Ready to geek out on some nutrition science?
OSMO Nutrition is a new sports nutrition company based on the research of Dr. Stacy Sims, an exercise physiologist and sport nutritionist at Stanford University from 2007-2012 with an impressive resume of consulting Lance Armstrong and other top athletes over the years. She’s also a Cat 1 roadie and elite XTerra triathlete.
The name Osmo is a play on Osmolality, the measure of how many solutes (solids) are in a solution. The key with sports drinks is to have the osmalality lower than that of your blood in order to be absorbed quickly. Otherwise, you’re stomach has to work to dilute it.
Sims says most sports drinks are designed to be a fuel source and pack in lots and lots of calories. By packing all that in, it increases the osmolality too high, which hurts absorption. This causes water to be pulled to the digestive system to dilute it, which means it’s being pulled away from your muscles.
Her guideline for athletes is “food in your pocket, hydration in your bottle. If you’re relying on fuel from your liquids, you’re not optimizing your hydration.”
Sims actually doesn’t recommend gels at all, a theory shared with another former Armstrong support member, Dr. Allen Lim. She says for every one gel, you should probably consume 8-12 ounces of water, but even then it’s a concentrated source in the stomach that requires time to mix with the water before it can digest. It also causes heat storage because most gels are comprised of fructose or maltodextrin, which require an extra step for digestion. This extra step produces heat, which is just added to the heat already being produced by your muscles. This decreases the time to fatigue.
Food’s a little different, surprisingly. She recommends simple carbs like white bread or new potatoes with some salt or peanut butter on them. Nothing that’s going to spike the blood sugar too much or cause stomach distress.
OK, with all that in mind, just what sort of drinks did they develop?
Dr. Sims is joined by Ben Capron, a former Specialized product and marketing manager and decorated mountain biker, and Paul Pilliteri, whose background is in motorsports team management, technology and inline skating. Osmo’s formulations are based on Dr. Sim’s peer reviewed research and field experience, and they’re broken down into four types developed for a specific point in the exercise/recovery sequence: Pre-hydration, Active hydration, Recovery and Sleep/Recovery.
OSMO PreLoad – Is designed to help your body hold more water for particularly hot or intense events where you can’t take in water fast enough to counter sweat losses. It creates a buffer against aerobic and anaerobic lactic acid production, too, to help you perform harder for longer. This is done via their specific sodium compounds (retention) and bicarbonates (buffering). Citrates in particular have been shown to improve athletic performance by regulating pH (also buffering).
The other effect is an increase in blood plasma volume, which helps keep the body cooler for longer (slows core temperature increase), and it helps prevent cramping.
OSMO Active Hydration – Designed to be the most rapid way to get water into your body, which is critical for performance.
“When you start to feel thirsty, you’re already about 2% down on your body water,” says Capron. “That translates to roughly 11% reduction in mass power you could put out. Every person is different, of course, but these are pretty close figures for most.”
There’s also an optimized electrolyte profile to prevent cramping, all of which are Citrates.
Why glucose and sucrose? Because they’re easily recognized by the digestive system, and Sims says that particular combo is the best for speeding usage and gastric emptying.
OSMO Acute Recovery – Designed to be consumed in that golden 30 minute window immediately following exercise. Sims and Capron say recovery is one of the most overlooked parts of training. This product helps transition your body from activity to recovery.
“During exercise, you produce a lot of cortisol and adrenaline,” says Sims. “And if you don’t stop that process quickly afterward, it’s hard for your body to recover properly. Introducing protein stops the catabolic state by signaling that there’s fuel available for the body to replenish itself. The longer you have those proteins (amino acids) available, the better job your body can do.
“We have two proteins, fast releasing whey isolate (20g) and slower micellar casein (10g), to extend the amount of time the fuel is available to a couple hours. The effective amount of protein is between 15g and 30g within the 30 minute window as that’s the most your body can absorb in that time frame.”
Sims says the addition of caffeine (25-30mg per serving, from Green Tea Extract) improves glycogen storage by 66% over just using a carb/protein blend.
Sims: “We intentionally didn’t add antioxidants because when taken immediately after exercise, they stop the adaptation that the mitochondria go into on their own, which helps naturally rid the body of free radicals.
“The body’s natural response to exercise is inflammation and recognition of free radicals, and you want this. If you don’t let the body see this reaction and adapt to it, it never learns to adapt to the stresses of exercise. The adaptation is how you get stronger, and it carries all the way down to the cellular level with the mitochondria. If they’re allowed to adapt, it can increase performance by improving aerobic metabolism – turning glucose and oxygen into ATP, which is used by the muscle for fuel.”
Side note: Sims also said this means taking NSAID (ibuprofen, etc.) immediately after has the same detrimental effect and can stress or damage the kidneys.
OSMO Goodnight Recovery – Sleep is where you grow and really recover. This one’s designed to help you relax and get deep sleep with the inclusion of Valerian Root, and the cherries provide antioxidant support.
Sims: “After a particularly hard or long workout, sometimes it’s hard to come down. We’ve all been there, so tired that we’re restless and can’t get to sleep, which is why we designed Goodnight the way we did.”
OSMO’s products will retail for $24.99 each for Preload (10 servings) and Active (20 servings), and recovery products are $39.95 for Acute (10 servings) and Goodnight (8 servings).
Yes, that’s expensive, and they admit it. Why?
“The science that goes into these formulas isn’t free,” Capron said. “And there are a whole range of grades you can select for ingredients. We’re using the very best available, and the cost can be many multiples more. Once you get under the hood and look at what separates the grades, it’s hard in good conscious to use lower grade products. We know some of our athletes are going to be vegan or just otherwise meticulous about what they eat and drink.
“For example, sugar seems simple enough, but most refined sugar is filtered through bone char (charred cow bones) to make it white. It’s effective, but it’s not something we wanted to use. Ours is sourced from a Virginia company and is filtered through charcoal (wood). This is just one example, and it’s a small thing, but it helps explain the premium pricing.
“Whey protein is imported from Holland and is hormone- and GMO-free. There’s no guarantee for either of those from US protein sources.”
The Micellar Casein is an ultra filtered casein which, like whey isolate, means you’re getting virtually all protein and little or no milk sugars (lactose) or fat. The product itself is not lactose free, though, and it’s not recommended for those with lactose allergies.
“We believe our customers are those that’ll recognize the value of OSMO. The biggest upgrade you can make is to your body.”
Made exclusively from organic and natural ingredients. Nothing comes from anything that didn’t grow in the ground or minerals from the earth. The freeze dried fruit powders not only provide flavor, but they contain antioxidants ideal for the particular exercise period. They’re produced in California and sold direct (for now, they’re talking to dealers), and as of this post going live you can buy it. We’ll be testing it soon, stay tuned.