If you’ve been reading just about any health platform since 2013, you’ll know all about ketosis. The ketogenic or keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that puts your body into ketosis, a nutritional state characterized by raised blood ketones and weight loss. While the diet delivers clear benefits, it is notoriously difficult to stick to. Now, sports nutritionists are suggesting that ketone supplements can mimic ketosis and raise blood ketone levels without changing your diet.

If you’ve been following this year’s Tour de France, much of the talk of raised performance by these famously borderline malnourished athletes is of exogenous (synthetic) ketone supplements and their widespread use. It’s time to learn more…

What do you need to know?

There are two main forms of ketone supplements:

Ketone salts: These are ketones bound to a salt, typically sodium, potassium, calcium or magnesium. They’re most often found in powder form and mixed with liquid.

Ketone esters: These are ketones linked to another compound called an ester and packaged in liquid form. Ketone esters are used primarily in research and aren’t as readily available for purchase as ketone salts.

Also:

Ketone supplements have been shown to decrease appetite, which may help you lose weight by eating less.

Accompanying a rapid increase in ketones is also a measurable lowering of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite and promotes fat storage.

In one study in 15 people of normal weight, those drinking a beverage containing ketone esters experienced 50% less hunger after an overnight fast than those drinking a sugary beverage. (note: ketone supplements may not affect appetite as much in people who have had a meal beforehand)

A report published in the Journal of Physiology in May 2017 concludes that exogenous ketones may boost the metabolism of skeletal muscle during exercise, which can increase performance, especially in endurance and elite athletes.

The views aren’t fully conclusive, and research continues. At around $5 a pop, we’d like to have more guaranteed evidence of ketone supplements efficacy.

As always, before embarking on any significant change to your nutritional intake, consult a physician.