Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus

Pro athletes launch DNA-focused gut-friendly sports nutrition startup

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | kirsty pargeter
Getty | kirsty pargeter

Related tags Dna personalised Sports nutrition

A team of pro athletes from Belgium have created a gastrointestinal-friendly sports nutrition startup with the addition of DNA-based nutrition advice.

Brent Luyckx, co-founder and CEO of 4Gold​, started his career as a pro-road cyclist but this was put to a stop in 2015 when he began to suffer with debilitating Crohn’s Disease.

He tells NutraIngredients: “My health issues became so severe due to inflammation in my intestines that I had to have an operation to remove part of my small and large intestine intestine as well as my appendix.

“After this I started looking for more healthy nutrition and looking for what’s the best food and supplements I could take to control my IBD.”

The athlete says he had always felt the sports nutrition supplements he took had a negative impact on his gut.

“My experience as a pro cyclist showed me there was a big gap between where the science was and where sports nutrition was. My colleagues and I felt there was a lack of rigorous testing of products and cyclists were testing as positive in doping tests due to contaminated products. And most products were not gastrointestinal friendly at all. I wanted to close that gap to make better, science-based sports nutrition.”

He started keeping a food diary in order to work out the inflammation triggering ingredients in his diet.

“It was really a big search to find out what was the right food for me. In my research I also started to become aware of the importance of DNA analysis.”


It was around this same time that he began working with fellow elite cyclist Mathieu van der Poel​ and enduro motor cross rider Axel Roelants, who shared his frustration with the poor quality supplements on the market.

They launched their own range of supplements under the 4Gold brand in 2016 with a range of plant-based (apart from the whey protein) gastrointestinal friendly products, including a carbo electro isotonic drink with four different carbohydrates with different absorption rates, a pre-workout designed for endurance training with Resveratrol, EGCG, Ashwagandha, Bacopa Monnieri and natural caffeine, a recovery shake with protein from algae, a time release whey powder, and a BCAA (10:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine).

It wasn’t until 2018 that Luyckx was speaking to his doctor about his difficulties finding the right nutrition that didn’t flare up his IBD and he was put in touch with epigenetics expert Nikolaas Van Riet, who taught him all about the health benefits of DNA based nutrition.

Luyckx immediately brought Van Riet on board as 4Gold’s head of R&D and added a DNA testing kit (using saliva collection) to the startup’s repertoire.

“DNA testing can provide insights into injury prevention, mental health, performance and recovery, and providing this service to our customers allows us to provide advice on nutrition and supplements as we can analyse aspects such as carbohydrate and alcohol sensitivity, gluten and lactose intolerance, nutrient metabolism, choline production, and more.

“In the beginning, it was only other athletes that were interested in the kits but now we have a combination of pro athletes and everyday consumers who want more insights into their nutritional choices and their health.”

Since launch, the range of 4Gold products has been extended to include isotonic gels, organic and raw energy and protein bars, green fuel (powder from more than 50 organic superfoods), gut support (2′-Fucosyllactose HMO in 3 variants, depending on genetic predisposition), vitamin D capsules and pro choline capsules.

The range is available online, with the team planning to expand to target new geographical regions more specifically in the coming years.

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