What's Cool In Road Cycling

First Endurance Multi-V Daily Vitamin Review

Understanding the nutritional supplement category can be tricky – too often products are based more on “marketing” and less on “science”. But one nutritional company that actually bases their products on science is First Endurance. We talked to them about their corporate philosophy and the development of their new “Multi-V” daily vitamin…

The Retro-Grouch Cometh
Over by the virtual water cooler at Pez, probably one of the bigger arguments (right next to naming the upcoming Mini-Pez Axel, Eddy or Seven) is between our Tech Editor and myself over what part of the bike universe is more over-hyped – gear or supplements. For every marketing blurb about “lightest” with bike gear, there’s an equivalent nutritional aid promising its product will make you “faster,” usually accompanied by the adjective “clinically-proven.”

Long-time readers will recall that my second-ever Toolbox was a warning about the potential hazards of supplements, including lack of scientific proof and possible contamination. A constant theme throughout my writing on supplements and nutritional aids remains a warning against over-reliance on them at the expense of common sense and a moderate, balanced diet.

Do the Right Thing
At the same time, I realize that this is a broad generalization of the industry, and there are companies who are doing it right in terms of ensuring a top-end supplement while at the same time making product safety central to their philosophy. First Endurance is one of them, and they go to impressive lengths to ensure quality control.

All ingredients used in First Endurance formulations come from audited suppliers who do not carry, broker or supply any banned substances. In addition, their manufacturing facility does not allow banned substances in any other products manufactured there. As further quality control, each case lot is analysed by an independent testing agency, and a certificate of analysis is included with each container.

Part of the First Endurance corporate philosophy is that they do not design their products to a particular price point, only to what they feel works best. With that in mind, they base their products on scientific research along with extensive athlete feedback, usually using dosages of nutrients that are similar to those used in the original scientific research to ensure maximum benefit.

Even dearer to my heart, First Endurance has published detailed scientific information and listed all of their scientific references for each of their products on their website. And a new introduction since 2004, following the example of Gatorade’s Sport Science Institute, is the publication of regular newsletters on different topics in sports nutrition. For a small company, this shows tremendous confidence in their products and the willingness to learn.

Introducing Multi-V
The latest addition to the First Endurance product line is the self-explantory “Multi-V” daily vitamin. Intended to provide daily vitamin and mineral needs, Multi-V also seeks to deliver them in the most bio-available (readily absorbed) forms and dosages possible. Furthermore, unlike the typical multi-vitamin down at the local drug store, First Endurance adds ingredients to Multi-V designed specifically to address the nutritional requirements of endurance athletes.

The two main nutritional needs, according to the company, are to protect athletes from the stresses of training and also to improve performance. Key in this strategy is the emphasis on antioxidants to combat the oxidative damage from the production of free oxygen radicals, components associated with cellular damage, during endurance exercise. First Endurance tests their products with the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) test, considered the gold standard within the industry, to determine antioxidant quality.

Another innovation with Multi-V is the use of the patented “Carbogen” enzyme formulation. Designed to break down complex carbohydrates into glucose (the basic unit of carbohydrate used by the muscles) without spiking up blood insulin response, Carbogen was recently the focus of a research study at Ball State University in Indiana. There, during a 60 min, 80% VO2max ride, highly-trained subjects were found to have higher blood glucose, lower blood lactate and ratings of perceived exertion. Then, during a ride to exhaustion immediately afterwards, tolerance time increased by 43% during the Carbogen trial. Pretty impressive numbers, and it’s interesting to note that Multi-V contains the exact same dosage (160 mg) as used in that study to ensure maximum benefit.

Supplement Development Q&A
To get the further low-down on the process of developing a new nutritional supplement, I sat down with Robert Kunz, VP Research for First Endurance.

Pez Why a multi-vitamin, especially when you already have a nutritional supplement in Optygen?

FE A Multi-Vitamin should be the foundation of all endurance athletes nutritional supplementation program. Endurance Athletes put a tremendous amount of stress on their bodies and hence require higher levels of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than the average consumer. The assurance that your body is receiving all these nutrients at the appropriate levels is critical to remaining healthy and strong throughout the demands of the racing season. Multi-V is designed to be used all year long as your daily multi-vitamin. Optygen on the other hand is designed to allow your body to ‘adapt’ to the heavy training months of the year, whether that is three months or eleven months will vary from athlete to athlete.

Pez What were the key priorities (nutritionally speaking) in developing Multi-V? How was this achieved?

