Editor’s Spotlight: Building a sports nutrition brand

Start-up launches with product designed to help muscles increase and retain carnitine levels

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Jovanmandic
Getty Images / Jovanmandic

Related tags Sports nutrition start-up Carnitine

We caught up with Nima Alamdari, PhD, who shared his journey of getting a new sports nutrition company off the ground with a formulation backed by published studies (and an accelerator program from a prestigious business school).
Dr Nima Alamdari

The flagship product, which as of last month was going by the placeholder name Veloscite, is a powdered drink mix to be taken before or after exercise. The target date for the first product launch is Q1 of next year.

“It revolves around the compound carnitine,”​ Alamdari told us. Specifically, the product revolves around a specific blend of carnitine with carbohydrates and other essential amino acids that may increase and retain carnitine levels in the muscle.

The formulation is based on research done at the University of Nottingham with Paul Greenhaff, a professor or muscle metabolism, and Exeter University with Professor Francis Stephens, a professor of sport and health sciences.

A list of published studies supporting the formulation, which Alamdari provided to NutraIngredients-USA, includes a 2006 paper published in TheFASEB Journal​ suggesting that insulin stimulates L-carnitine accumulation in human skeletal muscle, to a 2011 paper in the Journal of Physiology​ suggesting that chronic oral ingestion of L-carnitine and carbohydrate increases muscle carnitine content and alters muscle fuel metabolism during exercise.

The list also included four studies from 2019 noted as ‘unpublished and confidential.’

Patent US9662344B2​, which lists Greenhaff as inventor, protects the formulation. Alamdari said that his company has an exclusive license to develop products in the US based on the patent.

“Carnitine is an amino acid that we get naturally from our diet. But in order to elevate your muscle carnitine stores, you need to take it with a specific combination of amino acids and carbohydrates,”​ he explained.

“That’s essentially what our patent wraps up—the mechanism to get muscle carnitine elevated and retained.”

Veloscite First Product
Veloscite's first product will be a drink mix formulated to help with energy, recovery, and fat use during exercise. Source: UCLA Anderson / YouTube

Backed by UCLA’s Venture Accelerator

Alamdari said he has always been passionate about health and fitness. He received his Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the University of Nottingham in the UK, continuing at the same institution to get his PhD in Physiology and Muscle Metabolism.

He then moved to Boston as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School before becoming a faculty instructor teaching muscle physiology there.

After almost a decade in academia, he entered the dietary supplement industry as a senior manager of scientific and clinical affairs at Beachbody. “It was the best opportunity to really understand what it takes to develop a product, and understand supply chains, risk assessment and safety,”​ he said.

Last year, he was recruited by women’s health supplement start-up Ritual as its chief scientific officer.

But Alamdari craved for more—he wanted to supplement his understanding of the technical side with business savvy. “I thought it was important to learn some framework that would help me get [Veloscite] off the ground with an entrepreneurial mindset, gaining the tools of finance, operations, and strategy,” ​he said.

He graduated with an MBA last month at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where his start-up Veloscite joined the Anderson Venture Accelerator​ program, an immersive six-month program of 10 to 12 teams with the goal of turning ideas into functioning companies.

Down the pipeline: More drinks, gels, and maybe an app?

Veloscite Product Pipeline
Veloscite's product development pipeline. Source: UCLA Anderson / YouTube

During UCLA Anderson’s Venture Accelerator showcase last spring​, Alamdari presented his company’s product development strategy: Starting with the flagship drink mix later this year before expanding to an endurance-focused drink mix, then a gel, then ready-to-drink products, for a total of six products before 2023.

Another important part of his start-up is exercise routines. “We know that we’re going to provide exercise training plans, that may not be in an app form, but certainly will at some point,” ​he said.

“We’re not looking to be a quick fix, we’re definitely looking at the longer-term exercise and goal-oriented.”

Alamdari thinks that his product's early adopters will be swimmers and runners with tracking watches. “Rather than showing them a before and after picture, we’ll actually invite them to share their performance improvements for their training,”​ he said.

“That to me is something really novel and compelling.”

‘There’s a disconnect between the scientific community and what’s available to consumers'

In a crowded category, the main premise of Veloscite, or whatever it ends up being called, is to “bring back scientific methodology to sports,” ​in Alamdari’s words.

There’s a prevalence of pseudoscience in the sports nutrition category, according to Alamdari. “It’s a category that has a lot of innovation, but it has been swamped by misinformation,”​ he opined.

Physical activity was an important part of his upbringing, which explains his passion for sports nutrition. “I believe in exercise for protecting our future health,”​ he said.

Having built his expertise in muscle physiology, Alamdari argued that when he reads labels and claims on many sports nutrition products, he sees a “disconnect between the scientific community and what’s available to consumers.”

“Because of the gap, the high degree of skepticism from consumers, I’ve always felt that there’s a role for me—I could do something to impact people’s health and also the way the industry does things.”

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