A new startup called HVMN (pronounced “human”) is touting the benefits of what some have called the fourth type of fuel — joining carbs, fat and protein.
Ketones are the “fourth macronutrient,” according to HVMN cofounder Geoff Woo, who spoke with Business Insider. (Incidentally, HVMN’s motto is “Be Impossible.”)
In a recent story, Business Insider wrote that ketones could “supercharge the body in a way unlike any other source of fuel.”
Business Insider wrote that when the body taps into its fat stores for fuel, it releases molecules called ketones. The New York Times wrote that the liver produces the substances that can fuel muscles and the brain.
But in order to make the body tap into fat stores, people need to essentially starve themselves or have a diet of only fatty foods, Business Insider wrote.
“If you could ingest those ketones directly, rather than starving yourself or turning to a keto (fat-only) diet, you could essentially get a superpower,” Business Insider wrote, adding it would allow people to both eat carbohydrates and take advantage of ketones, which would create a “stacking effect,” according to Brianna Stubbs, a student at the University of Oxford who leads research at HVMN.
“You could run up a wall, but you don’t want to,” Stubbs told Business Insider.
Kieran Clarke, a professor of physiological biochemistry at Oxford who’s studying ketones, told Business Insider that the boost from ketones is “unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”
But the ketone hype isn’t all positive.
The Times wrote that while the ingredient has become popular with athletes, a new study published last month suggested it may have gastrointestinal side effects that would “make starting, let alone completing, an event almost impossible.”
The study analyzed the performance of 11 elite professional cyclists following the consumption of a ketone drink. The supplement did not enhance performance and instead led to mild to moderate side effects in all the participants who completed a trial.
Those side effects included dry retching, mild to moderate nausea, reflux and minor discomfort.
But another study published in 2016 that compiled data from 39 athletes shed more positive light on the use of ketones as fuel.
“These findings may hold clues to greater human potential and a better understanding of fuel metabolism in health and disease,” the researchers.
However, The Times noted Wednesday that that study looked only at relatively moderate exercise.