Ketone supplements — also known as exogenous ketones — have become a popular choice among the keto community. Manufacturers promise that such diet supplements can improve athletic performance, lessen the symptoms of the keto flu, burn fat, help with fat loss and increase energy levels.
But is that true? In this blog post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about ketone supplements and their role in the ketogenic diet. Plus, I share with you my favorite brands based on ingredient quality and effectiveness.
Best Ketone Supplements
To help you make an informed decision and pick the products that are right for you and your dietary needs, I have tested most of the following ketone supplements as part of my keto journey towards a healthier life:
|HVMN – Ketone Ester||Buy|
|Ketōnd – Advanced Blend||Get 15% off*|
|Ketōnd – BioMAX||Get 15% off*|
|Kiss My Keto – Exogenous Ketones||Get 10% off*|
|Perfect Keto – Base||Get 15% off*|
|TruBrain – Ketones||Buy*|
Ketones vs. Keto Shakes
Unlike the keto meal replacement shakes noted in this post, exogenous ketone supplements don’t provide sufficient calories to replace a full meal. So if you’re looking for a keto-friendly product that provides liquid calories as opposed to ketones, choose these options instead.
However, if you’re looking for a ketone supplement to help get you started on a high-fat diet, or if you’re looking for something that eases the symptoms of the keto flu, continue reading!
The keto supplement market is flooded with products. Just go to Amazon*, search for “exogenous ketones” and you’ll get over 600 results.
But not all of those supplements are created equal. While they might each meet some technical standard for keto compatibility, a healthy diet is a way of life — not a means to achieve some short-term goal like weight loss.
Because of that, I care deeply about not only the keto compatibility and function of the products I consume, but also about the overall health impact of those products.
As a result, I take into account factors such as the quality of ingredients, the trustworthiness of the brand, the scientific evidence supporting the brand’s claims, and paleo compatibility before purchasing, consuming, reviewing and recommending products.
That’s why I’ve included only a handful of supplement brands in this article. These are the brands and their products that I use and trust, and that I feel comfortable recommending to family, friends and my readers.
Of course, I don’t doubt there are other reputable companies out there that make great products that I might not have heard about. If you’re one of them, shoot me an email and we can chat.
Types of Exogenous Ketone Supplements
Before we dig into the details of each of these products, let’s go over a few basics. First, you need to understand that there are two types of exogenous ketone supplements on the market today:
- Ketone salts
- Ketone esters
- A combination of the above
The difference between the two has to do with how the ketone bodies are chemically bound to either salts or esters. Salts are much easier to manufacture, and are thus less expensive.
Ketone esters have been used in labs and scientific studies for a while, but weren’t available to consumers until recently. Chemically, an ester is an organic compound made by replacing the hydrogen of an acid by an alkyl or other organic group.
While more expensive, ketone esters have one important benefit — they have been scientifically shown to improve exercise performance in endurance athletes.
Now that you know everything you need to know about ketones and ketone supplements, let’s take a look at the top six products in this category. Note that the list below is in alphabetical order and doesn’t reflect a personal preference.
Top 6 Ketone Supplements
Below is an alphabetically ordered list of what I consider the top ketone supplements — based on the quality of their ingredients and their effectiveness.
HVMN Ketone Ester
- Scientifically proven to improve endurance
- Convenient delivery (liquid)
- Doesn’t trigger an insulin response
- Lack of salts means less risk of GI upset
HVMN Ketone Ester is one of the few consumer products that delivers ketone bodies as esters as opposed to electrolytes (salts).
As a result, HVMN Ketone Ester is liquid and not a powder like most of the other products in this review. Let’s be clear about one thing, however: HVMN Ketone Ester is a product that has been specifically developed for elite athletes and the pricing reflects that.
One serving of HVMN Ketone Ester sets you back $30, which is half the price of a 30-day supply of “traditional” ketone supplements.
If you have the financial means to purchase ketone esters, you will get an outstanding product with the most scientifically-proven benefits.
What’s more, ketone esters do not trigger an insulin response, like ketone salts do. As a result, you can use them even while fasting, according to HVMN. However, since the product has calories (energy), I personally wouldn’t consume it until after breaking my fast.
Another benefit is that the lack of salts in ketone ester supplements reduces the risk of upsetting your stomach, especially if you take those products several times a day.
