Ketone Esters Vs. Ketone Salts & More With Geoffrey Woo of H.V.M.N.

It’s time for a serious geek out on all things ketones, ketosis, ketone esters, and more!

My guest on today’s show, Geoffrey Woo, is co-founder and CEO of H.V.M.N. – Health Via Modern Nutrition. He is also the host of the Health Via Modern Nutrition Podcast, a health & performance podcast that recently broke 4 million downloads. H.V.M.N. helped popularize ketones as a food group beyond fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and makes foods & supplements for metabolic performance and health—fueling some of the world’s top performers, athletes, and military service members.

Geoff is an avid self-experimenter who like to do 7-day water fasts, has inspired thousands under the COVID-19 lockdown to push themselves with positive challenges by completing the Crossfit Murph workout for 45 days in a row, and studies the optimization of human performance—at the individual scale, the team scale, the organization scale, and at the civilizational scale. He holds a BS with honors and distinction in computer science from Stanford University.

During this discussion, you’ll discover:

-How Geoffrey used ketone esters while doing a Crossfit “Murph” for 45 consecutive days…5:45

  • Named after Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan
  • Consists of a 1-mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, then another mile run
  • Staying with a routine when COVID-19 became a serious issue
  • Low carb diet overall
  • Need for muscle and liver glycogen repletion
  • Added carbs to the diet, as well as ketone esters and exogenous ketones
  • Used ketones more for recovery than for performance

-Why ketogenesis is not a physiologically typical state…13:00

-The role ketones play when it comes to recovery…16:15

  • Research thus far has been focused on acute performance benefits
  • Trials performed on runners and cyclists; much easier to quantify than other sports
  • Tour de France cyclists reported exogenous ketones were better for recovery than for pre-race fuel
  • 2019 study on mimicking Tour de France training regimen with ketone esters
  • Ketones plus carbs and protein upregulates mTORC1
  • Anti-catabolic effects are consistent from an evolutionary perspective
  • Ketogenic diet inhibits mTOR
  • If you want to use a ketogenic state for recovery:
    • Have adequate nutrient availability, caloric intake, and carbs (allows liver and muscle glycogen levels to be full)
    • Include ketone esters with regular meals (induces anabolic pathway not present without ketone esters)
  • To trigger autophagy, decrease mTOR, and enhance fasting:
    • Use nutritional ketosis and/or ketone esters
    • Lower amount of carb intake and calorie availability
  • Open question of inquiry: Is β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) itself the signaling molecule that triggers HDAC inhibition, FOXO3, other longevity pathways, or is it the caloric restriction itself?


-Pros and cons of endogenous and exogenous ketosis…24:18

  • What’s happening physiologically:
    • Endogenous includes carb restriction by default (not necessarily calorie restriction)
    • The brain senses lower AMPK due to a lack of glucose
    • Increases lipolysis and fat mobilization
    • Blood-brain barrier prevents fat from entering to provide substrate for neurons
    • Increase in free fatty acids
    • Fat burning lipolysis
  • Exogenous ketosis: eating calories in the form of ketones
  • Exogenous ketones will elevate BHB aggressively
  • Inhibit lipolysis (fat burning) and free fatty acids go down
  • Ketones can be used a metabolic fuel as well as a signaling metabolite
  • Ketones mediate ghrelin (the appetite hormone) which signals satiety

-The difference between ketone esters and salts…35:15

  • Ketone salt: BHB bound to a mineral (a salt)
  • Pros and cons of salts:
    • Cheap and available
    • Often too much mineral in a ketone salt product
  • Ketone esters: Organic molecule that has an oxygen double bond between different components (monoesters and diesters)
  • Future research will reveal a “family” of esters, similar to carbohydrates, fats, etc.
  • H.V.M.N. focuses on a monoester: BHB esterified with R1,3-butanediol
  • This ketone ester delivers 100% of BHB vs. ~50% with ketone salts
  • Another ketone ester is acetoacetate diester, that Dom D’Agostino has worked on.

-The ketone esters developed by the DARPA program…38:45

  • Beginning in the 1960s, various studies conducted to determine the efficacy of ketones
    • Fasting study at Harvard by George Cahill – studies on starvation
    • Dr. Richard Veech, one of the earliest researchers of ketones and understanding the metabolic implications of ketones
    • At the start, a lot of people thought of ketones as metabolic waste products for type 1 diabetics, did not realize the broader implications as a fuel substrate as well as a signaling metabolite
  • Early 2000s, DARPA program headed by Dr. Joseph Bielitzki initiates project to determine the human factor in fighting wars
  • Quercetin, cooling glove out of Stanford and ketone esters were part of the program
  • DeltaG is the code name for a ketone monoester developed in the program
  • Last 4-5 years, performance-enhancing aspects of ketones have been studied as part of the program
  • Geoffrey’s podcast with Dr. Joseph Bielitzki of the DARPA program

-Gold standard usage for dosage and frequency of ketone esters…44:45

  • Dosage is based on body weight
  • High amounts needed for pre-exercise (for Tour de France cyclists)
  • Aim for a threshold of BHB in the blood
  • Body becomes more efficient when more adapted to ketones
  • Blood BHB is the most important variable—dependent on body weight, metabolism, and keto adaptability
  • Ketones uses:
    • Cognitive use (military and sports decision making)
    • Used prior to and after fasting
    • Transition to ketogenic diet minus the “keto flu”
  • Blood is the best way to measure ketone levels
  • You don’t excrete as many ketones when you become keto-adapted

-Whether or not ketones break a fast…53:35

  • What is the purpose of the fast
  • Which metabolic pathways do we care about
  • Ketones are mildly insulinogenic at best
  • They do not upregulate the mTOR pathway (only happens when stacked with carbs and protein)
  • Ketosis shifts NAD+ and NADH ratio to enhance sirtuin activation

-How a process called lactylation enhances the expression of longevity genes…57:11

  • BHB binds histones through process called β-hydroxybutyrylation
  • Same thing happens with lactate
  • “Biology is a study of snapshots”
  • Lactic acid builds up during exercise
  • Lactate crosses the blood-brain barrier
  • Possible use in treating TBI, concussions, etc.

-Parallels between lactate and ketones…1:02:15

  • Not insulin-mediated; substrates for metabolic health
  • Cognitive and TBI repair
    • No glucose can be utilized by the brain after a concussion or TBI
  • Potential for use treating Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
  • HBOT chamber (use code BEN to save $500)
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is the best way to buffer lactate

-Stacking sodium bicarbonate with ketone esters pre-workout…1:07:15

  • Water, tip of teaspoon (microdosing) leading to the workout helps with potential diarrhea
  • Lactigo transdermal carnosine applications (use code BEN to save 20%)

-Ketones used in place of alcohol in cocktails…1:10:15

  • 1,3-butanediol can give the buzz minus the toxicity of alcohol
  • Anti-anxiety effect demonstrated in animal models
  • Butanediols combined with alcohol is highly discouraged
  • Minimal sleep disruptions with use of ketones rather than alcohol
  • CBD and ketone combinations

-And much more…

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

– Geoffrey Woo:

– BGF podcasts and articles on ketones and ketosis:

– Gear and supplements:

– Other resources:

Episode sponsors:

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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for Geoffrey or me? Leave your comments below, and one of us will reply!

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