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Ketone drinks used among WorldTour teams to boost performance

13/09/2018 - - Arthurs-Brennan Michelle

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Ketone drinks have been surreptitiously passed around the pro peloton for several years, but now one brand has teamed up with the initial inventors and says it has collected customers amongst WorldTour teams.

Ketones are produced naturally by the liver. They’re understood to provide the body with an energy source that is more efficient than carbohydrate, encouraging the burning of fat and preservation of skeletal muscle during exercise.

Ketone esters have been subject of rumours in the peloton for the last four to five years. This year, ketone esters were finally openly available as ‘HVMN Ketone’ and a number of WorldTour teams were our customers this year,” says Geoffrey Woo, co-founder and CEO of HVMN.

Where did ketone drinks come from?

The initial ketone drink was created to fuel soldiers in the US army.

Scientists – Dr. Kieran Clarke of Oxford and Dr. Richard Veech of the National Institute of Health/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – were challenged to produce a foodstuff that would provide soldiers with a fuel tailored to success on the battleground.

The formula has since been adopted in sport, with WorldTour cyclists apparently buying into the drinks: which cost as much as $99 (£76) for three 25g bottles and $1149 (£884) for just under a litre.

There are various ketone products around. HVMN’s ketone ester drink was created alongside the initial Oxford University researchers, and the brand has exclusive access to the same organic compound created by the scientists.

How are ketone drinks meant to work?

Ketone drinks elevate the same molecules that are higher in people on a ketogenic – low carb, high fat – diet.

In very simple terms, adopting a ketogenic diet means training the body to burn fat for fuel, as opposed to carbohydrates.

It’s not a quick fix. The body needs to adapt to the process and the approach divides opinions amongst sports nutritionists quite dramatically.

Ketones help the body more efficiently partition fuel by preserving glycogen for longer events and reducing lactic acid production. After exercise, ketone ester boosts muscle protein recovery when taken with carbohydrates and protein,” Woo says.

Ketone esters have the biggest potential benefit in endurance events where fuelling becomes increasingly important. We expect less physical benefit for short burst events,” says Woo.

Sports nutritionist at Elite Sports Nutrition Coaching, Joseph Agu, is less convinced.

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