Increasing Ketone Levels
Several supplements exist on the market to raise blood ketones through exogenous means. The goal with these types of products is to spur a faster, deeper ketosis without the need to diet or fast.
There are medium chain triglycerides, or MCT oils, which are a special type of fat found naturally in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and butterfat. They do not contain ketones, instead of possessing a fat that’s readily converted to ketones. While there are many MCTs on the market, it's best to find one without artificial ingredients, and one that's low-carb (to help you maintain ketosis). HVMN MCT Oil Powder is pure C8—the world’s most ketogenic fat. It’s 100% natural with no additives, no artificial ingredients, and zero net carbs.
Then there are ketone salts. Ketone levels rise marginally after using salts, from about 0.6mM - 1mm.3,4 And often, a high mineral intake is necessary to raise ketone levels, leading to GI issues and concern around the safety of long term high salt intake.
Finally, there are exogenous ketone esters. HVMN Ketone is the world’s first exogenous ketone ester drink and can raise blood ketone levels up to 3mM - 6mM.3,5,6,7 It’s used by professional athletes, the US military and was even used to break a cycling world record.
The choice between relying on exogenous or endogenous ketosis depends on your health and performance goals.
Although endogenous ketosis from the keto diet is a great recipe for weight loss, there are several other potential benefits of ketosis as well.8,9 Other benefits include:
- Improved mental focus10
- Better satiation11
- Ability to control diabetes12
- Better cholesterol readings13
Interestingly, the body and brain can both use ketones as energy (like glucose). That’s why there are subjective reports of increased focus and less brain fog from keto dieters and people using exogenous ketones.
These are also some of the subjective feelings reported by intermittent fasters, likely due to the increased ketone levels from carb-depletion.
Want the best keto diet menu?
Our menu accounts for everything from calories to macronutrients. Sign up now to receive this exclusive menu from keto diet experts.
Intermittent fasting is exactly what it sounds like: not eating for a certain period of time. On the surface, cutting out meals for a set period of time seems beautifully simple. But new research is advancing our knowledge of the best timing for meals and the helpful changes to our biology that occur during fasting.
Science Behind Intermittent Fasting
When you consume carbohydrates, the pancreas begins to release insulin-triggering carb uptake and storage.
Virtually every meal we eat triggers a metabolic response in our body.
Carbohydrates in our food (and to a lesser extent, protein) trigger the release of the hormone. The insulin, in turn, tells the body to store any excess energy as glycogen or as fat for later use. Some of the fat is stored in the liver, but most of it becomes fat deposits in the body. Insulin also switches off the processes that release fat from fat deposits, meaning that fat is going into storage and not used as fuel.
When you practice intermittent fasting, on the other hand, energy intake is lower, insulin levels begin to fall and fat burning increases.
By increasing the amount of time the body is in a fasted state, there will be more time for the body to tap into stored energy. Across evolution, most species would regularly enter a fasted state. Predators tend to eat larger portions at one given time and may not consume food for several days. There is nothing wrong with occasionally fasting for longer periods of time and it actually has several health benefits (but of course, consult your doctor before doing this).
Simply put, restricting the amount of calories you consume will put the body into a fasted state.
There is a common belief that skipping a meal is bad for your metabolism or overall health. Truth is, we’re seeing more data support the idea of restricted eating. The three-meals-a-day convention has been standard in American diets for decades. But obesity has increased. Diabetes and pre-diabetes have also increased.
Obviously, something isn’t working.
In studies performed on animals,14 those in a fasted state had longer lifespans compared to those that did not fast. It seems the benefits of fasting can not only be seen short term but over the course of a lifetime as well.
An interesting diet that mimics fasting is called the Prolon Diet. The idea is to really decrease insulin release while still providing nutrients. It’s a low-protein, low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet with calorie intake ranging from 770 - 1,100 calories per day. Studies have shown a fast-mimicking diet can improve biomarkers for aging, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.15,16
Advantages of Intermittent Fasting
Besides benefits for body composition or weight loss, there are a number of advantages that accompany intermittent fasting.
- Easier to manage than traditional dieting: Preparing a single (or a couple, depending on your feeding window) meals per day is logistically easier than preparing several meals from a time management standpoint. Plus, intermittent fasting saves you the headache of rigorous meal prepping or finding foods that comply with a specific diet
- Decrease in fat mass: Individuals who practised intermittent fasting showed a decrease in fat mass while maintaining muscle mass and strength15
- Longevity: Studies have shown that populations who fast on a regular basis can appear to have increased longevity.17 A study was performed on rats that ate only once per day and it found that compared to other groups, those rats had a longer lifespan regardless of the amount of food consumed17,18
- Improved health and metabolism: Metabolic health may be improved with fasting by way of circadian biology, gut microbiome, and modifiable lifestyle behaviors, such as sleep. Research has shown that intermittent fasting may help improve blood lipids, glycemic control, control insulin levels, decrease blood pressure, and decrease inflammation19,20
- Boost brain health: Fasting robustly is a strong trigger for neurogenesis and beta-hydroxybutyrate (or BHB, one of the three ketone bodies), which can trigger the release of brain growth factors21
- Speed up endurance adaptation: Fasting promotes pathways involved in fat metabolism, which may help endurance performance—for example, growth of new mitochondria
- Reduced risk of diabetes: Through intermittent fasting, reduced insulin resistance can help those with type 2 diabetes lower blood glucose levels and improve blood sugar. Intermittent fasting can also decrease inflammation
Practical Application of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has been a cultural pillar at HVMN. Employees regularly participate in intermittent fasting and have cited more productivity as one of its benefits, along with the absence of daily slumps associated with spikes in insulin from eating carbs. But it’s not just employees at HVMN who fast—it’s an ancient tradition with many variances in schedules.
