Bicarb and Ketone Esters Help You Run Marathons

August 22, 2021

Bicarb and Ketone Esters Help You Run Marathons

Or any rigorous sports activity. Do you want to get sweaty and get the full strength out of your muscles? Going for a 25-mile bike ride? Swimming a mile? Suiting up to play high-level tennis? Football? Any sport! Take some ketones and some bicarb! Alka-Seltzer Gold will do it. A couple of potassium citrate capsules will do it too! Bicarb? Why? This is totally cool and explains some very interesting observations.

It all starts with ketone esters being used in sports. Ketones, the breakdown products of fats, and what you naturally make when you access your fat stores, are actually more energy-dense than carbs. And they get into you about 10% faster. That makes the use of ketones explosively popular in high-energy sports....(chess, maybe not so much) after Cox and his group showed, in 2016, that ketone esters burn energy more efficiently and conserve glucose in muscle.

Hence, if you want to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, you better be using ketone esters. And then there is the contrary evidence with studies suggesting that ketone supplementation may not be all that it's hyped up to be. So, the use of ketone esters isn't completely resolved but has opened a fascinating door to how your energy systems work. (Nice review by Harvey).

This has appeared to be a paradox because it has been thought that you only access ketones when you have exhausted your glycogen stores. And you don't bounce back and forth easily between "carb mode" and "ketone mode". With insulin around you are automatically in carb mode and your fat cells won't let you have any fat to break down into ketones. How does this "bio-hack" work? What is the clever metabolic trick that's going on? Not every exercise physiologist thinks ketones are what they are cracked up to be....despite the Tour de France.

So, accept that pure ketones aren't by themselves a great help in intense exercise. Why? Probably because they are slightly acidic and cause subtle shifts in cellular potassium, glucose transport, blood pH, etc resulting in no net gain. But, add a touch of bicarb, enough to raise your pH that 0.2 range that the ketones lower, and voila, 5% better exercise performance. Five percent doesn't sound like much, but at high-level sports decided by 0.01 seconds, it's everything.

It makes sense. We evolved eating a primarily alkaline diet, based mostly on vegetables and plants though certainly happy to get animal when we could. As we have become wealthier, we have chosen more acid-producing animal-based foods. Our core metabolism and excretion mechanisms are preferentially based on an alkaline basis. We can repair the loss of muscle mass in elderly by encouraging more vegetables and fruits (that is code for more alkaline foods).

www.What will Work for me. I keep trying to move my calorie choices to whole plants. Sugar and white flour are substantial adversaries, as just about everything in our society provides processed, grain-based products. Stick with it. I can take potassium citrate for my bones. Perhaps it's for my muscles too. And then when I do a bike ride, I'm getting 5% better performance. Woo hoo.

References: Med Sci Sport Med, Cell Metabolism, Cycling Magazine, Sports Med, Nutrients, APPS J., Dr. Seeds,

Pop Quiz

1. What are the fuels we use for exercise? Answer: (Not fair, you didn't cover this). In the first 30 seconds when we are escaping from a lion, we burn lactate. In longer exercise, as our breathing and oxygen catch up with our exercise, we switch to carbs. But we only have 1500 calories of glycogen in us and a marathon burns some 2500 plus calories. That has to switch to fat-burning, hence ketones.

2. What is a ketone? Answer: It is a four-carbon fatty acid made in your liver as it chops up fat.

3. What is a ketone ester? Answer: It is the combination of two ketone molecules bound together in a unique oxygen connection called an "ester" bond. (Curiously, it gets into your blood and mitochondria much faster.)

4. What's another way to get ketones? Answer: Easy. Don't eat for 12 hours. The switch happens automatically, but slowly. By 16 hours, there they are. You can measure them yourself by buying a ketone meter. You will be at 0.4 in 16 hours. If you stick with that and do a fast-mimicking diet for 5 days, you will be above 3.0. If you do a 10-day water fast, you will be at 7.0

5. What else is bicarb good for? Answer: There is abundant evidence that being a little akaline will repair your bones. You can research this yourself by searching the net for potassium citrate and osteoporosis. Bones, muscles, exercise.....our bodies like that.