Everything you need to know about exogenous ketones and BHB

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The keto diet food strategy is where you consume high fat and low carbohydrate to put your body in Ketosis. There is another way to put your body in Ketosis: Exogenous ketones.

We are going to delve into the topic of exogenous ketones, what are they, the mechanism, the difference between endogenous ketones, and exogenous ketones. Also, we will focus on different types of exogenous ketones, as well as the best exogenous ketone supplement BHB and their benefits. We will talk about if the exogenous ketones work to bring the body back in Ketosis. We are going to end with final thoughts on exogenous ketones.

What are exogenous ketones?

The keto diet is a food strategy where you consume high fat and low carbohydrates. In a typical scenario, your body primarily uses carbohydrates as the primary source of energy. Although, in the Keto diet, due to deficiency in carbs, the body burns fat for energy consumption, which encourages a metabolic state called Ketosis. In this process of fat burning, the liver produces fatty acid by-products called Ketones. These ketones are used to provide energy when carbohydrates are in short supply or even when you are on a fasting.

Keto diet is more lifestyle than a fad or a diet. It has many health benefits like improving metabolism, catalyzing weight loss, an increase in productivity, and hence is becoming popular among many people who wish to reap these benefits.

Despite the benefits, this diet feels quite restrictive to many people,

as in keto diet, a person can only consume less than 5% of the daily caloric intake. Also, high physical performance trainers, athletes may find that only restrictive eating does not lend itself to optimal results.

Hence comes in play: Exogenous ketones

Exogenous ketones are becoming famous as supplements as they catalyze the Ketosis without the excessive need for strict diet or intermittent fasting.

Endogenous Ketones Vs. Exogenous Ketones

Endo: Inside 

Genous: generation 

Exo: Outside 

Genous: generation

Hence, ketones which are produced inside the body due to keto diet/fasting are called Endogenous Ketones

Similarly, Ketones which are introduced from outside of the body through food supplements are called Exogenous Ketones.

Being in the state of Ketosis means you have an elevated level of ketones in the blood, more than 0.5mM. post this threshold; the body enters Ketosis

There are two routes to get there:

Traditionally, the Ketosis is achieved by observing a ketogenic diet (called nutritional Ketosis) or practicing intermittent fasting.  

Now, a little bit of scientific part for those who are keen to know:

Due to reduced consumption of carbohydrates, eventually, carbohydrate depletes & insulin reduces, which releases free fatty acids from the body’s fat storage. The process is known as lipolysis. These FFAs are used to produce Ketones in the liver. This process produces ketones inside the body. Hence it is known as endogenous Ketosis, and these ketones are endogenous ketones

Are exogenous ketones effective in bringing the body in Ketosis?

As exogenous Ketones do not need modified dietary practices, these can be used by those who wish to gain the benefits of Ketosis with a less strict diet or in less time. Athletes can use ketone supplements to get themselves in a ketotic state and be in it for a longer time with consistent use.

Although the routs might be different, the result shown by both ketones is virtually similar to the body goes in a ketosis state with both routes.

Mechanism of exogenous ketones

There are three ketones: 

beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), 

acetoacetate (AcAc)


The body does not produce equal amounts of all ketones. The ratio in the circulation of BHB: AcAc is 1:1, but in Ketosis, the rate rises to 6:1

This process happens in both exogenous & endogenous Ketosis, and hence it shows similar results in both cases. 

Scientifically, exogenous ketones are in the form of BHB or acetoacetate, and they can get the body in Ketosis without being on strict diet intermittent fasting. Although there are two different routes for the Ketosis, the signaling effects of exogenous and endogenous ketones are virtually the same. BHB and AcAc created internally in the liver are no different than BHB or AcAc in the supplement. It’s just simple biochemistry!

Types of exogenous ketones

Many health food stores sell EK over the counter, and many EK type exist:

Ketone esters:

Ketone esters are a very potent and famous type of EK as it causes more extended ketosis period than other supplements. These are usually declared safe by the FDA and are used vastly among people who wish to achieve the result of Ketosis faster and with fewer food restrictions.

Ketone salts: 

Ketone salts are created with the addition of Ketones in electrolytes.

These available in the form of drinks, pills, and powders.

These particular EKs can increase electrolyte levels. One needs to be cautious as a higher level of salts in the body can be damaging to people with certain medical conditions like kidney disorder.

Ketone salts rapidly induce Ketosis. Although, this metabolic state does not usually last as long as it does with ketone esters.

The best exogenous ketone (BHB)

The best, safest, and wildly used exogenous ketone is BHB monoester, which is a type of ketone esters. It has been shown to increase BHB in circulation and is known to be extremely efficient in making Ketosis happen.

Ketosis in cyclists, which started due to exogenous ketones shown to improve the physical endurance and strength in them. Their body preferred using ketones as a primary source of energy than carbohydrates. It is known to increase blood ketone levels to 2.8mM in comparison to ingesting salt ketones, which elevate the ketone level to around 1mM.

A recent study suggested evidence that BHB supplements ingestion during strenuous endurance training improves endurance performance & reduce overreaching in fit individuals. 

Although the precise metabolic signals responsible for the results are not entirely known, BHB supplements are becoming favorites with trainers.

Ketone esters are considered generally safe by FDA for use as supplements, and the world anti-dope association has approved some. If you want to know the downsides of BHB monoesters, they are expensive as supplements, and some people describe it has a distinct bitter taste. The side effects are mostly non-existent or mild in moderate dosages, and most studies report no side effects of ketone ester ingestion.

Benefits of exogenous ketones

You may be thinking, are exogenous ketones provide the same benefits as a keto diet or intermittent fasting? 

Well, while exogenous ketones are not beneficial for the metabolic boost needed for weight loss, exogenous ketones have several other benefits, depending on your personal needs.

Exogenous protein supplements start effect immediately after ingestion and hence can be used as short term performance aids like caffeine by athletes.

They are useful in a transition period for people who wish to do a keto diet/intermittent fasting as a direct transition might affect the body adversely. 

One more significant advantage of exogenous ketones is they help in preventing the Ketogenous flu, and the transition from a regular diet to the keto diet is seamless. 

If these supplements are used by people already observing a keto diet, the effect becomes faster and deeper due to the easy availability of ketones to the body which usually does not get produced by the liver in such large amounts. 

Ketone supplements are a perfect solution for those people who wish to combine them with keto diet to get the results quicker and with few dietary restrictions.

Finally, they directly don’t aid with weight loss, and exogenous ketones have appetite suppressant effects. It signals the body of being full, and hence a person does not feel like eating more than necessary or what we called as snacking for no reason.

Final thoughts

Exogenous ketones have huge potential to help you in achieving your health goal. The advancing and ever-evolving food technology & science is allowing new and more practical formulations of ketone supplements to be produced and consumed and hence the benefits of Ketosis are now available to almost everyone.

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