Interview conducted by Claire Duncan, Toronto-based endurance sports editor
Claire Duncan: What gaps does Unit Nutrition fill in the sports nutrition market, and the greater wellness market as well?
Julia Bechtolsheimer: We’re not so much filling a gap, but instead creating an entirely new space. We’ve established a new category of sports nutrition best described as ‘cognitive fueling’. Research has proven that rinsing carbs in the mouth results in an instantaneous boost in power and enhances mental alertness. It acts by stimulating receptors in the mouth, which in turn activate motivation and reward centers of the brain. Our product, UNIT RINSE, is the first commercially available carb-rinse -- it's the first time this decade-plus worth of science has been brought to life and translated into something all athletes can benefit from. At Unit we are committed to remaining at the forefront of research as the academic community furthers our understanding of the brain’s role in physical performance. We’re also committed to creating healthy sports nutrition -- UNIT RINSE is organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and contains no added sugar or artificial preservatives.
CD: How does Unit Nutrition fit into the greater sports science space? You are not just a consumptive product and not just a triathlon brand.
JB: That’s true…you don’t even have to swallow a carb-rinse to achieve the benefits -- the mechanism is direct from mouth to brain. But, just to be clear, UNIT RINSE is formulated to drink after your 5-10 second rinse! We figured its just not practical (or very appealing) to have to spit out your sports nutrition, so unless you are suffering from GI distress or really don’t want any fluids in your stomach (i.e. before a sprint) there is no reason not to drink it.
CD: Tell us about some of the reasons why you connected with triathlete David McNamee, your first professional athlete ambassador. David has told us he was drawn to Unit because of prior awareness of carb-rinsing while on the British Triathlon high-performance team in his ITU days.
JB: It’s truly an honor to work with David -- as well having an abundance of talent, he’s just such a cool and down to earth guy. As athlete, David is strategic and focused on the nuances of performance -- his approach fits well with Unit’s science-driven methodology.
CD: How does an Ironman athlete best utilize UNIT RINSE? Tell us about consumption method, transport on race day and quantity to consume.
JB: When you’re out there for a day as long as an Ironman, your carbohydrate consumption is a key factor in your result. Recommendations are to consume between 60-90g of carbs/hr. It’s a fine balance however, if you under-do your nutrition, you will under-perform, but on the flip side, too many carbs can easily lead to debilitating GI distress. Especially at high intensities when blood is diverted to the working muscle instead of digestion, upset stomach is common. A carb-rinse is a great tool in these situations. You can rinse (and spit it out) to remain motivated, but allow time for gastric- emptying until your GI distress has eased, and you’re ready to resume your nutrition plan.
Other key moments in an Ironman (when a carb-rinse may be used) are when you are looking for an instant energy boost. A gel takes approx. 25 min to digest and take effect; caffeine’s lag is even longer. As carb rinsing is direct from mouth to brain, there is no time delay for digestion. Rinse when you see your competitor approaching, or a hill you need to climb, or you’re making your sprint to the finish line.
The bottom line is UNIT RINSE should be used as a partner to your traditional fueling plan for endurance events. It’s a tactical tool for instant energy by engaging the motivation centers of the brain. Each bottle contains 4 rinses, there really isn’t a limit to the amount you can rinse.
CD: What were some of the key events, meetings, or pieces of knowledge that you gained that led you to creating a mouth rinse?
JB: Primarily, Ironman Cozumel, which was my first full distance race and I wanted to make sure I nailed the nutrition part of it. I have a biology background and have always been passionate about nutrition and food as both medicine and fuel. It was a good excuse to spend hours with my head in science journals reading the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) position stands on fueling endurance sports.
I began to see the term mouth-rinse in so much of the literature and subsequently discovered the incredible body of research that has been conducted on this technique, dating back to 2004. I spent the first year of Unit Nutrition’s life travelling and connecting with some of the leading sports scientists globally -- from Australia, to Frankfurt and Birmingham. We now have a dream team of scientific advisors without whom, I would not have been able to do this.
CD: You have a very unique product. Tell us some of the most interesting ways Unit Nutrition has turned heads.
JB: Actually -- I have a funny story! We had literally just launched our website at the beginning of July. Sports journalists from The New York Times were in Russia at the time, and noticed that the England team appeared to be carb-rinsing! They began to investigate whether this was merely coincidence or if they had coached to do so, and what they were rinsing with. I got a call from one of the reporters asking if I could confirm whether it was UNIT RINSE that Harry Kane used before his penalty shoot out! Unfortunately I had to say…"I wish, but its definitely not!" Our website had only been live for a few days and the only orders were from my mates and brother! I thought we had a technical glitch when my shopify app started going nuts at 6am the following day, but it’s was actually a flurry of orders thanks to the fact we were mentioned in the article as the only commercially available carb-rinse on the market.
CD: How has the traction been with triathletes? Do you see your product expanding in endurance sports, or do you have plans to get into other markets?
JB: We are typically a data driven, tech-obsessed group of athletes, who are meticulous about what we put in our bodies. I think this is part of the reason that carb-rinsing resonates with triathletes. I certainly see us expanding further into endurance sports and we do also have plans to enter multiple other sports where carb-rising is especially applicable.