Superhuman energy. A fog-free brain. Effortless weight loss. These are just a few promises of the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic lifestyle—the nutrition craze that’s got everyone from Vanessa Hudgens to Amanda Chantal Bacon taking notice.

Sounds like a dream, right? Not necessarily. Sticking to this diet, which helps your body burn fat for fuel through a process called ketosis, can be a lot harder and less fun than it sounds. (It’s not all guacamole and almond butter, after all—you’ve also got to cut out virtually all grains, starchy veggies, alcohol, and sugar. Ugh.)

“It takes a few days to get into ketosis and you have to be committed to it very seriously,” explains holistic nutritionist and Body Love author Kelly LeVeque, CN, whose clients include Jessica Alba and Molly Sims. “Let’s say you try and get into ketosis [early in the week] and you get in by Thursday. But by Friday, if you drink a glass of wine, you’re out. It doesn’t work for most people’s lifestyles, and it can make you a little obsessed with food.”

Because of this, many keto diet devotees are turning to exogenous ketones—supplements that are said to help the body achieve ketosis more quickly and efficiently than diet alone, supposedly allowing you to be a little more relaxed on the food front. But are they legit?

Read on for the low-down on exogenous ketones—what they are, how to use them properly, and how to know whether they’re right for you.  

What are ketones, anyway?

LeVeque refers to ketones as the “fourth macronutrient.” By this, she means they’re a source of energy for your body and brain, similar to protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

“When you eat fat and you don’t have any carbohydrates, you metabolize fat in your liver and it gives off three different types of ketones,” she explains. “Ketones are chemical messengers that tell your body to burn fat; they’re also a byproduct of burning fat. And the ketone that becomes fuel for your body is called beta-hydroxybutyrate.”

Ketone supplements, like Raw Green's Keto Supplements are essentially beta-hydroxybutyrate that was created in a lab. “Taking [these supplements] is basically putting pure ketones into your bloodstream,” LeVeque explains. In other words, it’s a shortcut to the biochemical effect you get from eating the ketogenic diet—and fans of these supplements say they bestow all the same benefits, from more energy and better sleep to weight loss and elevated mood. “Ketones are anti-cancer, they’re anti-inflammatory, and they’re just a cleaner source of fuel than carbs, which can cause your energy to crash,” adds LeVeque.

In most cases they come in powdered-drink form, which you can mix with water or any other beverage.

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