I first heard of Athlete’s Performance when two stars from my hometown Philadelphia Eagles, Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens, made noise about training in the offseason at the cutting edge facility in Tempe, AZ, where I lived at the time (INSIDER is based in Phoenix.)
Mark Verstegen, founder of Athletes' Performance, later spoke about sports supplement safety and quality at our own Focus on the Future conference, held in 2005 in Scottsdale, AZ. On that same panel were USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) and NSF International, a quality testing and certification company.
A year later, after working with NFL Players Association and Verstegen—who is director of performance for the NFLPA—NSF launched its Certified for Sport™ program to provide athletes and other consumers a list of products tested and audited for quality, label claim and banned substances.
From its start in 1999 and directly after the 2006 debut of Certified for Sport, Verstegen’s team at Athlete’s Performance had exhaustively researched the best products with clinical support for health and performance benefits, so that their clients—athlete’s, corporate wellness programs and the U.S. military—could be sure to get only the best products available with known benefits to meet performance and health goals.
Fast forward to about a year ago, Athletes' Performance rebranded as EXOS and sought a partner to offer a line of EXOS brand products based on clinical research, individualized nutrition and quality manufacturing. They found and joined up with Thorne Research, a dietary supplement manufacturer already focused on quality and performance, and backed by NSF good manufacturing practice (GMP) registration and solid distribution channels in the healthcare and fitness markets.
“Thorne had a venture in the sports nutrition/fitness arena, a partnership we had and still have with John Barardi, founder and chief science officer of Precision Nutrition," said William McCamy, president of Thorne Research, who noted the partnership generated a line of products called Thorne FX that were tailored to the fitness professional and trainer segment. He explained after meeting and collaborating with EXOS, Thorne’s FX line was reborn as the EXOS Performance Nutrition line.
Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of nutrition and research for EXOS, said the heritage products from the FX line form the foundation of the EXOS line, which will evolve in the coming years to include new science-based formulations. “We are working on a series of new products that we’ve been formulating over the course of the last year that we’ll start to waterfall out throughout 2015," she said.
The EXOS line reflects the company’s core pillars of Mindset, Nutrition, movement and Recovery. The line currently includes relatively simple formulas featuring vitamins, minerals, enzymes, omega-3s, probiotics, L-carnitine, arginine and both whey and vegan proteins. Carlson-Phillips said while these products form a nutritional foundation active consumers and athletes can use to individualize their nutrition and supplement regimen, the new formulations in the pipeline will target more of a performance goal.
The crux of the collaboration between Thorne and EXOS is a focus on offering the expertise of both companies—science and performance from EXOS and Research, ingredients and manufacturing from Thorne—to offer the best ingredients with clinically demonstrated benefits.
“Collaboration is at the core of this venture, and the goal is to combine the best science, best applications and best perspectives to ensure athletes and active consumers have less confusion as it relates to what they need from a nutrition and supplement standpoint," Carlson-Phillips said. “Also, we want this to start pushing the industry to a higher standard and have brands rise above clutter what’s out there."
“We start with the benefits and formulate with the best ingredients," Carlson said. “The EXOS formulas are simplistic and modular, providing consumers everything they need and nothing they don’t." McCamy added everything-and-the-kitchen-sink formulations don’t necessarily translate to great performance, so they want the EXOS line to stay focused on clinical research. For instance, he noted the EXOS amino acids product has the exact amino profile studied in published trials showing benefits.
Thorne and EXOS will share research and development responsibilities on the future products. “It’s probably the most exciting part of this," McCamy said. “We are able to bring together two great groups of very smart people to scour the literature, scour the marketplace to find the absolute best in class solutions for the consumer." He noted four new products are due out in the next few months with a long wish list of additional products launching in the near future. “We are eager to bring together the most current research and some of the most exciting new ingredients," he said.
“We want consumers to trust the products and outcomes," Carlson-Phillips said, referring to this measured approach to R&D and formulation. EXOS will stay abreast of the hot ingredients and look at incorporating it into a product those ingredients that demonstrate efficacy and produce a desirable benefit. “This brand is known as the hub of what’s next, not the hub of what might be," she said.
To help their efforts, EXOS has assembled a scientific advisory board comprised of application experts, scientific experts and medical experts. This includes Barardi, a well-known fitness coach, as well as wellness expert Murdoc Khaleghi, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation clinician David Lemay, M.D., and personalized medical expert Michael Schmidt, PH.D., who has partnered with NASA Human Research Program on human performance projects.
In the beginning, the new EXOS products will be available in each partner’s bread-and-butter distribution channels: Thorne’s network of healthcare and fitness professionals, and the elite athletes, corporate wellness and military partners of EXOS. Long term, the companies plan to develop a more direct-to-consumer distribution, but for now active consumers unable to reach the products through the existing Thorne and EXOS channels can purchase them through EXOSFuel.com.