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Debunking Supplements—What Works, and What Doesn’t?

Nutritional supplements promise to make everything better, but they have a dark side. Here is a list of supplements, their health concerns, and foods that actually help performance.

Fast Talk Podcast
Photo: Charisse Kenion

Those who take their training and racing seriously are always looking for something to give them an edge — that marginal gain. The obvious and easiest fixes are often equipment upgrades — lighter bikes, more aerodynamic wheels.

Then come nutritional supplements. So much has been promised to us in pill form, it’s created a multi-billion-dollar industry. There’s a pill to make everything better. Those promises carry into enhanced endurance performance. And many athletes have resorted to the morning supplement cocktail believing it will make them better cyclists. But there’s a dark side. Those cocktails can actually hurt performance, certainly affect health, and lead to even darker, ethically-challenged places.

Today, we’re going to talk about supplements and our concerns with them, and then cover a few foods that actually do work.

We’ll discuss:

  • We thought about bashing all the supplements that don’t work but then realized we only have an hour. So instead, Trevor will read a description of every supplement that does work. That list combined with a discussion of its sources will cover the first three minutes.
  • We’ll talk about supplements in general and why they can be a big concern.
  • And with those concerns in context, we’ll start addressing things that have been proven to help, starting with pickle juice.
  • Next on our list is beetroot juice which can not only help performance but has been shown to have health benefits as well.
  • Believe it or not, we’re going to talk about chocolate — or more specifically the active ingredient, cocoa flavonoids, which also, surprisingly, have both performance and health benefits.
  • That, of course, leads to something that frequently comes up in the sports nutrition literature — chocolate milk. It’s as effective as most recovery mixes. So, the key question is how effective are the mixes?
  • Finally, we’ll revisit the ketogenic diet and specifically supplementing with ketone esters.

Our primary guest today is Ryan Kohler, the manager of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center who holds a masters degree in sports nutrition and exercise science. Ryan has helped Trevor and I with many previous articles and behind-the-scenes work with some of our experiments, shall we call them. We’re excited to finally get him in front of the mic, even if he is a little shy.

In addition, we’ll talk with world-renowned coach Joe Friel, author of the definitive book on training, The Cyclists Training Bible. We asked Joe his opinion about supplementation based on decades of coaching. We’ll also hear from endurance mountain biker Rebecca Rusch and Apex Coaching owner Neal Henderson, the personal coach of world time trial champion Rohan Dennis. They’ll each give us their thoughts on supplements and a few things they’ve found that work.

Let’s make you fast!

Primary Guest
Ryan Kohler: Manager of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center

Secondary Guests
Joe Friel: Legendary coach and author
Rebecca Rusch: Endurance MTB and gravel racer
Neal Henderson: Elite coach

Episode Transcript

Intro  00:00

Welcome to Fast Talk, the VeloNews podcast, and everything you need to know to ride like a pro.


Chris Case  00:00

This episode of Fast Talk is brought to you by Normatec. Dial in the most advanced recovery for your body with Normatec’s patented compression massage technology. Riders like Taylor Phinney, Toms Skujins, and the BMC racing team all rely on Normatec to get them through the daily grind of professional cycling. Normatec increases circulation, rejuvenates muscles, and reduces soreness so you can train harder and race faster. Stop by the Normatec tent at the Colorado Classic to try for yourself and feel what everyone is talking about.


Debunking Supplements

Chris Case  00:16

Hello, and welcome to or welcome back to Fast Talk. I’m your host Chris Case, managing editor of VeloNews, joined today as always by Coach Trevor Connor. Those who take their training and racing seriously are always looking for something to give them that edge that marginal gain. The obvious and easiest fixes are often equipment upgrades, lighter bikes, aerodynamic wheels, and then some people turn to nutritional supplements. So much has been promised to us in pill form, it’s generated a multi- billion-dollar industry. There’s a pill, it seems to make everything better. Those promises carry into enhanced endurance performance, and many athletes have resorted to the morning supplement cocktail, believing it will make them better cyclists. But there is a dark side here, those cocktails can actually hurt performance, they certainly affect health in different ways, and they can lead to even darker, ethically challenged places. Today we’re going to talk about supplements, our concerns with them, and then cover a few foods that actually do work according to the science, we’ll discuss. First, we thought about bashing all the supplements that don’t work, but then we realized we only have an hour for this program. So, instead, Trevor is going to read a description of every supplement that does work, that list combined with a discussion of its sources will cover a mere three minutes. Then we’ll talk about supplements in general and why they can be a big concern. With those concerns in context, we will start addressing things that have been proven to help starting with pickle juice. Next on our list is beetroot juice, which can not only help performance but has been shown to have health benefits as well. Believe it or not, we’re going to talk about my favorite, chocolate, or more specifically the active ingredient Coco flavonoids, which also have both performance and health benefits. That of course leads to something that frequently comes up in the sports nutrition literature, chocolate milk, it’s as effective as most recovery mixes it turns out. So, the question becomes, how effective are those mixes? We’ll discuss. Finally, we’ll revisit the ketogenic diet, and specifically supplementing with ketone esters. Primary guest today is Ryan Koehler, friend of ours at the program here, friend of ours at VeloNews. He is the manager of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center, he holds a master’s degree in sports nutrition, and exercise science. Ryan has helped us, Trevor and I that is, with many previous articles, including our Dirty Kanza work, our record work, behind the scenes stuff. We’re excited to have him on the program today, even though he comes off as a little bit shy, he knows his stuff and he has a wealth of knowledge in the field. In addition, we’ll hear from world renowned coach Joe Friel, author of the definitive book on training, The Cyclist Training Bible. We asked Joe his opinion about supplementation based on decades of training. We’ll also hear from professional cyclist Rebecca Rusch, and Apex Coaching owner Neal Henderson, the personal coach and time trial champion, Rohan Dennis. They’ll each give us their thoughts on supplements and a few things they found that work.


Chris Case  03:33

As always, if you have a minute, please take the time to rate us on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, wherever you get our podcast and keep those emails coming. We have a dedicated Fast Talk address, we love to hear from you, we’d like your questions, your comments, your suggestions, reach us at fasttalk/ Now, gather that pickle juice, get all the beet juice you can, especially get some chocolate, some really nice dark chocolate, maybe even some ketone esters if you have those things laying around your cupboard and eat them up as we discuss. Let’s make you fast.


Chris Case  04:59

We are sitting down here today with two nutrition gurus in a sense, Trevor has so much experience with nutrition from his education as well as just a passion for it, and then Ryan as well has both of those things, I would say a passion for it and, and a lot of education in the nutrition world. We’re talking about nutrition supplements, which, as we’ve seen in the past on this program, and you clearly see in the world, people have really strong feelings about nutrition. It seems if you wait long enough, the thing that was good for you last week is bad for you this week, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there, but we want to try to stick to as much of the science as we can today. Is it a Mythbusters show? Not really, there’s some things that we want to touch upon that listeners have asked us about, is this for real?


Trevor Connor  05:54

Yeah, we went into this wanting to take a bunch of these and just say, no, you idiot, why are you taking this? What is wrong with you?


Chris Case  06:00



Trevor Connor  06:01

And we’re going to try to get through about five, six products. I’m not sure some are supplements, some are just actual foods, nutrition. The ones that we got hit with a lot are actually the ones that seem to have something behind them. So, I’m not sure this is a Mythbusters, were gonna go through a whole list, and there’s certainly some that at one point myself or Ryan might have issues with, but there’s still something to them, there’s still some research to back them. We don’t want to give this idea that supplementation is the way to go. I’m going to give you my bias, and for the most part, I think you should get most of what you need through a good healthy diet, and you don’t need supplementation. When you go into the supplement store, it’s not like they’re going to tell you, yeah, 99% of the stuff on our walls are crap. They will tell you, everything’s got some benefits. So, before this, I went and found this table. This was put together by the Australian Institute of Sport, along with Dr. Louise Burke, who’s considered one of the top sports nutritionists out there, and she took all the different supplements and put them into categories in terms of, how much science really backs this? She had high-level of evidence, moderate-level of evidence, low-level of evidence, and then prohibited supplements.


