University of Oxford develops new super-expensive ketone energy drink that provides body with an alternative source of energy. Ketones have already been used by pro riders to win 'significant internationally famous events'

Reporting by Richard Abraham

Ketone drinks are already being used in the professional peloton and could be the next big thing in performance cycling nutrition, despite an unpleasant bitter taste and a cost of around £2000 per litre.

Ketones are a naturally occurring range of chemicals produced by the body when it breaks down fat and are understood to preserve glucose stores, encourage the burning of fat and preserve skeletal muscle during exercise.

They were developed by researchers at the University of Oxford, and used as a drink they enhance performance in elite endurance athletes by providing an additional energy source to glucose. Researchers believe the greatest benefits are for long-distance efforts in very fit individuals.

“There are professional cycling teams and world famous professional cyclists in those teams, or in that team, who have used ketones for significant internationally famous events, which they’ve won,” explained Dr David Holdsworth, who leads current research into the drinks. “So yes, it has been used with considerable success.”

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) confirmed to Cycling Weekly that ketones are not currently on its prohibited substance or monitoring list. UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) head of science and medicine Nick Wojek added in a statement: “Athletes are advised to assess the risks associated with using any supplements, including those where synthetic ketones are listed as an ingredient.”

Dr Holdsworth confirmed that ketones were given to professional athletes only after clearance from anti-doping authorities. He believed ketone drinks should be considered like existing energy drinks.

A spokesperson declined to comment on whether ketone drinks are being used by riders on Team Sky and Great Britain when contacted by Cycling Weekly.

Read more about ketones in the January 8 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine