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ShawnWells Interview Part 2


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ShawnWells Interview Part 2

  1. 1. 59 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. Shawn Wells has forgotten more about supplements than most people will ever know. Here’s part two of his wide-ranging ERD interview. 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 happens. How would you describe your actual day to day job? Busy, very busy. Like 50 Cent once said “‘I don’t sleep, I might miss the opportunity to make a dream become a reality.” Like any job, to get to a point of “success” in the field you really need to be 1. Passionate 2. “play” outside your box 3. work hard 4. continue to learn 5. surround yourself with great people…which is all really about #1. Being passionate. I despise hearing about supplement company CEOs, formulators, sales reps, etc. that don’t use their own products, or even supplements. They liter- ally only look at it like dollars and cents. And that is not a recipe for success. If you do not believe in your products in your company, why should anyone else? But here’s the thing, there’s SO much more than the ingredients and dosing them the right way and even knowing the studies, etc. Formulating is knowing marketing, finance, quality control, custom- er service, sales, sourcing, distribution, etc. You need to be cross-functional in your company and understand relevance and sales. While I said it shouldn’t be ALL about dollars and cents…dollars and cents matters…of course. You need to meet the COGS (cost of goods sold) for finance to approve your formula. Bottom line. It needs to hit a profit margin to make the company money. Flavor/taste (organoleptic)…so do you know about masking agents, acidulates and what flavors need what acidulates (e.g. citric acid with citrus flavors), sweeteners and how they can work together (e.g.
  2. 2. 60 fructose is a front end sweetener, while stevia is a back- end sweetener), same with flavors from various flavor houses as they can “hit” in front or back and comple- ment each other. Solubility is often underestimated for Ready to Mix (RTM) products like proteins and preworkouts and mesh size/particle size of the formula and each ingredient. How many bad reviews do you see for products on this alone? Doing particle size stud- ies and solubility studies are critical before going to market. Mesh size in proteins can be vastly different-- one iWPC80 (instantized whey protein concentrate) could be a .22 and another a .34. This is a 50% difference in mesh size. This can be the dif- ference between the right fill in the tub or the tub overflowing with literally 50% more volume of the same weight/mass of pro- tein. This means that scoop could be 50% less protein than it should be despite being right on the scale and the flavors or sweeteners wouldn’t be right per scoop. Many companies and who’s ever doing their sourcing look at these ingredients as commodities. They’re not. At all. This can make for radically different product batch to batch…lot to lot. This leads into scale up of a product from benchtop in the lab, to scale up blender or capping, piloting (smallest run on full-scale equip- ment), to full production. Analytically, organolepitcally, stability-wise it needs to be the same. If not, go back to the last step and rework. And, yes, this adds a great deal of time to the process of going to market, but it also decreases the chance of falling off the market. Then knowing blend order, blend time on the batch record, blender fill volume, and RPMs of the blend- er all can make a huge difference in how the finished good turns out. You could have hot and cold spots with 100mgs of caffeine and 600mgs of caffeine…that’s not good! Same with flavor, etc. Whether ingredients are hydroscopic (aka hygro- scopic – as in moisture “loving”) that may cause clumping without proper excipients/conditioning and desiccants. We can go back to all the sourcing and negotia- tions that go on to get the best formula. You need to negotiate best price, and that means going direct and not through distribu- tors. I go direct and have a few hundred vetted suppli- ers across all ingredients out of 10s of thousands. Bad customer service, bad pricing, poor quality control/reliability of product, and of course testing out. As I mentioned above, with HPLC markers or something of the like. Most ingredi- ents don’t test out and therefore most products do not test out. But many companies don’t know to test beyond the paperwork they’re sent or what testing methods are most valid. How often are you testing these ingredients and finished goods? Constantly validating… Then there’s stability as I discussed. How long does it last as an ingredient and a finished good? Whatever your shelf life is, it has to meet or exceed label claim for that shelf life.   What about the marketability of the formula? What is the hook or angle? The story of the product? It needs a reason to be.