Chris Case  07:16

And this is in terms of their benefits from the science backing it? Yeah.


Ranking Supplements

Trevor Connor  07:20

So, high-level of evidence, meaning there’s pretty convincing science and these are beneficial for you. Here is the extensive list, Beta-alanine, sodium bicarbonate, caffeine, creatine, beetroot juice, that’s a list. The moderate level of evidence, fish oils, carnitine, I could never pronounce this curcumin, glucosamine, glutamine, HMB, vitamin C and E, tart cherry juice. Then for low-level of evidence, it actually says supplements not found in the other two categories.


Chris Case  07:58

And certainly you’re not saying even on those that are in the there’s a lot of science backing this up, don’t go out and just start pumping pills into your body and eating all of these things at once. Ryan, what would you say to that?


Ryan Kohler  08:12

Yeah, I think I mean, I’m a little bit biased too, and I think that list is great, it sort of shows what we’re trying to do, is compartmentalize these a little bit to know like, where’s the stuff that we can sort of put a couple dollars to, and what do we just need to stay away from? Like, like Trevor mentioned earlier, I have that initial bias to have sort of, don’t waste your money, but there are some that yeah, they have benefit. It’s a matter of really just that individual piece, will it work for you? I also subscribe to let’s focus on food first, and then in addition to that, if we’re focusing on food, you know, we can hit a lot of the checkboxes that way, but then also just those other life things, you know that I think, with a lot of the research that’s out there that show that supplements, a certain supplement may work, it’s hard to control for all the variables too. So, when you’re stressed one day, you’re not another, maybe it shows that a supplement works on the day you’re not stressed, you know, and it’s hard to control that. Being able to compartmentalize things a little bit like this, we can cut our list down a little bit and say, yeah, we feel pretty good about these. I mean, the stimulants, caffeine, beta alanine, it together that works, seems like most of the time that does something good.


Trevor Connor  09:18

So, there’s definitely some benefits. A lot of these you can actually get through foods, and I always recommend that. Part of my issue with supplementation is the fact that sometimes it leads to dramatic overconsumption of a supplement, we definitely have this belief of more is better, right? That’s rarely the case with supplements. More tends to be, hey, you just went past being really beneficial for you to now it’s going to cause you problems


Chris Case  09:43

Detrimental. Yeah,


Trevor Connor  09:45

There’s also just how everything interacts. So, one of the classic examples is you look at calcium, everybody’s taken lots of calcium supplements for bone health, but calcium is prioritized over magnesium and iron for absorptions. So, if you’re taking big calcium supplements, you can start having issues with getting sufficient magnesium and iron. Magnesium is critical for heart health, there’s plenty of studies, and we’ll actually get to this when we talk about chocolate milk, there’s a lot of studies out there showing that overconsumption or over supplementation with calcium actually leads to heart problems.


Chris Case  10:20

You always talk about the body wanting to be in a state of homeostasis, and by over supplementing, you’re throwing things out of whack, potentially?


Over Supplementing

Trevor Connor  10:30

It could throw you out of whack. Generally, what happens to your body just says that’s too much, and I can absorb it. So, everybody talks about supplements is expensive pee. There is some truth to that, but the issue I was getting at with calcium is everything has to be transported into your system, there are specific transporters for everything that you consume. Rarely is there a transporter that only transports one thing, it usually transports a few things. So, you get what’s called competitive absorption. So, the example I just gave to keep it simple is, it’s basically the same transport for calcium, magnesium, and iron, and calcium seems to get prioritized. So, if you consume the three together, you’re going to absorb a lot more calcium, and not enough of the others,


Chris Case  11:15



Trevor Connor  11:15

This is one of the issues with taking a multivitamin, what you’re gonna end up with is over absorption of some things and dramatic under absorption of other things. That could actually lead to health issues.


Ryan Kohler  11:25

I’ll even go on the baucus out of the rabbit hole, maybe a little bit. On the only consumer side, so with some of the supplements, like over absorption, if we do like, well, it’s a little bit of science, but with some of the science, they have certain dosage, you know, there’s a dose response, and if you get a certain dosage in a study, we can look at 2,3,4 different supplements out there, and they may not even give you the same dosage. So, then it becomes really a waste of money from a consumer standpoint.


Trevor Connor  11:55

Then you can also get into what forms are you consuming? So, let’s quickly go down this rabbit hole, and then we can jump away. But when we talk about a calcium supplement, are you talking about calcium citrate? Are you talking about calcium malaise? There’s a bunch of different forms. I always love when I read about what is the best form for you to consume of a particular nutrient or mineral or vitamin, what’s the best form is always what’s available naturally, in fruits and vegetables, or meats or whatever you’re consuming.


Chris Case  12:25



Trevor Connor  12:26

And then I’ll look at what is the form that’s in the vitamins? And it’s usually the cheapest, which is one of the less bioavailable forms.


Trevor Connor  12:34

In our next episode, we’re going to talk with legendary coach Joe Friel, about periodization, but while we were having that conversation with him, the subject of supplements came up, and we couldn’t resist asking him his opinion. What’s your feeling about supplements in general? And are there any that you think work? On the flip side, any that you think should be really avoided?


Joe Friel: Opinions on Supplements

Joe Friel  12:56

Yeah, basically, I think athletes should avoid all of those supplements. There’s a significant amount of research that shows that some of the ones that are relatively benign, actually have some doping products involved in them also, because they’re produced on the same production lines, as some of these other supplements that are illegal for athletes to use. So, I think athletes put themselves at risk of being found positive for something that’s primarily for the, for the pros, I suggest they just not use these things. Quite honestly, some of the stuff that we thought for years is very beneficial, is actually proven to be not beneficial at all. And, in fact, in some cases, have been proven to be detrimental to performance, take vitamin E, for example. Vitamin B, there’s some vitamin B studies to show very good things about it. Fish oil, which we’ve talked about for decades as being healthy, are now being shown to have no benefit at all. And go down the line. It’s really doesn’t come down to supplements, it comes down to diet. That’s what it’s all about, eating real food, not taking pills to satisfy whatever you think your needs may be, because athletes are usually wrong about what their needs are, and they’re just guessing, taking things that are totally useless, and in some cases may be detrimental, not only to performance, but also testing for dopping.


Trevor Connor  14:23

I didn’t want to stear you, but I was hoping that was the answer you’re gonna give. So, thank you.


Joe Friel  14:28



Trevor Connor  14:29

So, now that you’ve heard a few of us warned against supplements, let’s dive into a few foods that have been shown to have benefits.


Foods That Have Shown To Have Performance Benefits

Chris Case  14:36

Well, all that being said, since we’ve just sort of bashed supplements a little bit, let’s go to some of the supplements that we actually have some, some reasonably sound science on and that have some benefits.


Trevor Connor  14:48

We have to get away from bashing.


Chris Case  14:55

Let’s talk about wheat, Trevor. No, let’s not do that, we’ve talked about that enough.


Trevor Connor  15:01

That one’s not at any point involved in this conversation, we’ve had that one. Last thing I will add is I did read an interesting study which I’ve been trying to find, because it was such a good study and I get upset when I lose these things. But they looked at what leads professional athletes to go down a path towards doping, and what they said is rarely do you have an athlete who’s clean and then just going to say, yep, sign me up, I’ll take whatever doping products. Usually, their steps along the way and and it starts with the doctor of whatever team getting the athlete very reliant on supplements, because they find once they’re relying on supplements that jump to doping is actually a pretty small step.


Chris Case  15:42

If it’s in the context of like this is medicine, or medical.


Trevor Connor  15:49

Needed for your health.


Chris Case  15:50

Right yeah, something along those lines. Yeah.


Ryan Kohler  15:52

Yeah, that small gap. It is interesting because we look at one supplement like caffeine by itself, but then if we put that together with other supplements, we can get this enhanced response, and I think closes that gap makes it a little bit easier to make that jump.



