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Exogenous ketones, HVMN, Ketone-IQ, DeltaG, KetoneAid, and Ketone esters have become the latest buzzwords in sports nutrition. From popular running YouTubers and elite trail runners to pro cyclists in the Tour de France and Ironman champions, everyone seems to be raving about ketone supplements, claiming numerous benefits, and offering discount codes.

We are all competitive to a certain extent, and that’s why many of us chase after the latest sports nutrition trends to gain an edge. The problem is exogenous ketone supplements are pricey, which makes it hard for many endurance enthusiasts to try them out.

So, are exogenous ketones worth it? And can we trust the opinions of elite athletes and influencers who might be getting paid by the brands?

I’m here to provide an honest opinion on exogenous ketone supplements, specifically Ketone-IQ by HVMN, a sports nutrition brand making waves in the endurance sports scene.

I drank HVMN Ketone-IQ for two weeks before various runs and workouts. Below are my experiences and thoughts.

*We purchased all the reviewed products. These are our honest opinions, and the brand had no influence over our content. We pride ourselves in telling it exactly how it is. 

What are exogenous ketones?

Before we get to the review, let’s cover the basics in super-duper layperson’s terms.

You might have heard of the term “ketones” due to the popularity of the fat-as-fuel concept and the keto diet over the last decade. When your body burns fat, it naturally produces ketones, a fatty acid byproduct that can be used as energy.

When your body is low on carbohydrates, it produces ketones as an alternative energy source to power your cells. This metabolic state is called ketosis.

Endogenous ketones are the ketones your body makes naturally, and exogenous ketones come from consuming sports nutrition supplements.

So why exogenous ketones? Getting your body into ketosis usually requires a strict low-carb diet, which many people find challenging to sustain. Exogenous ketones offer this alternative fuel source without having to cut out carbs. They also supposedly reduce your reliance on carbohydrates, saving them for high-intensity activities.

The two most popular types of exogenous ketone supplements are ketone esters and ketone salts. Their differences lie in how the ketone bodies are chemically bound to alcohol and minerals, respectively.

Both types have their supporters and critics. The general consensus is that ketone esters are considered most effective at raising ketone blood levels and more bioavailable, but they are expensive and taste terrible.

Ketone salts, on the other hand, are more palatable and affordable, but there’s less scientific evidence supporting their benefits for endurance performance, and they may cause greater stress on your gastrointestinal system.

I won’t dive too deep into the science of different ketone forms and supplement types (this is a good piece if you want to get nerdy). The main goal of this review is to provide information about whether weekend warriors like us should invest in exogenous ketone supplements, particularly HVMN Ketone-IQ.

What is HVMN Ketone-IQ?

HVMN Ketone-IQ is neither an ester nor salt. According to the brand, it’s based on a new ketone delivery method called ketone diol

HVMN claims their product keeps you at the optimal blood ketone level, between 1.0 – 2.5mmol/L (millimoles per liter), for a longer duration.

This table is provided on the HVMN website. Ketone esters (thin red) spike your blood ketone level above the optimum range (red area) then plummet. Ketone salts (grey) never quite get there. Ketone-IQ (thick red) maintains your blood ketone level 4+ hours after consumption.

Marketing claims:

  1. Stable energy with no crash.
  2. Improved performance and faster recovery.
  3. Enhanced cognitive focus.
  4. Appetite suppression.

 

I will get into each claim later on. Here’s a comparison table also provided on the company website. 

What are the ingredients and nutrition facts of HVMN Ketone-IQ?

Each serving of Ketone-IQ (35 ml) provides 70 calories and 10 g of R-1,3-Butanediol (ketones). Other ingredients include water, flavorings, and preservatives to improve taste and texture.

 

How does HVMN Ketone-IQ taste?

From what I’ve gathered, Ketone-IQ is considered one of the better-tasting exogenous ketone supplements in the market, but it still catches plenty of flak for poor flavor.

Personally, I found it tolerable, like a shot of mildly sweet clear liquor with a weaker kick. The distinctive taste might shock first-timers. However, you’ll get used to it after a few servings.

HVMN claims to have improved the taste to make exogenous ketones more appealing to consumers. Exogenous ketone supplements were originally developed for special forces and elite athletes, so flavor wasn’t a priority.

I haven’t tried other popular brands like DeltaG and KetoneAid, so I won’t comment on how Ketone-IQ’s taste compare.

Does HVMN Ketone-IQ Work?

Let’s answer this question by addressing HVMN Ketone-IQ’s four marketing claims:

Cognitive focus: I did notice a significant difference in this area. I experienced mental clarity, similar to having my first cup of coffee after going caffeine-free for a week. Heightened alertness also helped me zone out during more prolonged efforts. I felt less “bored” on long slow distance (LSD) runs and treadmill workouts – time and distance passed quicker.

Appetite suppression: There’s definitely something to it. Whether it’s because I had an additional energy source throughout the day or the product genuinely suppressed the hunger hormone ghrelin, I ate less over the two weeks and felt less hunger.

Stable energy with no crash: The statement holds true if we interpret the cognitive focus enhancement as steady energy levels. Measuring the performance boost of a sports nutritions is tricky, especially without scientifically controlled settings.

However, during my road mountain runs of 44 km and 60 km, I experienced a very apparent mental alertness and focus in the initial hours, which gradually tapered off without that “caffeine crash” feeling (coffee addicts know what I mean, lol).

A sharp mind is, without a doubt, critical to performance. However, I also consumed energy gels and sports drinks on the runs. I’m reasonably sure I couldn’t have maintained my intended effort and pace without refueling carbohydrates.

Improved performance and faster recovery: Anecdotally speaking, Ketone-IQ didn’t make me faster. The website cites a study suggesting that ketone supplements can support endurance and recovery, showing a 15% increase in power output during a 3-week overtraining period.

However, it’s important to note that this study was based on ketone esters, which Ketone-IQ is not. Also, as everyday runners, we prioritize avoiding overtraining and injuries, so that 15% increase might not mean much to us running Joes.

Is Ketone-IQ worth it?

HVMN offers two Ketone-IQ options on its online shop:

  1. 3 x 10-serving bottles at US$120 = US$4 per serving.
  2. A box of 24 travel-size shots (1 shot = 1 serving) at US$120 = US$5 per serving.

The brand recommends 1-3 servings per day based on the athlete’s training volume. I’ll let you do the rest of the math. You might be able to find other packages and deals on retailer sites. I found a two-bottle deal here in Asia, but it was more costly per serving, including shipping and tax.  

Ketone-IQ isn’t cheap, so is it worth the investment? It depends on the individual. Here are my takes:

1. If money is not a concern, go for it. Personally, I’ve noticed that only sugar, electrolytes, water, and caffeine offer noticeable performance benefits. Just like these four, Ketone-IQ did deliver a noticeable “feeling” – cognitive clarity. So, if you have the financial means, why not?

2. If you’re looking for physical performance improvements and are on a tighter budget, save your money. Ultimately, what truly matters is training smart, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet. These factors will contribute the most to your fitness.

3. That mental alertness could be helpful if you’re training for distances that require many miles at easy-to-moderate paces. I did several hour-long treadmill runs in the two weeks. Ketone-IQ didn’t make me faster or feel particularly more energetic. However, I felt more focused on the job at hand, and the distance and time also went by quickly. 

4. For shorter, higher-intensity sessions, Ketone-IQ likely won’t be useful. You’re better off fueling these runs with carbohydrates, your body’s high-octane fuel of choice. Some reviews claimed that the presence of ketones may even affect your body’s ability to process glycogen for top-end performance. 

5. Ketone-IQ won’t help with weight loss. In fact, since the product already elevates blood ketone levels, it might even suppress your body’s natural tendency to burn fat as fuel when exercising at low intensity or when glycogen stores are depleted. 

6. I believe the benefits will be minuscule if you’re already doing all the right things regarding workouts, diet, and rest. Given the price, only professionals relying on performance results to put food on the table should go after that tiny margin. 

And finally, it depends on how much value you place on marginal performance gain. I run for health, joy, adventures, and challenge. I still have plenty of room to improve by fine-tuning the fundamentals.

Testing HVMN Ketone-IQ satisfied my curiosity, but I probably won’t use it again due to cost and unproven performance benefits.

Additionals:

If you want to learn more about why some athletes swear by Ketone-IQ and why some people and competitors go as far as questioning the company’s research ethics, here are two pieces of online content. I found them super interesting.

This Youtuber brought up his concerns about the type of ketones in Ketone-IQ.  

In an in depth interview with the Single Track Podcast, HVMN research lead Latt Mancor addresses some of the criticisms.