A nutritional ketone drink that alters a person's metabolism may allow athletes to perform better, according to a new study. Highly trained cyclists who participated in the study consumed the drink and traveled about 0.25 miles farther.
The results of the study showed that with a single drink of nutritional ketone a person can do the same exercise with completely different metabolism, said lead author of the study, Dr Pete Cox, a clinician at the University of Oxford.
‘Ketone supplement allows the athletes to draw energy from three sources and produces significantly less lactic acid, which is a byproduct of glucose.’
During exercise, the human muscles get the energy they need to function by burning fats and carbohydrates. But, when the fat and carbohydrate stores are depleted, the body turns to ketone molecules that are made in the liver from the breakdown of body fat.
The ketone drink was developed in response to the call issued by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for researchers to develop foods that could help soldiers on a battlefield.
The researchers concocted an edible form of ketones in the lab using chemical compounds. They found that people who drank it had higher levels of ketones in their blood and no adverse side effects.
They examined whether the drink could help 39 professional cyclists improve performance. The cyclists were divided into three groups and gave each group a different type of energy drink.
Cyclists in group one received ketone drinks, while the other two groups received energy drinks that had either fats or carbohydrates.
Several experiments were conducted and the researchers asked the cyclists to cycle as far as they could. The cycling period ranged from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
The researchers took samples of the cyclists muscle tissue before and after the exercise. The blood samples were also collected at regular intervals from the cyclists while they exercised.
The cyclists who received ketone drinks cycled an average of 0.25 miles farther over 30 minutes than those who had the carbohydrate or fat infused drinks.
They were also found to have lowest blood levels of lactate- a byproduct of the body's breakdown of sugar. Lactate is responsible for the achy, tired feeling that follows a strenuous workout.
The results suggest that ketone drink may inhibit the breakdown of glucose in the muscles during exercise. It allows the muscles to preserve the stores of glycogen.
"What may be happening is if you are doing something that isn't a sprint, like going on a 26-mile run, you won't hit the wall as quickly," thanks to the preserved glycogen, study co-author Kieran Clarke, a biochemist at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.
"Though the idea of the ketone drink is interesting, more studies should be conducted to determine that it really is safe to use," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, the director of Women's Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the study.
"I think what we really have to do is be very cautious and need to make sure that something is safe before people use it," she told Live Science. This is important because the use of some other energy drinks has been linked to cases of heart conditions, palpitations, and even death, she said.