Coca Cola  


   Many years ago, Coca Cola was using sucrose (cane sugar) as the sweetener and needed to change to a different sweetener because the cost of cane sugar had skyrocketed. Coca Cola wanted a sweetener that improved recovery from exercise. So we were testing glucose, fructose, saccharine (the control), and sucrose.

   During a ride in 1998, I remembered when I was one of the guinea pigs for Coca Cola in 1979. The tests were performed in Dr. Gisolfi's lab at the University of Iowa. Along with Dr. Ed Burke who had recently earned his Ph.D.

Glucose, Sucrose, Fructose, Fat, Muscle
  • The sugar 'Glucose' is the body's preferred source of energy for Kreb's Cycle. Then 'Sucrose' (which is a fructose molecule bonded to a glucose molecule). Then 'Fructose' (which is two Glucose molecules bonded together).
  • The bottom line is the body wants glucose to fuel your motor.
  • If glucose is not readily available, then the body will spend the extra time to go after glucose stored in (in order); Sucrose, then Fructose, then converting fat, then converting muscle. That extra time dampens the rollercoaster of a 'Sugar-High' and it's subsequent 'Sugar-Crash'.
  • This is also the order of fat creation - from most to least
'The Test'

   Until the tests, I did winter training on rollers, ran, lifted and also rode for 3 weeks each winter in Naples Florida. I was in Naples that winter, but this time aware of the possible benefits from choosing the correct food and drink to be consumed during a training ride. I rode at least 70 miles a day, every day, sometimes as fast as I could go so I could survive the ride and not become road kill.

   Some days I just rode east toward Miami for a few hours. Then turned around and came home. Some days I rode to Marco Island and back, and then "Urban Intervals" through Naples in the afternoon.

   Some days I rode to a place I called 'The End of the World' The end of the world was at the time, a few roads paved for what had become a housing development gone broke. There were two main roads in the End of the World. They made a big T. I would turn around at the stop sign where the road ends at the northeast part of the T.

   The pavement was everything from good, to gone.

   Twice I had to stop and wait for an alligator to walk across the road.

   Another time I rode past a mobile home parked on the east side of the road with the engine running. I thought it was odd and almost stopped to see what was the matter, but I chose to ride on. Usually there is a good bit of chatter from the resident birds. But that day, around that mobile home, it was deathly quiet. I saw on the evening news that Florida's biggest drug bust to date was delayed a few minutes waiting for a tourist to clear the area - ME.

   The End of the World lacked something very important that made it a good place to workout: TRAFFIC.

   At the entrance to "The end of the World" is a convenient store that sold some very good tasting grape soda. I would ride to the end of the world and on the way back, stop for a grape soda. One day, while drinking grape soda, I looked at all the traffic, and the the guard rail across the road, and thought "How the f**k am I going to survive Highway 951 today?". That is where I realized what we needed to do for Coca Cola to properly test sugars for them. Don't ask how the two thoughts are connected - I don't know either.

Here is the process I did to find the answer:

   I knew that I should not have been able to ride that much every day and be fresh and ready to go again the next day. That winter in Iowa had been an Ice Age, and also because of school, I had not ridden much in 2 months. But there I was full of energy and ready to go each day. Why?? So I used a food diary to track everything I ate and drank. I had been drinking Gatorade during the rides, changing it for water had no impact on my performance. Then I thought "What do I DO on each ride?? I soon realized that at some point on every ride, I had a place to stop and buy a can of that grape soda.

   That day I looked at the label and saw FRUCTOSE. When I returned to the University of Iowa I told Dr. Gisolfi and Dr. Burke of my experiences and how I though the test should be changed.

  • First day - ride at 80% until failure
  • Second Day - Start at 80% and increase resistance 50kpm every 30 seconds until failure
  • First day - ride at 80% until failure
  • Second Day - Ride at 80% until failure

   My 80% at the time of the original test (in an un-rideable Iowa winter, during finals - first semester - of my Senior year) was 300 watts. I do not remember what my number of watts at 80% was after returning from Naples that winter other than a lot more. Other racers each had their own 80% level. With the original test, on the second day, everyone failed within 10 minutes. The original test showed all sugars and saccharine to provide the same recovery benefit.

   The new testing format we did after Christmas break showed we could ride the second day for the same length of time (in my case about 210 minutes) -> if we drank fructose. If we drank anything else, water, glucose, whatever, everyone failed at about 30 to 60 minutes. Except I failed at about 90 minutes.

   Our diet from 24 hours before the first test, through the end of the test the second day was exactly the same - some very bland, plain, the same stuff out of a can. The only difference was the sugar solution we drank. The tests were "double blind" meaning neither we nor the Doctors knew what sugar was being tested. We did not know the results until after all the tests had been performed.

In summary

   I discovered that of all sugars, fructose (corn syrup) provided the best day-to-day recovery benefit. Coca Cola switched to corn syrup.

Show me the money!

   Hey Coca Cola! I was paid $100 to be Doctors Gisolfi, Dr. Falsetti, and Burke's lab rat, and I am okay with that. But I was never paid for figuring out the problem. How about 1/10 penny per purchase of Coca Cola for getting it right? Retroactive to my Senior year at the University of Iowa of course.