Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cracking the Mystery of Vespa

I've been using the Vespa Power Amino Acid Supplement over the last few months, and have been very pleased with the results. It's hard to explain the feeling, but for me it feels like a smoothing of my energy flow that negates the sugar spikes and lows that I typically struggle with in the latter portions of a long ultra. How it works is still a mystery to me, so I sent some questions to Peter Defty, the North American Rep for Vespa (and a hell of an ultrarunner himself), to help clarify.

Before I get to the questions, I should note a couple of things. First, you see the logo on the right so you know I'm already a big fan and have a massively biased opinion. I was referred to the product by Paul Charteris, whom also raves about Vespa. But I have also spoken to a few who say it does nothing for them. Like any dietary supplement, you should choose what works for you, consult your physician, blah, blah, blah. Second, please note that neither Peter nor I are medical professionals. I'm just trying to get the info out on a product I find useful. Available at ZombieRunner here if you want to give it a try (don't forget to enter TRBLOG for your 10% discount).

Okay! Here's what I found out from Peter. Thank you, Peter, for taking the time!

1) a) Can you explain, in layman’s terms what the effects of VESPA are?

The effects of VESPA are really very subtle because what an athlete may notice is what they do not notice (i.e. the ups & downs of blood sugar and energy levels)... the “effect” is a steady “even” metabolism rather than the boost found in energy drinks or the “energy boost” one gets when ingesting sugars or carbs when their blood sugars are low.

The other big “effect” of using VESPA is by reducing lactate levels ( a key marker for fatigue) the muscles will develop less fatigue or, shall I say, there will be a delay in the onset and/or intensity of fatigue. Developing less fatigue translates into a faster recovery and lower levels of muscle soreness allowing the athlete to train harder.

b) How does it “metabolize fat, stabilize glucose levels and minimize lactates”?

The conventional mantra is to find the best way to keep re-fueling with sugars/carbs which means the muscles are metabolizing the ingested sugar. The more sugar the muscles metabolize the more lactate is produced. Lactate, though not the cause of fatigue, is a key marker.

VESPA’s mode is novel in that it shifts muscle metabolism toward oxidizing fatty acids (fats) for energy thus lowering the muscle metabolism of sugar. VESPA is composed of a naturally occurring peptide (an amino acid complex) derived from the Asian Mandarin Wasp, one of nature’s endurance athletes.

Indirectly, by shifting muscle metabolism toward greater use of fats, glucose levels are stabilized. The nervous system and brain sip glucose whereas the muscles will use glucose up quite rapidly if utilized as the primary source of fuel. This leads to the classic “bonk” in addition to producing lactate.

Endurance training builds the number of mitochondria in the cells which oxidize fats and sugars and since it takes twice the oxygen to oxidize fats (by weight) over sugar the more mitochondria the greater the fat burn, the greater the endurance…..this is why endurance training allows athletes to go farther on their glucose & glycogen stores. VESPA optimizes fat metabolism at all levels.

When you metabolize more fat and less sugar the muscles a lower level of lactates are produced…..lactates are produced through sugar metabolism…sugar is broken down into lactic acid and pyruvic acid. Both are immediately buffered into lactate and pyruvate. The pyruvate is then oxidized in the Krebs cycle to produce energy whereas the lactate is dumped into the bloodstream to be used by the heart (a muscle that loves lactate and has the enzymatic pathway to utilize the energy) or processed by the liver back into glucose (glycogenolysis) or processed by the kidneys. Interestingly enough studies have suggested VESPA stimulates the production of noradrenaline which directly stimulates the production of glucose via hepatic (liver) glycogenolysis, again reducing lactate levels.

Data from Informal trials on humans (including diabetics) and lab studies on mice have indicated this is how VESPA metabolizes fats, stabilizes glucose and minimizes lactates.

c) How is that helpful for endurance athletes?

If we do the math it becomes clear how this helps endurance athletes…. A well-fueled athlete can store about 1500 calories of carbs/sugars in the muscles and liver as glycogen while a lean (8% body fat) 150 pound male endurance runner has 50,000+ calories stored as fat (about 12 pounds of fat)…..it takes that runner about 9000-12000 calories (2 pounds of fat and sugar from stores and a moderate ingestion) to run a race like Western States and if you are going to do it by using the conventional wisdom of ingesting enough carbs you can’t or you have to slow down or stop.

