The rise of exogenous ketones for athletic recovery

For Dr. Mark Evans, now a nutrition consultant with Glanbia Performance Nutrition, the effect of exogenous ketones on exercise metabolism, physical and cognitive performance was the focus of his PhD at Dublin City University.

He spoke with NutraIngredients-USA during the recent Sports & Active Nutrition Summit in San Diego, where he presented a concise overview on both the state of the science and the state of the market.

Ketones: The fourth fuelโ€‹

Early research into exogenous ketones attempted to replicate the benefits of the ketogenic diet without changing what people eat: When the body goes into starvation mode because it doesnโ€™t have enough carbohydrates (or glucose), it will then resort to burning its own fat reserves to make ketones, a process commonly understood as ketosis. This can occur during fasting or participating in lengthy periods of exercise.

Exogenously consumed ketones will put ketones directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the fat burning step that a ketogenic diet would require.

There are different types of ketogenic products in the market, with the initial research looking at ketone salts. The main ketone body researchers are interested in is beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), explained Dr. Evans, and BHB-salts are composed of the BHB molecule attached to a mineral salt, typically potassium, calcium and sodium. Those ingredients are powders, he said.

A lot of the research now is focusing on ketone monoesters, often referred to as ketone esters, and those are a little more complicated, Dr. Evans said. These substances, mostly found in liquid supplements, mimic the end state of ketosis where ketones appear in the blood.

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