- Available with goBHB or goBHB–D ketones
- Relatively low cost per serving
- Available with or without amino acids
- goBHB–D formula is not compatible with fasting
- BioMAX has artificial flavors
Ketōnd offers two versions of its exogenous ketone supplement:
- Ketōnd BioMAX
- Ketōnd Advanced Ketone Blend
Ketōnd Advanced Ketone Blend is a plain ketone formula with no bells and whistles. What I mean by that is that it doesn’t have any MCT oil powder or amino acids (protein). Instead, it delivers 11.7 grams of goBHB, a bioidentical ketone body developed by Compound Solutions.
goBHB is a salt-based ketone that’s delivered as:
- Sodium beta-hydroxybutyrate
- Calcium beta-hydroxybutyrate
- Magnesium beta-hydroxybutyrate
Ketōnd Advanced Ketone Blend is available in numerous flavors, including:
- Summer Peach (limited edition)
- Fruit Punch (limited edition)
- Piña Colada (limited stock)
- Caramel Macchiato (I really liked the taste of this one)
- Citrus Mango
- Tiger’s Blood
- Grape (limited edition)
- Strawberry Daiquiri (limited edition)
- Blue Raspberry (limited edition)
Ketōnd BioMAX uses goBHB-D — a first-of-its-kind, all-natural ketone that is biologically identical to the ketones your body makes.
BHB is available in two optical isoforms (D and L). In case you’re wondering, an isoform is basically a mirror image.
You might have seen the same prefix on amino acids (such as L-Leucine). Most ketone supplements use L-BHB, which has been less studied as far as human metabolism is concerned.
Based on what I know, D-BHB gets metabolized quicker, which means your body can use it for energy more readily than L-BHB.
In addition to using D-BHB instead of L-BHB, BioMax also contains the following amino acids:
- Solathin (a protein isolate made from potatoes)
The idea behind adding those amino acids and protein is to promote fat burn and weight loss, as well as to increase exercise performance and to make you feel full quicker.
Due to the protein, BioMAX is definitely not fasting compatible because protein raises your blood glucose levels. Additionally, Ketōnd decided to add artificial flavors to its BioMAX formula, which I hope they’ll remove in a future version.
BioMAX is available in three flavors:
- Tiger’s Blood
- Caramel Macchiato
- Aloha Punch
Note that BioMAX comes in a pack of 20 individual sticks that you can easily take with you when you’re working out or while you’re on the road.
Perfect Keto – Base
- No artificial flavors
- Paleo friendly sweeteners
- 11.4 mg of L-BHB
- High amount of magnesium might cause GI upset
- Not available as D-BHB
Perfect Keto’s exogenous ketone base was the first keto supplement I tried when I started my ketogenic journey.
What I like about this exogenous ketone base is that it’s plain and simple, and without any “extra” ingredients you might not want. Instead, it contains 11.4 milligrams of L-BHB in the form of electrolytes, such as sodium, magnesium and calcium.
If your body isn’t used to high amounts of magnesium, you might have to start with less than a full serving of this supplement because a single serving has 98% of the daily value of magnesium. Some people experience GI upset when they consume so much of that mineral in one shot.
Perfect Keto Base has only 20 calories and less than 1 gram of carbs per serving. While that’s nowhere near enough to kick you out of ketosis, it technically breaks your fast. So be aware of that if you practice intermittent fasting, in addition to being on a ketogenic diet.
Perfect Keto’s ketone base is available in the following flavors:
- Coffee (that’s the one I had)
- Salted Caramel
In addition to the tubs, which are great for use at home, Perfect Keto also offers BHB capsules and single-serving packs (which are great for traveling).
Kiss My Keto – Exogenous Ketones
- Lower amounts of magnesium
- 11.7 grams of goBHB
- Available with or without caffeine
- Contains gums, which might cause GI upset in some people
- Limited flavors
Kiss My Keto’s exogenous ketones feature a potent amount of goBHB ketone salts. However, compared to some of the other products in this review, Kiss My Keto has lower amounts of magnesium, which significantly reduces the risk of upsetting your stomach.
Additionally, Kiss My Keto added more calcium than the competition, a mineral which is harder to come by if you’re on a paleo diet and don’t consume dairy.
What’s more, Kiss My Keto offers two versions of its supplement powder — with and without caffeine. The caffeine formula has 100 milligrams of caffeine, which is great if you want to replace your morning coffee with a serving of ketone bodies.
What some customers might not like are the limited flavors Kiss My Keto offers, including Lemon Lime and Mixed Berry (with caffeine). I like both the citrus and berry flavors, so I don’t have an issue with that.
If powder isn’t your thing, Kiss My Keto also offers exogenous ketones capsules — with and without caffeine. The caffeinated capsules include extra amino acids and ingredients to facilitate fat burn.
