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Purpose: In this study, we determined ketone oxidation rates in athletes under metabolic conditions of high and low carbohydrate (CHO) and fat availability. Methods: Six healthy male athletes completed 1 h of bicycle ergometer exercise at 75% maximal power (WMax) on three occasions. Prior to exercise, participants consumed 573 mg·kg bw-1 of a ketone ester (KE) containing a 13C label. To manipulate CHO availability, athletes undertook glycogen depleting exercise followed by isocaloric high-CHO or very-low-CHO diets. To manipulate fat availability, participants were given a continuous infusion of lipid during two visits. Using stable isotope methodology, β-hydroxybutyrate (βHB) oxidation rates were therefore investigated under the following metabolic conditions: (i) high CHO + normal fat (KE+CHO); (ii) high CHO + high fat KE+CHO+FAT); and (iii) low CHO + high fat (KE+FAT). Results: Pre-exercise intramuscular glycogen (IMGLY) was approximately halved in the KE+FAT vs. KE+CHO and KE+CHO+FAT conditions (both p < 0.05). Blood free fatty acids (FFA) and intramuscular long-chain acylcarnitines were significantly greater in the KE+FAT vs. other conditions and in the KE+CHO+FAT vs. KE+CHO conditions before exercise. Following ingestion of the 13C labeled KE, blood βHB levels increased to ≈4.5 mM before exercise in all conditions. βHB oxidation was modestly greater in the KE+CHO vs. KE+FAT conditions (mean diff. = 0.09 g·min-1, p = 0.03; d = 0.3), tended to be greater in the KE+CHO+FAT vs. KE+FAT conditions (mean diff. = 0.07 g·min-1; p = 0.1; d = 0.3) and were the same in the KE+CHO vs. KE+CHO+FAT conditions (p < 0.05; d < 0.1). A moderate positive correlation between pre-exercise IMGLY and βHB oxidation rates during exercise was present (p = 0.04; r = 0.5). Post-exercise intramuscular βHB abundance was markedly elevated in the KE+FAT vs. KE+CHO and KE+CHO+FAT conditions (both, p < 0.001; d = 2.3). Conclusion: βHB oxidation rates during exercise are modestly impaired by low CHO availability, independent of circulating βHB levels.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Med (Lausanne)

Publication Date





exercise, exogenous ketosis, ketone, ketosis, oxidation