Utility of Ketone Supplementation to Enhance Physical Performance: A Systematic Review

Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;11(2):412-419. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz104.


Ingesting exogenous ketone bodies has been touted as producing ergogenic effects by altering substrate metabolism; however, research findings from recent studies appear inconsistent. This systematic review aimed to aggregate data from the current literature to examine the impact of consuming ketone supplements on enhancing physical performance. A systematic search was performed for randomized controlled trials that measured physical performance outcomes in response to ingesting exogenous ketone supplements compared with a control (nutritive or non-nutritive) in humans. A total of 161 articles were screened. Data were extracted from 10 eligible studies (112 participants; 109 men, 3 women ) containing 16 performance outcomes [lower-body power (n = 8) and endurance performance (n = 8)]. Ketone supplements were grouped as ketone esters (n = 8) or ketone salts/precursors (n = 8). Of the 16 performance outcomes identified by the systematic review, 3 reported positive, 10 reported null, and 3 reported negative effects of ketone supplementation on physical performance compared with controls. Heterogeneity was detected for lower-body power ( Q = 40, I2 = 83%, P < 0.01) and endurance performance (Q = 95, I2 = 93%, P < 0.01) between studies. Similarly high levels of heterogeneity were detected in studies providing ketone esters (Q = 111, I2 = 93%, P < 0.01), and to a lesser extent studies with ketone salts/precursors (Q = 25, I2 = 72%, P < 0.01). Heterogeneity across studies makes it difficult to conclude any benefit or detriment to consuming ketone supplements on physical performance. This systematic review discusses factors within individual studies that may contribute to discordant outcomes across investigations to elucidate if there is sufficient evidence to warrant recommendation of consuming exogenous ketone supplements to enhance physical performance.

Keywords: aerobic exercise; endurance exercise; ketogenic; ketone ester; ketone salt; ketosis; lower-body power; β-hydroxybutyrate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid
  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Ketone Bodies / administration & dosage
  • Ketone Bodies / adverse effects
  • Ketones / administration & dosage*
  • Ketones / adverse effects
  • Ketosis
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects
  • Physical Functional Performance*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Ketone Bodies
  • Ketones
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid