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interview_-_shawn_wells part 1

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interview_-_shawn_wells part 1

  1. 1. 65 INTERVIEW: Shawn Wells, MPH, RD Shawn Wells, MPH, RD, CISSN has a unique blend of knowledge in the field of perfor- mance nutrition and supplementation. Mr. Wells attended UNC-Chapel Hill, earning a Master’s degree in Nutrition and minor in Exercise Science. His education along with credentials of Registered Dietitian, Certified Sport Nutritionist (CISSN), and board member of the ISSN, distinguished him as an expert in sports nutrition. If you’re into supplements, you will love this interview with Shawn Wells. There’s so much informa- tion that it’s split into two, with the next issue concluding the interview. For those who don’t know, Shawn has extensive experience in formulating supplements for big com- panies, likely some of the ones you’ve tried in the past few years. Shawn, how did you go from a practicing Chief Clinical Dietitian to being in the thick of the supplement industry? In 1993, I hurt my back and couldn’t play basketball my freshman year of college. I was obsessed with basketball and played every waking moment so the injury devastated me. I was pursuing a business degree and I started reading Muscle Media 2000 (MM2K) and IronMan magazine…as well as a book by Dr. Michel Colgan called Optimum Sports Nutrition (this was 1993). Dr. Colgan talked about bloodwork, working with Olympic athletes, amino acid stacks for GH, etc. and at the time there were few quality supplement studies. There were few “sports nutritionists” let alone a true degree in that. I became transfixed with this field and the wide-open possibilities on performance. I started working out and along came CREATINE from EAS called Phosphagain (creatine and protein blend) and then Phosphagen (creatine monohydrate). I had incredible results and I was hooked...It wasn’t all boron, smilax, etc. There were supplements that could truly affect performance. This revelation and fervent desire led to me working at GNC, working out five days a week, reading every magazine and book I could (there wasn’t much inter- net data available then). But there were a few “gems” like the supplement review guide Bill Phillips (highly biased, but still a great read with several revisions). As a look to the future, a book from 2001 was the penultimate gamechanger though by Stout and Antonio’s Sport Supplements (not biased and groundbreaking, the true “bar”, and a forerunner to things like examine.com). I thought this was all
  2. 2. 66 great, but never thought it was possible to do this as a career. This is no career in this “stuff”. I was at a doctor getting a checkup and I told him about my new passion at the ripe age of 20. He drew a lifeline for me…from 20-80 and said, “You have ALL of this”…pointing to that 60 year gap…”Why not be happy?” His words. A stranger’s words truly changed my life path. And I think about that often. Our words have profound impact to make or break people’s dreams (I rec- ommend reading the Four Agreements on this front if you have not). So I had to get 2 years’ worth of pre-requisites to even get in to a master’s program in Nutrition at an esteemed school like UNC Chapel Hill. The advisor told me, “You’re a business student. Not a science person. You can’t do 26 hours of credits a semester of pure advanced sciences with several labs classes per week. You’ll fail and fail miserably.” Remember what I said about words? I thought about his words EVERY SINGLE DAY. EVERY DAY. A 4.0 GPA later in 1.5 years (not 2.5) and admission to Chapel Hill for my Master’s later I was on my way. Luckily I did not listen to that man. He could’ve robbed me of my dream. All those people I said I’ve met, worked with, am friends with, have learned from, do business with…all of it could’ve been gone. Stolen from me. By one man’s words. I also owe a big thanks to Ryan and Jeremy DeLuca during all of this school- ing of science classes, reading, working out and finding my passion, Bodybuilding.com forum was what built me. I become a guru there and worked my way into companies as a rep, a writer, a formulator, etc. and