EDITOR'S SPOTLIGHT: STARTUP FOCUS
Shakes giving young athletes the right nutrition for performance sport
Youth Sport Nutrition (YSN) has developed PRO-TEEN shakes for young athletes to take during busy schedules to ensure they’re absorbing the nutrients they need – bridging the gap between baby and bodybuilding powders.
Lou Matera’s background has always been in professional sports and he studied applied science at university. He initially worked as an intern at the sports medicine department at a Premier League football club before and after graduating.
He said: “I noticed a large gap in the parents’ ability and the players’ ability to get the right nutrition before during and after training matches. Elite young athletes run a greater risk of nutritional deficiencies due to balancing periods of rapid growth, high training demands of the sport, busy schedules and sometimes selective eating habits. This places a heightened demand on them and at the time there was no quick convenient solution.”
He added that when it came to the application of getting the right food for sometimes long journeys home, four or five times weekly, it was a lot easier for families to grab vending machine snacks or fast food on the way home because it was easy, convenient and tasty ticking many boxes for parents and youngsters alike. However, in terms of actual nutritional value and supporting athletes playing at top of the game, he says it obviously isn't sustainable or the best option to use every time.
Bridging the gap
It was at this point he realised the scope for YSN and in 2017 the company was launched.
After putting all the content together, calling on a wealth of sports nutrition research globally in order to identify exactly what the key nutritional requirements of young athletes look like, he launched the products.
Lou said: “Historically, sports supplements have been wrongly associated with big muscles weight loss, as containing harmful substances. In reality part of supplements are just food designed for convenience.
“Contrary to popular belief, they won't make anyone bigger, faster or stronger. There's a large stigma for parents around the typical bodybuilding stereotype associated with sports drinks. And it's something that we want to change by being fully transparent about what a product range does and doesn't do."
Lou knows it can sometimes for parents, powder as a meal replacement is a strange or even worrying concept, but he says that unlike the 'prowess powders' aimed at bodybuilders who may use steroids too these shakes won't change you, they just make sure young people are getting the right intake of nutrition, keeping them fit to be at the top of their game.
He adds: "That's what athletes train hard for - our nutrition shakes just ensure that as an absolute minimum, athletes have exactly what they need nutritionally to support recovery, health and normal development."
It's designed as a recovery drink or meal replacement for athletes to enjoy after intense exercise whenever other suitable nutritious food isn’t available. YSN wanted to stay away from the negative associations that can exists with other shakes particularly because of the highly sensitive demographic it was aimed at.
Expanding team and market
Lou then bumped into former colleague, Ben Jefferson, at a sports conference in Manchester United's stadium, Old Trafford, where he was showcasing PRO-TEEN, a portmanteau of ‘professional’ and ‘teen’. Ben was interested to learn all about the product Lou had been developing for the last two years, he was impressed with what he saw and wanted to be involved and went on to become a co-founder.
He said: “To launch the brand, we were working with a marketing budget of zero. I joined the team with Lou growing the YSN team to two, travelling to sports clubs around the UK speaking to parents and coaches about what we hope to achieve at YSN. Youths can be notoriously fussy eaters, so if the product didn’t taste great, he knew the range wouldn’t be a success.
“As well as tasting good, the drinks needed to have key nutrients and these include calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, phosphorous, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 plus a lot more that support bone growth and the focus is around structural development, the real challenge was to make a product that would solve one of the main barriers preventing youth athletes from attaining a well-balanced diet - taste.
“We’ve now sold over 350,000 servings worldwide, with a rating of excellent on TrustPilot. We’re that confident youths love it, we offer a free refund for anyone who doesn’t!”
After great success in the UK, the team are hoping to expand into the US market.
Ben added: “After three years, we began to gain a lot of traction in the UK and further afield. The US customer base was growing, and we sourced investment to establish the brand in the States. Unfortunately, the pandemic meant we couldn’t travel, youth sport was cancelled, and everyone was at home - so there was a lesser need for convenience.
The early signs are now good and we have set up www.youthsportnutrition.com/en-us, shipping our range directly to the USA customers from our website.”