What is Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BHB)?
Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is a ketone that is produced by your liver naturally, and produced at an enhanced rate during dieting, fasting, hard exercise or when on a Ketogenic diet.
Although it is produced naturally it can be taken as a supplement in the form of BHB Salts. An expert on BHB is Dr Peter Attia, he is a world famous ultra-endurance athlete. He is also the go to source if you want to learn from for anything related to longevity or top athletic performance. Here is his first-hand experience with synthetic ketones.
“The first one I tried was the beta-hydroxybutyrate I chugged it, and I remember it was like 6:00 in the morning, because my wife was still sleeping. First of all, you drink it, and it tasted like how I imagine jet fuel or diesel would taste. If you’ve ever smelled distillate, it’s this horrible odor, and you can sort of imagine what it would taste like. This is what it tasted like, and so my first thought was, ‘Goddamn, what if I go blind? What if there’s methanol in here? What did I just do?’ And then my next thought was just, ‘Oh my god, you’re gagging. I mean, you’re really gagging. If you puke this stuff up, you’re gonna have to lick up your puke. It’s just gonna be a disaster.’ And so I’m retching and gagging and trying not to wake up the family and trying not to spew my ketone esters all over the kitchen.”
If it tastes like this, what could possibly make an otherwise intelligent person want to try it? The reason is because although preliminary, the known benefits of Beta Hydroxybutyrate as a supplement are impressive. Thankfully unlike Dr. Attia, we don’t have to take BHB as a liquid ester anymore as BHB salts now exist.
There are a number of reasons to get excited about BHB Salts a supplement:
- BHB is a likely candidate in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.
- BHB provides energy for the brain for thinking or repairing damage from trauma.
- BHB may help reduce epileptic seizures.
- BHB is neuroprotective, and gets to the brain even when taken orally.
- BHB induces BDNF gene expression in brain cells.
There are a few reasons not to get excited about BHB Salts as a supplement:
- BHB tastes terrible (imagine a mix of nail polish remover and rocket fuel)
- BHB supplementation has not been rigorously studied in long term human trials.
BHB Salts Benefits and Uses
People have long practiced fasting, calorie restriction, high level exercise and more recently a Ketogenic diet to get the benefit of having their body produce more BHB. Taking BHB as a supplement (sometime called exogenous ketones) is said to have the following benefits:
- Weight Loss and Reduced Hunger
- Enhanced Cognitive Performance
- Blood Glucose Regulation
- Increased Mental Focus
- Reduced Risk of disease
- Reduced Risk of Cancer.
There are multiple benefits to fasting. Many come from the switch from your normal metabolism (using sugars and carbs for energy) to a state called ketosis, where you use BHB and other ketone bodies for energy. Taking BHB supplements is like a short cut to fasting where you experience ketosis (using BHB as a fuel) without having to go days without food.
Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) Side Effects, Safety and Interactions
Ketosis is a natural and healthy condition that you want to create through fasting and exercise. Do not confuse this with the medical condition called Diabetic ketoacidosis which happens in diabetics stimulated by dehydration and insulin deficiency. If you are not a diabetic who needs insulin but refuses to take it; this is not a danger.
The most common unwanted side effect of BHB supplementation is “gastric distress” or upset stomach because your body is not used to digesting ketones. Since this is common when starting BHB it is best to start with ¼ to ½ the recommended dose the first day, and increase to your desired dose over a few days if there is no upset stomach. Increasing other dietary fats while taking BHB will slow absorption and reduce stomach upset. Also be aware that large doses of BHB salts can cause flatulence. People who take BHB suggest you run to the bathroom if you think you need to fart. Don’t ignore this advice.
Another possible concern is your electrolyte balance. Signs of an electrolyte embalance would be frequent urination or loose bowels, after taking BHB. This can also happen on a ketogenic diet, and is usually overcome by adding salt or other electrolytes.
Cost and flavor might be another issue to consider. We are in the early days of learning the benefits BHB supplementation. We are certain to see more benefits.
Generally the recommended dosage for BHB is 10-12 grams per serving. BHB side effects usually occur when people overdose themselves so it’s important to its important to follow the manufacturers recommended dosage. I’d suggest under-dosing yourself and slowly moving up to the manufacturers recommendations. You can also incorporate BHB Blood Tests to ensure you’re hitting the correct range. As always, before supplementing check with your doctor.
Why take BHB Salts?
Supplementing BHB is like a shortcut to the ketogenic diet, fasting or extreme exercise. If you are sold on the idea of fat burning while improving brain health, you are probably considering BHB supplements.
Before we get to details and sources, let me review the basics of the ketogenic diet and ketosis. A ketogenic diet is simple in theory (low carbs, high fat, some protein). This starves your body for sugar and carbs and causes it to switch to fat burning mode (aka ketosis). In this state your body burns fat and produces BHB. One advantage of BHB over sugar is that BHB crosses the blood-brain barrier, providing energy for the brain even when the body is being convinced to burn more fat. Benefits of BHB circulating in the blood include better thinking, mental focus, improved immune system, reduced inflammation and better blood sugar regulation. Add to this improved fat burning and weight loss and the appeal is clear.
The drawback of getting to ketosis (fat burning mode) with fasting and extreme exercise is that we like to eat, and not everyone loves extreme exercise, and we all love taking a shortcut. Another drawback to doing this with diet and exercise is that people often unintentionally “fall out” of ketosis because of meal choice or hidden sugars or carbs in some food. People doing the ketogenic diet speak of the “carb flu”, symptoms of headache, brain fog, crankiness and exhaustion in the first days of the keto diet. This is your natural reaction to switching from burning sugars and carbs. Supplementing with BHB helps you skip the carb flu and move right into using BHB for fuel.
If you want to jump start your body into a fat burning machine with improved thinking and decreased inflammation and pain you should try BHB supplementation. This will work even better if you are on a high fat, low carb (ketogenic) diet, but BHB supplementation alone will improve fat burning and provide BHB for the brain.
Here are some steps to consider.
- Measure your current baseline (weight, heart-rate, sport performance, how long you can hold your breath etc. to measure the effectiveness of this treatment)
- Choose a BHB Supplement (More on that later)
- Start your Ketogenic Diet
- Measure your results (Expect to see weight loss results in 2 to 3 days.)
What is the best Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BHB Salts) Supplement to Buy?
Since the initial days of people choking down the raw ketone ester, a lot of work has gone into developing products that taste better and produce less gastric distress. Many of these products are sweetened with stevia, and have added calcium and sodium to help with electrolyte balance.
For me, efficacy, cost and taste are most important ranked from most important to least.
I had these two products coming out on top.
Interest in the ketogenic diet has increased 10 fold since December 2011. Supplementing with ketones has trended only since 2016. This is a very new area of study and I am excited to see where it will lead.
Losing weight and improving your health sounds too good to be true, and the only proof that works for skeptics try it and see. I hope you are inspired to try your own BHB supplementation.