The Rise of Ketones: A Potential Game-Changer in Endurance Performance

New research suggests that ketone supplementation may enhance post-exercise recovery and adaptation, potentially revolutionizing endurance training and performance.

In the world of endurance sports, athletes are constantly seeking new ways to gain a competitive edge. One such method that has gained attention in recent years is the use of ketones as a performance-enhancing supplement. While initially met with skepticism, new research is shedding light on the potential benefits of ketone supplementation for endurance athletes. This article explores the latest findings and implications of ketone use in the world of endurance sports.

The Evolution of Ketone Supplementation

The use of ketones as a performance enhancer first gained attention in the mid-2010s. However, early skepticism and the high cost of ketone supplements hindered widespread adoption. Over time, more studies emerged, revealing the potential benefits of ketone ingestion. Rumors of elite cyclists using ketones further fueled interest in this supplement.

The Breakthrough Study

In 2023, a groundbreaking study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrine and Metabolism shed new light on the potential of ketone supplementation. The study involved nine men completing two cycling trials, with one trial incorporating ketone ingestion. The results showed a 20% increase in natural erythropoietin (EPO) levels in the bloodstream of participants who consumed ketones. This finding suggested that ketones could enhance adaptation and performance by increasing red blood cell production.

Exploring the Possibilities

The potential implications of ketone supplementation in endurance sports are vast and varied. Three possible scenarios could unfold over the next decade. Firstly, ketones may not live up to their promise, resulting in minimal impact on performance. Secondly, ketones could become a commonly used supplement with benefits for both performance and health. Lastly, ketones may face a ban as an illegal performance enhancer. However, the likelihood of a ban seems low without evidence of significant health risks.

Understanding Ketones

Ketone bodies are molecules produced from the breakdown of free fatty acids in the liver. They are upregulated during periods of low carbohydrate availability, such as in a state of ketosis. Ketone esters, created by bonding ketone body precursors, offer a way to induce ketosis without the downsides of low carbohydrate availability. Ketones have been marketed as a before-and-during-exercise supplement, but studies have shown limited acute benefits. However, they may have potential for recovery and hematological variables.

Mechanisms and Potential Adaptations

Ketones have been found to cause epigenetic changes, potentially increasing transcription of genes involved in the adaptive response to exercise. They may enhance cellular energy restoration after exercise and alter g-receptor signaling. Ketones also exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidation properties. The potential adaptations include increased muscle glycogen resynthesis, reduced protein degradation, enhanced angiogenesis, favorable changes in muscle mitochondria, and improved sleep quality.

Hematological Changes and EPO Production

One of the most significant findings in recent studies is the increase in EPO production associated with ketone supplementation. While the precise mechanism is unknown, mouse models suggest a possible link to H39K acetylation in kidney cells. However, the impact of this EPO change on performance remains uncertain. Long-term effects, gender differences, and optimal dosage and timing are among the many unanswered questions surrounding ketone supplementation.


The rise of ketone supplementation in endurance sports presents a promising yet uncertain future. While the potential benefits are intriguing, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects and optimal usage. Athletes should approach ketone supplementation with caution, considering it as a final step in their training, nutrition, and recovery strategies. As the science continues to evolve, the role of ketones in endurance performance may become clearer, potentially revolutionizing the way athletes train and compete.






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