In today’s journal club we’re taking a closer look at ketones by focusing on a paper from 2020 titled “Utility of Ketone Supplementation to Enhance Physical Performance: A Systematic Review” Let’s jump in.
Utility of Ketone Supplementation to Enhance Physical Performance: A Systematic Review
To start with, our paper on ketones is a review, meaning rather than presenting new research data, it instead attempts to clarify the potential benefit of ketone supplementation by examining the existing research on ketones.
Let’s start with a few introductory details providing context on the roll of ketones in sport.
Ketones in Context
Why ingest ketones to start with?
Athletes ingest ketones to provide an alternative energy source during exercise in an attempt to spare endogenous (on-board) carbohydrate stores. The more carbohydrate you conserve during exercise, the more you’ll have in reserve to fuel your most intense efforts, ideally at the end of a race when you’re trying to win.
Would a ketogenic diet be better for this purpose?
While a keto diet does increase fat utilization during exercise, it also limits carb utilization at the highest intensities. In a practical sense, a keto diet seems to limit how hard you can go, something we’ve covered in this post.
So what’s the point of ingesting ketones, I’m confused?
Ingesting ketones is the sports nutrition equivalent of having your cake and eating it to. The goal is to use ingested ketones as an energy source during exercise, without needing to restrict carb intake prior to exercise (i.e. compromising your available glycogen stores and throttling high intensity effort).
But Do They Work?
With that context as a backdrop, let’s take a look at what this paper had to say about whether or not ketones actually work.
Margolis, L. M. and K. S. O’Fallon (2020). “Utility of Ketone Supplementation to Enhance Physical Performance: A Systematic Review.” Adv Nutr 11(2): 412-419.