Fast Talk, ep. 65: Debunking supplements — what works, and what doesn’t?

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.


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.

As always, if you have a minute please take the time to rate us on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts. And keep those emails coming! We have a dedicated Fast Talk email address.

Now, gather your pickle juice, your beet juice, pounds of chocolate, maybe even some ketone esters if you have them, and eat up as we talk. Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.

References

  • Nelson, N.L. and J.R. Churilla, A narrative review of exercise-associated muscle cramps: Factors that contribute to neuromuscular fatigue and management implications. Muscle Nerve, 2016. 54(2): p. 177-85.
  • Dominguez, R., et al., Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 2017. 9(1).
  • Perez-Berezo, T., et al., Effects of a cocoa diet on an intestinal inflammation model in rats. Exp Biol Med (Maywood), 2012. 237(10): p. 1181-8.
  • Goya, L., et al., Effect of Cocoa and Its Flavonoids on Biomarkers of Inflammation: Studies of Cell Culture, Animals and Humans. Nutrients, 2016. 8(4): p. 22.
  • Patel, R.K., J. Brouner, and O. Spendiff, Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2015. 12: p. 47.
  • Volek, J.S., T. Noakes, and S.D. Phinney, Rethinking fat as a fuel for endurance exercise. Eur J Sport Sci, 2015. 15(1): p. 13-20.
  • Cox, P.J. and K. Clarke, Acute nutritional ketosis: implications for exercise performance and metabolism. Extrem Physiol Med, 2014. 3: p. 17.
  • Hawley, J.A. and J.J. Leckey, Carbohydrate Dependence During Prolonged, Intense Endurance Exercise. Sports Med, 2015. 45 Suppl 1: p. S5-12.
  • Pinckaers, P.J., et al., Ketone Bodies and Exercise Performance: The Next Magic Bullet or Merely Hype? Sports Med, 2017. 47(3): p. 383-391.
  • Petrie, M., et al., Beet Root Juice: An Ergogenic Aid for Exercise and the Aging Brain. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2017. 72(9): p. 1284-1289.
  • Australian Institute of Sport. ABCD Classification System. 2016 [cited 2017; Available from: http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/supplements/classification.
  • Pierini, D. and N.S. Bryan, Nitric oxide availability as a marker of oxidative stress. Methods Mol Biol, 2015. 1208: p. 63-71.

Read the full article at Fast Talk, ep. 65: Debunking supplements — what works, and what doesn’t? on VeloNews.com.