In the last two weeks HVMN the Human Enhancement Company has shipped their first 98% pure ketone ester. These ketones are legal for use in athletic competition (WADA approved) and by the FDA generally regards the substance as safe (GRAS). While currently expensive at $33 per serving the feeling of going into deep therapeutic ketosis in 30 minutes is undeniably potent. My partner and I tested a three pack over the weekend and observed the effects of this magic fourth nutrient that is not a carb, protein or fat.
When fasting or following a very low carbohydrate diet our liver will start breaking down fat stores and producing ketones. The process is slow and can require 6-10 days of fasting to produce high ketone levels. HVMNs exogenous ketones are able to reach these elevated levels in less than one hour. These ketones can make up for many areas that we normally use glucose such as fueling our muscles and brain. Personally, I’ve found that fasting for 18 hours followed with a very slow four hour run can produce the same levels of blood ketones. However, I stay in a state of ketosis year round so my body is used to catabolizing itself for fuel.
Other forms of ketone related products such as salts and MCT oil have been available for years. The big difference with ketone esters is the potency. The previously available products would only boost ketones by .3 to .5 Mm. The current generation of exogenous ketones is increasing blood ketone levels by up to 10x.
What can you do with elevated ketones and who are these being marketed to? Currently, HVMN is focused on the weekend warrior athletes. People who are really into their hobby sports and want to combine fuel types (ketones + glucose) for maximum performance. However, there are other market segments that comes through in the HVMN literature. The experience provides incredibly clear mental focus. It is akin to being in the flow state. There is also a complete lack of hunger for a 4 – 6 hour window which is generally how long the elevated ketones last, but can be reduced based on exercise intensity.
The taste can be challenging. These ketone esters taste like unsweetened cough syrup with a similar texture. The upside is that once the 65ml of liquid has been swallowed the aftertaste is minimal. We happened to be in Santa Fe for Cinco De Mayo and decided to use the local Rail Yard venue as an obstacle course. We waited for 30 minutes after ingesting the ketones and then took off.
While the workout fueled by only ketones went well it also felt very familiar. As someone who practices intermittent fasting this felt like a 20+ hour fast. Reviewing my strength workouts, HIIT and warmups all looked quite similar if not identical to my usual performance.
The most pleasant surprise was the calm mental focus. After returning to our apartment we sat down and went about doing some writing and coding. We both were able to easily concentrate on our work for the next three hours with no desire to eat. The mental focus was both full of energy and at the same time very calm. Unlike caffeine there were no physical tremors or scatter brain problems where the mind jumps around constantly unable to stay on a single task. Looking back at my stress levels for the day I can see that it was over 10% more relaxed I had been in the last week.
Today the barrier to entry is price. At $33 a dose it is a difficult sell to anyone except for the most dedicated of athletes. However, these ketone esters had cost the defense research department (DARPA) nearly $25,000 for a single dose at one point. There are also other companies such as Ketone Aid which are producing a very similar ketone ester for nearly the same price today. The most exciting part that I’m looking forward to seeing is research on the cognitive benefits of having ketones this elevated. As more studies are released on the effects of high ketone levels combined with the cost of ketones coming down to match the cost of sugar there could be a surge of interest in this area.