Ketones as a fuel source can make you smarter, more creative, less hungry, boost energy levels, and help you lose weight.
You may have heard of ketosis in the context of fat loss and dieting. It’s been popular and infamous in the dieting world to varying degrees since Dr Atkins told everyone to overdose on bacon.
Ketosis is a natural state when your body is using fat as fuel instead of glucose. Your body and brain use blood sugar (glucose) as the first source of fuel, but can easily be adapted to utilise a second source of fuel, ketones, when your glucose stores run out. Ketones are made in the liver from fat. Ketones then move around your body and are used by your body and brain as fuel. When your body is in ketosis, it becomes a fat burning machine, which is obviously great if you have fat to lose, but even if you don’t, you might find you feel better fuelling your brain with ketones, at least for some of the time.
Your body shifts into ketosis in a number of ways, the most commonly known way is through eating a low-carb diet, which can be difficult for some people to stick to. Another way is through fasting and certain dietary supplements can assist with entering a “keto” state.
Since we’re all about making life easier and better, we’ll share the easiest and least disruptive ways to test your brain and body in ketosis. It’s important to point out that being able to use fat for fuel is an important survival mechanism. The body can only store glucose for about two days. After that it could eat away your muscles to produce more glucose, but a more efficient fuel source is to turn fat into ketones. Our clever little brains and bodies adapted to ensure survival with fat stores that can last for weeks (if not months), without topping up on carbs.
More research is needed into exactly how ketosis benefits brain function of some people, however there have been reports of ketosis improving epilepsy, dementia, anxiety and depression in some patients. Ketosis is not the only answer. Disorders of the brain have many causes therefore many different treatment options should be explored. However, with limited risk, a ketogenic diet could certainly be tested to assess improvements in individual cases. It’s important to distinguish ketosis, a natural state where the body is in control, from ketoacidosis, a severe malfunction of the body related to type 1 diabetics not taking enough insulin. Ketosis in healthy people can be mildly uncomfortable at first, ketoacidosis for diabetics can be life threatening, so Type 1 diabetics, don’t try this at home. Type 2 diabetics, talk to your doctor first!
What Does Ketosis Feel Like?
In order to get into ketosis you have to use all of your glucose stores by severely reducing carbs in your diet or fasting. Until your body realises the carb stores won’t be replenished, it can be a little unpleasant. If you’re used to eating a lot of sugar (including fruit) or refined carbohydrates (like bread and pasta), you might find you get headaches, lethargy, irritability and a general feeling of being unwell for a couple of days. This is commonly referred to as “Keto Flu”, and will usually only last a day or two. There’s a cool hack to minimise or completely skip this step of feeling unwell, which we’ll get to soon.
Once your body has switched across to burning ketones for fuel, individuals report different and ranging responses. Some report feeling the same as always, just with a lack of hunger, while others report extreme benefits such as increased concentration, improved vision, heightened senses and significant increases in energy. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. For some people, ketones as brain fuel can be life changing, while others feel no different. Isn’t it worth trying to at least know what category you’re in?
What’s the easiest way to try ketones for fuel?
We mentioned that you can skip food for a couple of days, or go super low carb with your diet to push your body into ketosis, right? Taking exogenous ketones is a way to put them straight into your system so they’re available for fuel. If your body has some ketones floating around it picks them up and uses them for fuel. Once it’s used them once it seems to know exactly what to do to create more, and gets straight to converting fat to ketones without much of that yucky flu phase.
Keto salts exist, but they’re crazy expensive. The best value-for-money product is MCT oil, which is derived from coconut oil. MCTs head almost straight to your liver and convert into ketones even when your body still has a supply of glucose. Without getting too science-nerd on you, MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides, whose fatty acids contain six, eight, ten or 12 carbon atoms. These are often written as C6 (Caproic Acid), C8 (Caprylic Acid), C10 (Capric Acid) or C12 (Lauric Acid). Why do you care about that? Because some MCTs are better than others when you’re aiming for ketosis. Those with six carbons taste terrible (so bad these generally wouldn’t be used in commercial MCT oil). C12s behave more like long chain fatty acids (fat that the body likes to store). Most MCT oil will contain a combination of C8 and C10. C8 is rarest in coconut oil, making up around 6% of the oil. It’s the best for ketosis, so any MCT oil being purely C8, or even mostly C8, will be more expensive than other blends. C10 makes up around 9% of coconut oil. It takes a little longer for the body to convert into fuel, but still a great option if you can’t afford pure C8 MCT oil. We use Bulletproof Brain Octane as a preferred source of C8, and Bulletproof XTC Oil as a more affordable source of mixed C8 and C10.
How do you consume MCT oil?
Good quality MCT oil is almost flavourless so can be added to most meals. However, start small, with a teaspoon or so. When you first start, MCT oil can be a little trying on your stomach and cause some gastrointestinal upset, so listen to your body and increase slowly over time, up to one or two tablespoons per meal.
A really common and enjoyable start to a keto day is the famous Bulletproof (or Butter) Coffee, made up of black coffee blended with one to two tablespoons of grass-fed butter and one to two tablespoons of MCT oil (only after you’ve built up your tolerance to the oil). This is enough for breakfast once your body is burning fat and should keep your hunger at bay and energy levels high right through until lunch.
We could do a whole program on ketosis, but for now the aim is just to make you aware that your brain might not be running on the best fuel possible. Try starting your day with a Bulletproof coffee, or some MCT oil sprinkled on your scrambled eggs (skip the toast) and see how you feel.
If you’re looking for a more detailed (and free) diet plan to try, we suggest the Bulletproof diet and the roadmap which can be found here: https://blog.bulletproof.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/BulletproofRoadmap_Rebrand_outlined.pdf