Meet the Trailblazers: Hiddit’s focus extends to a personalised approach for triathletes

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Double Ironman world champion Luc Van Lierde. ©Luc Van Lierde
Double Ironman world champion Luc Van Lierde. ©Luc Van Lierde
How I did it—or ‘Hiddit’—is the Belgian startup that counts double Ironman world champion Luc Van Lierde on board a venture that has a triathlete’s nutritional needs in mind, both in formulation and ease of use.

Speaking to NutraIngredients ahead of his appearance at the upcoming Sports Nutrition Congress 2018 Trailblazers session, Hiddit’s Tony Van Campen outlines the firm’s mission: to provide athletes with the best possible products and services to unlock their potential.

“Confused by the vast offering on the market and conflicting studies, we decided to change our approach around,”​ explained Van Campen, the firm’s general manager.

“Most brands develop a product and then look for a celebrity to promote it; we looked at who we considered an absolute authority in his field, and asked how we should develop our products. This is how Luc Van Lierde, who was at the base of our product line, showed us ‘how I did it.’ 

“His views and requirements were verified by science, to produce a line of products specifically made with the triathlete in mind, in formulation and ease of use.”

A 10-17 hour competition

With Van Lierde’s help, Hiddit have made great strides in the competitive sports nutrition industry, where its range of products are designed to address the specific demands of triathlon training and competition.

As Van Campen explains, the high training volumes and competitions typically last 10-17 hours magnifying certain problems and basic principles of sports nutrition.

“If you take in too many carbs, or the wrong carbs in the wrong ratio, your intestines will not be able to digest this. That may not be a huge problem, if you are lifting weights for 45 minutes at the gym; an upset stomach is not that big a deal.

“However, if you get this when you still need to run a marathon after six hours of high-intensity effort, it is a major factor in success or failure. The extreme nature of triathlon demands extreme attention to nutrition.”

Van Campen goes on to explain that its range of isotonic drinks, recovery, energy gels, bars and drinks as well as supplements, focus on the most important issue of the target group: digestion and gut health.

Want to attend our Sports Nutrition Congress in September this year? 

Organised by NutraIngredients and hosted in partnership with the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), the SNC will offer a one stop shop for the latest must-have insights in the worlds of sports and active nutrition - including the use of ketones in sports.

Register now to make you are there!

Top levels speakers already confirmed to join us in Brussels include:

  • Florina-Andreea Pantazi, European Commission
  • Daniel Davy, Leinster Rugby
  • Orla O’Sullivan, APC Microbiome Institute
  • Robert Walker, SCI-MX Nutrition
  • Professor Kieran Clarke, University of Oxford
  • João Gonçalo Cunha, KickUP Sports Innovation
  • Pia Ostermann, Euromonitor International
  • Katia Merten-Lentz, Keller and Heckman LLP
  • Adam Carey, ESSNA Chair
  • Alex Zurita, London Sport
  • Professor John Brewer, St Mary’s University
  • Tom Morgan, Lumina Intelligence
  • Luca Bucchini, Hylobates Consulting & ESSNA Vice-Chair

Click this link find out more about what’s on the agenda for the congress.

A racing nutrition-planning app

In addition, the products are accompanied by guidance, with advice offered on how to use the products to their full potential. Here, Hiddit’s racing nutrition-planning app is just one example.

According to Hiddit, the app is the first step to an individualised approach with the most recent research used as a basis to help triathletes plan their racing nutrition, using individual characteristics such as sweat rate, event, duration, etc.

Developed by professor Asker Jeukendrup, Van Campen believes the application of science and best-of-class product development are based on real life successes forming the core of Hiddit's market approach.

When asked about personalised nutrition and its potential in contributing to the sports arena, Van Campen believes that ‘one size really does not fit all’ when it comes to creating optimum health or performance.

“The challenge lies in offering customers a science-based, reliable and trustworthy solution that is affordable. Research in DNA and microbiome will hold many keys in truly unlocking the human potential.

“To translate these complex findings into specific products for specific customers: that is the challenge! We will need to be pioneers in this field, walking a thin line in uncharted territory, pushing the boundaries while always keeping the customer’s needs in mind.”

No compensation for poor eating habits

Hiddit’s philosophy stems from the belief that good performance starts with good health and sports nutrition can never be used as a patch to compensate for poor eating habits.

“Healthy eating is always at the basis of our advice, and sugary products only have their role around the training moment when higher amounts of glucose are burned for energy,”​ said Van Campen.

“There are no adverse effects when used correctly: the body at rest and during hard exercise has different needs and reactions.

“NOT using glucose-containing products during an Ironman would actually cause much more harm by causing the body to burn muscle tissue for energy in the absence of sufficient fuel,”​ said Van Campen.

“I believe the real issue lies in the so called ‘energy drinks’ that are full of sugar and used by non-active persons. Then indeed the sugar will cause ‘crashes’ and weight gain due to the insulin reaction.”

As a startup, Hiddit has had its fair share of challenges with legislation being one of the most complicated issues to tackle, especially with the current speed of scientific development.

Despite the challenges, Van Campen has applauded the strict policies of the European Union when discussing the regulatory landscape, arguing of the need to adhere to customer well-being.

“That should be our first concern;”​ he said “On the other hand, the regulations need to be more uniform: for instance the amount of caffeine allowed in a product is different in several countries of the EU.

“A sweetener allowed in the Netherlands is not allowed in Belgium – a neighbouring country. In Belgium we need to get certified – not so in the Netherlands: how is that fair competition?”

‘Snake oil’ products off the market

Van Campen points to the need for clear regulation that is also enforced, going beyond mere labelling requirements and including quality checks and product testing to ensure consumer confidence and positively boosting the sector’s image.

“The approach to claims is also very strict in Europe, maybe too strict and no longer up to date,”​ he added. “Not being able to claim that protein helps recovery, for instance, is absurd.”

“Whereas ‘snake oil’ products should definitely be taken off the market, it should be easier to highlight the potential benefits of a product.”

Hiddit’s presence at the Sports Nutrition Congress 2018 Trailblazers session is a sure sign of things to come with the successful launch in the Benelux region a springboard to expansion in the UK, Spain and other European markets.

“We are happy to announce that in 2019 we will be teaming up with Carbotix, also a former trailblazer, in doing deeper research into the athlete’s microbiome and how modulating it can improve performance – and health.

“These findings will be coupled with more applications that will help our customers to individualise their products, and make the best possible use of them, adapted to their specific needs.”

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