TruBrain – Ketones
- Combination of raw ketone ester and salts
- 12 grams of BHB and ester blend
- Delicious chocolate flavor
- Limited flavors
What’s unique about TruBrain is that it’s a combination of raw ketone esters and salts.
The leading scientist behind TruBrain (Alyssa Warth) claims that by combining salts (electrolytes) with esters, TruBrain captures the benefits of both worlds. These benefits include: fast absorption, electrolyte support, better taste, and an affordable product.
Our patent-pending blend is born from years of R&D, testing with our private group of endurance athletes, and proving it on the field ourselves – our CEO Chris did over 365 workouts & over 400 total hours of endurance workouts last year, with 3 of the hardest climbs in the Tour de France (Cols Bonnette, D’Izoard, Mt Ventoux).TruBrain
The problem with ketone esters is that they aren’t very practical and are incredibly expensive. Plus, they lack the necessary electrolyte support.
So, I like the idea of combining esters and salts into a tasty supplement that’s affordable and effective.
Download Comparison Table
If you’d like to download a PDF copy of a table comparing all the ketone supplements I mentioned in this review here.
Benefits of Exogenous Ketone Supplements
I bet almost everyone who starts on a ketogenic diet tries a ketone supplement at some point. But do you need exogenous ketones? And, if so, what are the benefits? Some people even claim that exogenous ketone supplements are a scam that hurt more than they help.
The idea behind ketone supplements is to deliver the same or similar benefits that you get when your body is in nutritional ketosis.
But what does the scientific evidence say?
The short answer is that exogenous ketones are no replacement for a proper ketogenic lifestyle and diet that puts your body into nutritional ketosis.
However, exogenous ketones can help by providing the following benefits:
- Improved cognitive performance
- Extended peak cognitive performance during exercise
- Increased endurance performance when you supplement with ketone esters
- Less severe symptoms resulting from the keto flu
- May treat or improve symptoms of patients with neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Improved Cognitive Performance
Your brain’s neurons and your heart prefer ketones over glucose as a form of energy. Plus, ketone bodies can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and thus act as an instant and effective source of fuel for your brain.
If you’re already on a ketogenic diet, you’ve probably noticed your improved focus and mental clarity compared to the high-carb diet you might have maintained before.
However, during the first few weeks of starting a ketogenic diet, you might feel everything but on top of your (mental) game. That’s where exogenous ketones can help to provide the fuel you aren’t getting due to other factors.
Extended Peak Cognitive Performance
If you’re an endurance athlete, you know that long races are mentally exhausting. Sometimes, it’s an athlete’s mental strength — as opposed to their physical dominance — that makes the difference between winning and losing.
Ketones can help you maintain your peak cognitive performance for longer, which can give you an edge in a race.
Increased Endurance Performance
Scientists have demonstrated an increase in endurance performance in athletes who supplemented with ketone esters before a competition. Think of it as a pre-workout supplement!
A study by Oxford University has shown that elite cyclists rode over 400 meters further in a 30-minute trial when fueled with carbs and ketone esters. While that 2% increase in performance might be unnoticeable to the average Joe, it makes a huge difference for elite athletes.
Lessens the Symptoms of the Keto Flu
During the first few days and weeks after having started a ketogenic diet, you might feel sluggish, fatigued, and suffer from brain fog — all common symptoms of the keto flu.
The keto flu is usually caused by insufficient fat intake or an electrolyte imbalance, because you’re not taking in enough sodium. As a result, your body doesn’t have sufficient ketones to fulfill your energy requirements.
Lessening the symptoms of the keto flu is one of the primary benefits of exogenous ketones. In fact, that was the reason why I stocked up on a couple of tubs of exogenous ketones before starting the diet.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease
The treatment of particular medical conditions isn’t the focus of this article. However, for the sake of completeness, I should mention that ketone supplementation has been shown to be highly effective in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological and metabolic conditions — in particular the ones that are caused by a disturbed glucose metabolism due to a lifelong and high intake of carbohydrates.
Drawbacks of Exogenous Ketone Supplements
Some people think of ketone supplements as a shortcut to ketosis and to lose weight without sticking to a ketogenic dietary lifestyle.
That doesn’t work.
When you consume exogenous ketones, your blood ketone levels go up. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re in nutritional ketosis. If you’re not, you forfeit most of the benefits of a ketogenic diet. Plus, taking exogenous ketones effectively halts your body’s own production of ketones.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of long-term studies on ketone supplementation available. However, based on my experience I recommend using ketone supplements during the first few weeks of your keto journey while you dial-in your nutritional needs and fat consumption.
