The company was founded in 2021 by nutritional coach Phil Learney and former CEO of PhD nutrition Jason Rickaby and was a chosen as a 'Startup Star’ by NutraIngredients at last year’s Sports and Active Nutrition Summit.
Talking to NutraIngredients in the runup to this year’s conference (October 9-11, 2023), Learney says the idea for the brand was sparked from an awareness of the prevalence of disrupted sleep-wake cycles for athletes and busy working professionals.
“Many of my clients were struggling with sleep issues, and all of this pointed back to chrono disruption of chronobiology, or circadian rhythm as it’s also known. So, we decided to build the brand around ingredients we could use to enhance someone’s circadian rhythm, and resultant mental and physical health,” he explains.
He says that these disruptions are common in both athletes and shift workers, with recent research identifying the increased risk of developing various diseases as a result of this.
“We know there’s a huge problem with circadian disruption in these people, and with the huge demands placed on them in terms of work output, cognition and sleep is key for them.
“But they tend to compromise sleep, and then we get people who are over-caffeinated who turn to sleeping tablets and alcohol as a sedative to sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol is also hugely damaging to sleep quality,” he stresses.
He explains their resultant focus on promoting sleep quality over quantity, whilst maximising performance throughout the day.
“Each of our products are engineered around each other. ‘Rise’ is for the first 8 hours of the day, ‘Flow’ for the second 8 hours, and ‘Pre-sleep’ for the final eight hours during sleep,” he says.
Critical circadian rhythm
The company’s three powdered drink supplements focus on a holistic approach to health, over optimisation for a specific event. ‘Rise’ contains caffeine and theanine in a two to one ratio, which is to be consumed 60-90 minutes after waking in order to minimise disruption to the cortisol-awakening response.
Learney explains: “During sleep and the first 45-60 minutes after we wake, our glymphatic system should clear our adenosine which builds up as a by-product of energy usage through cognitive and physical performance.”
Caffeine is an adenosine receptor antagonist, so immediately consuming caffeine upon waking whilst adenosine still remains in the system will cause the caffeine to bind to the same receptors, thus leaving fewer receptors available for the natural breaking of adenosine. People that do not break down adenosine as effectively may tend to feel more groggy in the morning.
The brand’s ‘Flow’ caffeine-free nootropic supplement, recently reformulated from capsule format into a powdered drink, is designed for afternoon consumption with Lion’s Mane, acetyl-L Carnitine for cognitive support.
The brand’s final ‘Pre-sleep’ supplement includes phosphatidylserine, ashwagandha, and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) to reduce oxidative stress, enhance relaxation, and promote deep REM (rapid-eye-movement) and NREM (non-rapid-eye-movement) sleep.
Learney adds that a fourth supplement is due to be launched in early September, which aims to optimise hydration upon first waking through the provision of optimal quantities of sodium, potassium, and magnesium. He says these amounts are 6-8 times greater than conventional electrolyte products.
He stresses the company’s critical focus on ingredient quantity and quality.
“Short dosing in the industry is notorious, with company’s putting expensive ingredients in marginal amounts to make a claim. Ultimately you need to have four times the serving for what you actually need.
“We cross-referenced all the studies to determine the quantities needed. We would never use an ingredient if we couldn’t put in the human dosage required for the function we wanted. And we complemented this with the evidence of biological predictability with circadian rhythm,” he emphasises.
Learney reflects on the company’s recognition as ‘Startup Star’ by NutraIngredients at last year's Active Nutrition Summit, highlighting the valuable networking opportunities, supplier conversations, and trend insights.
“Obviously for us, so early on, it was a tremendous accolade to be identified as a brand that's up and coming, doing something different and unique, which appeared to be very much the criteria of what a ‘startup star’ is.”
He explained how this aided their entry into market at a time when there was limited awareness and discussion surrounding circadian rhythm and nutrition timings.
“It was especially useful for a company that talks so transparently about things that, maybe, part of the industry doesn’t like us talking about. For example, things like caffeine management and if somebody was trying to sell a pre workout supplement but was saying that you should only use it in the morning…”
“But all of these problems are getting highlighted now which is great for us.”