  3. 3. 61 What about the research as I mentioned above and the quality of it? Human data in the right dose, right form, right delivery, right frequency in a healthy population… What about the marketability of the formula? What is the hook or angle? The story of the product? It needs a reason to be. Understanding the competitive set in the marketplace (and who your competitors are SKU to SKU is essential). Also knowing where this product fits in your own portfolio. You don’t want it cannibal- izing sales or overlapping. It needs to stand on its own and complement the portfolio. There needs to be data to show the customer wants this product with trend information, marketplace data from journals (NBJ, Euromonitor, etc.), focus groups, etc. Knowing legality of ingredients and risk assessments of formulas is part of the process as well. Are your ingredients GRAS (generally recognized as safe) if it’s a food product (nutrition fact panel) or DSHEA (Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act) compliant for a supplement facts panel? Then there’s NDI’s. Knowing the litigation trends around ingredients or categories becomes a risk tolerance exercise. How much are you willing to risk on lawsuits, FDA enforcement, brand reputation, etc.? So like Ben Pakulski said, “You can’t do what I do.” Haha. BPak’s a good friend…so I like the quote. There’s a lot more to being a formulator than meets the eye. Leucine is a nutrient that’s always popping up in research, and for good reason. What can you tell our readers about new research on leucine and related nutrients, and when they might be worth considering as a supplement? Well let’s talk about leucine content in protein first as it is a big frustration and one of the biggest scams in sup- plement history. This was one that Dr. Rob Wildman and I exposed when we went a very different direction than the industry with protein…tackling the problem known as “Amino/Nitrogen spiking”. By now most know about it, but 3 years ago, we drove the message to labs, to forums, to reps, to distributors, etc. Having the consumer look for a “blend”. Proprietary blends that include taurine, glycine, creatine, arginine, etc. None of these are protein. They are aminos and amino deriva- tives. Glycine and Taurine are less than half the price of protein, but test out with nitrogen tests as protein (as a nitrogen/Kjedahl test “knows” no different). Even better they look like pure protein, but have no carbs and no fat (again at half the price). Creatine and Arginine have three nitrogen atoms and test out much higher gram for gram than even pure protein…but you can’t even begin to construe creatine as protein. So this is pure scam (and it’s less than half the cost of protein as well). So these labels with sky-high protein, no carbs, and cheap   25g of whey should be 2.8g of leucine. If they say 2.0g or 1.8g or whatever well they’re “honestly” scamming you.
  4. 4. 62 price…well this is how it’s done. Some of the ones I’ve tested had less than half of the protein they claimed on label. HUGE SCAM. Class action lawsuits are being mentioned. Why? You paid for protein? And that 25g of whey protein should have 2.8g of leucine, enough to trigger Muscle Protein Synthesis (the reason you’re taking the protein). But what if it has 1.4g? No MPS. No Gains. Less Recovery. Wasted $$$. So looking for the Amino Acid Profile is another thing to look for on an honest label. 25g of whey should be 2.8g of leucine. If they say 2.0g or 1.8g or whatever well they’re “honestly” scamming you. I guess that gets more points than not listing it… As far as leucine and its metabolites, Dr. Gabe Wilson presented on this very topic and the Annual ISSN Conference in Tampa. There’s fascinating leucine resis- tance with age, requiring higher leucine to trigger/ optimize MPS. This leads to sarcopenic obesity and body composition changes (i.e. more adipose, less LBM). We talked about an “Anabolic Phase Shift effect”. It has been shown that younger people need less leu- cine being more “leucine sensitive”. What we proposed is happening is actually around insulin sensitivity and androgens. A gorilla has massive amounts of muscle mass and eats vegetation. This may be the case due to very high testosterone and extremely high insulin sensitivity. Theoretically, you could take a 60-year-old male and put them on HRT and metformin and restore leucine sensitivity. Bodybuilders that have elevated tes- tosterone (whether exogenous or endogenous) and high GLUT4 activity and insulin sensitivity may need very little leucine to trigger MPS, though they’d need more protein as substrate. Leucine and its metabolites (HICA, KIC, HMB) have a growing pool of data showing they are critical to anabolism and anti-catabolism. There have been proposed synergies which we discussed as well too. I can provide our slide presentation if a reader is interested, where we delve much deeper. Dr. Gabe Wilson was also the pivotal researcher finding that energetics are the reason for the 3 hours MPS effect of “refraction” despite elevated plasma leucine. It’s a costly energetic process depleting ATP. A dose of BCAAs or carbohydrate can restore MPS …it’s fascinating stuff. Groundbreaking really. One of my favorite sayings is “Teach thy tongue to say ‘I do not know’, and thou shalt progress.” What do you wish was known about nutrition and/or supplementa- tion, but hasn’t been researched enough yet? Nutrigenomics. Crucial. Just like we see in studies with knockout mice related to a certain gene…there are so many people