Blue molecules representing exogenous ketones and endogenous ketones float overtop light blue background.

Exogenous Ketones vs. Regular Ketones Explained 

Posted by Katie Spaller on

Did you know that fat has twice as much energy per gram as carbs? It’s true! Countless keto diet fans have already discovered what it feels like to use energy-abundant fat to power through their day, but energy use aside, the ketogenic diet is simply becoming more and more popular. Today, thousands have turned to the keto lifestyle for its compelling weight loss benefits and even greater potential health effects.

Keto converts already know that the most important step is entering a state of ketosis. Once an individual passes through, their body will begin burning fat to produce energy-boosting ketones, but beginning the cycle can be quite the uphill battle. Typically, individuals must abide by a heavily restrictive diet and lean on a combination of fasting and exercise to enter ketosis. 

This challenging process has often placed the benefits of ketosis out of reach for many.

Luckily, innovative companies have created BHB ketone-boosting drinks that make the benefits of ketosis easily accessible to everyone, including those who struggle with dieting or are often just too busy for extended workouts. 

These products are called exogenous ketones. Exogenous ketones are relatively fresh to the keto and keto diet scene, so in this article, we’ll break down the differences between Exogenous vs. Regular (Endogenous) Ketones.

What are Endogenous Ketones?


Many people wonder, what exactly is the difference between endogenous ketones vs. exogenous ketones. When people refer to “normal ketones,” they’re talking about the ketones naturally produced in the body; or “endogenous ketones.” Endogenous ketones are an energy-rich fuel used to power the brain and body once an individual enters an endogenous ketogenic state (or “endogenous ketosis”). 

Ultimately, we can define a state of ketosis as one’s body using ketones –– instead of carbohydrates or glucose –– for fuel. Typically, in order to access ketones, your body would need to burn fat to produce its own endogenous ketones. This is why ketosis is often equated with fat burning, though true “ketosis” only refers to the point at which your body is running on –– not necessarily creating –– this important type of fuel (ketones). 

Entering endogenous ketosis –– and producing endogenous ketones –– is a rigorous process because the body will only create ketones after experiencing significant carbohydrate depletion and insulin reduction (i.e. after you’ve maintained a carb-restrictive diet or strict fasting schedule for 2-4 days). At this point, free fatty acids (FFAs) will be released from fat stores to make their way to the liver. There, they will be used to make ketones which can be used in place of carbohydrates and glucose to fuel the body. 

Because "normal" ketones are created by converting fat into energy, many have turned to the ketogenic diet for fast weight-loss results. However, entering a state of endogenous ketosis through nutritional means like restricting carbohydrates or fasting will take at least 2-4 days and is very difficult to maintain. 

Individuals have also reported experiencing “keto flu,” or flu-like symptoms such as headache and nausea upon entering ketosis. For individuals looking to avoid keto flu, or experience powerful ketone fuel, exogenous ketones may present a valuable alternative to endogenous ketosis. 

What are Exogenous Ketones?


Exogenous ketones provide the same valuable fuel as endogenous ketones and are identical to the ketones produced naturally in the body through a keto diet or intermittent fasting. The only difference is exogenous ketones are produced outside of the body. Therefore, the definition of exogenous ketones means developing from external factors and introduced directly into the bloodstream through drinks and other supplements.


What Are The Benefits of Exogenous Ketones? - What Do Ketones Do?


There are benefits of exogenous ketones that can help many different types of people. Exogenous ketone drinks and supplements have been studied in relation to athletic performance and recovery, as well as their ability to expedite ketosis and possibly reduce negative symptoms like keto flu. Additionally, some studies have even explored the possible neuroprotective benefits exogenous ketones may offer. Though more research is needed, these initial studies are incredibly promising. 


How do Exogenous Ketones Work?


Exogenous ketone supplements, like endogenous ketones, supply your brain and body with a steady source of energy. Ketones even help support focus, which helps keep individuals alert, sharp, and proactive no matter what the day throws at them. 

Moreover, because exogenous ketones are created without the specific diet needed for endogenous ketosis, they allow users to immediately access the benefits of energy-rich ketones without requiring strict dietary measures. That said, not all exogenous ketones are created equal –– or by the same means -– so it’s important to understand the differences between the different types of ketones and the processes by which different exogenous ketones are made.


