We hear about Ketones and how they are important and can contribute to our nutrition and exercise performance. A person who is diabetic must be careful and watch out his/her ketones in the urine.
Patients with diabetes, are asked to reduce their carbohydrate intake and increase good fats in their diet, with optimal proteins. Doing so decreases blood glucose, therefore, keeping blood sugar at an optimal level. Studies have now shown that ketogenic diets are also used to prevent and improve brain function, improve diabetes and prevent cancers.
Therefore, we will be discussing what are ketones, how they are essential for mental, physiological and general performance. Ketones are the result of the body burning fat for energy or fuel. Ketones are an acid remaining when the body burns its own fat. The liver converts fatty acids taken from fats that we consume into ketones which are then released into the bloodstream for use as energy.
It is normal to have a low level of ketones as ketones are produced whenever body fat is burned.
Why are we discussing Ketones?
- Our body normally utilizes carbohydrates and its simplest form for energy called as glucose. When there is a low amount of glucose in the body and our blood sugar is low, body looks for an alternative source of energy that is ketones.
- This process can happen when a person is fasting, after prolonged exercise, during starvation, or when eating a low-carb, ketogenic diet.
- And when the body begins breaking down fats for energy, ketones are formed for use as fuel for the body and brain. This is known as ketosis.
- People following a ketogenic diet specifically reduce their carbohydrate intake for this reason: to create ketones for energy. Our bodies are not designed to break down fats or ketones, therefore we program our bodies to utilize fats instead of sugar or carbohydrates. As a result, in the long run it leads to healthier levels of blood sugar and improved mental and physical performance.
Why does body use ketones?
Glucose cannot always be available in our bodies, but our bodies need to perform and continue providing us with the energy we need. Ketones are essential in normal mental performance and required for energy and performance during exercise.
Foods rich in Ketones?
Diet rich in ketones or in simple terms ketogenic diets have become popular. Studies have shown that diets high in fats and low in carbohydrates contribute to weight loss, boost productivity and even controls diabetes and epilepsy.
Diets high in ketones are Seafood, vegetables as spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, avocados, lean meat and chicken, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, eggs, and berries. Berries Ketones also known as
“Raspberry ketones” have gained popularity due to the fact they are made from ketones in blackberries, cranberries and reduce inflammation and contribute to weight loss by giving a feeling of fullness.
Why are ketones important and good for mental peak performance?
Our brain needs a continuous supply of energy. On the event when our glucose is depleted, the brain can’t directly utilize fat for energy. In this event, the brain needs energy that is then supplied by ketone bodies from the liver. Diets high in ketones improves brain function and the reasons behind this are:
- Our cells have a powerhouse that breaks down energy. These powerhouses are like a chimney in the factory that produces heat and releases heat when needed. These powerhouses are called “mitochondria”. Increase in ketones in diet facilitates the increase in “mitochondria” that in return facilitates the improved breakdown of chemicals in the body.
- Increase in the ketone diet improves brain functions. Utilizing ketonic diet or foods high in ketones can improve neuron functions in the brain as our brain is made mostly of fats.
- Ketonic diet helps increase in neurotransmitters in the brain as they are produced and destroyed during brain activity. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are found in our brain and are required for continuous neuron activity. Two main chemicals that are found in the brain are glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
- Brain fog and a lack of focus, among other things, can be caused by having too much glutamate and very little GABA. This will happen if your brain must use glutamate and glutamic acid for fuel, which leaves little left over to be processed into GABA. When the brain solely uses glutamate, it will start to over-process and continuous firing of neurons, leading to fatigue, without a way to reduce stimulation. Research has shown that ketones can allow the extra glutamate to be processed into GABA efficiently.
- GABA allows for controlled firing of neurons resulting in better focus, memory and healthy brain performance which in return also contributes to better physiological performance.
- It reduces free radicals enhancing and improving memory, as lack of carbohydrates breakdown reduces “free radicals” that are released because of oxidation (breakdown) of sugar are also reduced. Free radicals are powerful reactive chemicals that are released and react with DNA, cell membrane in our cells contributing to damage to DNA resulting in premature aging, cancers and other conditions. Ketogenic diets reduce the production of free radicals as the fatty acids are converted to ketones that are converted to a precursor required in many cellular functions in the body. This precursor is called as “Acetyl Coenzyme A”.