A new drink ketone that was originally developed for soldiers to help in the battlefield has been shown in studies to have dramatic effects on the workouts performed by world class distance cyclists.
Dr Peter Cox, a clinician at the University of Oxford provided the cyclists with the new supplement drink, which allows the athletes to generate energy from ketones, as opposed to cars or fats, and was shocked to see an increase in distance covered of up to 400 meters (a 2% increase).
The drink works by temporarily switching the primary source of cellular energy from glucose or fat to ketones. Ketones are molecules derived from fat that are known to be elevated in people consuming a low-carb diet.
Ketosis is when the body deals with starvation. If you are hungry and have not been consuming any food, the body begins to take internal fat stores in order to produce ketones to fuel your brain. Your normal method of generating energy is by burning carbs and fat that are obtained through a balanced diet.
The drink was originally designed for soldiers who were out in the battlefield, unable to carry large amounts of food, and required an energy source that was easy to consume and provide a great dose of energy.
The United States Army, through its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) put out a request for scientists to develop a ketone food group to develop the most efficient food for soldiers in the battlefield.
Dr Peter Cox answered their call and began to develop the Ketone Ester drink. He started to do clinical trials to test its effectiveness.
He took 39 high level cyclists, some former Olympians and found that their muscles use ketones and when provided in their diet, they increase in proportion to the intensity of the exercise.
An experiment was undertaken where a drink was provided to the cyclists, each time with a different source of fuel. One drink contained carbohydrates, the second one loaded with fats and the third one with ketones.
They uncovered that the cyclists who consumed the ketone drink had the lowest levels of lactic buildup. Lactate builds up in the muscles when they have been exerted to the extreme and the muscles become achy and tired.
Dr Cox came to the conclusion that the ketone drink, because it prevents the lactate build up that tires out muscles, had a direct effect on the cyclists out performing their rivals by over 400m when cycling for over half an hour.
She was taken aback by his findings, saying that;
“It’s really interesting; with a single drink of nutritional ketone you can do the same exercise with completely different metabolism. Given the findings of this study, which challenges our fundamental understanding of human physiology, it will be tempting for many to focus on pursuing the endurance and sport-related avenues, but it would be a great shame if the metabolic basis of this work was not further explored.”
Following the research Dr Cox and her research group have decided to market the drink commercially.
A company called TAS Ltd will develop the drink. The researchers also expect to be producing ketone food by the end of the year.