Trevor Connor  16:07

Caffeine is one of my favorites. It is performance enhancing, but they have shown it’s really only up to 200 milligrams, but when they first did the research to show that was performance enhancing, cyclists jumped all over it, and they would be taking like 1000 milligrams before races, I missed those days because you’d line up at the start line there’d always be somebody just sitting there kind of shaking or just looking around looking really jittery be like, “How you doing dude?” Like, “What, what, what, do you want?” Just about kill you on the start line. So, performance enhancing, but anybody who’s taking caffeine pills, the research is saying above 200 milligrams, is just wasting your money.


Pickle Juice

Chris Case  16:41

Let me tell a little story. I have a lot of food quirks, I can’t say I’ve ever had a pickle in my life, but there are some people out there that love their pickle juice. So, much so that there’s a product now, products probably called pickle juice, and let’s talk about pickle juice.


Trevor Connor  16:58

I’ve been staying at Chris’s place for the last four nights, and I’ve had a few times I was sitting there in his kitchen making something, and Chris just kind of comes in and goes, “You’re eating that?”


Chris Case  17:10

You should have seen me when I was a little kid. Oh my god, there were three things that I ate. We don’t have to go into this right now, offline we’ll have a discussion about how weird I was as a kid. Anyway,


Trevor Connor  17:21

What’s changed?


Chris Case  17:23

I eat a lot of stuff you saw me eat sushi.


Trevor Connor  17:25

I did see you. You suggested it.


Chris Case  17:27

That’s pretty weird.


Trevor Connor  17:28



Chris Case  17:29

In the grand scheme of foods you can eat, anyways, pickle juice. Have at it, guys. I know nothing about pickle juice. I won’t even eat a pickle.


Ryan Kohler  17:40

Have you, Trevor?


Trevor Connor  17:41

I have had pickles.


Ryan Kohler  17:42



Trevor Connor  17:42

I will admit to that. Yeah, so this one. I’m just going to start it off and then hand it to Ryan, with go back and listen to our episode about cramping. I can’t remember which episode number that was but it was about a year ago, because we talked about the mechanisms that cause cramping. Here’s the spoiler for the episode if you haven’t listened to it yet,


Chris Case  18:02

Mythbusters part, right?


Trevor Connor  18:03

It was the Mythbusters. Do you remember what the myth was?


Chris Case  18:06

That cramping is caused by electrolyte deficiency.


Performance Benefits

Trevor Connor  18:09

Right. That has been debunked. So, it is something called altered neuromuscular control. It is essentially an alteration in your neuromuscular system that causes an imbalance between your Golgi tendon and your propria receptors, which I won’t go into too much. But basically, one causes your muscles to relax one causes your muscles to contract, they’re supposed to be in balance, they get out of balance and your muscle just goes and tightens up, so supposedly pickle juice helps with this.


Ryan Kohler  18:39

I’ve gone to pickles before to address cramping, well you haven’t Chris.


Chris Case  18:44

No, no I have not.


Ryan Kohler  18:45

But Trevor, I’m sure you have. Yeah, I can’t really say from use if I felt like it worked, I know some of the research that’s out there with some supplements, and pickle juice it does it works on that neuromuscular level, and it needs to, and correct me if I’m wrong, I think it goes,


Trevor Connor  19:04

Well so the bioactive component is what’s called acidic acid, which seems to cause a neurological relaxation in the muscles. They thought it was because of the huge sodium content in the pickle juice, and actually, they did some really creative studies with this where they just took a saline solution with equivalent levels of sodium in it to pickle juice and experimented on cramping with pickle juice versus the sodium solution and found the sodium solution didn’t help at all.


Chris Case  19:38

Did the studies say how effective it is? Has it works for everyone across the board, more so than the control, or is it a case-by-case type of thing?


Trevor Connor  19:47

Cramping itself is really a case-by-case. Even the research on the neuromuscular control theory has shown that there’s wide variance, and for some people, they are solutions that really worked, for other people not at all. Then some people just cramp because it’s part of the sport, they’re just a little out of shape and went too hard. Other people, they actually have health issues. So, no, it’s not going to be universal.


Chris Case  20:14



Ryan Kohler  20:14

And one of those solutions is stretching, right?


Trevor Connor  20:18

So, as I remember, it’s the Golgi tendon that gets over activated, and it can only be activated when the muscles are in a shortened position. So, if you lengthen the muscle, or even better yet, stretch it, it’s actually impossible for the Golgi tendon to activate, and the cramp will go away, or just drink pickle juice, put it in the water bottle.


Chris Case  20:38

So, the next supplement is something else that I can’t stand, beetroot juice. Tastes like dirt to me. Tastes disgusting. Not a big fan. But there’s some science to say that it may have some benefits. Shall we discuss?


Beetroot Juice

Trevor Connor  20:52

Well, I thought you covered it, tastes awful. Let’s move on.


Chris Case  20:56

Now we’re talking.


Trevor Connor  20:57

No pain, no gain, you got to swallow something horrible.


Chris Case  21:00

I mean, some people love it. Some people love beets and beet root juice.


Trevor Connor  21:05

What’s that? What’s that medication that their whole slogan is it tastes awful, so it must be good.


Chris Case  21:10

I don’t know.


Trevor Connor  21:11

It’s like Buckley’s. It’s a cough syrup that just is absolutely horrible. It’s been around 100 years.


Chris Case  21:20

Something about it makes you forget that you’re supposed to cough, because it’s so disgusting.


Trevor Connor  21:27

Their slogan was something like, it tastes awful, so it must work.


Chris Case  21:32



Trevor Connor  21:33

That’s all say about beetroot.


Chris Case  21:34

That’s how I feel about it.


Ryan Kohler  21:36

Have you taken it?


Chris Case  21:36

Have I taken it in an acute sense before a race? I don’t think I have. I do have a really good story about beetroot juice though. Three or four years ago, when cyclocross masters, cyclocross worlds was in Louisville, Kentucky. I was sharing a room with Lennard Zinn, this was right around the time that it seemed like beetroot juice was getting super popular. Lennard being Lennard, he didn’t buy a bottle of beetroot juice, he brought beats and he brought a giant blender all the way to Louisville. We were staying in a nice hotel called the Golf house, It’s the official hotel of the of the race, all white or cream interior. I wake up in the morning to this racket, what the heck is going on? I go into the bathroom, into the shower stall is Lennard with what looks like a murder scene. He is in the shower with his blender and beats, and of course you know, lo and behold, he’s in a white place. The top flew off and beet root juice is everywhere. So, there’s my story about beetroot juice. He didn’t give me any, I’m not sure if he had any himself because it was on the walls at that point. But there’s my story.


Ryan Kohler  23:01

So, he didn’t know if it actually worked.


Performance Benefits

Chris Case  23:03

Yeah, no, he was a big proponent. Lennard isn’t racing anymore. I do know people go figure, It’s Boulder, I do know people that I wouldn’t say are fanatic, fanatical about it, but they do take it. So, let’s get into the science. Is there any truth to the fact that beetroot juice has some performance benefits?


Ryan Kohler  23:22

With the beet juice, it does seem to have some good support, because people tend to feel I think that basal dietary effect, where we can increase blood flow and oxygen to the tissues. It seems to be pretty well supported by the research. One of the keys is the dosage, you know, and from what I’ve seen, there’s a pretty wide range of doses that have been used, and depending, which supplement you look at, it seems like you can find some variability there. I think it’s again, with supplements until we know better it you have to test it out, and more developed athletes may need a little bit more, you know, amateurs maybe not as much, or if you’re doing it for the first time, but still a lot of questions out there.


Chris Case  24:02

I guess it would also be hard to or not hard, but there’s juice that you can literally drink, there are capsule form, there’s powder form, there’s different methods of ingesting it. So, that probably affects how it’s absorbed, its effectiveness, etc.


Ryan Kohler  24:17

Yeah, I probably have the most experience with the liquid forms. I don’t know, maybe, Trevor, if you have more thoughts on the powder or any other delivery methods, but it seems like the main point with that is when you get it it needs to start in the mouth as far as the physiological response that’s going to occur.


Chris Case  24:36

So, no beetroot juice depositories is what you’re saying?


Ryan Kohler  24:39

Haven’t heard of those yet. Yeah, if you take it, you know, one of the things is don’t spit or mouthwash,


Chris Case  24:49

Oh really, okay.


Ryan Kohler  24:50

Because that’s where that process begins, that absorption process, where you transition. I know Trevor wants to talk about this, so I’m just gonna let him go from the nitrate to nitrite.


Physiological Mechanism

Trevor Connor  25:00

So, want to dive into that, the physiological mechanism?


Chris Case  25:04

Let’s do it. Yeah.


Trevor Connor  25:05

So, let’s clarify this. We just looked this up, because Chris asked me what is the difference between beets and beet root? It says in Wikipedia, the beet root is the taproot portion of the beet plant. None of us are botanist, we have no idea what a taproot is. So, we think they’re different. We just don’t know.


Chris Case  25:25

Obviously, you’re not eating the leafy greens of the beet that are, I would assume protruding above ground, you’re eating the root portion, which is the red portion that we’re all kind of more familiar with.


Trevor Connor  25:36

But the gist of this is, there is a conversion process. So, the beat contains a lot of nitrates. So, NO3-. So, the key component in the beet root or the beet, or whatever the taproot is, is it’s high-end nitrates. So, when you consume it, there’s actually enzymes in your saliva, in your mouth, that break the nitrates down into nitrites, which you then consume and then in your gut the nitrates are then further broken down into nitric oxide, which I’ve been told is a silly Canadian pronunciation. Just gonna have to deal with it.


Chris Case  26:15

Nitric oxide, for those out there who speak American.


Trevor Connor  26:19

It is the nitric oxide, eh.


Chris Case  26:23

Take off, loser.


Trevor Connor  26:24

Yeah. I was listening to Mike Myers this morning. You know, the whole Bohemian Rhapsody scene in Wayne’s World? That was something he used to do on the Gardiner Expressway with his brother in Toronto, so you could take Canada for that.


Chris Case  26:41

Thank you, Canada.


Trevor Connor  26:42

You’re welcome.


Trevor Connor  26:44

Okay, nitric oxide, and this gets really complicated, so I’m going to try to simplify this as much as possible. I apologize if I oversimplified any of this. But nitric oxide is actually naturally produced by your muscles when they are exercising. So, when your muscles get in a hypoxic state, meaning that they are craving oxygen, or they’re consuming a lot of oxygen and not getting enough, their reaction is to release nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a very powerful signaling molecule that then tells your body you need more oxygen, here do something about it. So, as Ryan said, one of the reactions is vasodilation around that muscle tissue, so it increases blood flow so that the muscles can get more oxygen,


Chris Case  27:28



Trevor Connor  27:30

Listen, American, it’s gonna be a long podcast, if you keep going after these things.


Chris Case  27:36

Just kidding.


Trevor Connor  27:38

It also has other effects, it also actually improves glucose uptake, it seems to actually help the crossbridge functions of the muscles. So, basically, improve the contraction relaxation of the muscle. So, there’s a lot of immediate effects. But the end result here is it seems to improve efficiency. That means that at a given workload, you’re going to need less oxygen. They’ve done plenty of studies looking at taking beetroot juice right before exercise, and then putting people at a particular power. So, usually right around threshold or VO2 Max, and have shown that at that wattage, after the beetroot consumption, their oxygen consumption will go down. So, they’re just not quite working as hard to produce the same power. So, that’s the definition of efficiency.


Chris Case  28:29

And that’s in an acute setting, so this is an immediate effect.


Trevor Connor  28:32

Right. Well, somewhat immediate. So, some of the studies showed no benefits, but those studies, they were taking the beetroot juice within 90-minutes. So, one of the big conclusions of a review that I read is you have to take it around 150 to 180 minutes beforehand to actually get a benefit.


Timing Component

Chris Case  28:50

That’s interesting. There’s a timing component here.


Trevor Connor  28:53

There is a big timing component. Yeah, and like I said their conclusion was that explained some of the negative studies, simply because they took it too close to the exercise and it didn’t see the benefits.


Chris Case  29:04

And is there any understanding of what the window is? When do you see those benefits go away?


Trevor Connor  29:10

You seem to peak right around 180-minutes, and then you’ll see a slow decline. So, if you really want to time it, you know, this is best for things like time trials or really high- intensity events. Figure out what’s 150 to 180 minutes before the point when you need to be at your best, and that’s when you should take it.


Chris Case  29:31

Interesting. So, everybody goes out there, time it, gets your beet juice in, do your race, do your workout, see how you feel and report back to Trevor and I, we collect all this data and it’ll be published in Science next year.


Trevor Connor  29:49

Put Chris on a nothing but beetroot juice diet for a month, see what he does?


Chris Case  29:54

We will need a toilet paper sponsors for that one. Charmin, are you out there listening?


Trevor Connor  30:01

Now, there also is actually a chronic.


Chris Case  30:05

Yes. Tell us about the chronic dosage.


Chris Case  30:07

Besides the need for,


Chris Case  30:10

Yes, right. This is not solely a beetroot juice diet, but a beetroot supplementation over an extended period of time. What are the effects of that? What are the benefits of that?


Trevor Connor  30:21

This is a little bit debated. What they believe is that chronic supplementation with beetroot juice, so at least six days, and the furthest I had read in any study was 15 days,


Chris Case  30:34



Trevor Connor  30:34

Promotes what’s called mitogenesis. So, basically further development of your mitochondria. So, it might promote mitochondrial growth. It also seems to make mitochondria a little more efficient. If you remember, mitochondria are the aerobic engines of your muscles. That’s where all the aerobic work is done. So, the more efficient your mitochondria are, the better an aerobic animal a better cyclist you’re going to be. That’s a big simplification, but it does seem from a lot of studies that there is mitogenesis caused by beetroot juice supplementation. But like I said, there was another. One study I did read where they took muscle biopsies, and found that after seven days, there was absolutely no change in the mitochondria, even though they did demonstrate the improved efficiency. So, they basically said, there’s definitely improvements going on, we’re just not sure it’s mitogenesis.


Best Way To Consume This Supplement

Chris Case  31:31

In the studies that you’re referencing, are they using a single source like the liquid form? Or is it more capsule? Or did they not specify?


Trevor Connor  31:40

Admittedly, I didn’t have the time to dig that deep. In fact, the only thing that I really found was they talked about how much you should take in terms of millimoles, which doesn’t help anybody.


Chris Case  31:51



Trevor Connor  31:51

So, that’s one place, we’re gonna have to say sorry, we don’t quite have an answer on, on how much to take. But what I will say is, if you want to get into the shower with your blender, a lot cheaper way to do it, we’re going to get the benefits.


Chris Case  32:05



Trevor Connor  32:06

Whatever that tap root is, make sure you’re blending that up. Pill form is probably fine, It’s just probably a lot more expensive.


Chris Case  32:14

I mean, if you’re ingesting the pill, and it’s going straight to your gut, the process doesn’t necessarily start in your mouth, like you were talking about with the breakdown.


Trevor Connor  32:22

That’s actually a really good point, how much does it break down in your mouth? So, potentially, the pill form would not be as beneficial.


Chris Case  32:28



Trevor Connor  32:28

Chris, way to go.


Chris Case  32:30

You know, I was listening.


Trevor Connor  32:31

No, that’s a fantastic point. The other point that they made is the the typical dosage, which was the four to six millimoles per liters, or just four to six millimoles, which you’re not gonna find that on any label. So, it really doesn’t help you. It’s not millimoles of beetroot juice, it’s how much is that? How much nitrate it contains?


Chris Case  32:51



Trevor Connor  32:52

You see some sort of benefit. So, I unfortunately don’t know a way to convert tha.


Chris Case  32:56

Yeah, no.


Ryan Kohler  32:57

I did a little bit of side searching on that. It was first referenced in, I think it was .1 to .2 millimoles per kilogram body weight, but then they converted that, and I think it was roughly 6 to 12 milligrams per kilo? So, then there was a range where, you know, it seemed between like 150 and 200 pound athlete, they’d be somewhere between about 450 to roughly 1100 milligrams, I think. So, it’s like I think some of the supplements out there, this seems to be at least with liquid supplements, seems to range between, you know, in there somewhere.


Chris Case  33:34

Yeah, yeah. Okay.


Trevor Connor  33:36

The other thing they showed in the research was that you saw less benefits in elite cyclists, and they really felt that just because they need to consume more, as opposed to they’re just not going to see the adaptations.


Chris Case  33:50

How expensive is beetroot juice?


Trevor Connor  33:54

If you put it in a blender yourself, it’s pretty cheap.


Chris Case  33:56

Yeah, yeah.


Trevor Connor  33:57

My understanding, I’ve never actually bought it, I’ve tried the blending.


Chris Case  34:02

Mm hmm.


Trevor Connor  34:03

I’ve never actually bought the specific beetroot juice, but I’ve heard it’s expensive, which is why a lot of people choose to blend themselves.


Chris Case  34:10



Trevor Connor  34:11

So, last thing I’m just going to quickly add to this, because I just think this is really cool is looking at one of these processes in our body, you know the importance of nitric oxide, because it is very important signaling molecule. It actually has a lot of health benefits as well. They’ve shown benefits in cardiovascular disease. But basically, when our bodies are not doing well, or when our muscles or cells are not doing well working aerobically, they aren’t getting enough oxygen or the process is breaking down, your body is going to start producing a lot of reactive oxygen species which are bad. So, nitric oxide is basically what your body releases to say, got to do something about this, improve oxygen delivery, do the things that need to happen here so that I don’t have this huge buildup of waste products and it can be damaging. When I was doing the research on beetroot juice, and also, we’ll get to cocoa flavanols, this comes up a lot that there’s real actual health benefits to your body releasing nitric oxide. There was even one study I read that showed that they can measure nitric oxide levels in your blood to determine the level of oxidative stress and also to pre-screen for potential heart issues. So, it’s kind of cool.


Ryan Kohler  35:32

Health and performance.


Trevor Connor  35:34

When we had Neal Henderson, the owner of Apex Coaching, and professional cyclists Rebecca Rusch on the show, we thought it’d be very interesting to ask both the top coach and the top cyclists who participates in multi-day grueling events, what they think of supplementation and what they might recommend. Neal and Rebecca had some interesting thoughts, including the importance of good nutrition and recovery above all else.


Trevor Connor  35:58

So, do you have any thoughts on nutritional supplements in general? Are there any that you like? Any You don’t like? Do you avoid them? Do you think they’re great? What’s your thoughts?


Neal Henderson and Rebecca Rusch: Thoughts on Supplements

Neal Henderson  36:09

This is Neal. Personally, I think there’s a few things out there that can be a benefit, there’s always a placebo effect inanything, you know, we can just do a little sugar pill and tell somebody it’s going to help them, and it’s going to make them go faster. So, whether it costs a lot of money and did that same thing, you got a placebo effect, be aware of that. Beetroot juice is a, you know, fairly simple one. Again, it comes from actual food, I’m kind of a fan of that, I’m not a big fan of some of these crazy isolated, you know, weird things that are out there. So, key thing if you’re using that, make sure you know how that works and your circulating levels of, you know, it takes about two- and-a-half hours, typically to hit, so you know, when I see people chugging like beet juice at the start line, like that’s not very well for you, you have totally missed the possible benefits of that. So, kind of interesting.


Trevor Connor  36:59

Rebecca, do you have any thoughts?


Rebecca Rusch  37:01

Yeah, I’ve sort of gone there isn’t a magic pill. I’ve moved a lot more towards just trying to eat really well, and eating less things in packages and you know, making a lot of my own food and smoothies, those kinds of things. I know it’s hard, especially traveling to to get everything that you need. I definitely travel with some green powders and things like, some protein drinks that can help me when I’m on the road, but really at home other than a multivitamin and vitamin D and fish oil, those are kind of my main supplements. Obviously, I am a Red Bull athlete, and full disclosure, I found Red Bull before I was a Red Bull athlete, but that is the one thing that I do find. I found them when I was driving across country in my car and kept me awake a lot better than coffee. So, before the start of any race, I will do that, or if I have a really early morning workout, because there is a different effect for me than caffeine to kind of wake up. Then I’ve had a really interesting experience this year with CBD oil for the first time, and really interesting anti-inflammation effect when I did the Dirty Kanza 350, actually experimented with that a little bit after some research, and normally that was a 26-and-a-half-hour, 27-hour race for me, and typically when I do an event that long, I get a lot of inflammation in my legs, which is obvious, you know, for obvious reasons, because you’re not stopping, and you’re not laying down or anything, and I also typically choose,


Chris Case  38:35

Don’t you sit on the chaise lounge out there?


Rebecca Rusch  38:37

I didn’t get on it, for like well, I did for like 20 seconds.


Neal Henderson  38:40

For a photo.


Rebecca Rusch  38:41

But I also typically have a lot of coughing, you know, and fluid in my lungs after breathing so hard for a long event like that, and I hadn’t neither of those things, and it actually a pretty stunning experience. So, I’ve been doing more research and I, for me at least in that situation that did seem to really have a great anti-inflammatory effect.


Chris Case  38:41

I’m just kidding.


Neal Henderson  38:42

One thing to add, I think, you know, personally, as a coach, a lot of times people come in and they’re looking for a more general gaing. They’re looking for a little bit of this here, a little bit of that there, and it’s like they’re not taking care of all the bases first. So, their general just straight up macronutrient intake, and timing of what they take in just to fuel their workouts and recovery. If they’re not doing that correctly, if they’re not sleeping well, you know, all the pixie dust, like small gain stuff in a lot of cases, is totally energy and time and money spent improperly, rather than getting back to the basics first.


Chris Case  39:37



Trevor Connor  39:37

I agree completely.


Trevor Connor  39:44

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Chris Case  40:17

So, this next supplement is one that I’m very excited about. I’ll start with another little story. When my mom was pregnant with me, there were only two things she could eat, that didn’t make her sick. Pizza, yummy, chocolate, definitely yummy. To this day, I could eat, I could eat those every day. But we’re talking about chocolate, chocolate can be a performance-enhancing product supplement, not just chocolate, it’s cocoa flavonoids or flavonols that are in the chocolate that have the benefits. This is very exciting for me. My mom is a super athlete, because she eats approximately three pounds of chocolate every day of her life. I’m following in her footsteps. This is how I got through Dirty Kanza, this is how I did the hour record, this is my secret that we’re talking about right now.


Chocolate as a Supplement

Trevor Connor  41:14

As Chris’s coach, never once did I put “eat chocolate” on his training plan. I don’t know where this is coming from.


Chris Case  41:22

This is my secret training method, not yours, mine.


Trevor Connor  41:26

All I know is I had some when I was staying at Chris’s place, this week I had some chocolate in my bag as my little cheat, and Chris ate it on me.


Chris Case  41:36

I didn’t eat the whole thing.


Trevor Connor  41:37

You ate some of it.


Chris Case  41:38

Of course. But I’m not exaggerating. Well, I am exaggerating about my mom and me a little bit, but I do love chocolate. We’re going to get into the science, and science is going to resemble what we talked about with beetroot juice. Why? What person in the right mind would opt to eat beetroot juice over- eating chocolate?


Science of Cocoa Flavonoids

Trevor Connor  41:58

Well, let’s first just clarify we’re talking about cocoa.


Chris Case  42:02

Yes, true.


Trevor Connor  42:03

And if you ever tried to consume 100% cocoa, you’re not going to say that’s the best dessert ever, I need to eat more of this.


Chris Case  42:10

The Baker’s chocolate, that is almost as close, I can eat that, and I love it. That’s how much I like chocolate. That bitter taste, it’s fine by me. So, let’s move on.


Trevor Connor  42:22

My favorite part of this podcast, I’m just I’m starting to understand Chris.


Chris Case  42:29

You should meet my parents, then you would understand me more.


Trevor Connor  42:32

I think that’s true of anybody.


Chris Case  42:34

That is true, you are right.


Trevor Connor  42:36

Everybody’s parents are just messed up.


Chris Case  42:38

I can’t wait to meet your dad, Trevor.


Trevor Connor  42:40

Well, he’s looking forward to meeting you.


Chris Case  42:42

Okay, good.


Chris Case  42:44

So, let’s talk a little bit about the science of cocoa flavonoids.


Trevor Connor  42:48

Okay, Ryan, you left your dad out of this?


Ryan Kohler  42:51

Yeah, I did. He would be a big chocolate fan.


Trevor Connor  42:57

Okay, so chocolate flavanols or flavonoids, which are a type of polyphenol and how many big words can we use?


Trevor Connor  43:05

Throw them all in.


Trevor Connor  43:06

We’re talking about chocolate. The research on this is really interesting. I’ve actually been reading a lot about it for other research that I am doing, I promised Chris I wouldn’t go too deep into this, but there are actually a lot of health benefits to these cocoa flavanols. They are a very powerful antioxidant, they have big anti-inflammatory effects, they seem to reduce many of the, you know, we look at your markers of inflammation. Okay, Chris gave me a look, so I have to throw a few out. Aisle six, NF Kappa beta, you want me to get going? Give you a TNF alpha if you really want it.


Chris Case  43:44

Absolutely, yes.


Trevor Connor  43:47

These cocoa flavanols seem to reduce these markers of inflammation. There is a lot of research, and I won’t go down this rabbit hole, but there’s a lot of research out there showing that they seem to have anti-cancer properties, and they seem to have anti- heart disease properties. They haven’t done too many human studies yet they’ve done a lot of animal studies that are really showing some benefits. Certainly, in humans, they have demonstrated this reduction in inflammation, both cancer and heart disease are inflammatory diseases. So, there’s something really cool about this.


Chris Case  44:18

Wouldn’t it be fun to work? I mean, if you’re going to work in a lab, testing animals, which you know, I understand some people don’t like that, but working with like a population of rats and just giving them chocolate all day.


Trevor Connor  44:29

Rats will like you.


Performance Benefits

Chris Case  44:31

It would be fun.


Trevor Connor  44:34

I could talk for a long time about these anti-inflammatory effects, but let’s go into the sports performance benefits, there’s a few. First, it seems that these flavonols do promote glycolysis, so improves your ability to use fat for fuel. And again, any sort of oxidative stress defense mechanisms can be helpful for both recovery and performance. More importantly the studies have been doing on cocoa flavanols and performance enhancement is a particular flavonol, and I’m going to totally butcher the pronunciation of this, epicatechin.


Chris Case  45:14

I’m not looking at it so I can’t correct you, but I’m guessing you said it totally wrong.


Trevor Connor  45:18

I know I said it totally wrong. I’m sure several scientists somewhere just felt a cold chill go down their spine from that pronounciation.


Chris Case  45:28

Epicatechin? q


Trevor Connor  45:29

That sounds better.


Chris Case  45:31

I’m guessing because I’m not looking at it. But yeah.


Trevor Connor  45:34

Either way, it promotes our cells to release nitric oxide, and that’s always chose to talk about this right after talking about beetroot juice, because essentially, where beetroot juice, you actually consume the nitrates which eventually convert to nitric oxide, Coco flavonoids seem to promote your body’s production of nitric oxide, but the performance benefits seem to be basically the same. So, one, you see this improvement in efficiency, so lower oxygen consumption in the same workload. The other benefit that you see that we forgot to mention what the beetroot juice is, it seems to improve time to exhaustion. So, they’ve done a lot of studies where people writing at about, say, 70-80% of VO2 Max, and they can go longer when they consume beetroot juice, or the Coco flavonoids. I haven’t seen a ton of studies on this on the performance enhancement, but I did read one where they saw these benefits. Some were significant, some didn’t quite reach significance, but they were doing this with nine cyclists between the two groups, which means that’s a really low number, it’s hard to get significance, but they were seen in the neighborhood of like 15-20% improvement.


Chris Case  46:53

Well, one thing we have to be quite clear about is we’re not talking about just any kind of chocolate, we’re not talking about going out and getting Milky Way’s and Snickers bars. So, Ryan, tell us a little bit more about what we’re talking about when we’re talking about the best form or way to get your cocoa flavonoids.


Best Way To Consume This Supplement

Ryan Kohler  47:14

Right, so it’s really just getting the good stuff is really the key. You know, looking for the 90 plus percentage cocoa, chocolate, you know,


Chris Case  47:24

Dark chocolate.


Ryan Kohler  47:25

Dark chocolate. Yeah, yeah, it’s not like we said the Milky Way or that milk chocolate Hershey bars, it’s not those. So, we look for that higher percentage and the dose is about 40 grams that we’re doing in there. So, we’re looking for the dark chocolate variety, where we’re 90 plus percent dark chocolate, and comparing that to the amount of flavonoids you get in milk chocolate, for example, a lower percentage, the dark chocolate, you’ll get about six times more, and then if we go further beyond that, we get 20 times more flavonoids from a cocoa powder. So, we want to try to find the best sources possible for the chocolate ingestion.


Chris Case  48:03

Are there any other sources of this compound without it being a chocolate-based? Sorry?


Trevor Connor  48:13

There are three.


Chris Case  48:13

Oh, okay.


Trevor Connor  48:15

Green tea, wine, and cocoa.


Chris Case  48:18



Trevor Connor  48:18

Cocoa was at a whole magnitude order better than the other two.


Chris Case  48:24



Trevor Connor  48:25

Which is a bummer for me, I love tea.


Chris Case  48:27

Well, you have to drink gobs and gobs of tea to get the same effects, is that? Yeah, that’s pretty much it.


Trevor Connor  48:34

Yeah. There were all those studies about the reverse at all in wine, and how that’s gonna make you live forever, and it’s really good for you. So, everybody said, oh, great, I got to drink wine every day. Then somebody finally put out the study of how much wine you had to drink to actually see the benefits, and it was in the order of gallons per day.


Chris Case  48:55

Well, some people would be excited about that, but that wouldn’t be so healthy now would it?


Trevor Connor  49:00

No, it would not.


Chris Case  49:02

40-grams of chocolate a day, that’s totally reasonable. I think everybody should try it. Again, if you had a choice between beets and chocolate, I got to say one’s a clear winner.


Trevor Connor  49:17

I just can’t get this picture out of my head of Lennard in a bathtub.


Chris Case  49:21

Well, that’s a great picture.


Trevor Connor  49:24

That’s actually for some reason wanting me to tend towards the beet direction. Sounds like fun.


Chris Case  49:32

What if you took the two and put them together? Chocolate beets. I think it improves the beets.


Trevor Connor  49:39

Beets in my chocolate. Do you not remember that commercial from the 70s?


Chris Case  49:43



Trevor Connor  49:45

Reese’s cups? You got peanut butter in my chocolate? Yeah, chocolate on my peanut butter. Am I that old?


Chris Case  49:52

Yeah. You are. Hey Ryan, how old are you?


Ryan Kohler  49:56

Not old enough.


Ryan Kohler  50:00

Quick thing on the beets, it reminded me when you said combining them that my wife just got a package of dried beats. I don’t know how much is in those relative to juice. Have you seen anything on that?


Chris Case  50:15

So, it’s like a dehydrated beet chunk or?


Ryan Kohler  50:19

Yeah, and it’s actually pretty tasty.


Chocolate Milk

Chris Case  50:21



Ryan Kohler  50:21

I would assume amounts it would take pounds and pounds to get there.


Chris Case  50:25

Well, I mean, but if it’s dehydrated, it’s in a concentrated form.


Trevor Connor  50:29

So, that’d be beneficial.


Chris Case  50:30

And you say that they’re actually kind of tasty?


Ryan Kohler  50:32

They were tasty.


Chris Case  50:33

Did you fall on your head recently?


Ryan Kohler  50:35

No. Chocolate around at the same time.


Chris Case  50:39

I’m telling you, combine those two. Wow.


