Enhancing Ketosis FAQ

Enhancing ketosis through the use of botanical extracts specifically formulated to help the user maintain ketosis and ketogenesis despite carbohydrate intake.

This page is very science-heavy, but it explains in detail how we achieve the amazing results we do. Most sections have a link to the full article, which typically has much more information that what is listed below.

For more basic information or information about ketogenic diets in general, please see the Ketosis Q&A page.

Please see the Science Page to learn more about the different ingredients and how each one impacts ketosis.  There are links to multiple studies for each ingredient there as well as the science behind our other products.

What is dietary ketosis?

The science of dietary ketosis is complicated.  Ketogenic diets are not.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t make them easy. The diet Western cultures have adopted relies heavily on carbohydrates as an energy source.

Trying to dramatically decrease the carbohydrates you ingest is difficult, not only because you have to learn about the carbohydrates content of each meal, but because of the emotional stress of trying to stick to a new diet.

Although complicated at the biochemistry level, at a basic level, ketosis is just a switch in the fuel source your body uses. Without enough carbohydrates coming from your diet, and once you’ve burned through your body’s storage, your body starts making ketones from the fats you eat.  Ketones become the new fuel source for the body.

Without enough fat in your diet to meet all your caloric needs, your body starts burning through its fat stores.  That is why ketogenic diets are famous for fat / weight loss.  

For more information, see the full articleWhat is dietary ketosis?

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What is a ketogenic diet? 

At a basic level, ketosis is just a switch in the fuel source your body uses. Without enough carbohydrates coming from your diet, and once you’ve burned through your body’s storage, your body starts making ketones from the fats you eat.  Ketones become the new fuel source for the body.  This is an evolutionary process that protected us from starvation when carbohydrates were not available. 

Ketogenic diets take advantage of this biological hack to help us lose weight by burning fat for fuel.  Without enough fat in your diet to meet all your caloric needs, your body starts burning through its own fat stores.  That is why ketogenic diets are famous for fat / weight loss.

For more information, see the full articleWhat is a ketogenic diet?

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What are the rules for being on a ketogenic diet? 

There are a lot of different ketogenic diets out there, but at the core they are all about limiting carbohydrates. There is always an Induction Phase where your body adjusts to the diet.  As you stop eating carbs and you start burning through your stores, most people have symptoms of what has been called “keto flu”. 

This is a combination of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and the starvation response to no carbs. Once your liver makes enough ketones to supply your energy needs, these symptoms go away.  Read more about keto flu.

Once you are completely in ketosis, maintaining it is easy; just don’t eat carbohydrates.  OK, it’s not that bad.  You can eat 20 grams of carbohydrates a day during induction and upwards of 50 without breaking ketosis if spread out over the day (non-dieting maintenance phase). The specific diet you choose will dictate which carbohydrate sources are “good” and how much of them you should eat.

For more information, including macro levels, see the full article What are the rules for being on a ketogenic diet?

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What happens to your body during ketosis? 

Ketogenic diets have different phases as your body first adapts to and then optimizes the ability to utilize fat as an energy source replacement for carbohydrates.  Many of the things you experience while on the diet are directly related to what is happening to your body as it makes the conversion. 

Although complicated at the biochemistry level, at a basic level, ketosis is just a switch in the fuel source your body uses. Without enough carbohydrates coming from your diet, and once you’ve burned through your body’s storage, your body starts making ketones from the fats you eat. 

For a much more detailed look at the science, see the full articleWhat happens to your body during ketosis?

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What gets you out of ketosis?

The simple answer is: carbohydrates.  The long answer is that different carbohydrates affect you differently (see “How do you stay in ketosis?“).  Some you can think of as “sugar” and you avoid them. 

Some are starches that are broken down into sugar and you should avoid them as well. Some, like dietary fiber, are not digested and therefore aren’t counted.

Sugar alcohols can go either way, so you should check their GI (glycemic index) before eating them to see if they are safe.  For more about carbohydrates and “net carbs”, see the full article: What are Net Carbs and why do they matter?“.

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Insulin and ketosis

The biochemistry of ketosis is complicated, but it mainly revolves around glucose and insulin. Once starches and sugars are broken down and absorbed, your body’s response is to release insulin.

