Exogenous vs Endogenous Ketones: What You Need to Know

Endogenous vs Exogenous Ketones
What's the Real Difference?

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A lively debate has developed - primarily among those who seek to control their weight through the process of ketosis - about the value of exogenous ketones. Exogenous supplements first hit the market in 2014, and since then they have attracted legions of believers as well as a fair number of skeptics. In this article, we are going to take a look at exogenous ketones, compare them to endogenous and see if we can’t draw any definitive conclusions as to their objective value.

But before we wade into the endogenous vs exogenous debate two questions need to be asked:

1. What are ketones?

2. What is the difference between endogenous and exogenous ketones?

So, first, what exactly are ketones?

Typically the body burns glucose derived from carbohydrates to generate energy. If the body is starved of carbohydrates, however, it turns to fat as an alternative energy source. The process of breaking down fat and transforming it into a useable energy is known as “ketosis, ” and it is during this process that ketones are formed.

What's the Difference Between Endogenous & Exogenous Ketones?

Endogenous Ketones

Ketones are essentially tiny energy packets produced through ketosis that the body uses as fuel. People on “Keto” diets drastically cut back on the amount of carbohydrates they consume to force the body into the state so that they can burn body fat and lose weight. The ones that are produced naturally by the body during ketosis are called endogenous ketones.

The main issue that people take on when it comes to the endogenous process is the difficulty of it all. Not everyone has the ability to cut back their carbohydrate intake without going absolutely insane. This is the primary reason why exogenous supplements were introduced in the first place. 

endogenous - inside of the body

The Pros

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    It is produced naturally by the body.
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    It is proven to provide the body all the benefits of ketosis.

The Cons

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    Getting to the point where your body is producing it naturally takes discipline.
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    Adhering to a pseudo Keto diet like Atkins can result in a relapse back to carbs.

Exogenous Ketones

Exogenous ketones (primarily beta-hydroxybutyrate, or simply BHB) are produced artificially and combined with mostly inert ingredients to create a dietary supplement that can be taken in capsule, pill or powder form. Many people have latched onto exogenous supplements (see our favorites right here) as a way to derive the benefits of the state without having to deny their body carbohydrates.

Known as a way of 'cheating into ketosis' which is not a bad thing, more and more people have gotten into the whole idea of drinking these exogenous supplements to reach the elusive state. And, with the rise in popularity of these kinds of supplements,  there have many companies and brands that are popping out left and right. 

The most popular one right now (it really works too!) is Perfect Keto. BHB products are known for their horrible and unbearable taste but someway, somehow Perfect Keto has found a way to mask it and turn it into something that you'll actually look forward to.


model drinking exogenous drinks

The Pros

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    Convenient capsule, pill or powder form.
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    Allows you to continue eating carbohydrates.
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    Allows you to avoid the sometimes difficult process of achieving natural ketosis.

The Cons

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    Some claim they are not as effective as endogenous ketones.

Exogenous Ketones: Are They Effective?

As you can see one of the major benefits of exogenous ketones compared to endogenous ketones is that they allow you to avoid the sometimes uncomfortable process of transitioning to a state of ketosis where your body begins producing endogenous ketones. This, however, raises some interesting questions, such as:

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    Are you actually achieving ketosis by using exogenous supplements? - All the available evidence in the endogenous vs exogenous debate points to “yes”, you can and will achieve the state through the use of exogenous products. Doubts can sometimes arise because different individuals will have different reactions to supplemental products. Some bodies will react quickly to the presence of exogenous ketones and begin transitioning to the state without delay. While with others it may take longer before the body achieves it. This leads some to conclude exogenous supplements don’t work when all that’s needed is a bit of patience.
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    How can you achieve ketosis if you continue to consume carbohydrates? - Achieving the state while consuming carbohydrates can be done, but you don’t make the process any easier if you consume carbs willy-nilly while taking exogenous supplements. Remember, besides potentially being a drag on the ketosis process, excessive carbohydrate consumption can lead to a host of ailments including diabetes and heart disease. By reducing your carb intake just a bit, you help the exogenous supplements do their job more efficiently and take a step toward better overall health.
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    Why not simply stick with endogenous ketones? - There’s little doubt that when it comes to endogenous vs exogenous, the most effective way to achieve ketosis and enjoy its long-term benefits it to adopt a true Keto diet that produces endogenous ketones and stick with it. In this way, you’ll develop healthier eating habits that will provide a multitude of long-term benefits. However, as noted above, the transition to producing endogenous ketones can be an uncomfortable process and may even result in what’s known as the “Keto Flu”. It is not the actual kind of flu but is instead a collection of symptoms generated by the body’s withdrawal from carbohydrates. Those symptoms can include:
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    Headaches
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    Fatigue
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    Sniffles
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    Irritability
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    Cough
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    Upset Stomach

Typically, once the transition to a state of ketosis is complete any symptoms should quickly dissipate.

Possible Side Effects of Using Exogenous Ketones:

While natural ketosis may result in flu-like symptoms, taking exogenous supplements may also produce side-effects, although most will be minor and short-lived. Those side-effects may include:

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    Flatulence - It’s uncommon but not unheard of that taking products could produce flatulence. Cases where this has been noted are typically those where the person has been taking high doses of exogenous ketones. If you consume supplements in moderation there should be no problem.
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    Bad breath - Ketosis has been known to produce halitosis in some and taking exogenous supplements sometimes produces the same effect. If you find your breath to be negatively affected by taking these products, breath mints and drinking more water will indeed help. 
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    Electrolyte imbalance - Because people undergoing the process tend to urinate frequently they run the risk of throwing their electrolytes out of balance. If you believe this is happening you may find it helpful to consume one of the many electrolyte drinks on the market to restore balance.

When it comes to exogenous vs endogenous ketones, it’s clear that exogenous supplements can help you achieve the weight loss you want quickly, safely and without having to endure a painful transitional period. Just remember that exogenous products are not candy and so, therefore, moderation is the key to success.

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