In college, I obsessed over hacking alcohol to increase the feel-good effects and minimize the toxicity.
I studied the research and came up with an elaborate plan. Complete with fringe supplements.
But what if there’s a better way?
A different ingredient that produces similar social lubrication, euphoria, energy, and disinhibition… without the terrible next day.
Well, it exists.
Even better, this related drink actively supports your body to work better. An inverse hangover:
- Boosting recovery
- Enhancing sleep
- Lifting mood
- Increasing energy
Scientists have studied it since the mid-twentieth century, but this substance gained worldwide attention in 2021 with the release of the first consumer product — Hard Ketones.
I’ve tested dozens of the world’s best alcohol alternatives. Though before testing any new substance, I always do extensive research.
Having passed my safety research, I had to pick up a can to test for myself — and boy did the experience surprise me.
So in today’s post, I’ll share my research into the active ingredient called 1,3 butanediol, how it compares to your typical (ethanol) alcoholic drink, my experience using it, and how you can try Hard Ketones yourself.
The History & Science of 1,3 Butanediol
1,3 butanediol (BDO) is non-ethanol alcohol that increases blood ketones, causes a buzz, and lacks toxicity. First studied by NASA in the 1970s, 1,3 butanediol has recently become popular among health-conscious folks looking for alternatives to typical (ethanol) alcohol.
During ketone ester synthesis, 1,3-butanediol is produced as an intermediary. I’m no chemist, but from the ketone ester’s formula, D‐β‐hydroxybutyrate‐(R)‐1,3 butanediol, you can see that it contains both D-BHB and also R1,3.
R1,3 also appears to have a dose-dependent response. In low doses, it's often used for performance. Yet in high doses, it acts more intoxicating,
“…larger amounts can result in incoordination due to a narcotic effect common to glycols.”Nutritional application and implication of 1,3-butanediol
Note that there’s a difference between 1,3 butanediol and R1,3 butanediol. The body can only absorb and utilize the “R” form. 1,3 butanediol is only half “R” (sometimes denoted “D”) and half the “S” form. So you can use up to 100 percent of R1,3, but a maximum of 50 percent of 1,3.
I tell you this because much of the research has used the less potent 50-50 blend of 1,3 butanediol. Clinical research will likely uncover all kinds of other potent effects unique to R1,3.
And no, you don’t need to be keto or follow any special diets.
Commonly reported effects of consuming 1,3 butanediol include:
- Reduced blood glucose
- Reduced cholesterol
- Reduced triglycerides
- Reduced appetite
- Increased mental clarity
- Increased sleep quality
- Increased recovery
- Reduces ethanol alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Promotes weight loss indirectly by increasing sensitivity to the satiating hormone leptin
Other non-ethanol alcoholic substances include:
- 1,2 butanediol
- 1,3 butanediol
- 1,4 butanediol
- 2,3 butanediol
Judging by its chemical similarity to other butanediol analogs, I’d imagine that R 1,3 has the following impact on neurotransmitters:
- Activates relaxing GABA
- Decreases stimulating glutamate
Despite similar chemical compositions, note that R 1,3 acts very differently in the body. 1,3 is safe, but many of the other butanediols are not.
Interestingly, this paper suggests that the mood and euphoric benefits of the keto diet come from the pathways activated by ketones. Indicating that endogenous ketones may have similar effects.
I haven’t come across any good books explaining the science of the ingredient specifically, but I recommend Ketones: The Fourth Fuel for a great in-depth exploration of exogenous ketones (salts, esters, and more).
Now for the real question, how does this compare to a shot of whiskey from my neighborhood bar?
Hard Ketones (1,3 Butanediol) vs Standard Ethanol Alcohol
Immediately after discovering R1,3, I wanted to know how the stuff compares to ethanol and whether it’s worth the premium.
After all, I already know how to hack my hangover and offset my occasional whiskey or tequila.
I talked to my buddy (and the founder of Hard Ketones), Frank Llosa, and dug into the research. I came up with this:
|Converts into||Toxic acetaldehyde||Beneficial ketones|
|Buzz||Sloppy, Aggressive, Insatiable (Food & Drink), Energetic, Disinhibited, Euphoric, Confident||Relaxed, Clear Headed, Cheery, Satiated, Peaceful, Content, Energetic, Disinhibited, Euphoric|
For our purposes, I’ll compare the standard Hard Ketones 12 oz can against a comparable 12 oz hard ethanol seltzer (White Claw Black Cherry).
I’ll evaluate the two drinks on the following:
- Hangover and toxicity
- Cost per buzz
The biggest issue with the comparison is around the drinking habit. Ethanol consumption begets more. While R1,3 does the opposite. You get full and satisfied. One drink doesn't lead to eight.
White Claw contains “empty” ethanol calories that yield no nutrition while simultaneously your body prioritizes over food. It also contains 2 grams of sugar per car. Since few successfully stick to one White Claw, the sugar can add up throughout the night.
- Calories: 100
- Sodium: 20mg
- Total Carbs: 2g
- Ingredients: Purified carbonated water, alcohol, natural flavors, cane sugar, citric acid, natural cherry juice concentrate, sodium citrate
Still, not bad for a packaged alcoholic drink.
Let’s compare that to R1,3. Immediately, you’ll notice is that one can of this seltzer contains 25% fewer calories. Each dose does contain more sodium, but an insignificant amount. This extra sodium may help keep water in the body to reduce dehydration.
- Calories: 75
- Sodium: 150mg
- R1,3 Butanediol: 12.5g
- Ingredients: Carbonated water, R1,3 butanediol (12.5g), citric acid, non-GMO monk fruit, salt, agar agar, gum arabic, l-malic acid, natural flavors, potassium sorbate (for freshness)
I like that R1,3 contains the popular performance-boosting compound malic acid. The L-form is the way it naturally occurs and the ingredient costs nearly five times more than synthetic malic acid.
The major difference between the two isn’t apparent in the can breakdown.
The biochemical mechanisms of ethanol encourage binging, hunger, and seeking out the next drink. Consuming more booze and calories. Terrible for weight loss. More on this in my experience report below.
Hangover & toxicity
White Claw contains ethanol. Ethanol causes the dreaded hangover through many mechanisms, the most pressing of which is a dangerous chemical not found in R1,3.
Your liver converts ethanol into a toxic byproduct called acetaldehyde, which is 10X more toxic than ethanol itself!
Your hormones fluctuate, so your kidneys and body work together to excrete this irritant ASAP. So you pee more often, further depleting electrolytes and other vital nutrients. The hormonal cascade wrecks sleep and recovery.
R1,3, on the other hand, doesn’t have this issue. Metabolism doesn’t result in the formation of any known toxic byproducts. Your hormones don’t fluctuate much, so you maintain hydration.
Increasing ketone levels actually improve recovery and sleep, as measurable via the Biostrap or Oura ring.
Both drinks have subjectively different buzzes. I haven’t seen any comparative research, and I personally have much more experience with ethanol. So far, this is how I’d compare them.
I’ve noticed that the buzz from ethanol hits me about 10-15 minutes quicker than R1,3.
Typical characteristics of indulging in Ethanol include:
- Insatiable (food & drinks)
Typical characteristics of indulging in 1,3 butanediol include:
I’d compare the buzz of Hard Ketones to that of the optimal dose of a cannabis edible. Definitely not the same, but more of that “relaxed” kind of vibe. That said, I’m personally not a fan of edibles. I found Hard Ketones much more pleasant.
Cost per buzz
Buying a 12-pack of White Claw online costs about $30.00, bringing the per can cost to around $2.50. At the time of this writing, an 8-pack of Hard Ketones costs $49.00, a per can cost of $6.11.
But here’s the thing…
With ethanol, I’m constantly chasing that “perfect buzz”. Always thinking that one more drink will do it, though it never does. To really enjoy the effects I seek from ethanol, I’ll often find myself 6-8 drinks in, whereas with R1,3, I’m good with 1-2. I can’t imagine going beyond 3.
One drink of ethanol encourages more consumption, whereas one can of Hard Ketones discourages it.
I find 1.5 cans of Hard Ketones does it for me where my White Claw sweet spot is ~5 drinks. Aside from the extra calories and unhealthy habit of binge drinking ethanol, a pleasant buzz from each comes out to a similar price.
And that’s just with White Claw. Craft beers or hard liquors can cost more.
You can get huge discounts on Hard Ketones when you buy bulk too.
This isn't to say that R1,3 is cheap… it's not. But all things considered, it can easily work out to less than a night of craft drinks.
My Experience With Hard Ketones
I tried generic 1,3 butanediol previously, but it was racemic and I didn’t take the right dose.
In 2021, Frank shipped me a few cans to try. As with any alcohol product, the shipment required the signature of an adult 21+.
My first official Hard Ketones experience took place on New Years' Eve 2021, and we each had one drink with dinner.
We had cracked the cans and started sipping as we put the final touches on the meal, and sat down to eat.
The drink's flavor reminded me of your standard alcoholic seltzer, which I don’t mind but don’t love either. It had the slight bite of an unfamiliar ingredient, but nothing too much. Remember, this is alcohol. Not dessert.