I used exogenous ketones during the first 2 to 3 weeks of my keto journey, until I figured out my correct fat and salt intake (and to prevent or lessen the symptoms of the keto flu).
Ketone Supplements Side Effects
Ketone supplements are considered to be safe, but there are a handful of side effects that some people experience, including:
- Gastrointestinal problems: diarrhea, nausea and stomach discomfort.
- Bad breath: exogenous ketones sometimes leave a bad aftertaste in your mouth and can cause smelly breath.
- Breaking your fast: If you practice intermittent fasting (or any other kind of nutritional fasting), you need to be aware that ketone supplements can break your fast.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ketone bodies — or ketones — are an alternative fuel source for your body. If you follow the standard American diet (SAD), your body uses glucose for fuel. On a high-fat diet, such as the ketogenic diet, your liver can produce ketones for your body to use as fuel.
Three of the ketone bodies you might have heard about include acetone, acetoacetic acid, and beta-hydroxybutyric acid (BHB).
While your liver can make ketones from fat — either from the fat you eat or the fat stored in your body — you can also get them from supplements. Ketones made by the body are called endogenous (having an internal origin). Ketones supplied via supplements are called exogenous ketones.
The supplements in this review provide ketone bodies in powder form, which go directly into your bloodstream so your body can use them for energy. Most of the supplements in this review include beta-hydroxybutyric acid in the form of salts, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium or potassium.
You can raise your blood ketone levels by entering nutritional ketosis or by supplementing with exogenous ketones.
The best way to expedite that process is by combining your ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting. You can learn more about ketosis and ketone levels in my ketogenic diet guide.
No, ketones don’t burn fat. It’s the other way around. Ketones are the product of nutritional ketosis. In other words, your liver makes ketones when your body burns fat for energy.
You probably don’t. I would focus all my energy on remaining in nutritional ketosis to allow your body to burn its own fat. If you’re new to keto and how to apply it in the context of weight loss, check out my ultimate keto guide.
To remain in nutritional ketosis, you can have any drink that doesn’t contain high amounts of sugar or carbs. For a detailed list of drinks you can and can’t have on a ketogenic diet — you guessed it! —read my ultimate ketogenic diet guide.
Yes, but perhaps not in the way you think. Consuming exogenous ketones (i.e., ketone supplements) does cause your blood ketone levels to go up. But it should go without saying that just having more ketones in your blood does not mean you’re in ketosis.
The whole point of a ketogenic diet is to shift your body’s primary fuel source from sugar to fat. You could eat a pound of ketones (note: please don’t) and that would not put you in ketosis. As a result, you wouldn’t get any of the benefits associated with keto.
My stance on ketone supplements is the same as with any other supplement. You can use them to supplement but not replace an otherwise healthy ketogenic lifestyle.
Think of exogenous ketones the same way you think about vitamin and mineral supplements. Use them to fill the gaps — not as a way to eat crappy food and then take shortcuts.
Exogenous ketones raise your blood ketone levels, but they don’t automatically put you into nutritional ketosis.
I would highly recommend you follow a ketogenic diet if you decide to supplement with exogenous ketones. If you don’t, you’ll lose out on the benefits and might fail to achieve your weight-loss goals. You might even gain weight if your body has more fuel than it needs.
Yes, they do. As with any form of energy, exogenous ketones have calories and thus break your fast.
You certainly can use exogenous ketones to break your fast. I have used them towards the end of my fasting cycle and before starting a strenuous workout session. That way, I give my body some extra fuel to sustain the workout.
However, as I mentioned above, ketone supplements have calories and they can impact your blood sugar levels and, thus, break your fast.
Theoretically, you could overdose on exogenous ketones and enter a state called hyperketonemia or ketoacidosis. However, you’d have to consume several times the daily recommended dosage to achieve that. If you follow the instructions on the label, there is no risk of ketoacidosis.
Exogenous ketones might help reduce the symptoms of the keto flu. Remember, the keto flu is largely preventable but often caused by a lack of fat and mineral intake.
Exogenous ketone supplements provide all the ingredients your body is lacking while experiencing the symptoms of the keto flu: salts (minerals) and ketones (energy).
Probably not. Keep in mind that when you supplement with exogenous ketones, you practically stop your body’s conversion of body fat into ketones. However, some supplements include compounds, such as amino acids, that support your body’s metabolism and fat-burning engine. I don’t know if that’s enough to compensate for the lack of ketone production.