Unlike many other diets, intermittent fasting deals not with what you eat, but rather when you eat.
This dietary convention is all about timing rather than eating certain varieties of food. When you choose to partake in intermittent fasting, you are eating within a certain window of time. By forcing the body to stay in a fasted state for a longer period of time, the body will turn to fat stores to use for energy (since it doesn’t have carbs).
The body stores way more fat than carbohydrates, and will eventually learn to tap into those fat stores for energy. Simply choosing to eat in certain windows of time can have a positive long term effect on your body composition and overall health.22 Your body fat can decrease as well.
There are different variations of intermittent fasting, so it is not a one size fits all type of practice.
The most common method of intermittent fasting is choosing certain times for food intake (sometimes called “feeding hours”).
You may choose to eat over a four, six, or eight-hour window. This means you only eat during this particular timeframe and the remaining hours of the day are spent fasting.
Some people fast for 16-hour periods, eating only between the hours of 12pm - 8pm, and not eating outside of that timeframe. Some do a 24-hour fast every week. Some of the most dedicated intermittent fasters will do a 36-hour fast every week. Employees at HVMN even did a seven-day fast.
Here are a couple of ways to work eating windows and fasting windows into your normal eating schedule:
- Four-hour window: First meal of the day at 3:00pm and the last meal of the day is consumed by 7:00pm
- Six-hour window: First meal of the day at 2:00pm and the last meal of the day is eaten by 8:00pm
- Eight-hour window: First meal of the day is at 12:00pm and the last meal is enjoyed by 8:00pm
Some people may take their fasts a step further and may choose to only eat once per day. This becomes a 24-hour (or near 24-hour) fast. You should use your sleeping hours to your advantage, almost like free fasting time (unless you’re sleep-eating). A common way to do this is to consume your last meal at 8pm, then wait to eat until 8pm the following day. Often, this is referred to as one-meal-a-day or OMAD fasting.
Regardless of the eating window, the total caloric intake for the day should remain the same.
Some may argue that there are advantages to having a longer period of fasting, but your choice of eating window is entirely up to you. The best fasting protocol is the one that you stick to. Find a way to work this into your everyday schedule for the best, most consistent results.
It’s supremely important to stay hydrated while you fast. Though, some fasters consume only water during both shorter and longer fasts. Another popular beverage choice during a fast is black coffee, but this can be seen as a crutch because it reduces appetite.
Alternate day fasting (ADF) is a form of intermittent fasting but takes a bit more of an extreme approach: no food for 24 hours every other day. However, alternate schedules allow for 500 calories to be consumed on fasting days, which have shown to be easier to stick with.23,24,25
No matter the protocol, ADF diets have shown positive results for weight loss.26Interestingly, studies in animals showed that ADF may modulate risk factors for chronic disease, and can help retain muscle mass in humans (something of a concern with fasting).27,28
Longer water fasts can last anywhere from 36 hours to several days.
Studies in both animals and humans have suggested water fasts can have health benefits.
Most cited benefits include stimulating autophagy and reducing the risk of chronic disease.29,30,15 With these longer fasts—and really, fasting in general—always consult your doctor.
Bringing Keto and Intermittent Fasting Together
The ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting tap into similar metabolic pathways and so they should be able to work together synergistically.
The obvious juxtaposition: keto is a form of long-term dieting with a specific macronutrient target, that therefore restricts what types of foods you eat. Intermittent fasting occurs in the short term and restricts only when you can eat—with no macro-rules in the eating windows.
However, as explored earlier with low-protein, high-fat, low-carb diets, focusing on keto during the eating windows may prolong the helpful metabolic pathways invoked by fasting. An interesting application is Peter Attia’s “Nothingburger,” in which he conducted a week-long fast between two weeks of nutritional ketosis.
Both dieting methods can work toward the same goal: use fat stores for energy and put the body in a state of ketosis. Both deplete the body of glucose. If you’re intermittent fasting, it may be able to put you into a state of ketosis more quickly than dieting alone.
Very few studies look at keto and intermittent fasting together. However, as our understanding of the biology supporting both deepens, we can see clear synergies; this illustrates the two together can be a good combination.
Although starting a hybrid type of diet sounds complicated, it can be simplified very easily. Here’s a look at what a single day might look like if you’re on keto and intermittent fasting. Follow these steps for an example keto meal plan that could be employed while intermittent fasting.
If you’re considering a week of intermittent fasting interspersed with your keto diet, here’s what that week might look like.
This is an extremely simplified version, but starting this style of diet does not have to be complicated. Eat keto-friendly foods in a predetermined window. In this case the standard eight-hour eating window was followed, however, you may choose to follow a shorter eating window if so desired.
Keto dieting and intermittent fasting can go hand-in-hand when done correctly. Both should encourage the body to enter a state of endogenous ketosis, and hopefully, boost the results.
But remember—this is a process. It’ll take a bit of time to find out the best schedule that fits your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to experiment and adapt. The best diet plan is the one that you’re able to stick to.
Have you tried intermittent fasting combined with keto? Share your experience in the comments.