Ketones are normal compounds that show up in your body when the body’s primary fuel, glucose, is running low. Ketones come from the breakdown of fat so if they are present, fat is being burned.
Following a keto diet is an effective way to coax your body to make ketones, but it is not the only way. In this post, I’ll share actions that you can take to boost ketone production in your body, even if you are not fully keto.
Making Ketones Summary
- A ketogenic diet is a very-low-carb diet that depletes the body of glucose and stored glucose (glycogen) forcing it to make ketones
- Any action that sufficiently depletes glucose & glycogen will result in the production of ketones. These actions include:
- Extended intermittent fasting (i.e. lasting longer than a day)
- A low carb diet paired with short-term intermittent fasting (i.e. 16:8)
- A low carb diet paired with exercise
- A low-carb diet paired with the consumption of MCT or coconut oil
How to Make Ketones without a Keto Diet [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- How to make ketones.
- Four different methods to use in order to encourage the production of ketones in the body.
- Strategies for keto and low-carb diets.
Why Ketones Are Made
When your body is making ketones, your body is burning fat because the raw material that your liver uses to make ketones is fat or more correctly fatty acids. Ketones are excellent fuel for your brain.
In fact, your brain needs them if glucose is too low. Ketones equal fat-burning and brain fuel, which makes it easy to see why they are desirable.
But, this fuel source will only show up when the primary fuel of your body, which is glucose, is running low. You could say that glucose blocks ketones because when it’s available, your body has the energy it needs, and there’s no need to bother making ketones.
How do you deplete glucose enough to encourage ketone production? Let’s go over four ways that come down to what you eat, how often you eat, how you move, and a special fat that encourages ketone production.
Low Carb Diet vs. Keto Diet
Glucose comes from the carbohydrates that you eat. If you eat carbs throughout the day, your body gets a steady supply of glucose, and ketone production does not take place. The best way to deplete glucose is to follow a low-carb diet.
A Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic diet is nothing more than a very-low-carb diet, which is why it is an effective strategy for making ketones.
Without the carbs, your body runs low on glucose and needs to turn to fat for fuel. Some of those fatty acids get converted to ketones to feed your brain and some other tissues in your body.
The challenge with a keto diet is that it reduces your food choices. For keto, even the most active, young person will likely find that their upper level of carbs can be no more than 50 total carbs per day.
The slower your metabolism, the fewer carbs your body will tolerate. That means that most of your diet will be animal products, with limited vegetables and very limited fruit intake.
What do you do if you’re not willing to drop your carbs that low? Can you still coax your body to make ketones? The answer is yes, but you will need to follow at least a low-carb diet.
A Low Carb Diet
Here again, the line that defines a low-carb diet is fuzzy. In general, those with a fast metabolism may be able to go as high as 125 grams per day, but that would be the uppermost limit. Depending on your metabolism, that number may need to be cut in half.
By following a low-carb diet, you are limiting the glucose available in your body. A low-carb diet alone will not lead to a significant number of ketones, but it will get your body to the starting line.
You can then push the needle and deplete glucose low enough to encourage ketone production by combining your low-carb diet with intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a diet timing strategy that has you cycle between periods of eating and not eating, or fasting.
During the fast, your body does not get glucose from your diet, so it must use up the glucose stored in your body. When that is running low, it must turn to fat to meet its energy needs.
You can force your body to make ketones by following an extended fast that lasts more than a day, but most of you will find it easier and more enjoyable to follow a low-carb diet and pair it with a short-term fast.
For instance, I follow a low-carb diet and stop eating after dinner. It is not unusual for me to test my blood in the morning and see the presence of ketones.
Another way to deplete glucose is to exercise. Glucose is a primary fuel for your body, and you always have some inside of you, even if you are a faithful follower of a ketogenic diet.
When you exercise, the glucose that is present gets used up. If you combine exercise with a low-carb diet, glucose is depleted to the level at which ketones must be produced.
But there is a caveat. Remember that ketones are fuel, so if ketones are present in your body before a workout, they will be used to fuel your muscles. Immediately after exercise, you could notice a decrease in ketones. However, if you do not refuel with carbs, that level should increase in the hours following your exercise session.
Add MCT Oil or Coconut Oil
Another way to coax your body to make ketones is by consuming MCT oil or Coconut oil. These oils contain a unique type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. They are unique because your body handles them differently than other fats.
Unlike most dietary fats, MCTs are taken directly to your liver, where they can be burned immediately for energy. If that energy is not needed, they are turned into ketones.
On my second YouTube channel that I share with my husband, we tested our level of ketones after consuming coconut oil and MCT oil. Both resulted in higher ketone readings.
You can use coconut oil for cooking, and you can add MCT oil to coffee or tea. MCT oil can cause stomach upset in some people, so you’ll do best if you start with a teaspoon a day to see how your body reacts.
A low-carb diet, intermittent fasting, exercise, and consuming MCTs are all ways to encourage the production of ketones. But of all of these strategies, the most important action you can take is to lower your carb intake. If you’d like help with your low-carb diet, you can download a list of 100 low-carb foods by putting your name and email in the form below:
About the Author:
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.