Startup Spotlight

Sports nutrition startup scores touchdown with microbiome booster

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

Advanced Biotics
Advanced Biotics

Related tags Sports & Active Nutrition Summit Europe Sports nutrition products Sports nutrition microbiome Gut health Prebiotics postbiotics Sports nutrition sector

NutraIngredients’ 2023 ‘Start-up Star’ competition winner Advanced Biotics brings microbiome modulation to the sports nutrition sector, offering clinically validated prebiotic-based solutions to athletes.

Founders Nathan Gray and Berend Tillema launched Advanced Biotics​ in 2021, after being inspired by the lack of quality products in the market and a desire to create microbiome-focused supplements that are easy to use.

The company has been chosen as one of three winning ‘Start-up Stars’ who will join NutraIngredients’ Active Nutrition Summit​ in Amsterdam this October and will present their business to the room of industry experts.

In advance of his stage appearance, Gray explains to NutraIngredients that they spent 18 months researching and experimenting to develop a product that is tasteless, soluble, shelf-stable, and uses effective ingredient doses.

Their inaugural product, Daily Microbiome Booster​, is a 10g sachet of powder containing prebiotics, postbiotics and collagen, that can be added to any food or drink.

A company with a difference

Gray explains traditional sports supplements have primarily focused on macronutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, or micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, however, there is a lack of attention on the gut microbiome.

He states: "We know that the microbiome impacts multiple systems in the body and that having a more diverse microbiome, with increased output of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) is important for influencing everything from energy metabolism, immunity, inflammation, and nutrient absorption to mental well-being and sleep. 

“We also know, that these things impact sports performance. A more resilient immune system can help training load, and increased sleep efficiency or better inflammatory control can also help in recovery or performance markers.” 

Gray states: “We’re one of only a handful of companies taking the athletic microbiome seriously. And the only one to approach things by using prebiotics and postbiotics.”

He says that a lot of companies in the sector are churning out “hundreds of products” without specialising in the ingredients they’re selling. 

“Right now, most companies selling a probiotic for sports are focused on general sports nutrition, they are the ‘big boys’ with hundreds of product SKUs in their ranges.

“And while they might sell a probiotic as part of that massive portfolio of products, I’m not convinced they know what they are selling or why they are selling it. They’re not specialists, and it shows.”

Gray believes that theirs is one of a small handful of companies that are specialists in the field, and he notes that there are key differences in what Advanced Biotics has set out to achieve. 

He says of competitive companies: “Most of them use a live probiotic bacteria – many of them are proprietary and well backed – but we’re taking a different approach, where we use a mix of prebiotics, postbiotics, and collagen to improve the microbiome as a whole.”

The product 

The Daily Microbiome Booster contains a combination of low-dose prebiotics and advanced postbiotics.

Specifically, they use galactooligosaccharide (Bimuno)​ and partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG)​, which according to Gray are “vital because they are also validated as relatively low doses versus a more traditional prebiotic” which is imperative for the success of the product.

It also contains the heat-inactivated postbiotic (L. Plantarum strain)​ L-137​, and collagen. 

Gray explains that collagen is beneficial for gut health​ – with a few studies now showing different effects, noting: “There are some emerging data from cell line studies​ that show the importance of collagen in maintaining tight junctions – these are important parts of your gut lining, and are the part that essentially breaks down when people have ‘leaky gut’.”

“By maintaining tight junction integrity you’re potentially having a big impact in maintaining the overall gut lining.”

As Gray explains, all the ingredients work synergistically to improve gut health, reduce GI discomfort, and inflammation, and boost immunity, ultimately enhancing athletic performance.

The founders have confidence in their efficacy, with Gray explaining that while they await the initial results of the first validation studies, the evidence supporting each ingredient suggests that there are interesting potential synergies.

He explains: “There are 40 plus trials conducted on the ingredients we use, but we’re still working on the validation trials for our specific combination. We know from the individual studies that we can expect some great results, and early indications look great.”

Informed Sport certified

Gray explains that testing for banned products is vital for supplements that want to be taken seriously in the elite sports segment. 

He notes that many products on the market are not batch-tested for banned substances, giving supplements a ‘bad rep’ in sports nutrition.

He explains that they counteract this by testing every batch they produce and have been awarded Informed Sport certification, illustrating a commitment to quality.  

Informed Sport certification stands for supply chain assurance, with a focus on the manufacturing, laboratory, ingredients, and nutritional supplements sectors. 

“Having a great product is one thing, but without showing it is safe, and being able to demonstrate that with testing, you’re not going to get far in the elite market,” Gray states.

Next steps

Gray explains that their primary focus remains increasing the adoption of their Daily Microbiome Booster among athletes and to obtain clinical validation to establish partnerships with athletes and clubs. 

But looking to the future, he explains: "We know from our initial R&D and NPD work that we can use this blend to create so many products, so our ambition for the future has to be to keep innovating and match the pace of the sports and active market with where they are with the great tasting and innovative products out there.”

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