Trevor Connor  50:42

We’re just past the holidays. You want to make the worst holiday candy ever? Let’s have beets covered in 99% dark chocolate. See if anybody would actually eat that.


Chris Case  50:55

Sprinkle some ketone esters on while you’re at it.


Trevor Connor  51:00

Got our trifecta. The ultimate candy for any cyclist.


Chris Case  51:06

With a side of pickle juice?


Trevor Connor  51:07

When I was a kid, I did eat chocolate-covered pickles just to gross people out.


Chris Case  51:13

You didn’t cramp at all did you?


Trevor Connor  51:14

That’s why I became a cyclist.


Chris Case  51:18

You knew all these things we’re going to come back one day.


Chris Case  51:21

All right, this next supplement reminds me of lunch at high school or something, the small box of chocolate milk that would come with every bad meal served by the lunch ladies. We’re talking science here today. So, let me throw it over to Ryan now, and talk a little bit about the science of chocolate milk. Tell us good, bad, otherwise.


Ryan Kohler  51:47

Good overall, it’s great.


Trevor Connor  51:50

You notice this trend, we start with nitric oxide, which takes us to cocoa flavonoids, which is chocolate, which now we’re at chocolate now. See where we’re taking it?


Ryan Kohler  51:59

We are.


Chris Case  52:00

It’s been a journey through my childhood too, with all the stories I’ve had about food products.


Science behind Chocolate Milk as a Supplement

Ryan Kohler  52:07

And in this chocolate story, I guess we’re, it’s maybe not the best source of chocolate for flavonoids, but as far as recovery nutrition goes, it’s a pretty good choice where we get, we get the protein carbohydrates, and you get that good ratio of carbohydrate to protein, and that four to one. So, it really has all the components of good nutrition for post-exercise, we get the sodium, we get the additional fluid, like I said, we get carbohydrate and protein in there. But in reality, the chocolate milk, while we get all those nutrients that we need for post-exercise recovery, it’s essentially the same thing as a lot of the expensive recovery beverages out there and powders.


Trevor Connor  52:45

Quite literally, because a lot of those powders for their protein use whey protein, which they get from milk.


Ryan Kohler  52:52

And we, you know, with the research around it, we will see that the recovery is just as good with chocolate milk as some of the more expensive products out there. I feel like chocolate milk has been popping its head up a lot over the years, it sort of keeps coming around again, and sort of falls out of favor, and then we bring it back, which I think is a good thing, because it’s always there, and it’s always an easy, easy source of nutrition for us post-exercise.


Chris Case  53:19

That brings up the question, Ryan, how important is a recovery mix? What you know, that first meal after a workout or a race?


Ryan Kohler  53:30

Right. Yeah, really, in the big picture, it’s not that important to have a specific mix of something, you know, chocolate milk isn’t easy go-to. But really, it’s getting food in. What I always recommend to my athletes, post-exercise, if they’re going to have some kind of a normal meal coming in, they’re probably going to get everything that they need, you know, and going back to that, that sort of food first approach is, is what I subscribe to. If they’re in a pinch where they can’t access it, or in the case of student-athletes, I see this a lot with, you know, high schoolers that are running from class to practice to then going home, you know, chocolate milk may be a great option for them, something quick and easy, and then they get to that meal that’ll sustain them. But over the long-term, as long as we’re fueling the body and giving it consistent, good nutrition, it’ll end up pretty much the same, you’ll end up recovered in the end.


Chris Case  54:22



Trevor Connor  54:23

Really the most important thing with a recovery mix is replenishing those carbohydrates and also any sort of electrolyte loss. So, if you have an event four or five hours later, these mixes again can be helpful, because they’re going to help speed up that glycogen replenishment. When you’re talking about 24-hours later, they’ve actually done studies where they compare taking an athlete and having them do all the current science on recovery with the best recovery mixes and the correct order of everything, versus eat ad libitum, they’re in the same place 24-hours later. One of my all-time favorite studies was one where, this had to be really searly researchers, because they compared a proper recommended recovery approach to nutrition to having another group of athletes to eat McDonald’s. Once again, next day, 24-hours later, glycogen replenishment was the same, RPE was the same when they were exercising, everything. They were not promoting to eat McDonald’s.


Chris Case  55:25

Yeah, let’s be clear.


Trevor Connor  55:27

Their point was just more, If you’re worried about the next day, you’re wasting a lot of money on these very expensive products.


Trevor Connor  55:34

We might save this for a future podcast, but if you want to talk about my opinion of whether adults should be consuming milk, I could be quite lengthy on this one and probably upset a lot of people. So, let’s move on.


Chris Case  55:48

Alright, very good.


Ketone Esters

Chris Case  55:50

So, the next supplement we want to talk about is slightly different category in that it’s not a food like the others have been, it’s ketone esters. Trevor and I recorded a lengthy podcast months ago on the ketogenic diet, and the two are related. We’ll start sort of catch everybody out there listening up to speed about the ketogenic diet, and sort of the scientific underpinnings of that diet. So, Trevor, take it away.


Ketogenic Diet

Trevor Connor  56:21

Yeah, we did actually get a lot of feedback in that episode, and I certainly got a few bits of criticism, probably didn’t speak up enough in that episode, and that was totally my fault. So, there are a few things to add. I would say, if you want to fully understand, we’re not going to dive deep into the Ketogenic diet right now, so I’ll just say that the gist of it is, it’s a very low carbohydrate diet, when your body is in a carbohydrate starved state, it will actually convert fats to ketones. There are some demonstrated health benefits to ketones. Dr. Noakes, who was our guest talked a lot about that, it does seem to help with insulin sensitivity, it helps diabetics, it helps with obesity, and there’s actually some anti-cancer properties to it. So, there are certainly in the short-run, some benefits see to it. As a long-term dietary solution, though there are some serious issues with it. One, basically, the two big ones are nutrient deficiencies, and renal acid load. So, I’ll just take two minutes to explain these before we get into the ketone esters. In terms of nutrient deficiencies, because you are significantly reducing your fruits and vegetable consumption, you are not going to be getting nearly enough potassium in your diet, and our potassium to sodium ratio in our diet is really, really important. It is already out of balance with the North American diet, and typical ketogenic diets, that’s actually going to be worse.


Chris Case  57:47

It’s worth reminding people that it’s low in those two things, fruits and vegetables, because those are high in carbohydrates, not high but they’re a source of carbohydrates, people might not think of that normally, but that’s why there’s so low in a ketogenic diet.


Trevor Connor  58:01

Ketogenic diet, you’re eating a lot of fatty foods, so you’re avoiding anything with carbohydrates. Something else that’s really important is magnesium, and that’s critical for heart health. So, there is some research showing that people on a long-term ketogenic diet, in the short-run, it can actually have benefits for the heart, it can have negative consequences on heart health in the long-run. Same thing with full aid, there’s a very important cycle in our body called the folic acid cycle, and as the name implies, full aid is very important to it, and it affects heart health. In terms of the renal acid loads, they classified foods in terms of whether they are acidifying or whether they’re alkalizing. You’re really acidifying foods are particularly a lot of your dairy products, like cheese, meats are acidifying, but a lot of your fatty foods are acidifying, the ones that are really alkalizing are you fruits and vegetables, and that’s a very short summary. But essentially, with ketogenic diet, you’re eating a lot of foods that have a net-acid load and eliminating a lot of foods that have a net-alkalizing load. That is going to cause problems, the biggest one and this is really important for cyclists is what causes osteoporosis is an acidifying diet, it’s not lack of calcium in our diet. Calcium is a way of increasing PH, so when your blood gets highly acidic, or it gets a little bit acidic, your body leeches calcium from your bones. There’s plenty of research showing that people on a ketogenic diet have bone issues, and cyclists since this is a non-load bearing sport, we already have issues with osteoporosis, you don’t want to add to that. So, that can get dangerous. Ryan, you want to contribute to that?


