Literature Review: Novel Ketone Diet Enhances Physical and Cognitive Performance
The ketogenic diet and exogenous ketones are growing in popularity every day. Although I’m still on the fence about doing a full ketogenic diet for people who are doing highly glycolytic activity, there is definitely some good science behind supplementing with exogenous ketones on a regular mixed diet. I know a handful of people who are personally using exogenous ketones and having great results. On that note, lets take a look at this recent study using a novel ketone ester ((R)-3-hydroxybutyl (R)-3-hydroxybutyrate). The paper was just published in December and some results show why people may be reporting such positive things about exogenous ketones.
In this study, rats were fed 1 of 3 diets for 5 days; Carbohydrate, Western or Ketone (Figure 1 C), and then measured on their physical ability by treadmill running and cognitive ability by time to complete a maze without errors after habituation (see Figure 1 B for whole timeline). What they found was that the rats fed the ketone diet ran 32% further and completed the maze test 38% faster than the other controls (Figure 2). The ketone fed rats were also the only group that increased running performance from baseline. Furthermore, not only did they finish the maze faster, but they also made more correct answers before making a mistake in the maze. This shows pretty significant improvement in both physical and cognitive performance, albeit in a murine model. What’s even more is that on top of these results, they also found that the ketone group had a reduction in plasma concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose, suggesting it may also have further metabolic improvements. I’d say that’s pretty compelling support for exogenous ketones (at the least the ester they used).
So what is the mechanism behind why exogenous ketones seems to improve performance? The main premise as discussed at the beginning of this paper is that ketone bodies are a fantastic fuel source, yielding more ATP than pyruvate, the substrate from glycolysis. They do this by enhancing the electron transport chain within the mitochondria. ATP is the master currency within our body, and the more ATP we have, the more energy we have to support all our cellular functions. (There are a few other hypothesis, to learn more about the physiology behind ketone esters, read this paper)
Exogenous ketones are definitely on my list of things to try, I’ve already received a sample from a friend that I’ll trial shortly. If you want to try out some exogenous ketones for yourself, here are a few high quality brands that I’ve been recommended.
If you try them out or have any experiences with exogenous ketones, send me some feedback!
Murray, A. J., Knight, N. S., Cole, M. A., Cochlin, L. E., Carter, E., Tchabanenko, K., … Clarke, K. (2016). Novel ketone diet enhances physical and cognitive performance. The FASEB Journal, 30(12), 4021–4032. http://doi.org/10.1096/fj.201600773R
1 – Veech, R. L. (2014). Ketone ester effects on metabolism and transcription. Journal of Lipid Research, 55(10), 2004–2006. http://doi.org/10.1194/jlr.R046292