t flip your switch to the fat-burning state because your metabolism uses glucose first. As for the extra ketones in your system, you’re flushing your expensive supplement down the toilet — literally.
If you have the choice, and you do, burn fat for energy.
The fastest and most painless way to get into ketosis
The transition to the fat-burning state is different for everyone. Things like your gender, age, your starting weight, your insulin sensitivity, and your body composition together determine how you react to carbohydrate restriction.
No matter who you are, you want to get to the other side as quickly as possible. Here’s how to get there without feeling hungry and slow.
- Limit carbs to 50 g or less per day for the first six days. You may have to play with this number to find your ideal carb intake, but start at 50.
- Drink Bulletproof Coffee every morning as your ketone source. The combination helps you feel full and focused through lunch.
- On day seven, add an extra serving of high-quality carbohydrates to avoid some of the pitfalls of ketogenic diets. What’s a high-quality carb? Here’s your cheat sheet.
- Eat plenty of the right fats, and enough low-inflammation vegetables to stuff a moose. Ketosis won’t work if you eat the wrong kinds of vegetables. Some vegetables will cause inflammation, and others you can eat until you start turning green. The Bulletproof Diet Roadmap spells it all out.
If you follow these steps, you can shortcut right to the state of no cravings, intense focus, and incredible energy that you’ve been hearing all about. With the right tools and hacks at your disposal, you don’t have to suffer.