Ryan Kohler  59:51

Sure. Yeah, I think, like you said there’s short-term benefits for health, can’t be understated. I think the keto diet comes in as a good tool to utilize in certain respects, but, you know, looking at it from the performance aspect and you know, what we see in the lab, for example is, we’ll see that some athletes come in, and they might be on a keto diet, and actually can be well adapted to and perform fine. Other athletes, we just find that getting to that point can be very difficult, and some of the research, well some of the criticism around the research is suggesting the adaptation phase wasn’t long enough, so there wasn’t enough time to actually get to that point. But when we think about it practically, you know, I see that if someone’s three, four, five, weeks into, say, a keto diet approach, and they’re just miserable, they’re probably not going to be doing a lot of other things very well in life, and it’s just not a fun place to be. So, you know, trying to encourage some way to find balance, you know, and then that also leads to their ability to perform as athletes, where I’m in more of the agreement with the thought of, you know, we need carbohydrates to perform at a high-intensity. I think there’s that common example of like the ultra-endurance runners that go on a ketogenic diet, and some of them perform well. There’s a good study that looked long-term, and, Trevor, you might know the name of this one that I’m forgetting, but I think it was a 6-or-12-month adaptation study, and actually found they performed well in a keto diet, they adapted, it was a small group of runners but it well for them. So, that adaptation phase,


Trevor Connor  1:01:27

Dr. Noakes when we had him join us that was his big point. That a lot of these negative studies, they just weren’t on the diet long enough, so that initial couple months are pretty miserable, and performance is going to drop. But if you do it over the long-term, you will actually see performance come back up, and potentially improve. That was his argument.


Ryan Kohler  1:01:45

Right. Yeah, that’s the part that I think we can struggle with too, if we see someone comes in and they’re just out of balance with life and trying to manage that, if this approach, well, it might get them somewhere 6-12 months down the road, if it’s too hard to manage right there, then maybe it’s not the best thing. So, that’s kind of where I sort of back away from it, and we focus on other things, bringing in some more, you know, fruits and vegetables and focusing on those colorful foods to say, well, this will support you and health, and it will support you as an athlete, and then just a different path.


Chris Case  1:02:15

But that’s one of the reasons why ketone esters, as opposed to going on a full-bore ketone diet might actually have the benefits without the detrimental effects of the adaptation process and some of these nutritional deficiencies that it leads to.


Ryan Kohler  1:02:32

Right, yeah, and the ketone esters, I mean, yeah, it’s an acute supplement that you can take, and you can experience some of those same benefits where you can get your body essentially into that state of ketosis and experience some of those benefits.


Chris Case  1:02:44

So, let me pause you right there. Why would somebody want to have ketones as a fuel source? What’s the benefit of having them in your system?


Performance Benefits

Ryan Kohler  1:02:53

So yeah, it’s more the efficiency of the fuel source, becomes just a very efficient way for the body to use that fuel and create energy for exercise. So, Trevor, do you want to chime in on this one, too?


Trevor Connor  1:03:04

Well, it’s simply with the ketone bodies, when they talk about the different fuels, your body uses carbohydrates, proteins, fats, they each have an efficiency, which is basically how much ATP, which is our key molecule energy, for lack of a better term, you can produce per liter of oxygen consumed and ketone bodies are more efficient than fat, more efficient and carbohydrates, so you can produce a lot of ATP, without requiring very much oxygen. So, highly, highly, efficient is one of the benefits.


Chris Case  1:03:40

So, if you’re taking a ketone ester, putting it into your body, drinking it, whatever you do, does your body naturally just start using that? Or is there competition between ketones and carbohydrate molecules and fat molecules for your body to use as a fuel source?


Ryan Kohler  1:03:57

From my understanding, and it seems like the studies that were done, those ketone bodies are preferentially utilized, which is why with the supplements that are out there, it’s meant to be an acute thing where it relatively quickly puts your body into that ketoic state and allows you to become more efficient, now that you have created that energy. Would you agree, Trevor?


Trevor Connor  1:04:16

That’s one of the other benefits, they say it’s glycogen sparing. So, your body is going to preferentially use it over glycogen. Though other people such as Dr. Holley are going to argue, you then actually lose your ability to effectively use carbohydrates when you’re going really hard, so you lose that high-intensity. Likewise, it also spares your body’s use of regular triglycerides, the primary fat that you’re going to burn during exercise, or lipid that you’re going to burn during exercise, but there’s also the potential that the ketone bodies reduce like glycolysis. So, you actually have less availability of your endogenous fat stores.


Timing Component

Chris Case  1:04:57

Is this one that you would have right before an event? Is there a timing component here?


Ryan Kohler  1:05:03

From the studies that I’ve seen, this seems like it would be almost immediately before an event?


Chris Case  1:05:09

I think one thing to note and again, I have not tried these, I know that they’re maybe hot, trendy right now, they’re expensive, relatively speaking, they’re certainly more expensive than 40-grams of chocolate or a carton of chocolate milk. So, these are ones that takes a little bit of an investment to try, are there any side effects? Does it hurt the digestive tract? Are there any things that people have to look out for in terms of side effects?


Side Effects

Trevor Connor  1:05:39

So, I am looking at a diagram that shows all the pros and cons of ketone ester supplementation. They have right here GI tract, GI discomfort with a big question mark, absorption of other nutrients with a big question mark. If you read the review, they basically say, that’s one of the questions.


Trevor Connor  1:05:57



Trevor Connor  1:05:57

Also, one is they have palatability with the question mark, dose with the question mark, timing with a question mark, esters versus salts with a question mark, co-ingestion with carbohydrates as a question mark. So, basically, what you’re getting here is, there’s certainly some evidence of benefit, but really in the early days, and they haven’t figured out a lot of these questions.


Chris Case  1:06:18

All right, so this is another line of experimentation for you and I. Well, maybe you in this case.


Trevor Connor  1:06:26

We’ve now gotten it down to, we’re gonna take our little things or beetroot powder


Chris Case  1:06:32

Dehydrated beats covered in chocolate.


Trevor Connor  1:06:34

Covered in 99% chocolate, that we’re gonna co-consume with ketone esters.


Chris Case  1:06:40



Trevor Connor  1:06:40

And that’s gonna be our diet.


Chris Case  1:06:41

Yes, I’ve heard that ketone esters taste and smell like nail polish remover. Is that true? Is that the study?


Ryan Kohler  1:06:50

I’ve never smelled them.


Chris Case  1:06:52



Trevor Connor  1:06:53

Chris, the only answer I can give you is if this is a two month guinea pig experiment that we’re gonna do, I’m gonna have no friends left.


Chris Case  1:07:02

You’re gonna get a little gassy.


Trevor Connor  1:07:05

I’m gonna get a whole lot of things, and none of them are going to be good.


Chris Case  1:07:08

Migraines, diarrhea, and it’s gonna be a mess.


Trevor Connor  1:07:11

I might have set the record up Flagstaff, but who’s gonna care by that point.


Chris Case  1:07:15

Your shammi’s are gonna be gross. You’re not staying at my house anymore. Chocolate.


Chris Case  1:07:25

Don’t even consider the other stuff, unless it’s beetroots covered in chocolate, sprinkled with ketone ester.


Trevor Connor  1:07:37

Oh, so we’re covered in salt


Chris Case  1:07:39

Dark chocolate with a little ketone, not pink Himalayan sea salt, but ketone ester salt or ketone salts.


Trevor Connor  1:07:46

Where’s Colby when we need him? His little sprinkling?


Chris Case  1:07:49

Yes, in a soup, in a broth of chocolate milk and pickle juice


Trevor Connor  1:07:56

Okay, that was hopefully a very helpful episode of Fast Talk, with the worst take home I think we have done.


Trevor Connor  1:08:05

I don’t think we’re gonna get too many sponsors out of this episode. Unless Nestle, your listening, or Hershey, your listening.


Chris Case  1:08:28

That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback, email us at Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. While you’re there check out our sister podcast, the VeloNews podcast. Become a fan of Fast Talk on Facebook at and on Twitter at Fast Talk is a joint production between VeloNews and Connor Coaching. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. For Trevor Connor, Ryan Koehler, I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening.