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Do keto drinks really increase exercise performance?

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Have you ever come across keto drinks while browsing the supplement selection and wondered what they do? Many competitive athletes, especially runners or cyclists, rely on this sports supplement to increase their training performance. Taking such so-called “exogenous ketones” is also becoming increasingly popular outside of competitive sports. But what are exogenous ketones? And what can keto drinks really do? A new study has gotten to the bottom of this and shows: The hype surrounding keto drinks may be unjustified.

What are keto drinks?

Keto drinks are special drinks designed to put your body into a state called “ketosis.” But what is ketosis anyway? It’s simple: When you eat, your body normally converts the carbohydrates from your food into glucose (sugar) and uses it as its main source of energy. But on a ketogenic diet supported with keto drinks, you dramatically reduce carbohydrate intake while increasing the amount of fat and protein in your diet. This puts your body in a state of ketosis. This is where your metabolism changes gear: Instead of glucose, your body burns fat for energy. This creates so-called “ketone bodies” that serve as a replacement energy source.

How do keto drinks work?

Many people use the state of ketosis to lose weight, as the body uses fat reserves as an energy source, which can lead to weight loss. And this is where keto drinks come into play: They are formulated to keep your body in ketosis or to get it into ketosis faster. They often contain MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides), which can be easily converted into ketone bodies and are said to support the energy process. By using ketone bodies, the carbohydrate stores, which normally serve as a source of energy, are protected for longer and are therefore still available during particularly intense exercise. Canadian researchers are now investigating whether keto supplements actually improve training performance.

Procedure of the study

The study examined 23 cyclists. The conditions for participation were:

  • the test subjects are between 18 and 60 years old
  • you are healthy
  • They do not follow a ketogenic diet, meaning they consume at least 50 g of carbohydrates per day
  • They are trained cyclists, so they train at least 5 hours a week on more than 3 days
  • their maximum oxygen uptake is 55 ml/min/kg (men) or 48 ml/min/kg (women)

The participants were randomly divided into two groups: one received a keto drink, the other a placebo drink. After ingestion, the subjects filled out questionnaires about their eating habits and blood samples were taken and analyzed. The participants then completed a 15-minute warm-up program and a 20-minute time trial on an ergometer.

After about 7 to 14 days, the participants repeated the experiment. This time, those who had previously received the keto drink swapped with the placebo group and vice versa. Throughout the study, the subjects wore blood glucose monitors on their arms, which were only removed after all laboratory visits were completed.

Training performance of athletes with keto drinks reduced by 2.4%

The results of the study show: The cyclists’ training performance was not improved after taking the keto drinks. Quite the opposite: a drop in athletic performance of 2.4% was observed. Furthermore, half of the participants reported that they perceived their training as more strenuous after consuming the keto drinks. The new findings confirm the results of a previous study, which also found no increase in performance after drinking keto drinks.

Stay away from keto drinks?

Whether the observed negative influence of keto drinks on training performance is actually so serious that ketone supplements should be discouraged now needs to be further researched. Since the study only examined trained cyclists, it is also unclear whether keto drinks could prove useful in other sporting contexts, for example in other sports or longer endurance competitions. There is also research that suggests keto drinks can help with recovery after a race or multiple intense workouts.

The fact is, however, that no increase in performance was found by drinking keto drinks. So if you wanted to use keto supplements for this reason, you should look for an alternative.

Keto drinks are special drinks that put your body into ketosis and are supposed to have a positive effect on training performance. However, in current studies no increase in performance was observed with keto drinks. On the contrary: there was even a drop in performance. So if you wanted to consume keto drinks for this reason, you can save yourself money.

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