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Making Sense of Conflicting Data on Exogenous Ketones | HVMN Podcast

Key Takeaways

  • Ketones are the acid produced by your liver from fat during a state of ketosis and used as a fuel source
    • It is commonly believed that exogenous ketones taken before an athletic activity would increase performance
    • Now, a new study by Peter Hespel et al. presents data that seemingly conflicts with this understanding
  • Twelve highly-trained, male cyclists and triathletes were tasked to complete a three-hour simulated cycling race designed to be as similar to a regular race as possible
    • The dosing of the ketone esters was front-loaded while previous studies evenly administered the ketones through the race
  • The study found that ketone esters had zero effect on athletic performance
    • At face value, this may seem to disprove the ergogenic effects of exogenous ketones, but in the context of the scientific literature it makes sense
  • “What we have learned here is that if you do not top-up ketones towards the end of the race where your ketone levels fall below one, or even less than that, you may not see any difference compared to your competitors”Dr. Latt Mansor
  • A single study doesn’t prove anything; we must connect the dots between all the data in order to find the overarching truth behind it
    • “There’s no silver bullet for anything, and I think any scientist that claims that they have the holy grail of anything really needs to get their ego checked”Geoffrey Woo
  • “Going forward I believe that more studies will look into what are the different sources of ketones, whether it’s better to produce your own ketones endogenously or is it better to consume some form of exogenous ketones” – Dr. Latt Mansor

Intro 

What are Exogenous Ketones?

  • Ketones are the acid produced by your liver from fat during a state of ketosis and used as a fuel source
    • Exogenous ketones, like ketone esters, are ketones produced outside your body which can be ingested to facilitate a state of ketosis 
    • You can determine if you’re in a state of ketosis by your blood’s D-BHP levels which tell how many ketones are in your bloodstream
  • It is commonly believed that exogenous ketones taken before an athletic activity would increase performance
    • “This could possibly be due to the glycogen sparing effect of ketone ester when taken before exercise and having the blood ketones maintain at a higher level i.e. more than 2 millimolar” – Dr. Latt Mansor
    • Glycogen sparing is when your body holds off on using glucose energy until you truly need it further into an athletic activity
  • Now, a new study by Peter Hespel et al. presents data that seemingly conflicts with the previous understanding

The Study

  • Twelve highly-trained, male cyclists and triathletes were tasked to complete a three-hour simulated cycling race designed to resemble a regular race as possible
    • The race was comprised of 3 hours of intermittent cycling, a 15-minute time-trial, and a final maximal sprint
  • The dosing of the ketone esters was front-loaded
    • An hour before the race they the athletes took 25g of ketone ester with two doses of 20g ketone esters taken thirty minutes before and into the race
    • Previous studies on exogenous ketones evenly distributed the ketones throughout the study
  • The control group drank a bitter, calorie-free placebo 
  • Hespel found that ketone esters had zero effect on athletic performance for his study
    • Their performance was measured by distance traveled, energy output, and glycogen sparing

Do Exogenous Ketones Improve Performance?

  • D-HBP levels in the Hespel study athletes jumped after taking ketone esters but steadily decreased as D-HBP levels dropped below 2 millimolar two hours into the 3-hour intermittent cycling
    • In previous studies, D-HBP levels never dipped below the crucial 2 millimolar threshold because the ketones were evenly distributed rather than front-loaded
  • At face value, this newest study may seem to disprove the ergogenic effects of exogenous ketones, but in the context of the scientific literature it makes sense
    • The findings from Hespel’s study actually further solidifies the claim that D-BHP levels should be maintained above 2 millimolar in order to improve performance
    • “What we have learned here is that if you do not top-up ketones towards the end of the race where your ketone levels fall below one, or even less than that, you may not see any difference compared to your competitors” – Dr. Latt Mansor

Understanding Science

  • “Like almost every technology, like every tool, you have to know when to use it and how to use it” – Geoffrey Woo
    • “There’s no silver bullet for anything, and I think any scientist that claims that they have the holy grail of anything really needs to get their ego checked”
  • A single study doesn’t prove anything; we must connect the dots between all the data in order to find the overarching truth behind it
    • Too many people rush to establish the results of a new study as a fact of life

Going Forward

  • The findings on the effects of ketones are still quite new in scientific terms, and there is a lot left to discover
    • “Going forward I believe that more studies will look into what are the different sources of ketones, whether it’s better to produce your own ketones endogenously or is it better to consume some form of exogenous ketones”Dr. Latt Mansor
  • “Something that we might have forgotten is seeing what kind of extrapolation we can bring to the table as far as recovery, overreaching, and long-term effects on performance as well as well-being” – Dr. Latt Mansor
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Notes By TD

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