If weight loss and fat burning are your primary goals, I’d let your body be in nutritional ketosis and burn fat for energy.
Any sudden change in dietary habits might cause diarrhea — especially an increased intake of fat, sugar alcohols (from supplements) and magnesium.
Magnesium is a common ingredient in ketone salts.
Some studies have shown that supplementing with ketone esters while fasting can suppress your appetite due to lower levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. Without fasting, no such effects have been observed.
Yes, but it depends on the type of exercise you’re doing and the type of ketone supplement. Observational studies have shown that endurance and weightlifting athletes can do very well on a ketogenic diet by using ketones as a source of energy.
Several studies have shown increased performance (2 to 3%) among cyclists and other endurance athletes who used ketone ester — as opposed to ketone salt — supplements.
However, if you’re doing high-intensity workouts such as CrossFit, your body will likely benefit from glucose as its primary source of energy.
Raspberry ketones are what give red raspberries their powerful aroma. But despite their name, they’ve got nothing to do with the ketone bodies your body can make (or the ones you find in exogenous ketone supplements).
Still, some people claim that raspberry ketones — mixed with green tea — can help with weight loss by breaking down fat and making cells more susceptible to the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine, among other things.
However, there is not a single scientific study that was performed on humans to back up any of those claims. What’s more, natural raspberry ketones are incredibly expensive to manufacture, as you need 90 pounds of raspberries for a single dose.
As a result, all of the raspberry ketone supplements on the market are synthetic.
There is no connection between exogenous ketones and MCT oil. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides and you can find MCTs in coconut oil or supplements.
The cool thing about certain MCTs — such as caprylic acid, also known as C8 — is that your body can convert them quickly into endogenous ketones. As a result, MCT oil is another beneficial supplement to help your body get into and stay in nutritional ketosis.
However, don’t consume too much MCT because doing so can upset your stomach and cause cramping and diarrhea.
BHB or beta-hydroxybutyric acid is a ketone body and the by-product of nutritional ketosis. It’s also one of the ketone bodies that supplement manufacturers bind to salts to make their supplements.
As a result, BHB can be both an endogenous and exogenous ketone body.
You can certainly eat carbs and take exogenous ketones. However, if your goal is to get into nutritional ketosis, you should limit your carbohydrate intake to about 5% of your daily calories.
Eating too many carbs will not only prevent you from getting into nutritional ketosis, it’ll also make ketone supplementation entirely ineffective.
As mentioned above, supplementing with ketone esters can slightly improve the physical performance of endurance athletes. Ketone ester supplementation can also lower blood lactic acid. Remember, lactic acid builds up when your body is burning carbs at a high rate, without enough oxygen.
The lower lactic acid levels might be related to lower glycogen use during exercise when you supplement with ketone esters.
The main issue I see with any type of supplement is that people use them as shortcuts for an otherwise bad dietary lifestyle. That won’t work. As the name implies, supplements are meant to supplement an otherwise healthy dietary lifestyle and to fill the gaps we can’t because of work, travel or other factors.
Scientists often study the effects of new supplements or medication on rats before they consider it safe repeating the study on humans. In some cases, the effects discovered in rats can be reproduced in humans, but it other cases those effects don’t translate to humans.
That’s why I recommend treating results from scientific studies performed on rats as a hypothesis rather than a fact.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that’s caused by inflammation and a disturbed glucose metabolism in the brain. What that means is that the brain can’t properly use glucose for fuel and the affected brain cells start deteriorating.
At the same time, the brain retains its ability to use ketones for fuel. That’s why doctors have started treating Alzheimer’s patients with ketone supplements to fuel their brain.
Many low-quality supplements use artificial sweeteners that can negatively impact your health. That’s why I recommend to stick with products that use monk fruit extract or stevia as sweeteners.
Ketone Supplements – Final Words
Exogenous ketones can be a beneficial tool to support your ketogenic journey. Just don’t forget that high-quality supplements are meant to supplement an otherwise healthy dietary lifestyle — as opposed to enabling you to take shortcuts.
However, exogenous ketones are a convenient way to improve your endurance during certain types of exercises, to fuel your brain with energy when you need it, to provide an overall energy boost, and to reduce the symptoms of the keto flu.
I’ve used ketone supplements when I first started on a ketogenic paleo diet to help lessen the symptoms of the keto flu and I would do it again. Now that I’ve been on keto for several months, I usually don’t use ketone supplements, unless I’m testing new products for my blog.
What’s your experience with exogenous ketones and what’s your favorite product? Let me know by leaving a comment below!