What Are The Main Types of Ketones? 


There are three main types of ketone bodies created naturally. The two primary ketone bodies are D-beta-hydroxybutyrate (D-BHB) and acetoacetate (AcAc), but acetone rounds out the trio with far lower abundance rates within the human body. During endogenous ketosis, D-BHB ketone bodies make up about 80% of circulating ketones, and AcAc is responsible for the majority of the other ketone bodies.

Exogenous ketone products replenish these ketones, providing a clear boost to energy and focus. Product types vary and can include:

  • Ketone Esters - a commercially available molecule for producing exogenous ketones. While these products trigger a pronounced rise in ketones after supplementation, high costs and unpleasant tastes have kept ketone ester supplementation from gaining widespread popularity.

  • MCT Oil - MCT oils don’t actually contain ketones, but are ketogenic (MCT - medium chain triglycerides). This means they take advantage of the liver’s natural ability to break down and convert substances into new forms. MCT oil or powder is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and then converted into ketones in the liver, even if the body still has glycogen stores. That said, the amount of ketones produced per gram of MCT oil is nominal. Further, these oils still come with all the calories of any normal saturated fat.

  • Ketone Salts - ketone salts are the most popular molecule available as exogenous ketones. They’re pretty effective for rapidly entering ketosis, making them useful for getting back into ketosis after a dietary slip. Ketone salts are created by combining ketones with electrolytes. Then, the new salt is used to create ketone drinks, powder, pills, and more. They do, however, contain a high amount of salt, which can be unhealthy or difficult to tolerate for many. 

  • D-Beta-Hydroxybutyric acid (D-BHB) - is molecularly the same as the chemical ketone made during endogenous ketosis, or the same as the free-acid that your body makes. While ketone salts and ketone ester supplements contain D-BHB, they are bonded to another molecule (like salt), making them different from the ketones our bodies produce.

  • L-Beta-Hydroxybutyric acid (L-BHB) - When a molecule is chiral, that means there are two possible structures that are mirror images of one another. L-BHB, or L-beta-hydroxybutyric, is the mirror molecule of D-BHB, but is not produced by the human metabolism during ketosis, making it less effective at creating higher levels of ketones.

  • R-1,3 butanediol - a molecule best described as a precursor of the ketone bodies humans naturally produce, and like D-BHB is not attached to another molecule (like a salt). R-1,3 butanediol, like MCT oil, helps facilitate the production of D-BHB and AcAc ketone bodies.


How Are Exogenous Ketone Products Created 


Conventional D-BHB ketone products are petroleum-based, creating environmental and health concerns. Not only do these products rely on a petroleum-based feedstock, but some even use chemical processes that involve toxic solvents and unsustainable manufacturing practices. 

However, others at the forefront of ketone innovation, like Kenetik, have created revolutionary processes to convert entirely renewable plant sugars into potent ketone bodies. The team is also revolutionizing the exogenous ketone space by using R-1,3 butanediol, which, once ingested, is metabolized entirely into the two primary metabolic ketone bodies: D-Beta-Hydroxybutyric acid and acetoacetate.


What Are The Benefits of D-Beta-Hydroxybutyric Acid (D-BHB)?


D-Beta-Hydroxybutyric acid is exactly the same as the human body’s natural ketones, meaning it can be used to support all of the same beneficial functions of endogenous ketones as an alternative fuel source for the brain and body.

Additionally, between Kenetik’s unique bio-manufacturing process and the renewable feedstock (natural sugarcane) used to create its D beta hydroxybutyrate based ketone products, the team has managed to create a particularly environmentally friendly product. In fact today, the ketones Kenetik produces remain carbon-negative, and for each gram of D-BHB manufactured, 4.4g of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere.


How Long Does it Take to Get into Ketosis with Exogenous Ketones? 


Entering ketosis is characterized by elevated ketone levels circulating in the blood between 0.5 and 3 millimoles per liter (mMol/L). These levels can be reached after about 24 hours of fasting, which will deplete all glycogen stores and thus begin the process of endogenous ketosis, or after a few weeks on the ketogenic diet. 

With exogenous ketone supplements, the process is much quicker. After ingesting exogenous ketones, your elevated ketone levels will reach the ketosis threshold in about 15 minutes.

