The ketone esters market has received its annual publicity boost as a performance and recovery aid for pro cyclists competing in the world’s toughest and most famous bike race – the just-completed and COVID-19-rescheduled three-week-long Tour de France.
The strongest team in the race, Netherlands-based Jumbo-Visma, was the only team to go on the record about using ketone esters.
Its Slovenian leader and second-place finisher Primož Roglič stated somewhat ambiguously in a mid-race press conference: “Yeah, we are still using it. For the real effects, it’s really hard to say. It’s hard to feel it.”
Teams are obviously not going to shout about it if ketone esters are indeed producing significant performance gains.
However, ketone ester suppliers spoken to by NutritionInsight reckon more than half the 22 team Tour de France peloton uses them for training, in-race 'glycogen sparing' gains and post-race recovery, and have been for several years.
Other teams like Deceuninck-QuickStep and Lotto-Soudal from Belgium have previously said they have used them.
Frank Llosa, the owner of leading US ketone esters manufacturer KetoneAid and supplier to many pro cycling teams, tells NutritionInsight: “Nobody wants to talk about it. I’m surprised Jumbo talked about it. Perhaps they find it safer to admit to it now instead of being accused of it later.”
Kate Allan, British 50 Mile Time Trial Champion in 2017 and founder of endurance sports communications firm, Compete PR, developed COVID-19 symptoms back in March.
“Three weeks in, with symptoms becoming more intense, I ended up in A&E – breathless, with a horribly mucous-y cough and body aches like no other,” she wrote of her COVID-19 experience.
“…the chest x-ray showed pneumonia in my right lung and the blood tests markers of infection.”
Coming down with COVID-19 prompted her to alter her eating patterns and views of nutrition.
“I’ve started taking magnesium, vitamin D and a more general multi-vitamin, and being more mindful about taking onboard healthier foods…My skin is brighter, and although I’ve felt pretty dreadful with lurgy – I can feel that my body is functioning far more effectively than it has been.”
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According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) in a lengthy position paper published at the end of 2019 in its eponymous research journal the answer is ‘yes’. But it called for more research and noted the overall research base provides only ‘modest evidence’.
What it made clear though was that the best results come from using the right strains at the right doses. ISSN said the research review that formed the basis of its position paper was complicated “by variations in clinical outcome measures and most importantly, as probiotic benefits are strain-specific, by different strains used in these studies.”
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