My experience with exogenous ketones by Peter Attia
A keto-adapted subject (who may already benefit from some Delta G arbitrage) will, under fixed work load, require less oxygen when ingesting exogenous ketones than when not.
Posed as a question: At a given rate of mechanical work, would the addition of exogenous ketones reduce a subject’s oxygen consumption?
Animal models (e.g., using rat hearts) and unpublished case reports in elite athletes suggest supplemented BHB produces more ATP per unit carbon and per unit oxygen consumed than glycogen and FFA. This appears to have been the case in my anecdotal exercise.
The energy necessary to perform the mechanical work did not appear to change much between tests, though the amount of oxygen utilization and fat oxidation did go down measurably. The latter finding is not surprising since the body was not sitting on an abundant and available source of BHB—there was less need to make BHB “the old fashioned way.”
As seen in this exercise, glucose tends to fall quite precipitously following exogenous ketone ingestions. Without exception, every time I ingested these compounds (which I’ve probably done a total of 25 to 30 times), my glucose would fall, sometimes as low as 3 mM (just below 60 mg/dL). Despite this, I never felt symptomatic from hypoglycemia. Richard Veech (NIH) one of the pioneers of exogenous ketones, has suggested this phenomenon is the result of the ketones activating pyruvate dehydogenase (PDH), which enhances insulin-mediated glucose uptake. (At some point I will also write a post on Alzheimer’s disease, which almost always involves sluggish PDH activity —in animal models acute bolus of insulin transiently improves symptoms and administration of exogenous ketones does the same, even without glucose.)
In addition, the body regulates ketone production via ketonuria (peeing out excess ketones) and ketone-induced insulin release, which shuts off hepatic ketogenesis (the liver making more ketones when you have enough). The insulin from this process could be increasing glucose disposal which, when coupled with PDH activation, could drive glucose levels quite low.
If that explains the hypoglycemia, it would seem the absence of symptoms can be explained by the work of George Cahill (back in the day; see bottom figure in this post)—when ketone levels are high enough they can dominate brain fuel, even ahead of glucose.
Finally, these compounds seemed to have a profound impact on my appetite (they produced a strong tendency towards appetite suppression). I think there are at least two good explanations for this, which I plan to write about in a dedicated post. This particular topic—appetite regulation—is too interesting to warrant anything less.