Insulin is an anabolic hormone.  Its purpose is to help cells get the glucose they need for fuel and then store the rest. That is the most import part to remember.  Any glucose that is not immediately used is converted by the liver to glycogen, which is what the body uses to store carbohydrates.

The next time the body needs more glucose, it will break the glycogen back down into glucose and use it for fuel. The entire time your body has higher than baseline levels of insulin in your blood, it is not producing ketones and not burning fat for energy.  In terms of ketosis, insulin is the enemy.

When we think of insulin, we think of diabetes. In diabetic patients, they are either lacking enough insulin or their bodies are resistant to it.  Either way, the body needs more insulin to accomplish the same thing as non-diabetics. 

However, because ketosis is linked to insulin, we can learn a lot about managing it by the way we treat diabetics.  Outside of pharmaceutical management, there has been a lot of research into the treatment of diabetics with botanical extracts.  We can use that research to enhance the ketogenic process.

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Diabetes research and ketosis

Although there are many types of scientific research about diabetes, the one are we are most interested in is ethnopharmacology or the use of medications based on bioactive compounds in plants used by non-Western medicine.

The uses are then studied by Western medicine to verify efficacy. Basically, cultures have been using botanical extracts for centuries to treat diabetes, but Western medicine is just getting around testing and validating their use.

The treatment of diabetes with botanical extracts focuses on five different targets.

  • Enhancing the ability of glucose to enter muscle cells (for fuel) or to enter fat cells (for storage).  Insulin does both of these, but to augment ketosis, we need to enhance the transport into the muscles and body cells, but avoid fat cell storage.
  • Enhancing the body’s ability to produce insulin. Because insulin is the enemy of ketosis, we will not explore this target.
  • Suppressing the production of glucose by the liver. In diabetes, this increases the blood glucose regardless of sugar intake.  In regards to ketosis, this increased glucose triggers insulin release, so by suppressing glucose formation, we can minimize the time insulin suppresses ketosis.
  • Suppressing carbohydrate absorption in the intestines.  In diabetes, decreasing the amount of starch breaking down into absorbable sugars and keeping those sugars from getting into the bloodstream keep the blood glucose low.  In regards to ketosis, this same process keeps insulin from being triggered and the body can stay in ketosis.
  • Suppressing glucose reabsorption by the kidneys. Normally, most of the glucose that passes through the kidney is reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. By using medications or botanical extracts, diabetics can decrease their blood glucose levels without increasing insulin.

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Using research areas of focus to enhance ketosis

By focusing on four out of the five targets for diabetic research, we can learn how to optimize ketosis to be even more effective.  The main focus has to be on limiting the impact of insulin by eliminating as much glucose in the blood as safely possible. 

There is a lot of exciting research regarding botanicals and how they affect our blood glucose and insulin levels. However, it is also very important to remember that controlling glucose and insulin for diabetes is not the same as managing them to enhance ketosis.

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Enhancing ketosis based on research targets

Each target, or area of impact, has different ways to be changed to enhance ketosis.  These are most often biochemical in nature and are usually involved in the transport of nutrients or communication pathways in the body. 

After exhaustive research of the scientific literature on the subject, there are multiple botanicals that address each of the research targets, although only some of these are relevant for enhancing ketosis and ketogenic diets.

In order to understand how we can affect ketosis using botanical extracts as keto supplements, we must first understand the targets and how we can influence them.

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Affecting glucose utilization to enhance ketosis

The first target is the utilization of glucose, or how easily it enters muscle or fat cells.  Non-diabetics, or anyone without Metabolic Syndrome, don’t have the same issue as diabetics when it comes to utilization.  Part of the diabetic disease process is insulin resistance.  This is where you have enough insulin in your blood, but it doesn’t move glucose into your cells correctly. 

Although non-diabetics don’t have this problem, there is a way to use the same process to enhance ketosis. 

By using botanical extracts that help glucose enter the muscle cells without the aid of insulin, we can get the same effect without raising insulin levels, which would result in blocking ketosis. 

The non-diabetic will continue to move glucose into the cells using insulin, but the botanical extracts will do some of the work and lessen the amount of insulin needed to do so.  As you are aware by now, the less we use insulin, the more enhanced the ketosis. 

There is a secondary aspect this this as well.  Insulin also helps move glucose into adipocytes (fat cells) for longer term storage by converting to fat.  Although useful for diabetics by removing glucose from the blood, it hurts the ketogenic dieter. 

