Monday, April 6, 2009

The Coke side of life

"Want a beer?" Bruce asked, holding out a Bud as we all sat down to watch He-Man: Masters of the Universe.

"I can't," I said with a sigh. "I rode three hours today, and I need to do another three tomorrow ... if I have a beer, my legs will be shot."

After the usual group-discussion about how beer is actually good for you (duh!) he relented.

"Do you want a Coke then?" he asked, and I immediately felt like a giant cliche but grateful for his understanding. Normally I'd have to resist at least five times before I'd be left alone in beerless peace.

Coke is supposed to be on my personal list of banned substances (I used to be a Coke-a-day kinda girl ... got the cavity to prove it. And not that diet crap either!) but it's lower down than beer, so I accept -- it's Saturday night afterall. Woot woot, cola!

The funny thing is, I was probably even more buzzed off that one Caramel E-150d-coloured can of carbonated chemicals than I would have been off the beer. All I know is alcohol makes my legs knot up and Coke doesn't, so it wins.

That got me thinking about Coke. It's actually got a pretty colourful history and during race season, it even gets promoted off my list -- from guilty pleasure all the way up the ladder to energy drink.

Coke Pusher

The story of Coca Cola begins in the late 19th century. It was originally used as a medicine, shedding new light on Mary Poppins' theory. It was said to cure conditions including morphine addiction, indigestion, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence.

When it was first manufactured, the two main ingredients were cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, hence: Coca-Cola (poetic license with the "K" for the marketing machine).

In 1903, the cocaine was removed (for obvious reasons) but the coca flavour lives on. There's only one plant authorized by the American Federal Government to process the coca leaves: Stepan Company in New Jersey. Coca-Cola Bottling Company gets the cocaine-free leaves, while the extracted cocaine is sent to Mallinckrodt, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in St. Louis, Missouri. It is the only company in the United States licensed to purify cocaine for medicinal use.

Caffeine remains in Coca-Cola and is in fact what makes it attractive to athletes. In a recent study at McMaster, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism (and covered on CBC news), they found that caffeine can delay an athlete's perception of pain and fatigue. It also tricks your muscles into releasing more of the calcium they need to contract and relax.

In the Feed Zone at the race course, you'll often hear riders call out for Coke on their next bottle. When I first heard it, I thought it was a joke. A coke? At a time like this? "Wtf, would you like a burger to go with it?" I wanted to yell back. However, as I later learned, the request for Coke instead of water/energy drink has solid scientific backing. The night before a race, you open a bottle of "the real thing" and put it in the fridge to let it de-fizz. Cut it with some water and you've got all the sugars and 'pop' (excuse the pun) you need to get you through the last half of your race.

Team mate Derek collects his bottle in the feed zone -- not a Coke lap this time!

I haven't experimented with a Coke on-course, but I do have one on the drive up instead of a coffee. I find where coffee leaves my stomach feeling unsettled, coke just gets me going and feeling great (sometimes I substitute a Dr. Pepper, but that's beside the point). While on course, I get my caffeine from Clif Shots. Each gooey strawberry flavoured packet contains 25 mg of caffeine. But after two years of steady Clif Shot intake, I have to say I'm ready for a change. So maybe this year, I'll be the one riding through the Feedzone calling out my Coke-lap.

Interesting Coke facts:

  • It's kosher at Passover!
  • It's the same forumla it's always been (minus cocaine) -- in fact, Americans protested when Coke tried to change it in 1985
  • Coca-Cola has been a sponsor of the Olympic Games since the first ever Games in Amsterdam, 1928; Caffeine has been an IOC banned substance (now restricted, but check my facts)
  • The Coke formula is guarded under lock and key in a bank vault. Only two executives know it
  • Cherry Coke is a Canadian thing. It was discontinued in 2000 (I loved that stuff)
  • Coke has been shown to contribute to osteoperosis in women who drink a lot of it
  • In one night, Coke can soften a tooth and melt meat
  • Coke is great at cleaning coins, toilets, blood spots and washing paint off.


  1. Only seems fitting that the 'Princess of Power' would be watching 'He-Man, Master of the Universe' over a can of Coke!


    This was in the Toronto Star today -- Kosher Coke for Passover!

  3. Another great article on the benefits of caffeine/coffee -->