What do Fortune 100 CEOs, record-breaking marathoners, Tour de France cyclists, Chess Grandmasters, Olympians and hard-charging performers have in common?
For one, they use something dubbed rocket fuel for the brain (and body). Something naturally produced by the body during hardcore multi-day fasts.
To induce peak performance, however, many of the world’s elite turn to a special type of supplement called endogenous ketones.
Exogenous ketone supplements are a relatively new market. Few manufacturers create high-quality products and the label claims are often outlandish. I’ve curated, reviewed, compared, and contrasted the best ketone boosters. Whether you’re keto and looking to reduce appetite, an athlete looking to improve performance, or a high-powered executive needing brain fuel, these products will give you the edge.
Top Exogenous Ketone Supplements in 2021:
Best Overall Ketone Esters: KetoneAid KE4
Best Value Ketone Ester Blend: KetoneAid KE1
Best C8 MCT Oil: LevelUp Clean C8 MCT Oil
Best Ketones For Sports & Travel: Real Ketones Prime D+ Exogenous Ketones D BHB + MCT
On to the background and product comparison.
What are Ketones & How Do They Relate to Ketosis?
Ketones are a class of chemical by-products produced by breaking down body fat. Your liver naturally generates this superfuel, but only in the absense of insulin (carbohydrates). The primary ketone is called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Tissues like muscle and the brain prefer the high-octane ketones over glucose found in most foods.
There are three widely recognized macronutrients:
Some researchers consider ketones a crucial fourth.
There are two ways to boost ketone levels.
Endogenous vs Exogenous Ketones
Endogenous ketones: dieters following keto usually report incredible mental clarity, energy, and focus. By severely restricting carbohydrates, keto stimulates the body’s ability to produce ketones on its own (endogenously). Over two to four weeks of complete restriction, the body ramps up the cellular machinery needed to make this alternate fuel.
Carbohydrate withdrawals. In the early stages, fully eliminating dietary carbohydrates causes unpleasant side effects like headaches, fatigue, weakness, and symptoms resembling a sickness. Earning the keto transition the nickname the keto flu (you can hack it though). And few people can experience the deepest, most beneficial level of ketosis without additional help.
Exogenous ketones: special powders, drinks, and pills can help induce ketosis even if you’ve consumed carbohydrates. Instead of waiting for your body to generate ketones on its own, you can take a shortcut. These products supply the brain and body with exactly what it wants. A boon during extreme physical or mental exertion.
In case you’re wondering, many of today’s top performers combine the two. Living their days mostly low-carb to produce ketones around the clock. Then they take exogenous ketones and add small amounts of carbs on big days. Resulting in unparalleled output.
Today, exogenous ketone products come in multiple forms:
- Ketone esters
- Ketone salts
- Ketone salt/ester blends
- MCT oils
Each has unique properties:
- Esters boost ketone levels the highest but cost the most (and taste like jet fuel).
- Salts are cheaper, have been around longer, and are more effective than MCT oil. But they contain large amounts of sodium
- Ketone ester and salt blends are a good balance between potency, price, and taste. However, few companies make them.
- MCT oil is the cheapest, and while still effective, less so than ketone salts or esters. It’s also known for GI distress in large doses.
Beware of “fake” ketones. Products and ingredients with the word ketone in the ingredients that don’t work like real ketones. Raspberry ketones, for example, have benefited from heavy marketing but do little to improve human performance.
Reasons You Should Take Ketone Boosters
Now that you understand what they are, you’re probably wondering how ketone supplements work and all the reasons you’d take them.
Benefits of exogenous ketone supplementation
- Speeding up weight loss
- Maximizing cognition
- Improving fat-burning (and sparing muscle)
- Increasing focus
- Protecting against oxidative free radicals
- Enhanced energy
- Improving sleep
- Elevating mood
- Boosting athletic performance
- Suppressing appetite
- Quickly re-entering ketosis after eating carbs
- Suppressing inflammation
The folks most commonly using ketones do it for either medical health reasons, or to elevate their performance Your use case and situation determine the best form for you. Today’s review will cover the top exogenous ketone salts, ketone esters, and MCT oils to maximize your blood ketones.
