Virtual gym: How the internet gave weekend warriors the key to the elite athlete’s locker room

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sports nutrition Bodybuilding

Andrews: 'It’s human nature to want results right now'
Andrews: 'It’s human nature to want results right now'
Thanks to the internet, training tips and product advice that used to be the preserve of elite athletes and bodybuilders is now available to everyone, Brian Andrews, president of California-based sports nutrition firm All American EFX tells Elaine Watson.  

How important are online forums and communities in the sports nutrition market?

Forums are where people now congregate to get feedback and ask questions. Most of the information available used to be confined to gyms and locker rooms. Only now, depending on the forum, the number of people in that ‘virtual’ gym or locker room is expanded by a hundredfold.

Additionally, it also makes it much harder to fool consumers with hype and bad information because they have the means to check on a company’s product claims literally within seconds with a simple Google search and/or forum post about it.

The huge upside to websites, forums, and Facebook is that it provides a much faster and thorough way to engage prospects and customers. At the same time, it is also something that must be properly managed and serviced or it could just as easily backfire.

How is this impacting the sports nutrition and bodybuilding categories?

One thing we have noticed is the growth of the more ‘mass market’ sectors. This can be attributed to a combination of education and easy access to information thanks to the internet.

What was once mostly confined to gyms, locker rooms and industry magazines is now plentiful for anyone to find and learn. For example, business people and ‘weekend warriors’ are looking more and more into the bodybuilding world for advice and guidance.

It’s human nature to want results right now. So they go to the people they see building the most extraordinary physiques to find out what they know.

Where do you see the biggest growth opportunities in sports nutrition?

The biggest growth opportunity is still the one that has led the pack since the very beginning: Weight loss.

Next would be health and physique enhancement via hormone manipulation, especially for men. However, people prefer to do this naturally whenever they can; if there are true options available.

Third is improved overall heath in general via vitamins/minerals, one-off ingredients products and protein/meal replacement formulas. They key is that it must be easy and moderately affordable.

How well is All American EFX doing?  

We continue to see steady growth year after year. I believe this comes down to sticking with the principles we’ve followed since we started and not letting ourselves become distracted when a new trend hits.

A great example is the use of DMAA. We took the longer, harder road when we formulated our pre-workout product K-OTIC ​[which does not contain DMAA], and it has paid off in spades.

The two other principles we follow are not overspending on advertising (which you can pull off by strategically planning campaigns) and not overspending in general.

I’ve been around this industry long enough to watch how some companies have become extremely successful, only to start spending all their profits like they will never run out. They invest in big fancy offices, private jets and parties and they over hire.

However, if they do not plan properly and sales slow, the other side of the mountain is very steep; the fall is straight down. Look at industry magazines from only four or five years ago. You’d be shocked at just how many of those companies advertising in there do not exist today.

Is bodybuilding seen as distinct from the main sports nutrition market?

In general, bodybuilding, more specifically competitive bodybuilding, is mostly seen as a niche or even ‘underground’ sport. It has gained more exposure and acceptance over the years by the mainstream public thanks to people such as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

However, it also carries the stigma of being very closely related to the usage of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.  

How dynamic is the sports nutrition category?  

What you tend to see is many smaller players coming in very quickly. However, they will have a much harder time against the mid-sized and larger players since the barriers to entry are very high. 

Once the dust settles, you are typically left with mostly larger players, along with a handful of smaller players that were strategic and resourceful enough to survive while getting into the maturity phase of the growth curve.

How has the FDA’s DMAA crackdown impacted the market?

It levels the playing field and puts the focus on creating a more effective product based on having the proper mounts of efficacious ingredients rather than simply relying on the stimulant part of the formula.

When we first formulated K-OTIC, we always knew a day would come when DMAA would be banned… and now that day is here.

But the FDA’s keener eye on the industry combined with the current crop of litigation can tie the hands of the most innovative companies.

The decision will have to be made on how far a company will allow itself to go by using ingredients that are ‘innovative’ versus the possible long term risk of getting sued. DMAA is a perfect example of this.

Click here​ to read more about K-OTIC. 

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