Ketone esters, also known as exogenous ketones, are a trendy new supplement prized among dieters.
The supplements contain a metabolized form of fat. By taking the supplement, you can encourage your body to enter a state of fat-burning ketosis.
Your body produces ketones naturally. They’re called endogenous ketones. When you take a ketone supplement, the ketones are coming from outside your body: they’re exogenous ketones.
Typically, your body only makes ketones when fasting or maintaining a low carb diet. Exogenous ketones are like a cheat code: your body can enter ketosis even when not fasting or following a low carb diet.
For this reason, ketone supplements are popular among ketogenic dieters. However, there’s growing evidence that ketone supplements can also boost athletic performance. Some studies even show that ketone supplements improve cognition and reduce the risk of dementia.
For most, the main benefit of taking ester supplements is that it keeps your body continuously burning fat for energy, helping you maintain higher levels of physical and mental performance over a longer period of time.
With so many ketone supplements on the market, it’s hard to know which one is best. Our editorial team spent countless hours researching and analyzing the rankings below. Here are the best exogenous ketone supplements for 2019.
The few bad reviews for HVMN Ketone criticize its taste: it has a uniquely harsh taste. However, the good thing about HVMN Ketone is that it’s available in the form of a drink.
Another unique thing about HVMN Ketone is that it claims to be the world’s first and only ketone ester: the makers of the supplement exclusively licensed the patented formula from its investors, TdeltaS Ltd., which developed the patent based on research carried out at the University of Oxford and the National Institutes of Health. Yes, there are other ketone ester supplements available, but this is the only one containing only pure ketone ester with no salt, caffeine, or other ingredients.
After taking HVMN Ketone, you can expect to experience 3 to 5 mM higher blood ketone levels within about 30 minutes. Some of the advertised benefits of HVMN Ketone include as a cognitive aid, keto diet supplement, or athletic supplement. There’s 25g of ketone ester in each bottle, giving dieters “deep ketosis in a bottle”.
HVMN Ketone is available online through Amazon or through the official website at HVMN.com. A 3 pack of bottles is priced at around $100.
Zhou Keto Drive
Zhou’s Keto Drive supplement is one of the more popular formulas on the market. Unlike HVMN Ketone above, however, this supplement does contain caffeine and salt instead of just pure ketone ester. The formula claims to help you burn fat and accelerate performance based on a “keto-friendly complex” of beta-hydroxybutyrates (BHB) and caffeine.
Zhou Keto Drive comes in the form of a powder. You mix it with water, although some people add it to shakes as well. The black cherry flavor is the one most typically sold on Amazon, and it’s generally well reviewed.
There are 16 scoops per container, with each scoop containing 100mg off caffeine (about the same amount as a cup of coffee) along with 11.7g of a “Keto Drive Performance Complex”, which contains Calcium goBHB, Sodium goBHB, and Magnesium goBHB. The formula is sweetened with stevia.
KetoSports Keto Force
Keto Force is a liquid-based ketone supplement based on ketone ester salts. Unlike with HVMN Ketone, which uses pure ketone esters instead of salt, Keto Force has dissolved the ketone ester salts into the solution.
Some people mix the liquid into a shake or smoothie. The taste is not very pleasant on its own, but it’s bearable.
One of the advantages of Keto Force is that the formula contains potassium instead of sodium – if you’re concerned about sodium intake and worried about the sodium dosages of other supplements, then Keto Force may be the right choice.
Perfect Keto Base
Perfect’s Keto Base supplement may be the best-tasting option in this list. The popular chocolate sea salt flavor uses stevia and natural chocolate flavor to give it a rich, chocolatey taste that contrasts sharply with other ketone supplements on this list.
Keto Base uses sodium salts of BHB, which means each serving has a pretty hefty dose of sodium. If that doesn’t bother you, however, then Perfect Keto Base is one of the best ketone ester supplements on the market.
Left Coast Performance Keto Burst
Each serving of Left Coast contains 12g of BHB, including high levels of sodium BHB. The taste, just like Perfect Keto Base, is surprisingly delicious. Instead of relying on artificial flavors, Left Coast has added ingredients like monk fruit extra, stevia, and natural flavors.
If the high sodium content doesn’t worry you, then Left Coast Performance Keto Burst is one of the better options available today.
VitaMonk has trademarked the term Ketosene, making it one of the more recognizable names in the keto ester supplement space. The supplement provides a simple, clean source of ketone esters, using a balanced range of ketone ester salts mixed with stevia and natural flavors. Some people really like the pineapple coconut flavor, while others do not.
Some of the stated benefits of Ketosene include better exercise performance and cognition along with easier entry into a state of ketosis.
Zenwise Health Keto-Lift BHB
Zenwise Health uses a blend of calcium, magnesium, and sodium salts to deliver ketone fuel. Although it uses sodium, it has lower sodium content than many of the other supplements listed here.
If you want the benefits of multiple ketone ester salts while keeping sodium relatively low, then the Zenwise Health Keto-Lift H supplement may be the right option for you.