Best Overall Ketone Ester: KetoneAid KE4
Servings: 1 per bottle (3 bottles)
Best For: World’s strongest ketone drink
KetoneAid is the pioneer in exogenous ketone supplements. The owner, Frank, is a wealth of knowledge. Top wellness experts defer to him for all things ketones. You’ll often hear him or KetoneAid mentioned in interviews. He cares about his customers and is willing to walk you through making the right choice. Before anyone else, KetoneAid released exogenous salts and esters in varying concentrations.
Their products are manufactured (not just designed) in the USA and backed by a clinical trial showing effectiveness in humans. Somewhat of a rarity in the supplement world. On one site alone, KE4 has a 4.3-star average rating with over 459 users weighing in. I bring a bottle of KetoneAid’s KE4 with me to mitigate the harms of international travel.
Best Value Ketone Ester Blend: KetoneAid KE1
Servings: 1 per bottle (18 bottles)
Bioavailability: Very high
Best For: Quality ketone drink for the price
Next on the list is another KetoneAid product. KE1 is their most popular product. A 50/50 combination of ketone esters and salts. These bottles feature the patented mix of ketone esters and salts called BioBHB. Esters are more powerful but taste horrible and are pricey. Salts are cheaper, slightly less effective, and high in sodium. KE1 gives you the best of both worlds.
Frank also added additional electrolytes to further increase performance. With this product, you can expect a 1mm increase in blood ketone levels within 30 minutes of consumption. For the tastiest and most effective ketone product for the price, KE1 is your drink.
Best Ketone Salt: Perfect Keto Base BHB Salts
Best For: Pleasing chocolate flavor
Iconic in the world of keto supplements and nutrition, Perfect Keto also sells a highly regarded exogenous ketone powder. Their reformulation now includes better tasting and less bitter monk fruit sweetener. Most products on the market only use a single form and your body’s ability to use the supplement suffers. Keto Base features three: Sodium Beta-Hydroxybutyrate, Calcium Beta-Hydroxybutyrate, and Magnesium Beta-Hydroxybutyrate. Added electrolytes also help you hydrate. Ideal for situations where pre-mixed liquids can’t go like travel. Keto Base wins in terms of chocolate taste, portability, and convenience.
Runner Up Ketone Salt: Zhou Nutrition Keto Drive BHB Salts
Zhou Nutrition created a keto complex of patented beta-hydroxybutyrates called goBHB. So powerful that Zhou backs their powder with a 60-day money-back guarantee. Keto Drive contains zero carbs, zero caffeine, and zero sugar to keep you performing at your peak. Enjoy 3 unique flavors: Orange Mango, Matcha Lemonade, or Black Cherry. Each product undergoes laboratory testing in Utah. Mix it in water or add to drinks for a refreshing boost. Smoothie lovers rejoice, Keto Drive delivers great flavor in addition to a patented blend of ketogenic BHB salts.
Best Value Ketone Salts: Zeal Naturals Pure Exogenous Ketones BHB Powder
Best For: Budget exogenous ketone salts
Another brand that uses the patented form of ketone called GoBHB. Every serving of Zeal Naturals powder contains 13 grams of beta-hydroxybutyrates. You’ll enjoy the taste. They’re so confident that they offer “if it’s not the best tasting keto supplement you’ve ever tried we’ll refund every penny of your order“. I’m less convinced. While the price is great, and it’s better than most ketone formulas, don’t expect to savor every sip. It’s still a ketone product.
Zeal’s formula comes in two flavors: Cherry Limeade (better liked) and chocolate. A half serving mixed in water crushes any mid-afternoon cravings. Helpful to ease muscle cramping or mitigate the infamous keto flu. For maximum value and stomachable taste, go for Zeal Ketone Powder.
Cheapest Ketone Salts: Sports Research Keto Plus
Specialty: Lowest cost BHB
Sports Research’s ketone salts have quickly risen the rankings primarily due to one factor. Unbeatable price. At less than $1.50 per serving, you won’t find a cheaper ketone supplement. Their goBHB formulation comes in two flavors: Raspberry Lemonade, and Fruit Punch. It includes amino acids too.