Reaching endogenous ketosis the conventional way, with a highly restrictive diet, can take weeks to achieve. Moreover, for many, the traditional ketogenic diet simply isn't practical and leaves too much room for error. Even for those who are able to stay consistent, a single slip-up could push your body out of ketosis, making the ketogenic diet fairly unsustainable as a long-term lifestyle.

Conversely, Exogenous ketone bodies can kickstart ketosis immediately by flooding your bloodstream with a rush of ketones.

Researchers that launched an extensive study into the benefits of ketone drinks at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) concluded, “exogenous ketone drinks are a practical, efficacious way to achieve ketosis.”

This makes using BHB ketone products like Kenetik convenient for getting back on track after slipping out of ketosis –– or jump-starting your ketogenic journey. 

Do Exogenous Ketones Keep You in Ketosis? 


Many keto dieters doubt whether or not exogenous ketones actually work. Simply put: Yes. Exogenous ketones can keep you in ketosis, which by definition is marked by elevated ketone bodies circulating in your bloodstream. This can be achieved even in the presence of carbohydrates, giving individuals the brain and body benefits of ketones without adhering to a strict diet. However, in order for exogenous ketones to keep you in ketosis, you have to continue to consume exogenous ketones. For example, with Kenetik, just one drink every 2-4 hours will keep you in ketosis.

However, consuming exogenous ketones does not trigger endogenous ketone production. For your body to produce ketones naturally from fatty acids, you must follow a strict ketogenic diet, or be in a prolonged, fasted state.

Many individuals find using a combination of intermittent fasting or a ketogenic diet alongside exogenous ketone supplements helps them stick with these strict lifestyle choices. It has been reported that many individuals using exogenous ketones in addition to maintaining endogenous ketosis have experienced more pronounced energetic effects. After about 3-4 weeks of combining a conventional diet with exogenous ketones, some individuals even reported that these energetic effects increased over time.

Not all exogenous ketones are equal in their ability to elevate circulating ketone levels.  In a study conducted by the American Brain Council to determine the best products currently available for promoting ketosis, Kenetik and Ketone esters were found to be most effective, followed by ketone salt supplementation and MCT oils. 

How to Use Exogenous Ketones


There are many ways to use exogenous ketones, and how you use them depends on what you’re looking to achieve. As mentioned above, exogenous ketones can be used on their own or in conjunction with a specific diet. But there are a lot of specific uses that you may not be aware of.

Most people use exogenous BHB ketones to amplify their day-to-day activities because they can improve athletic performance, curb appetite, sharpen concentration, and enhance mental performance and productivity. Try kick-starting your day with a boost of energy or conquering the afternoon slump with an extra burst of exogenous ketones. 

Many replace traditional energy-boosters like coffee and energy drinks with Kenetik due to its total lack of caffeine because while other caffeinated beverages may provide an initial boost of energy, they’ll always lead to a dramatic crash. Caffeinated beverages can also cause jitters and anxiety, so an option like Kenetik can help you perform your best under pressure without negative side effects.

Additionally, you can support your intermittent fasting journey by using exogenous ketones to curb cravings or to help you power through a fasted workout. Some athletes even enjoy the benefits of dual fueling, meaning they continue to eat carbohydrates while drinking exogenous ketone supplements for an additional boost in athletic performance. 

For the best exogenous ketone results, make sure your ketone product uses D-BHB ketones and R-1,3 butanediol. While you can drink ketones every 2-4 hours, most people find that two servings per day are ideal, especially with this combination of D-BHB ketones and R-1,3 butanediol. Kenetik has committed to only using this patented blend of ketones to create the highest quality ketone drink on the market.

Optimizing Ketones With Kenetik

Kenetik’s D-BHB ketones are produced using an environmentally-friendly process that uses renewable plant sugars to create exact copies of the normal ketones your body produces naturally. Additionally, by including a blend of D-BHB acid and R 1,3 butanediol, Kenetik offers users a potent, sustained boost of ketone energy, while promoting weight loss, without sacrificing taste. 

Each bottle of Kenetik is packed with premium ketones and sweetened with real fruit flavors for a crisp, refreshing experience. A single serving can provide enhanced energy, mood, and productivity. 

To learn more about the benefits of exogenous ketones, check out our full resource center.

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