Most people believe there are three main energy sources our bodies use to create Adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
- Sugar/glucose from the breakdown of carbohydrate (and gluconeogenic amino acids)
- Fatty acids
- Glycerol from the breakdown of triglycerides.
However, it is important to also understand the valuable role of ketones — a relatively novel, alternative and important energy source the body naturally creates that is now available in the form of a food or beverage.
Optimize your Physical and Mental Potential with Ketone Hydration
Quite simply, ketones are an alternative energy source to fuel the body.
There are three types of ketones
- Beta-hydroxybutyric acid.
Beyond this, there are both endogenous forms (produced by the body while adhering to a ketogenic diet) and exogenous forms (created outside the body and available in select foods and beverages).
It is well known that spikes and fluctuations in blood glucose can lead to brain fog, fatigue and lethargy. In addition, such changes in both glucose and insulin (the hormone that is elevated in response to a glucose spike) are associated with weight/body fat gain.
Hence, many individuals seek to follow a low carbohydrate diet in an attempt to avoid elevations in blood sugar — with the goal of stabilizing energy levels throughout the day and remaining relatively lean. When following such a plan, many individuals seek alternative energy sources to fuel their day. This is where ketones may prove helpful.
Over the past few years, there has been much scientific inquiry and discussion regarding ketones and their potential health benefits — beyond simply fueling activities of daily living. Investigations have been carried out to evaluate the effect of ketones on hunger and satiety, brain metabolism and neurodegenerative disease, management of endocrine disorders, control of inflammatory disease, and exercise performance. The majority of results are favorable, with ketones appearing to have the ability to modulate cell and metabolic function, which has been a main motivator fueling the continued interest in this area of study.
Most people are familiar with the high protein and low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet. This plan dramatically restricts carbohydrate intake (usually to less than 50 grams per day — the equivalent of approximately 2 slices of bread).
Although effective, there have been concerns raised pertaining to the difficulty in adhering to such a diet — although this varies considerably from person to person and may be similar to other diets. While some contend that a ketogenic diet can be harmful due to the high intake of saturated fat, the evidence indicates that this plan can be safe for most individuals — of course, more well – controlled clinical trials are needed.
While increasing ketone levels via adherence to a very low carbohydrate diet is most prevalent, dietary aids that directly deliver ketones to induce an acute state of ketosis are now available and being used with success, with suggestions for improving exercise performance. While not all data support the ergogenic effect of ketones, Sansone and coworkers expand the potential role of ketones by stating, “Exogenous ketones should not only represent an alternative metabolic fuel source, sparing carbohydrates, but they also may increase postexercise glycogen replenishment, decrease proteolysis, and act as metabolic modulators and signaling metabolites.”
The potential benefit of exogenous ketones is that nutritional ketosis can be induced without necessitating the restrictive dietary practices that seem to be poorly tolerated by some, in particular in the long-term. Of course, more well-controlled clinical studies are needed to confirm the benefit of these ketones.
Regardless of how ketones are created and delivered, increasing the amount and metabolism of ketones appears to increase oxidative stress within the mitochondria, which in turn initiates a protective response, allowing cells to better handle future assaults during periods of high stress and low energy availability.
The Rise, The Fall, The Crash! Sustain Energy
If your goal is to feel great throughout the day, with sustained energy and mental clarity, blood sugar and insulin should be maintained at relatively stable levels.
When consuming high amounts of simple sugars (i.e., packaged foods and sugar-laden drinks), blood sugar can rise rapidly (within 15 minutes) leading to a surge of insulin production and release.
A rapid fall of blood sugar within the first hour or so — often generating a feeling of fatigue…the so-called crash.
Restricting carbohydrates can help greatly but since glucose is a main source of energy to produce ATP — and the prime energy source used to fuel the brain — restricting these calories can lead to fatigue. This is where supplemental ketones may help. They can provide the body with a rapid energy source, without impacting blood sugar.
The figure below shows a representation of how blood glucose rises and falls following meals. The left side panel represents the typical Western diet, inclusive of high amounts of simple sugar and saturated fat. The right side panel represents a ketogenic diet of very low carbohydrate intake, where the goal is to maintain relatively stable blood sugar levels and to minimize insulin secretion. Ketones are used heavily for ATP production.