Unfortunately, Keto Plus includes fillers and excipients. Upon further inspection, you’ll notice that a single serving contains about half the ketone salts as the others on the list. Making it deceptive but a decent pick when on sale. Keto Plus is the cheapest BHB ketone salts (but lacks potency).
Best Ketone Salt Pouches: Real Ketones Prime D+ Exogenous Ketones BHB + MCT
Form: Drink Packets
Specialty: Sports, travel, and on-the-go use
Few companies make high quality, portable powder BHB ketone salts. Real Ketones Prime D+ Exogenous Ketones is perfect with athletes. Combining 13 grams of BHB, with energy-producing B-vitamins, and 4X the electrolytes of other brands. Comes in three flavors: Orange Blast, Grape Tart, Lemon Twist. Prime D+ is also the only product combining both ketone salts and C8 MCT powder, giving you two different fuel sources.
Each packet contains zero sugar. The price has gone up slightly to keep up with the demand of 940+ satisfied buyers. Use Real Ketones Prime D+ for maximum athletic performance and ultra-convenient ready-to-use single-serving packets.
Best MCT Oil: LevelUp Clean C8 MCT Oil
Best For: Cheap daily ketone booster
MCT oil reliably boosts ketone levels at a fraction of the price of exogenous ketones. This special oil comes in multiple forms, with C8 having the greatest performance enhancement. Amazon MCT sellers come and go. Since 2017, LevelUp has stood the test of time. Their Clean MCT undergoes 100% natural extraction from coconut. It’s non-GMO; doesn’t contain palm oil; comes in a BPA-Free bottle; is gluten-free, vegan, and lactose-free. Clean MCT is sustainably sourced and triple steam filtered for purity. Resulting in 99.2% – 99.6% pure C8.
One of few MCT oils that don’t induce “disaster pants.” I take C8 almost daily for the noticeable energy and mental clarity improvements.
Best Value MCT Oil: Kiss My Keto C8 MCT Oil
Best For: Frequent sales, convenient bottle
Another huge name in the world of products supporting ketosis and the ketogenic diet, Kiss My Keto (KMK) has sold premium MCT oils since 2017. Most oils are packaged in plastic bottles that contain various chemicals. KMK C8 comes in a unique glass bottle with a special pump for precise dosing. No teaspoon or other measuring equipment necessary. Pouring MCT oil makes a mess, so this little feature saves time and wasted oil.
Their product is free of additives, free of flavors, made from 100% fresh coconuts, and 99.2% pure C8 (the most potent form of MCT). Unlike LevelUp, unfortunately, Kiss My Keto’s C8 is derived from both coconuts and palm sources, making it unsuitable for those with sensitivities. Choose Kiss My Keto for great customer service, the best-in-class glass bottle, or great value C8 MCT oil.
Are MCT oil and exogenous ketones the same thing?
No, MCT and exogenous ketones are different products. While both increase blood ketone levels, exogenous ketones are more effective. A special form of MCT oil called C8, on the other hand, is a better value and still increases blood ketones significantly.
Should You Buy Exogenous Ketones?
Exogenous ketones won’t replace a bad diet, too little sleep, or inactivity.
The right supplements, however, can help get your health back on track. From quickly re-entering ketosis after a carb-heavy meal, to enhancing athletic performance before important events.
These products have become popular amongst certain doctors for supporting optimal health. In preventative medicine, ketones can augment extended fasts.
Biohackers like ketones for:
- Enhanced cognition
- Increased athleticism
- Appetite reduction
- Weight loss
- Improving focus
- Protecting the brain against degeneration
- Better sleep
- Boosted energy
- Mood enhancement
- … and much more
Multiple types of boosters can increase the levels of ketones in your bloodstream. Which you choose depends on your lifestyle, use case, and budget:
- Maximum effectiveness: Ketone Esters
- Budget-friendly: MCT Oil
You can’t go wrong with any of the products listed above. Have you tried taking a ketone booster?
Let me know your experience in the comments below.