FE Our corporate priority was to develop a Multi-Nutrient formula which meets the demands of endurance athletes. Through many months of development and questionnaires sent to ALL of our sponsored athletes we narrowed our priorities to 5 key attributes which were of highest importance in the eyes of our athletes:
1) Not to produce a Multi-Vitamin with Mega-doses of vitamins & minerals,
2) The best source of Iron,
3) Other Nutrients which improve endurance performance,
4) no more than three tablets per day,
5) the best antioxidant profile available.

We used these Five Key attributes which our athletes told us were the most important and got to work on the research. The Endurance Research Board then spent many months scouring all the appropriate Journals and Research Articles in order to develop a ‘Theoretical Formula’. This formula was then offered to our athletes for final review and for prototype testing. We nailed all the important attributes our athletes demanded and launched Multi-V with ORAC tested (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity – considered the gold standard for antioxidant efficacy) antioxidants, Ferrochel-Iron Amino Acid Chelate, performance improving nutrients, appropriate doses of vitamins & minerals and only three tablets per day.

We were especially excited about the addition of Carbogen enzymes to the Multi-V. This patented enzyme blend comes with a clinical study on elite cyclist showing significant improvement in lactate and time to exhaustion. No other Multi offers this.

Pez How much input did your athletes like Levi and Freddie provide into the development of Multi-V?

FE Levi and Freddie were involved in every step of the process from the original questionnaire which asked ‘what product would you like to see First Endurance develop?’ to the final prototype testing. These high level athletes are extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of their training and racing. The training has become so advanced through numerous monitors measuring HR, lactate, power, calories consumed, strength to weight ratios.

Because of this, athletes like Levi and Freddie can easily determine if adding one new item to their training makes a performance difference or improves recovery. Due to their professionalism, knowledge and highly advanced training programs, we weigh very heavily the feedback we receive from these highly trained athletes.

Pez How did you develop Multi-V to “supplement” or complement your existing products like Optygen? How much benefit can you get using Multi-V alone without other FE products?

FE Ultragen, E3, Optygen and Multi-V are designed to complement one another. When used as directed there is no better nutritional supplementation program in the world to maximize endurance performance. Multi-V should be the foundation of any endurance athletes supplementation program and with the addition of nutrients like Ginkgo Biloba, Green Tea and Carbogen performance should be experienced.

Primarily, Multi-V comes first before all others and offers the nutritional stability athletes need in order to remain healthy and strong throughout the racing season. Optygen is then used through the heavy, high stress portion of their season where an athlete is looking to make gains through hard training. Ultragen should be used for any long-hard workout which demands the best recovery. Back-to-back heavy training days are a perfect platform for Ultragen. E3 is designed to be your daily electrolyte, carbohydrate drink for all endurance workouts.

An athlete using all four products as they were designed will receive the appropriate levels of all key nutrients for training and racing. You will notice that calcium is omitted from the Multi-V. Using Ultragen and E3 our consumers typically get between 700 and 900 mg of calcium per day from these products alone. It is very typical for athletes on the complete program to experience lower incidence of sickness, better recovery, significant improvement in work capacity, faster intervals and better mood.

Pez Your products are based on good scientific research. However, describe for me the process of actually testing Multi-V throughout its development?

FE The development process begins with our athletes. It’s amazing how accurate our athletes can be regarding their nutritional needs. This was very evident when we developed Ultragen, E3 and Multi-V. For example, our athletes told us they were not interested in a Mega-Dose Multi-Vitamin and wanted a ‘safer alternative’ to the typical Iron Source ‘Ferrous Fumerate’. These types of comments are then fed to the Endurance Research Board and a search through the latest clinical research begins.

With practically every question we have asked, our athletes have been in-line with what the research shows. In reviewing the clinical studies it was very clear that athletes are in need of vitamin and mineral doses higher than the RDA, but no hard evidence that Mega-Doses offered any real benefit. Hence, the Vitamin & Mineral levels found in Multi-V are between 100% and 670% of the RDA. We do this for every attribute of each formula we develop.

We then produce a prototype and send it out to over a hundred athletes who test the product during the heart of the season. This typically happens in July our August which makes for a perfect scenario. Our athletes have been racing for many months and have a very good baseline of their fitness and results. We make one change to their nutrition by adding the new prototype and request feedback from the athletes. Through their advance monitoring systems many athletes give us feedback on improved VO2max, lactate, HR or Power. Following this feedback we either tweak the formula as necessary or launch. Of course, feedback and re-design is a continuous process, and we continue to refine our products as needed based on athlete feedback.

Check out the First Endurance Website and sign up for their free newsletters on sports nutrition topics.

About Stephen:
Stephen Cheung is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Stephen’s company, Podium Performance, also provides elite sport science and training support to provincial and national-level athletes in a number of sports. He can be reached for comments or coaching inquiries at [email protected].

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