Tim Zeigenfuss, PhD, of the Center for Applied Health Sciences, spoke with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent Expo West trade show in Anaheim,CA. Zeigenfuss was involved with research into Velositol, a patented ingredient from Nutrition21 that combines chromium with amylopectin.
In a study published in 2017, a team led by Zeigenfuss looked into the ability of the ingredient to boost the efficacy of suboptimal protein doses. Using 6 grams of whey protein, plus 2 grams of Velositol, the researchers found that the addition of the Velositol increased muscle protein synthesis (MPS) over using the whey alone.
Bigger boost with lower dose
The company built on that work with a study looking at Velositol’s effect in a pairing with BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids. These are common ingredients in sports nutrition products, particularly for those aimed at the pre workout positioning as well as products meant to be consumed during resistance exercise. But some in the field are critical of their use, saying that the data backing their effects is thin. In preliminary data presented at last year’s meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the company claimed to have seen a 25% boost in MPS by combining Velositol with BCAAs. The study also looked at its effect in combination with pea protein, in which the study noted a 43% increase. That study, which also looked at higher whey doses than the earlier work of Zeigenfuss, has yet to undergo peer review.
Regardless of where the data ends up in terms of precisely how much boost can be attained, Zeigenfuss said the approach opens a broad field of development for sports nutrition products. All too often, new product development in this field has been characterized by a search for new stimulant ingredients with shadowy botanical connections. These ingredients subsequently become liabilities when attacked by high profile critics of the industry such as Dr. Pieter MD, Harvard.
This new approach is by contrast a way to boost the activity of familiar ingredients whose provenance and safety profiles are not in question.
“We chose whey because whey is king,” Zeigenfuss said. It has the most data behind it to back its rapid uptake and its effect on MPS. “That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of other great protein options out there.”
Zeigenfuss said future research could focus on other demographics and age groups. Much sports nutrition research focuses on young, healthy, active people. This is for several reasons, including that they show more predictable and reliable responses in muscle growth to anabolic stimuli, and they tolerate the exercise routines and the measurements (Zeigenfuss’s study used muscle biopsies) better.
But he said a carefully designed study with older people could be highly useful. Aging muscles don’t respond to protein dosing and anabolic stimuli the way they did when they were younger. It calls for ever higher doses to achieve the same effect, with an end point in sight where most consumers will be unwilling or unable to choke down that much protein in one go.
“Right now I take 30 grams of protein after a workout. When I get to be older than 60, I’ll probably need 40 grams. This is a way to get a higher response with a lower dose,” he said.
“I think anti-aging, helping to prevent age-related muscle loss, will prove to be one of the biggest benefits of this ingredient,” Zeigenfuss said.