First Endurance Relaunches Liquid Shots: How Does Science Taste This Good?

Chief Science Officer Dr. Luke Bucci Explains the Science Behind the New Formulation

 INTERVIEW: First Endurance is having a big year, the launch of their completely reformulated EFS Hydration drink mix hydration, bold new packaging, and now the reformulation of their Liquid Shots energy gel.

Earlier this year I joined company founder Mike Fogarty and their Chief Science Officer Dr. Luke Bucci on zoom to talk about the science behind their reformulated EFS Hydration drink mix.  Now they’ve released the new Liquid Shot, debuting in Wild Berry flavor, so we jumped on another call to find out how they’ve used science to made a good product even better.

PEZ: The new Liquid Shot is quite a bit different than the prior version. What’s changed?

Dr.Bucci: Well, everything! Flavor systems, fueling technology, my own research into cramping and electrolytes–it’s a different world today than when the original Liquid Shot launched in 2008.  We’ve been in close conversation with those new advances, and we’ve also been in conversation with the professional and self-sponsored athletes who use our product. That includes flavor, obviously, but also formula tweaks and packaging redesign.

The most important piece of newness is that today’s Liquid Shot uses the latest research and know-how available to give you gut-friendly energy, faster. When you’re bonking, you don’t have time to waste. Those advances in fueling tech I mentioned mean there’s no reason you should have to wait 5-10 minutes for something to kick in when you don’t have to.

Unlike traditional, thick, gloopy gels that contain gumming agents–which true to their name, gum up the digestion and stomach-emptying processes–Liquid Shot is isotonically balanced, meaning it has a similar concentration of solutes to the body for fast digestion and absorption. It starts working almost immediately so you can maintain a high level of intensity. Being balanced for quick absorption means it also doesn’t cause GI distress, even when you’re at or above threshold, and its consistency means you can actually consume it while breathing hard without having to choke down a bottle of water.

More of those advances: Research clearly shows all five electrolytes more effectively prevent cramping and dehydration than the usual sodium or sodium/potassium combos. For example, the latest research even shows magnesium is just as, if not more, important than sodium. Similar to the prior version, the new Liquid Shot formula contains clinically effective doses of all five electrolytes in the levels that endurance athletes require to help prevent cramping and dehydration. There’s no need to carry extra electrolyte tablets in your pocket, which can be a nightmare to dig out and take during a race.

New Larger Size
One of the most immediately obvious changes is the size. Instead of the old refillable flask, the new Liquid Shot comes in 110-calorie individual use pouches. While the flask was a great option for some situations (long solo rides, IRONMAN-distance triathlons, etc.) it wasn’t ideal for short to medium-length training sessions or races where you do need additional calories and electrolytes but you don’t need an entire flask, which is the equivalent of 4 gel packs. We were bombarded with requests for single-serve packets by pros and competitive amateurs worried about every gram of excess weight. We listened.

The new formula is not only superior from a performance perspective, but it’s also convenient because it has everything you need and it has a lot more practical applications. That addresses another key finding from our research and user feedback: convenience is a huge–yet often overlooked–aspect of proper fueling. Make fueling easier and athletes are more likely to fuel the right way.

PEZ: How does Liquid Shot fit into the First Endurance line-up of sports nutrition products and when is the best time to use it?

Dr. Bucci: Liquid Shot is designed to be used as a supplement to our EFS hydration mix, which should be your primary fuel during exercise. It’s formulated to be used in situations where you need additional calories and electrolytes quickly—right before a race, during a race or hard training, when you’re starting to fall apart, etc…

In the past, you had to mix and match your endurance nutrition. You’d get gels from one company, hydration mix from another, and your recovery mix from yet another. That created all kinds of problems. The combined levels of ingredients could be too high (which can cause havoc on your GI system and take you out of a race), and there are risks of significant nutrition gaps (not enough calories and electrolytes or no BCAAs, which causes bonking, cramping, and other issues). As a result, there was a significant amount of confusion and guesswork surrounding endurance nutrition.