The goal of weight loss is to burn fat, not add to it.  Although muscle uptake of glucose is important, blocking uptake of glucose into fat cells is even more important to enhance ketosis.

There are two main ways to influence this process using botanical extracts.  Both of these work by targeting Glucose Transporter type 4 (GLUT4) expression, which is the transporter that moves glucose into muscle and fat cells. 

The first of these is adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is one of the metabolic regulators in your body that controls energy usage at the cellular level. 

AMPK activation adapts rRNA synthesis away from a growth and storage state toward energy production and release state, common to fasting states. In short, activating AMPK stimulates the body to burn more fat and decrease energy storage as new fat or glycogen.

The second is something called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR), which regulates gene expression.  There are multiple subtypes, but subtype α and γ are the two most important ones for ketosis.

The two main functions of PPAR-γ are to up-regulate genes that code for lipid uptake and adipogenesis (maturation of fat cells) and increased transport of glucose into the muscles for use as energy, thus removing glucose from the blood stream and decreasing the amount of insulin the body needs to produce.

The interesting thing about Honokiol, the PPAR-γ partial agonist in our formulas, is that it makes lipids and glucose available for use as energy, but does NOT lead to excess energy storage as new fat. This adipogenesis is the primary drawback for using PPAR-γ agonists for the treatment of diabetes, as many patients end up gaining body fat while taking them.

The lack of this trait is very important as you still reap the benefits of PPAR-γ agonists, but without the drawback of fat storage.

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Minimizing glucose production in the liver to enhance ketosis

One source of glucose that doesn’t come from the diet is the liver.  Through a process called gluconeogenesis, the liver is able to make glucose from other chemicals in the body. 

This, among a few other things, is how your body can continue to function even if you eat no carbohydrates.  However, once the glucose enters the blood, it has the same insulin stimulating effect as carbohydrates that you have eaten. 

The goal of decreasing gluconeogenesis in diabetes management is to control circulating blood glucose.  In ketosis, the goal is only to reduce glucose not coming from the diet. 

Reduction is an important term, because your body needs glucose to function and if gluconeogenesis is the main source of glucose (with limited dietary sugar), we don’t want to suppress it too much.  Instead of limiting enzymes responsible for gluconeogenesis, it is better to use communication pathways, such as AMPK, which tell the liver not to produce glucose.

Admittedly, this target is not high on the list of interventions for ketosis.  That being said, even a nominal decrease in gluconeogenesis during ketosis will help lower fasting blood glucose, and thus, circulating insulin.

However, an increase in AMPK inhibits gluconeogenesis by inhibiting several transcription factors that promote the expression of gluconeogenic enzymes. Basically, AMPK turns off the genes responsible for increasing gluconeogenesis by blocking the enzymes needed to create new glucose.

This helps reduce the internal production of glucose so that you only need to worry about the amount of glucose entering the system through the diet.

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Suppressing carbohydrate absorption in the intestines to enhance ketosis

This is the biggest intervention we can make while enhancing ketosis, primarily because it is also the largest source of carbohydrates our bodies have access to.  Although the body first starts to digest starches in the mouth, there is not enough dwell time to make a significant impact on carbohydrate absorption.

Once carbohydrates get to the intestine, they start to be broken down into smaller sugar molecules.  Starches are broken down by something called α-amylase, which is produced by the pancreas. 

The keto “carb blocking” supplements that are currently on the market are almost entirely α-amylase inhibitors, which means that the starches are not broken into absorbable pieces and pass undigested into the colon. 

However, these only work on starches, not simpler sugars.  Of course, if you are still eating potatoes, corn or other starchy vegetables, you are going to have a hard time with the ketogenic diet.  It is best to avoid these on keto, but a small amount of starch can still be blocked without many digestive problems.

Smaller sugars are not affected by α-amylase, so continue to be moved across the intestinal lining and into the blood. This includes the vast majority of sugars that people on ketogenic diets continue to eat. 

After eating a meal with digestible carbohydrates, your blood sugar dramatically increases causing a large spike in insulin.  In order to decrease this spike, we need to block the sugars from being absorbed.

Whereas α-amylase brake down starches, α-glucosidases break down smaller sugars (sucrase for sucrose, maltase for maltose, etc.) so they can be absorbed.  Α-glucosidase inhibitors stop the breakdown from happening, and therefore are passed into the colon undigested.