On the other hand by optimizing the body’s utilization of fat stores for muscle metabolism one can keep sugar intake low enough to maintain a higher level of performance and with less risk of stomach/intestinal issues arising from trying to ingest calories while maintaining a high level of physical activity.

By stabilizing glucose levels an athlete stays more focused, aware and maintains a high level of motor skills. You are not riding the blood sugar roller coaster so to speak and can take in a constant but small supply of sugar your system can handle and keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable.

As mentioned above, by reducing glucose metabolism lactate levels are reduced, lactates being a by-product of glucose metabolism. In an Ultra it is vital to do everything possible to reduce lactate production to a minimum because, over time, the levels are going to creep up and fatigue set in.

The use of beta-alanine, sodium phosphate and sodium bi-carbonate are steps taken to buffer lactate production but why use them if you can reduce lactate production in the first place by metabolizing fats instead of sugars? Furthermore, the mechanisms for fatigue are quite complex and there is no evidence taking these lactate buffers will help in endurance exercise. Rather, this strategy is utilized for high level activities of 30 seconds to 2 minutes

2) a) What are the ingredients of VESPA?

The principle active ingredient is the Wasp Extract which is minimally processed. This is key because of the high bio-availability, that is, the body’s ability to utilize the amino acids found in the Wasp Extract. There are synthetic copies (VAAM & Hornet Juice) and, in all studies, VESPA has consistently out-performed synthetic versions. Other key ingredients are Royal Jelly and Bee Propolis.

b) What contribution does each ingredient make?

VESPA was formulated so the key ingredients (wasp extract, royal jelly, bee propolis) work synergistically.

The Wasp Extract is the peptide (amino acid complex) derived from the Asian Mandarin Wasp that shifts muscle metabolism toward fat metabolism and also facilitates glycogenolysis (production of glucose from lactates) in the liver.

Royal Jelly: Royal Jelly has some natural anti-bacterial properties and is the food source fed to larvae in bee colonies….it is termed royal jelly because it is the only food source fed to the larvae destined to become a queen bee. Royal Jelly has proponents making a lot of claims but the only substantiated material is that it has anti-bacterial properties and is rich in certain amino acids and B vitamins.

Bee Propolis: Bee Propolis has exhibited fairly strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties which make sense since this is what bees use to line their hives…..hives which are highly susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections. One study also suggest anti-inflammatory properties in humans.

Honestly, my interpretation of the information available suggests that there are benefits to Royal Jelly and Bee Propolis, however, many claims of purported benefits are grossly overblown and/or false making any potential benefits suspect.

3) How did you find out about VESPA?

Serendipitously one afternoon at the 2006 Western States Memorial Day Training weekend my good friend Paleo Paul Charteris (also known as Kiwi Paul) gave me a couple of pouches and said his good friend “Mojo” (Dr. Michael “Mojo” Cosgrove MD) swore by the stuff even though he was initially quite skeptical of the claims…Mojo and a group of fixed gear cyclists actually rode fixies across the US later that year and had a stash of VESPA which, when it began to run low, made everyone realize just how well it worked for endurance performance.

I ran my first 100 at the ’06 WS and had a very even run with no metabolic issues at all and ran a sub-24 in a year that only 53 people went under 24 hours and only 52.6% of the field finished. While I trained smart I credit VESPA for the metabolic evenness throughout the run.

4) a) What is the recommended intake for training and for racing?

Depending upon the intensity you can use it every 2-4 hours for a race or really intensive training. For training, every 4-6 hours for a long training runs where “time-on-your-feet” not intensity is the goal.

Keep in mind that for Ultras one still needs to take in some calories but, by using VESPA, one can take in a lot less which allows the athlete to maintain a higher level of performance with a lot less risk of stomach/intestinal issues. My friend, Paul Charteris, said he took in about 1200 calories for this year’s Diablo 50M where he ran over 50 miles (got lost) and was out for over 13 hours…. that is less than 100 calories an hour! While he was certainly tired he looked and felt great at the finish!

b) How about longer events like a 100-miler?

For the really long Ultras the 2-4 hour rule is still a good one to go by, however, later in the event as your hemoglobin get utilized and fatigue and other factors kick in to diminish oxygen delivery you will need to increase your intake of sugars/carbs with something like GU etc. as you are simply fatigued and your body cannot oxidize fats because it can’t deliver enough oxygen like it could earlier in the day when hemoglobin levels are fresh and high. You still take the VESPA but you also take in the sugars at a higher rate.