We recognized this problem and engineered the First Endurance line to work together, as a comprehensive system. Each product has a specific purpose, complements and works with the others to give you everything you need to be your best. No overlap, no unnecessary issues, and no confusion.


PEZ: You’ve always been big proponents of using science to make your products – how did science and research lead you to developing Liquid Shots?

Dr. Bucci:  As I implied earlier, exercise and endurance-related studies have been growing in number for years. That’s given us a lot of resources for understanding how to improve glucose delivery, digestion, and cellular uptake during exercise. It has also shown us that certain common ingredients and inveterate formula designs are actually impediments to net energy production. Fructose, for example, is often included in gels because it’s sweeter than most sugars and it’s still a sugar, so you might think it provides fast energy, but the complications involved with converting it for use as energy make it a liability.

I’ll skip the gory details, but the collected insights led us to a mix of maltodextrin, sucrose, and glucose to maximize fast fuel delivery. This combination of multiple carbohydrates is better than a single source for the absorption and utilization of blood glucose, because each source uses a different pathway to get from ingestion to ATP (the energy your cells and muscles use) production. This delivery strategy is known as Multiple Transportable Carbohydrates (MTC) in the scientific literature, and it lets us bypass the limit on absorbing pure glucose, pushing fuel levels beyond where they’d be with glucose alone.

I mentioned flavor technology earlier, too, and that’s a crucial part of fueling. The taste can’t be overpowering, but it has to be pleasant enough to encourage use–after all, fuel does no good if it’s sitting in the packet.

I joined company founder Mike Fogarty (upper left) and Dr. Luke Bucci to talk about Liquid Shots.

PEZ: The Liquid Shot formula is different from other gels – what makes yours different or better than anyone else’s?

Dr. Bucci: Well, it’s not actually a goopy, sludgy gel. It’s a ready-to-drink shot of liquid fuel–hence the name, which hints at our design intentions.

Liquid Shot is built to deliver a usable amount of fast-acting carbs and optimal electrolyte dose in a convenient package that’s easy to use (tastes great, less filling!). It empties from the stomach FAST, gets absorbed into the bloodstream almost instantaneously, and delivers more energy-producing glucose molecules into cells. Every ingredient was chosen to meet this end, so it gives athletes the quick energy they need when they need it most.

PEZ: Flavor is so important in the category – if it doesn’t taste good people just won’t use it no matter how ”good” it is for their performance. How did you develop the Wild Berry flavor and what flavors can we look for next?

Dr. Bucci: You nailed it. It’s impossible to overstate how important flavor can be. Something that tastes good in the lab can be horrible when you’re three hours into a race in extreme heat. There are a lot of different variables at play. You’re probably dehydrated, you’re at or above your anaerobic threshold, you might not have anything left in your bottles, it’s too cold to even drink, you might be ready to pop–you get the picture.

We spent over a year testing prototypes with some of the top athletes in the sport to dial in the flavor. We tested and retested them in all kinds of racing and training situations and conditions (hot, cold, humid, wet, arid, etc.) to make sure we had something that checked all the boxes.

 We tested three different flavors and the Wild Berry flavor got the consensus “green light,” so that’s what we came out with first.  We’re still working on Vanilla and Kona Mocha flavors, and we’re also playing with caffeinated versions. Again, it’s impossible to overstate how important it is to get flavor right, so we’re taking our time and not rushing it.

About Dr. Bucci:

 Dr. Bucci is the industry leader in sports nutrition. He is an accomplished author and lecturer, and he holds multiple patents and patent applications on clinical laboratory testing methods and nutritional supplements.

He’s written four texts, contributed to eleven books, over 35 peer-reviewed research journal articles, 37 abstracts, more than 100 technical journal articles, and has presented hundreds of invited lectures and discussions on a variety of topics around the world. He also served on the United States Olympic Committee as an expert advisor on nutritional supplements.

 Dr. Bucci graduated Magna Cum Laude with a PhD in Biomedical Sciences (Biochemistry and Cell Biology), from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 1983, followed by a double post-doctoral appointment at the world’s largest cancer research center.


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