The protocols carried out in these studies were approved by the the South West Frenchay NHS REC (15/SW/0244) (Study 1) and London Queen's Square REC (14/LO/0288) (Study 2 and 3). The studies were carried out in accordance with the recommendations of the Declaration of Helsinki, apart from pre-registration in a database. All subjects gave written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.
I don’t think we even need a drumroll here… Based on my background research into ketone-supplement companies, the survey of Diet Doctor users and the experiment itself, we cannot recommend taking these supplements. I can personally think of many more beneficial ways to invest money in my health, such as buying grass-fed meat and organic vegetables, or even buying a bicycle and riding it outside in the sunshine.
The human studies aren’t quite there yet, but it seems likely that they’d help. A recent human case study found that ketone esters added to the regular diet improved Alzheimer’s symptoms. Animal studies indicate that adding exogenous ketones to a regular lab (read: not ketogenic) diet can reduce seizure activity and improve overall symptoms in epilepsy animal models, reverse early neuronal hyperactivity in Alzheimer’s animal models, and reduce anxiety in rats.
Remember how important it is to measure ketone blood levels accurately? Same goes for food tracking. A food tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, provides insight into macronutrient intake and thus the ability to tweak the diet to achieve ketosis. Tracking diet (inputs) and measuring ketones levels (outputs) delivers the best shot at optimizing the keto diet plan.
Exogenous ketones don’t seem to improve high-intensity, glucose-intensive exercise, increasing fat burning during steady state exercise but dropping top-end high-intensity performance. Another study found that ketone dieters reduced 50-minute time trial performance in cyclists, though another group of researchers have criticized the methods. Even when a ketone ester didn’t improve performance in the shuttle run to exhaustion and 15 meter sprint repeats, it did reduce the drop in brain function following the exercise.
Glucose and BHB went down slightly throughout the effort and RQ fell, implying a high rate of fat oxidation. We can calculate fat oxidation from these data. Energy expenditure (EE), in kcal/min, can be derived from the VO2 and VCO2 data and the Weir equation. For this effort, EE was 14.66 kcal/min; RQ gives us a good representation of how much of the energy used during the exercise bout was derived from FFA vs. glucose—in this case about 87% FFA and 13% glucose. So fat oxidation was approximately 12.7 kcal/min or 1.41 g/min. It’s worth pointing out that “traditional” sports physiology preaches that fat oxidation peaks in a well-trained athlete at about 1 g/min. Clearly this is context limited (i.e., only true, if true at all, in athletes on high carb diets with high RQ). I’ve done several tests on myself to see how high I could push fat oxidation rate. So far my max is about 1.6 g/min. This suggests to me that very elite athletes (which I am not) who are highly fat adapted could approach 2 g/min of fat oxidation. Jeff Volek has done testing on elites and by personal communication he has recorded levels at 1.81 g/min. A very close friend of mine is contemplating a run at the 24 hour world record (cycling). I think it’s likely we’ll be able to get him to 2 g/min of fat oxidation on the correct diet.
Increased calcium levels in the bloodstream may contribute to the hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis), which in turn can lead to a heart attack. Calcium from supplements enters the bloodstream in one bolus, whereas we usually tend to get calcium from foods in small doses from the breakdown process. This might explain why calcium from food doesn’t create the same risk that is introduced by calcium supplements. At first glance, it seems to be the case that high calcium intake –at least from supplements–may not be ideal.
Plenty of supplements make you a fractionally better sportsman and these are no different. The synthetic exogenous ketones helped Olympic-caliber cyclists cover an average of 411 additional meters during a 30-minute time-trial, which resulted in a two percent increase in overall speed, found a paper in Cell Metabolism. That can be the difference between feeling the glorious tug of the winner’s ribbon across your chest or rolling in with the stragglers.
Over the past couple years, I’ve tried a number of ketone supplements, generally to enhance a longer fast or to offer an edge before one of my Ultimate Frisbee evenings. This Kegenix variety is one I’d recommend. I’ve also used Quest Nutrition MCT oil powder with good results as well, but there are plenty of other solid formulations to choose from.
I also concluded that post by discussing the possibility of testing this (theoretical) idea in a real person, with the help of exogenous (i.e., synthetic) ketones. I have seen this effect in (unpublished) data in world class athletes not on a ketogenic diet who have supplemented with exogenous ketones (more on that, below). Case after case showed a small, but significant increase in sub-threshold performance (as an example, efforts longer than about 4 minutes all-out).
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