it just grew (along with my passion). While at UNC Chapel Hill (Go Heels!), I took Exercise Sports Science classes with my Nutritional Biochemistry and a Registered Dietitian track. Years later, Chapel Hill now has a sport nutrition degree (Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan of ISSN fame teaching)…I took the road less travelled and created my path. While it was difficult, I truly appreciate where I am and how it’s shaped me. I also think it is great that so many have all of these new oppor- tunities. What I would’ve given to do a sports nutri- tion degree! So now, I am sci- entist, clinical dietitian, business- man, educator…I have been blessed beyond belief. I do what I love every day (and thank God for that encouraging doctor I mentioned above). As a result I have a network of staggeringly brilliant and amazing people around me that make me better and challenge me constantly. Geniuses. You know in the past few months I’ve talked with or spent time with people I used to worship on the internet from aca- demia & industry: William Llewellyn, Jose Antonio, Patrick Arnold, Rick Collins, Marv Heuer, Ralf Jäger, Jacob Wilson, Gabe Wilson, Hector Lopez, Dana Houser, Michael Colgan, Anthony Almada, Daniel Amen, Joey Rodrigues, Tim Ziegenfuss, Layne Norton, Erica Stump, Bruce Kneller, Mike McCandless, Rob Wildman to name a few (and there’s lots more). Along the way I’ve met amazing new people (to me) like Ryan Lowery, Mike T Nelson, Mike Roberts, Abbie   I have held the role of Chief Clinical Dietitian with over a decade in acute and skilled nursing care, which grounded my ethics and practice of patient focused care.
  3. 3. 67 Smith-Ryan, Mike Ormsbee, Paul Cribb, Colin Wilborn, Bill Campbell, Brett Hall, Dom D’Agostino, Jeff Volek, Ben Esgro, Brett Hall, Lee Brown, Stephanie Wilson, Laurent Bannock, Alan North and Bernadette (One Life Radio), Joel Marion, Josh Bezoni, Lawrence Ballenger, Ben Pakulski (BPAK), Peter Thornton, Ryan DeLuca, The “Dynamic Duo”, Sol (here at Examine) and so, so, so many more. Seriously…staggering. Just writing this out. Wow. I am truly blessed to know and learn from these people. And these are just 10% that came out of my mind off the top. I think part of my success is due to having a unique blend of knowledge in the field of performance nutrition and supplementation. As I attended UNC-Chapel Hill, earning a Master’s degree in Nutrition and minor in Exercise Science. My educa- tion along with the credentials of Registered Dietitian and Certified Sport Nutritionist (CISSN), distinguished me as an expert in sports nutrition. I have held the role of Chief Clinical Dietitian with over a decade in acute and skilled nursing care, which grounded my ethics and practice of patient focused care. I then fulfilled the position of CEO of Zone Halo Research, a consulting group for 20+ supplement companies, and gained significant notoriety in the industry. This opened the door to becoming an accomplished author, formulator, and clinician. This led to a huge opportunity in 2011, when I took my experience and passion to Dymatize Nutrition, becoming Director of R&D. Dymatize is now owned by Post, and has cemented its role the global leader in finished product research and innovation with over 200 SKUs in more than 50 countries. After the Post Holdings acquisition, I was acquired in my own right, by the top non-GMO & natural dietary supple- ment company in the industry, BioTRUST Nutrition, as their Vice President of Research and Development and recently was promoted to their Chief Scientific Officer (CSO). I travel the globe looking for the next great ingredi- ent, doing research, and assembling innovative formulations with experience in every channel of distribution/sales. I also work on Intellectual property, patenting/licensing, and sub-   I travel the globe looking for the next great ingredient, doing research, and assembling innovative formulations with experience in every channel of distribution/sales. I also work on Intellectual property, patenting/ licensing, and subject matter expert work for legal cases. I am an editor of the JISSN, or the ISSN Advisory Board, have written textbook chapters…it’s been a wild ride.
