Mitochondrial Health and Peak Performance, with Dr. Robert Rountree

Dec. 11, 2015

So small, so abstract, it’s very hard to get your head around the idea that mitochondria are important. For me, knowing that these tiny organelles make up 10% of our total body weight (25% of the heart) helps put things into perspective. Mitochondria allow us respire with oxygen and produce vast amounts of an energy molecule called ATP. In fact, each one of us produces our body weight in ATP every day! The greater the number of healthy mitochondria, the better you feel and the faster you go.

Even more incredible, recent research suggests that mitochondria come from a bacterial lineage and at some point made friends with our cells to form modern eukaryotes.

My guest today is functional medicine practitioner and medical doctor, Robert Rountree. Dr. Rountree was named recipient of the Linus Pauling Functional Medicine Award at IFM's 2015 Annual International Conference, held in Austin, Texas. Dr. Rountree received the award for his pioneering work in the development of Functional Medicine and his role as a highly inspirational and informational member of IFM’s faculty. Dr. Rountree is the Chief Medical Officer at Thorne Research.

I learned everything I know about the mitochondria through Bryan Walsh’s Metabolic Fitness Pro and the Khan Academy. As promised, here’s the picture of the mitochondrial membrane:

One of the most interesting supplements Dr. Rountree talks about during our interview is NiaCell® (nicotinamide riboside). I’ve since done a lot of reading and Dr. Tommy Wood agrees the research is promising. NAD+ levels control almost everything from mitochondrial biogenesis to ability to deal with inflammation and DNA damage. NAD+ drops with inflammation damaged mitochondria.

If you’ve done a urinary organic acids test and you have an accumulation of malate, isocitrate, and alpha-ketoglutarate (all need NAD+) as well as lactate (produced in order to regenerate NAD+ from NADH), and possibly quinolinate and kynurenate (both feed into NAD+ production), then you either have high NAD+ requirements or poor NAD+ turnover. In these cases nicotinamide riboside is especially worth worth considering.

Here’s the outline of this interview with Dr. Rountree:

  • [0:05] Christopher’s welcome of Robert.
  • [0:27] Dr. Rountree’s receipt of the 2015 Linus Pauling award and background as Chief Medical officer at Thorne.
  • [2:00] Bob’s interest in nutraceuticals and nutritional treatments and the relationship to functional medicine.
  • [4:28] Christopher’s interest in chatting with Bob about mitochondrial issues and true health.
  • [6:25] Why athletes and people in general should care about their mitochondrial health.
  • [7:32] The mitochondria as the core of healthy metabolic functioning.
  • [9:09] How the mitochondria work: a very basic overview.
  • [12:30] What does a mitochondria look like and what are they?
  • [16:16] Things that make the interplay between cell and mitochondria work better.
  • [17:54] How mitochondria and free radicals impact athletes.
  • [19:18] The importance of using true “antioxidants.”
  • [21:52] Problems that happen with damaged mitochondria: Parkinson’s and diabetes.
  • [25:57] Are the gains needed possible from dietary changes alone?
  • [29:06] How large amounts of carbohydrates damage the cellular pathways in the body.
  • [31:07] What Dr. Rountree recommends for his patients in this area.
  • [34:30] The testing that can be used to measure mitochondrial functioning.
  • [40:00] The use of an unfamiliar nutrient supplement: nicotinamide riboside.
  • [46:08] Why you want more mitochondria to achieve peak performance.
  • [48:00] The supplements Dr. Rountree uses personally and why he believes everyone needs more than food to bolster resistance to chemicals in the environment.
  • [51:44] Dr. Bob’s research and current practice and what he’s doing that is most exciting to him.


The Electron Transport Chain at the Khan Academy

NiaCell® (nicotinamide riboside)


N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

Milk Thistle

Curcumin Phytosome is in the EXOS multivitamin


Genova Diagnostics Organix organic acids test


Dr. Tommy Wood

Linus Pauling

Pathway Genomics

Dr. Stephen Sinatra

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