Giant Keto Exogenous Ketones
Giant Keto is a comprehensive supplement that claims to help anyone perform optimally on a low carb or ketogenic diet. It also has ingredients you won’t find in many other supplements, including selenium, vitamin K, and vitamin D. Depending on how careful you are with your keto diet, you may be lacking the above minerals anyway.
Giant Keto doesn’t quite have the dosage to compete with some of the heavier hitters on this list, but it remains a good keto ester supplement for those looking to dip their toe into the space with an easy-to-take athletic supplement.
Kegenix Prime offers a combination of ketone ester salts and MCT oil, making it different from other supplements listed here. Why MCT oil? Well, along with BHB and ketone esters, MCT oil is one of the most popular ketosis supplements to take: it’s an accessible form of fat that tricks your body into entering ketosis.
In theory, that should make Kegenix Prime super effective. However, all of the ingredients are mixed together in a mysterious proprietary blend, making it difficult to see exactly how much MCT oil or ketones you’re taking. It’s also possible that ketones and MCT oil don’t work synergistically at all: it’s possible the effects of one counteract the effects of another. There just hasn’t been much research done on stacking MCT oil with ketones, as both supplements are relatively new.
Julian Bakery InstaKetones
InstaKetones is a mix of ketone ester salt (mostly calcium and sodium) and caffeine. Instead of sweetening the powder formula with stevia like many other supplements listed here, Julian Bakery has added luo han guo. It also has an ingredient we usually see in energy drinks instead of ketone supplements: taurine.
The main drawback of Julian Bakery’s InstaKetones is the taste. Some people appreciate that Julian Bakery didn’t use stevia, although skipping stevia has caused taste to plummet.
Purefit Keto is the first supplement on this list to come in capsules – not a powder. You pop a capsule to get a high dose of BHB delivered to your body. The manufacturer claims their supplement is more effective in capsule form because the capsule protects the ingredients from your stomach acid.
Each 2 capsule serving (60 servings per container) contains 800mg of a proprietary blend containing magnesium, calcium, and sodium BHB. Purefit does not disclose the individual dose of any specific ingredient, making it difficult to measure how much sodium you’re getting.
The main drawback of Purefit Keto is the serving size: with just 800mg in each two capsule serving, Purefit Keto lags far behind its better competitors, which use as much as 17,000mg (17g) per serving.
Kiss My Keto Exogenous Ketones
Kiss My Keto makes a lineup of keto supplements, including their MCT oil and their exogenous ketones supplements. You can buy the supplement in the form of a powder or as capsules. There’s also a powder drink mixed with electrolytes marketed towards those who want to use ketones for athletic performance.
We appreciate that Kiss My Keto hasn’t added any sugar, carbs, or caffeine to their formula: there’s just 14.7 grams of exogenous ketones per serving. The proprietary keto blend includes 1142 mg of calcium BHB and 1341mg of sodium BHB.
How We Ranked Ketone Supplements
There are dozens of popular ketone supplements available today. Our rankings took all of the following factors into consideration:
Dosage: Some ketone supplements have dosages as low as 800mg. Other ketone supplements deliver 12,000mg of BHB.
Type of BHB: Only one of the supplements listed above (HVMN Ketone) used pure BHB (non-salt). Most ketone supplements use salt, including calcium, potassium, or sodium BHB.
Type of Supplement: The supplements above include capsules, liquids, and powders. Research has shown that BHB can be consumed effectively in all of these forms.
Price and Value: HVMN Ketone is one of the more expensive ketone supplements, priced at around $30 for each small bottle (25g dose in each bottle). We took price and value into consideration for the above rankings.
Additional Ingredients: Some ketone supplements contain caffeine. Others contain MCT oil. Some contain only salt BHB.
Artificial Ingredients and Flavors: Many supplements above used Stevia for sweetening. Some use natural flavors or other ingredients. We emphasized natural ingredients over artificial ingredients.
Taste: Few ketone supplements taste good. Exogenous ketones are notoriously foul tasting. This unpleasant flavor is tough to avoid completely, although several of the supplements listed above did a good job of masking it.
Based on the above ranking factors, our team spent dozens of hours researching, fact checking, and ultimately compiling the exogenous ketone supplement rankings above.
Exogenous Ketone Supplements Benefits
Exogenous ketone supplements have exploded in popularity in recent years – just like the keto diet has exploded in popularity.
Forcing your body to enter ketosis naturally can be challenging. Keto dieters need to maintain careful balances of fat and protein while limiting carbs. When done right, your body can naturally enter ketosis and burn fat easily: your body is producing ketones endogenously.
Ketone supplements help your body more easily enter ketosis. They’re ideal for times when you’re slipping off your diet. Most people use them in conjunction with a keto diet. However, there are also plenty of people who notice benefits without strict diet or exercise. Some people even take exogenous ketone supplements to improve athletic performance.
Researchers have observed these effects in several studies. In this study published in the Journal of Child Neurology in 2000, for example, researchers sought to determine why the keto diet was so effective at weight loss. Researchers measured the level of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in the blood and urine of children. They found that children with higher levels of BHB in their blood were more likely to have success on the keto diet.
In other words, the study concluded that the best way to achieve a successful keto diet is to raise BHB levels in your blood. You can raise BHB levels in your blood with careful dieting – or by taking exogenous ketone supplements.
Have you noticed that several exogenous ketone supplements make claims about cognitive performance? There’s a reason for that. In certain studies, exogenous ketone supplements have been linked to reduced rates of cognitive decline.
In one study published in 2005 in Nutrition & Metabolism, researchers analyzed lab mice entering a state of ketosis. They noticed that certain keto dieters had higher levels of damaging plaque lining their arteries (the connection is thought to be linked to the high fat content of a typical keto diet). Mice who were given BHB supplements, however, had lower levels of plaque in their brains, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
For the study, two groups of mice were bred with a specific genetic trait to predispose them to a degenerative brain condition (the mouse version of Alzheimer’s). One group of mice was fed a high carb and low fat diet, while another group was fed a keto diet that was high in fat and low in carbs. After 43 days, researchers dissected the brains of the mice, then tested them for levels of beta amyloid, a plaque protein linked to brain tissue degeneration. Mice that followed the keto diet has 25% less beta amyloid buildup than the mice on the high carb, low fat diet. The keto mice also had higher levels of ketone esters in their blood. Because of these results, it’s believed ketone esters could protect the long-term health of your brain.
We know that ketone esters appear to have various health benefits. But can you really take an exogenous ketone supplement to raise your own levels of ketone esters? Exogenous supplements are relatively new, so research is limited. However, early results are promising.
Check out this study from researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK, for example. The large, comprehensive study analyzed whether a liquid form ketone ester or a ketone salt supplement would be more effective when taken at a same dosage, or if either supplement could compete with the natural ketone levels produced by following the ketone diet.
Here’s how those researchers concluded their study:
“We conclude that exogenous ketone drinks are a practical, efficacious way to achieve ketosis.”
The study even checked whether or not ketone ester supplements would work when not following the keto diet or eating non-keto meals. Ketone supplements were found to be effective even when the individual was not following a keto diet. This study involved 31 participants, so more work needs to be done to verify these results. Early research, however, is promising.
A series of studies published in Cell Metabolism in 2016, meanwhile, concluded that ketone esters could significantly improve athletic performance – even when the athletes were following a normal diet. Taking ketone ester supplements before cardio exercise allowed users to maintain the same level of intensity but with less fatigue accumulation.
Typically, high-intensity sport athletes do not follow the keto diet. They need carbs for short-term energy. The results of these studies suggest that these athletes could enjoy the benefits of the keto diet with none of the downsides simply by taking ketone ester supplements.
Ultimately, early studies on ketone ester supplements have been encouraging. However, research is limited. One of the studies listed above involved mice. Another study involved just 31 human participants. As exogenous ketone supplements become more popular, however, we’re seeing increased research into the field.
What are the downsides to ketone supplements? Are they linked to dangerous side effects? Or can you safely take exogenous ketones without worry?
As mentioned above, some keto dieters will experience increased plaque buildup, particularly with beta amyloid, a type of plaque linked with Alzheimer’s disease. This effect is thought to be a result of the high consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol (fat plays a crucial role in the keto diet). However, in this study, exogenous ketone supplements were found to reduce plaque while following the keto diet, reducing the risk of degenerative brain disease.
Aside from that, the main side effect of exogenous ketone supplements is the bad taste: exogenous ketone supplements are notoriously bad. Even the top-rated supplements listed above can taste awful. No matter how much stevia, natural flavor, and other ingredients are added, many ketone supplements just don’t have a good taste.
Check out this report from 2017 when reporters at Business Insider gagged and teared up after taking an exogenous ketone supplements:
“The drink comes in a bottle about the size of a 5-Hour Energy shot. It's clear and has no smell. The taste, however, burns like rubbing alcohol. It caused our eyes to tear. We gagged, loudly.”
That’s why most people mix the ketone supplements with something strong tasting – like a shake.
The keto diet itself has few other side effects. Some people complain about selenium deficiency or cardiac complications, but these problems are rare. Furthermore, dieters who are careful should be able to avoid these issues.
Recommended Dose of Exogenous Ketones
Exogenous ketone supplements typically have a dose of 12 to 24 grams of beta-hydroxybutyrates (BHB) in some form or another. Calcium, potassium, and sodium BHB mixtures are all particularly common.
At this dose, you will experience higher blood levels of ketone ester for three to four hours, after which your blood levels will return back to normal. For many dieters, this is sufficient for achieving weight loss targets. This is also an effective dose for cognitive performance and physical endurance. Longer physical endurance events, however, may require an additional boost halfway through.
Many of the top-rated supplements listed above had dosages between 10g and 15g. However, some of the lower quality supplements, including the Purefit Keto supplement, had dosages under 1g (just 800mg in each two capsule serving). At this dose, it seems unlikely that a ketone supplement would be effective.
Your body produces ketones on its own (endogenous ketones). However, research has shown that taking exogenous ketones (ketones produced outside of the body) can lead to some surprising benefits. Ketones help your body enter a state of ketosis – just like what happens when following the ordinary keto diet. Ketones can also boost cognitive and physical performance.
Consider trying one of the ketone supplements listed above to see if it’s the right choice for you.