  4. 4. 68 ject matter expert work for legal cases. I am an editor of the JISSN, or the ISSN Advisory Board, have written textbook chapters (New ISSN textbook)…it’s been a wild ride. What are some of the most important factors that differ- entiate a high-quality supplement manufacturer from a low-quality one? Good Question, one key factor is the people associated with them. Do they have a strong R&D and QC team? At Dymatize, we had a top-notch team and now at BioTRUST, I have over 10 people working with me on my team includ- ing people with experience from VitaCost, Bodybuilding. com, EAS, Dymatize, Alix, Genesis Today, etc. People that are Certified Food Scientists, Organic Chemists…incredible, amazing team. Three Directors work with me: a Director of Compliance, Blake Stanhouse, a Director of R&D, Andrew Quintanilla, and a Director of Quality Control, Bart Conley. I am proud of this team and the expectation is excellence every day. You ask how to know whether a product is effec- tive/efficacious or quality or not…there’s so much to say there. And you need experts to know even where to look. So having experts that know CFR regulations of the FDA, having top tier comanufacturers that are not just cGMP, but NSF (auditing and consulting in the industry), with great NSF and FDA audits says “this comanufacturer is the gold standard” and using them…that’s a good place to start. I would say 8 out of 10 comanufacturers are not meeting FDA regulations, especially with forthcoming FSMA regs. There are constant changes and quite frankly many places see it as a point of confusion like understanding tax codes. Many comanufacturers (the manufacturer that is not “in-house” is called a comanufacturer) source materials that have “dry labbed” COAs and specs…meaning they don’t really test them (they type up results on a laptop…a dark secret known in the industry as ”dry lab”)…knowing the comanufacturer won’t test them or use dry labs to get intentionally false results as well. Many labs in the industry are dry labs, allowing companies/comanufacturers to get cheap ingredients and make them “compliant” by “testing out” even though they were never tested at any point. There are very few truly “good guys” like Chromadex, Covance, EuroFins, etc. You pay for what you get. We test out raw materials upon benchtop level, piloting (scale up), and full production, then test out the finished good/product with each lot. It’s time consuming (adding weeks or months to your product release schedule) and VERY expensive. There are so many scams on the manufacturing side. Many of the ingredients use inferior testing methods to test out as well, like titration, UV, etc. and not HPLC. They show 60% active like the label and COA shows, but test out with HPLC and it is 1%...things like that are scams and technically are legal. FDA is getting wise to these archaic methodology loopholes, but it’s tough to say what’s what. Another key is doing stability work on your products,   Many labs in the industry are dry labs, allowing companies/comanufacturers to get cheap ingredients and make them “compliant” by “testing out” even though they were never tested at any point.
  5. 5. 69 both in real time and “accelerated” work. This shows if your product will meet label claims (typically two years) throughout the life of the product. Vitamins or probiotics for example, will often need 300% of label claim as an input to meet full label claim throughout shelf life. You think that affects raw ingredient costs to make a product? YES! But the best companies, labs and comanufacturers work this way. Which is probably less than 20% of companies. It is bad how many companies cut corners and are really encouraged or thrive on cutting those corners. The market is shifting though. Testing is getting more nuanced. Pharmaceutical companies or large risk-averse companies with project management and legal rigor in place are buying big companies. Consumers are taking to testing, 3rd party websites are testing, regulatory bodies are stepping up, compliance consultants are being more visible and it’s great. There is a leap of faith here to some degree, but reputation for excellence, quality of people on the team, transparent labels (no proprietary blending), are all key to trust from the consumer. The ingredients need to be non-proprietary blended and transparent, without a doubt. It’s the oldest trick in the sup- plement book to list “fairy dusted” expensive ingredients in a blend and have the majority of the blend be a cheap ingre- dient. It’s manipulative and a deceptive to the consumer. I would love to see “prop blends” banned quite frankly…it would be a huge win for consumers. How else can the con- sumer know if they’re getting the study-backed (examine. com backed) dose/amount? So while many are looking for the next great supplement, it should be less of a concern than 1. Is what you’re tak- ing what is on the label? 2. Is what’s on the label safe for you? 3. Do they test for heavy metals, metabolites, toxins, impurities, etc.? 4. Is it hidden in a proprietary blend and fairy dusted? 5. Did they use ingredients that have human, non-disease population data? 5. Does that human data relate to the form, dose, method of administration and the population that applies to you? 6. Is there finished good data…that applies to #1-6 as well… THEN we can talk about the next great thing. Chances are you’re not getting what you’re paying for (the dream) and you’re getting things you don’t (heavy metals, metabolites, toxins, etc.). Although some supplements have a huge research base (such as creatine), supplement stacks are rarely tested together. How do you approach this issue from a formulation standpoint? I know some companies cobble together animal and in vitro studies, but you seem to have a better grasp of good science. Formulations should be based on healthy human data, not animal and not in disease states. The ingredient if quoting research, should also be in that specific form, dose/amount,   It’s the oldest trick in the supplement book to list “fairy dusted” expensive ingredients in a blend and have the majority of the blend be a cheap ingredient.