drugs, nutrients, exercises do not work the same way in. Further still, genetics are not estab- lished at birth and remain unchanging. They evolve constantly, adding complexity to the equation. But this is a big one to unlocking true potential of individuals living and functioning optimally. I am a huge ketogenic proponent and all of that data is awe-inducing with implications beyond the well-es- tablished weight loss and epilepsy interventions, but cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, and more are being investigated. Even more interesting is supplemen- tal ketones and how exogenous ketones can impact this equation. There are a few concepts that repeatedly come up about protein, and one is the value of fast vs slow protein and carbs. How much attention should the average lifter pay to absorption speed, versus things like bioavailability, amino acid composition, denaturation, etc? One last question. With the microbiome being such an important emerging topic, have you seen much on the effect of protein on gut microbiota? You’re absolutely right. The gut microbiome has become been the subject of extensive research over the past couple of years…and rightfully so. Our gut contains thousands of bacterial species that can have both ben- eficial and harmful effects on human health. In fact,
  5. 5. 63 Zhang et al 2009 even suggested that disruption to gut microbiota can significantly impact chronic inflamma- tory diseases (i.e. irritable bowel and Crohn’s) and even play a part in the development of obesity. Thus, recently we have seen a huge burst in prebiotic and probiot- ic supplementation to help balance and enhance our microbiota. As far as the impact of certain nutritional compositions on the gut microbiota, the evidence is emerging. In fact, Turnbaugh et al 2009 found that animals switching from a low-fat, plant polysaccharide-rich diet to a high- fat/high-sugar “Western” diet “shifted the structure of the microbiota within a single day, changed the rep- resentation of metabolic pathways in the microbiome, and altered microbiome gene expression.” In addition, David et al 2014 examined a plant vs animal based diet. Both diets consumed less than baseline however there were no differences in total calories between the con- ditions. The meat-based diet ate on average 87 more grams of protein and 294g less carbohydrates than the plant based condition. The animal-based diet was asso- ciated with increased expression of genes for vitamin biosynthesis, the degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogenic compounds produced during the charring of meat. Additionally, during the plant diet, they became better at breaking down carbohydrates; during the animal diet, protein digestion was their specialty. Overall, these findings indicate that the human gut microbiome can rapidly switch between herbivorous and carnivorous functional profiles, and may reflect past selective pressures during human evolution. Lastly, a study by Hooda et al 2012 in kittens found that a “higher protein” diet could have negative effects on the health supporting bacteria (i.e Bifidobacterium). The authors claim that high protein intake may lead to an “increased flow of undigested protein to the colon, which is subjected to fermentation and the production of harmful nitrogenous metabolites.” However, it is important to remember that cats differ metabolically from humans so it is tough to draw conclusions from this study. Interestingly enough, a brand new study by Clarke et al (2014) found a correlation between exercise, pro- tein consumption, and higher levels of gut bacteria (the beneficial kind). These researchers also noted a reduction in gut inflammation, potentially due to the diversity of the gut. I know there are some clinical and   [...] the human gut microbiome can rapidly switch between herbivorous and carnivorous functional profiles, and may reflect past selective pressures during human evolution.
  6. 6. 64 other trials going on to currently assess the impact of protein intake on the gut microbiota. There is some pre- liminary research to suggest consumption of certain pre and probiotics combined with protein may help with uptake and could therefore augment some training and/ or recovery responses. Like I said, there are trials that I know of going on right now so we should have a better picture soon . So to answer the question simply: there jury is still out there on protein’s direct effect on the gut microbiota. What I can say is this: your body is very flexible and does a good job adapting, yet there may come a point where you disrupt the homeostasis of the gut micro- biome and need to address it. Prebiotics and probiotic, staying away from a ton of processed sugar, and avoid combining high fat with high carbohydrates (i.e pan- cakes with butter) may be viable options. As a cat fan, I cannot condone the Hooda 2012 study on kittens. But otherwise, this has been quite an infor- mative interview, and we at Examine look forward to upcoming research on protein and the gut microbiome, as well as leucine and the other topics you discussed. Thanks Shawn! ◆ 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 consult- ing group for supplement formulations, he gained significant notoriety in the industry. As an accomplished author, formulator and clinician, 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 supple- ment 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 experience in every channel of distribution/sales. For more on Shawn Wells, MPH, RD, CISSN, find him on LinkedIn.