They’ve since released additional flavors, sweetnesses, and other imitations of ethanol drinks (G & T, anyone?) to accommodate every palette.
In hindsight, the first effects I noticed I hadn’t initially attributed to this new drink.
Let me explain.
Most days I consume 3,500-4,500 calories, spread over two meals. 2-3 HUGE plates of food at each.
On this night, as I neared the end of my first, I felt full. Judging by the surprised look on others' faces, I justified my lack of appetite as eating a lot previously… but I wasn't sure I had.
We continued with the evening. Yet I still felt abnormally full. Only in retrospect and after further testing did we realize the extent of the appetite-suppressing effects of R1,3.
Hard Ketones crept up on me.
I never got wasted, but my state definitely shifted. I compare the effects to a hybrid between cannabis and ethanol. With a lot of the desirable traits of each.
The can describes that most people report blood ketones increasing significantly by 1-2 mmol. Where alcohol makes things fuzzy and blurs memory, R1,3 undeniably increased clearheadedness. I feel it every time.
One note. In my experience, Hard Ketones work best when I haven’t consumed a large bolus of carbohydrates recently. On my high-carb days, I had to fast ~4 hours before drinking, in order for one can to feel as strong as usual.
I think a reasonable buzz comparison would be one drink of R1,3 feels like 1.25-1.5 of ethanol. It’s enough to take the edge off, relax, and enjoy.
The real question, however, is how my body fared.
As mentioned previously, ethanol impairs many bodily systems.
Though R1,3 works on different pathways and doesn’t metabolize into the extremely toxic acetaldehyde, I approached my first experience with caution.
I didn’t use any anti-hangover supplements because I wanted to discern the effects of Hard Ketones alone. Plus, I'm not sure they'd do anything.
When I woke the next morning, I immediately reached for my phone to check my vitals (as reported by my Oura ring 3).
For context, an average night of ethanol indulgence has an across-the-board negative impact on my biometrics:
- Sleep score decreases 10-15 points
- Readiness decreases 13-19 points
- Heart rate variability (HRV) halved
- Resting heart rate increases 5 points
- Respiratory rate increases 3 breaths per minute
I expected to see something similar with R1,3.
R1,3 however, had a net positive effect:
- Sleep score increased by 3 points
- Readiness (recovery) went up 6 points
- Resting heart rate dropped 2 beats per minute
Though possibly attributable to something else, it looks a whole lot better compared to ethanol.
Best of all, I felt awesome the next day.
Energetic, and active. I skipped breakfast and had a very late lunch, simply because I wasn’t hungry.
I see a productivity use case here. On the rare days where I need to grind, R1,3 will support my biology. To keep me “switched on for hours”, even if I don’t have the luxury of a lunch break.
I think this qualifies as an inverse hangover.
Try Hard Ketones Today
Once only available to researchers, we can now get our hands on quality 1,3 butanediol.
When you’re buying a product, you want to make sure it’s natural and maximally absorbed. Look for R1,3 butanediol or D1,3 butanediol. If you don’t see the “R” or “D” prefix on the product label, then your body will only absorb up to 50 percent of it. Making the product twice as expensive (or half as potent) as it seems.
You won’t find Hard Ketones on Amazon or at your local grocer yet. I'd imagine that progressive, modern-day liquor stores will eventually start carrying R1,3.
For now, they’re only available directly on the Hard Ketones website.
If this interests you and you want to try it yourself, you can use the code OUTLIYR for free shipping.
The Alcohol Alternative You've Been Looking For?
Ethanol. The beverage fueling global nightlife and post-work relaxation is dying.
In its wake comes healthy alcohol alternatives that feel just as good without the hangover. We’re starting to see the future of the beverage industry shaping up.
R1,3 butanediol and Hard Ketones specifically are pioneering that change. Ushering in a new category of drinks. Used by:
- Fortune 100 CEOs
- Brain health experts
- Wellness enthusiasts
- Professional athletes
And high-achievers around the world.
Sure, it’s expensive today. But you get similar effects, from far fewer drinks, and don’t waste the entire next day hungover, or in the case of regular drinkers, performing sub-optimally.
And the cost of R1,3 will fall dramatically over the coming years.
I wouldn’t quite call it a direct replacement for ethanol. Ethanol culture has characteristic sloppiness, and the ability to justify regrettable actions as an inevitable byproduct of drinking.
But R1,3 is close.
Use the exclusive code OUTLIYR for free shipping
If you’re not 100% satisfied, Frank Llosa, the CEO of Hard Ketones, will personally make it right.
Questions or comments on any of this? If you’ve tried R1,3, how was your experience? Let me know in the comments below!