A new tonic claims to pro­vide the ben­e­fits of do­ing keto with­out the tough di­et­ing part. Could it be the first in a range of revo­lu­tion­ary prod­ucts? Let’s see...

Women's Health Australia - - FRONT PAGE - By Kris­ten Mas­cia

AAt uni, I used to churn out sprints with the reg­u­lar­ity with which my peers hit the bar. But now, I have a 14-month-old hu­man tor­nado hell­bent on de­plet­ing my en­ergy. So it’s in search of a way to el­e­vate my work­outs to their for­mer glory that I find my­self prick­ing my in­dex finger with a med­i­cal de­vice typ­i­cally used by di­a­bet­ics, test­ing my blood for a com­pound called ke­tone.

I’m one of the first 5000 peo­ple tak­ing HVMN Ke­tone, a new en­ergy drink that, if you be­lieve its cre­ators, is set to shake up the world of sports nutri­tion. The 500kj, 65ml vial prom­ises to up­grade ath­letic per­for­mance with a dose of ke­tones, which, un­til re­cently, were only ever cre­ated within the hu­man body (as a fuel pro­duced when there are no carbs to burn, so the body breaks down fat to use in­stead). In fact, so game chang­ing are ke­tones that HVMN co-founder Ge­of­frey Woo calls them “the fourth macro” – as cru­cial as fats, pro­teins and carbs.

It’s a grandiose claim from some­one who doesn’t ap­pear to be an ex­pert in medicine, nutri­tion or bio­chem­istry. Yet, science may just be on his side.

Keto su­per­star

If the ‘keto’ pre­fix sounds fa­mil­iar, the launch of HVMN Ke­tone has co­in­cided with the rise of the keto diet, and with it a wealth of ke­tone­cen­tric re­search. As a fuel, ke­tones are ef­fi­cient. They re­lease more avail­able en­ergy per unit than glu­cose and, when burnt, pro­duce far fewer of the dam­ag­ing free rad­i­cals that ac­cel­er­ate the age­ing process. It’s the rea­son the keto diet has been chewed over by any­one look­ing to hack their PB. The prob­lem is, get­ting to ke­to­sis and ac­cli­ma­tis­ing to this state can take weeks, dur­ing which time ath­letic per­for­mance suf­fers while your body protests the lack of carbs. Small sur­prise, then, that sci­en­tists have been try­ing to syn­the­sise ke­tones to be used as a stand­alone en­ergy sup­ple­ment.

Scal­ing the wall

So what’s the drink’s po­ten­tial as an ath­letic per­for­mance en­hancer? “The ke­tones tem­po­rar­ily in­hibit the break­down of glu­cose so that you can ex­er­cise, but pre­serve the body’s glyco­gen stores and pro­duce no lac­tic acid – some­thing that hasn’t been seen be­fore,” ex­plains Kieran Clarke, pro­fes­sor of phys­i­o­log­i­cal bio­chem­istry at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford. “Run an aer­o­bic en­durance event, like a marathon, and not only will you avoid hit­ting the wall so quickly, but you shouldn’t have post-run aches, fa­cil­i­tat­ing in speed­ier re­cov­ery.”

A study us­ing ke­tone es­ter Deltag (which is what HVMN Ke­tone was pre­vi­ously known as) pub­lished in the jour­nal Cell Me­tab­o­lism showed promis­ing re­sults. It found a group of elite cy­clists who took Deltag be­fore a half-hour work­out rode 2 per cent fur­ther (400m) within the given time than a group given a carb-rich drink and an­other given a higher-fat one.

How­ever, when re­searchers from the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport con­ducted a sim­i­lar study us­ing a dif­fer­ently for­mu­lated ke­tone es­ter, there was no such suc­cess. Be­fore a time trial, cy­clists were given ei­ther a drink con­tain­ing the ke­tone com­pound Acac di­ester or a placebo. Not only did every rider who drank the sup­ple­ment per­form worse than they did hav­ing con­sumed a placebo, all re­ported un­pleas­ant symp­toms in­clud­ing mild nau­sea and, in one case, pro­longed vom­it­ing.

Road test

If there’s no tummy trou­bles, could ke­tones be a win for the av­er­age ath­lete? Yes – depend­ing on your ob­jec­tive. “Ke­tones may well en­hance your en­durance per­for­mance if your goal is purely dis­tance, with­out con­cern for pace or time,” says sports di­eti­tian Chelsea Burkart. It means a ke­tone boost could be a good fit if you want to take on a marathon. But if you’re look­ing to ex­cel in anaer­o­bic ex­er­cises such as HIIT, it won’t work.

While the de­bate rages on, I’ve got the chance to make up my own mind. In San Fran­cisco, I meet with Woo and HVMN lead re­searcher Dr Bri­anna Stubbs for a crash course in ke­tone bio­chem­istry, leav­ing with six vials of ke­tone. A week later, I’m about to go for a run. When I prick my finger to mea­sure my ke­tones, as di­rected by Stubbs, my lev­els are hov­er­ing just above zero. It’s un­sur­pris­ing, given my diet. I take the drink, the liq­uid vis­cous like a syrup.

Some 45 min­utes later, my ke­tone lev­els have shot up. I share the num­ber with Stubbs later, who con­firms the level is on a par with what I might ob­serve af­ter two days of fast­ing or four to six weeks on the keto diet. I set out with the in­ten­tion of run­ning for as long as I can. I wish I could say I was fly­ing. The over­whelm­ing sen­sa­tion is a burn­ing in my oe­soph­a­gus. I turn around early. The ke­tone is re­peat­ing on me.

Did HVMN Ke­tone turn me into ul­tra­run­ner Sam Gash? No. But with ke­tone re­search span­ning sev­eral strands, in­clud­ing the po­ten­tial of ex­oge­nous ke­tones to im­prove re­cov­ery and en­hance cog­ni­tive func­tion, it feels ex­cit­ing. If I were a pro ath­lete, I’d watch this space. As for other sleep-de­prived women, I can rec­om­mend an­other su­per fuel that’s a lot more palat­able – cof­fee.

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