Sugars that are broken down by α-glucosidases are then transported from the intestine into the blood using sodium-glucose linked transporter 1 (SGLT1).  This gives us another target. 

SGLT1 inhibitors stop this transport from occurring, leaving the sugar in the intestine.  Some of these still get through, despite SGLT1 inhibition, but the delay they cause also helps because the glucose levels rise slowly which keeps insulin levels low. 

As you can see, stopping glucose absorption goes far beyond just stopping starch from being broken down.  In fact, there are three areas we can impact with botanical extracts. 

After eating is when your glucose level is the highest, called post-prandial glucose level. Using any or all three of these targets decreases how high the blood glucose levels get post-prandial, therefore decreasing how much insulin is secreted.

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Keeping the kidneys from reabsorbing glucose to enhance ketosis

During normal physiological conditions, almost 100% of glucose passing through the kidneys is reabsorbed and remains in the blood.  SGLT1 does about 10% of the work, but the rest is done by SGLT2 in the kidney. 

When blood glucose is high, SGLT2 will stop transporting glucose back into the blood and let it escape into the urine.  By using an SGLT2 inhibitor, diabetics can lower their blood sugar.  From a ketogenic standpoint, SGLT2 inhibitors do the same thing as they do in diabetic patients. 

By targeting SGLT2 around the same time as glucose enters the system (meals), you can decrease the total amount of glucose in the system during the post-prandial time, so it is highly effective at reducing overall blood glucose levels. 

Although a good target, there is a risk when allowing glucose to escape in the urine.  Urinary tract infection bacteria love glucose, so there is a risk that feeding them may lead to infection. 

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Do keto pills work?

Prior to KetoSavior™ and KetoGuardian™, there were only two types of keto supplements: exogenous ketones and starch blockers.  Exogenous ketones may have a place during the Induction Phase of ketogenic diets (see “Should I take exogenous ketones?”), which typically lasts until around day 4 of the diet, but should not be used to enhance ketosis, despite being marketed as such. 

Starch blockers can enhance ketosis during “cheat days” and meals containing large amounts of starch, but most people on ketogenic diets don’t have much use for them.  Blocking the breakdown of starch into smaller digestible sugars would be beneficial to reducing blood glucose and insulin secretion, but starchy vegetables are considered “bad” carbohydrate sources, so aren’t consumed in large quantities on the diet anyway. 

At best, starch blockers can have an effect on only part of one of the four processes used to enhance ketosis.  It will suppress starch breakdown which will suppress SOME of the carbohydrates absorbed by the intestines, however, these only help with starch and have no effect on simple sugars or starch breakdown products, or any other target for enhanced ketosis.

Until now, there was nothing on the market that could target the other three biological processes that can be utilized to enhance ketosis (see the Enhancing Ketosis FAQ page).  However, there is plenty of research in the scientific literature that describes botanical extracts and how they impact these processes.

For more information, see the full articleDo keto pills work?

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What is KetoSavior™?

KetoSavior™ and KetoGuardian™ are the first supplements in the USA to focus on enhancing ketosis and making the ketogenic diet more effective by protecting the ketogenic process. 

KetoSavior™ is our maximum strength ketogenic diet protector when used prior to a heavy carbohydrate meal. All of Its ingredients impact one or more of the four targets discussed.  Most of the research on these ingredients is from the study of diabetes; however, some of the studies were focused on weight loss. 

Please see the Science Page to learn more about the different ingredients and how each one impacts ketosis.  There are links to multiple studies for each ingredient there, as well as the science behind our other products.

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What is KetoGuardian™?

KetoGuardian™ and KetoSavior™ are the first supplements in the USA to focus on enhancing ketosis and making the ketogenic diet more effective by protecting the ketogenic process. 

KetoGuardian™ is our daily use supplement that, taken before meals, can help decrease post-prandial blood sugar and insulin, thus helping maintain ketosis. All of Its ingredients impact one or more of the four targets discussed.  Most of the research on these ingredients is from the study of diabetes; however, some of the studies were focused on weight loss. 

Please see the Science Page to learn more about the different ingredients and how each one impacts ketosis.  There are links to multiple studies for each ingredient there as well as the science behind our other products.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.