  6. 6. 70 method of administration, frequency of administration (e.g. 3 times a day at 500mg), etc. Then, there should be 1-2 studies on the finished products to truly make strong claims. You don’t know whether ingredients are counter- productive together or work as well as each individual study states. Doing real trials on your finished products in a rep- resentative population to whom you’re selling product to, is what the FDA, FTC and private litigators is demanding. Yet few companies are getting this kind of research. Luckily, the companies I have worked with support these efforts. Places like PubMed and clearly, Examine.com are now “go to’s” for formulators (and savvy consumers). Looking at each ingredient in the filter I mentioned, then finding and sourcing that ingredient…and testing it out yourself to see if it is what is claimed. I love the surge of branded ingredi- ents that cost more, but are getting great data. Companies like Interhealth, Nutragenesis, MTI, Compound Solutions, etc. are getting study after study and helping the companies build 1. Effective formulations 2. Provide marketing with backed structure/function claims 3. Assure some level of quality as they are invested in the ingredient, like you are. I recently, built a formulation with 3 branded ingredients… and that’s it…6 patents, about 10 human studies. It’s great. Consumers are starting to see the value “in less is more” and care what is going in their body. Much like a shorter ingre- dient declaration on a food product is best, that mindset is carrying over to formulations in supplements. As far as in vitro, I rarely use that data except when drilling down into mechanism of action, sometimes it’s the only way to deduce that, but NEVER, EVER use that as sole means of making structure function claims or marketing copy. Never. But if in vitro, then animal, then toxicology animal data, then pilot studies, and full scale randomized double blind placebo controlled studies all point in the right direction of efficacy, dose dependency curves, etc. It’s a process that leads down a path of best scientific practice. It is a process though and only getting to animal data is not something to make claims off of…and, again, best case is testing your finished formula. I don’t think most people know what goes into actually making a supplement. It’s not like being a mad scientist, just throwing different things in test tubes and seeing what hap- pens. How would you describe your actual day to day job? ◆ [TO BE CONTINUED IN ERD #8] Mr. Wells has held the role of Chief Clinical Dietitian with over a decade in acute and skilled nursing care, grounding his ethics and practice of patient focused care. Fulfilling the position of CEO of Zone Halo Research, a consulting group for supplement formulations, he gained significant notoriety in the industry. As an accomplished author, formulator and cli- nician, in 2011, Shawn took his experience and passion to become Director of R&D at Dymatize Nutrition. Dymatize Nutrition, now owned by Post, has cemented its role the global leader in finished product research and innovation with over 200 products in more than 50 countries. Shawn was recently acquired by the top non- GMO & natural dietary supplement company in the industry, BioTRUST Nutrition, as their Vice President of Research and Development and has since been promoted to Chief Scientific Officer over the Compliance, R&D, and Quality Control departments. Mr. Wells travels the globe looking for the next great ingredient, doing research, and assembling innovative formulations with experi- ence in every channel of distribution/sales. For more on Shawn Wells, MPH, RD, CISSN, find him on LinkedIn.

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