In my ’06 WS I started taking GU’s every 30-40 minutes from Foresthill on which allowed me to run pretty hard whereas I would have run slow or walked. I have successfully utilized this strategy on runners I paced on really long Ultras like WS & Miwok.

5) Would I need to alter that intake for high altitude, heat, or other external conditions?

No, actually the altitude & heat are a couple of the environmental conditions where the effects of VESPA are particularly noticeable. I think this is because in both cases people do not want to eat because of susceptibility to intestinal/stomach issues and VESPA allows the user to get by on no or minimal intake of fuel under these conditions while maintaining a high level of physical performance.

6) a) Are there any known side effects?

To date, VESPA has not had any serious side-effect issue. There have been a few cases where users reported stomach or intestinal distress, however, after investigation, most of these were caused by over-fueling. There is also the potential for an allergic reaction but, like I said, to date, we have not had this happen (the product has been available for 12 years).

There is a beneficial side-effect related to the liver….informal trials have indicated VESPA works toward processing alcohol in the liver and, in fact, is marketed as a hang-over remedy in Japan.

b) How about when taken in large amounts?

Like anything moderation is the key….a good thing can go bad with excess. That being said the potential for intestinal/stomach issues or an allergic reaction would increase.
7) Does it (VESPA) have any effect when you are at rest/recovery, or is it primarily designed for use while exercising?

Yes, while VESPA is primarily utilized during exercise I know of a lot of people( including myself) who use it for post exercise recovery and weight loss (because you don’t get the cravings). I have even heard for a few people who switched to VESPA over the energy drinks because it gave them stable energy levels throughout the day without the inevitable crash of the energy drinks.

8) Why have two different versions, VESPA CV-25 & VESPA JR?

VESPA CV-25 is for the higher weight (160+ pounds) or really serious athlete as it has a higher dosage of the key ingredients and only 18 calories.

VESPA JR was developed for the youth market and lighter-weight athletes (less than 160 pounds). It uses orange juice so it has a sweeter more palatable taste and 34 calories.

Final Note:

VESPA approaches metabolic endurance in a completely unconventional way so I am finding the marketing of it to be daunting since most people’s expectations & mindset on supplements are shaped by the conventional information currently and commonly available (i.e. trying to find faster and better ways of getting carbs ingested).

Compared to other supplements and nutritional products for endurance activities VESPA has a lot more science behind it, much of it indicative of VESPA’s unique way of enhancing fat metabolism which correlates to what athletes experience when using VESPA.

Unfortunately flaws in the experimental design and interpretation of the data make these experiment not pass the litmus test of scientific method.

VESPA is currently taking steps to setup basic clinical trials with UC Davis Sports Medicine once cash flow can justify investment in a such a trial. From this VESPA will further investigate the mode of action and other areas of investigation because of our conviction in the product’s efficacy and need to demonstrate this compared to all other supplements which boast claims but are short on science.

[Note: These statements are based upon review of the scientific literature (some of this is available online at the VESPA web-site www.vespapower.com) and other science based literature and resource and/or commonly accepted biological teachings of metabolic pathways for muscle, liver and nervous system metabolism. Though the experiments related to VAAM (synthetic version of the active ingredient in VESPA) have flaws in their design and interpretation the data correlates to what athletes like yourself experience using the product.]

28 comments:

  1. And just to clarify, I didn't get paid to post this blog entry. But I do enjoy a nice discount for being part of the Vespa team!

    Cheers, SD

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  2. Hemoglobin getting fatigued? Never heard of that one.

    The whole thing sounds a little hokey to me.

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  3. Also, lactate has a very short half-life in the body. It can really only be used as a marker for ongoing ischemia, not for long-term anaerobic activity.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  5. Scott-

    As noted several times previously, I have a ton of respect for both your running ability and all the information you've provided through your blog over the years (BTW I also think Paul C. is a good guy)...I think you've sold out with this product endorsement however, at ~$6 per 2.7 oz packet(that's $285/gal) for NOTHING more than water, a bit of honey, and 100mg of an unregulated 'wasp food ball extract'(?)...it all amounts to another Japanese laboratory junk science marketing gimmick, not unlike the fish eye extract to aid concentration in gamers (sold in similar pouches)...it's just crap, a worthless fraud product in my opinion.

    I'll be running w/o the aid of insect vomit at Diablo on Sunday, see you there.

    Will G.

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  6. The other big “effect” of using VESPA is by reducing lactate levels (a key marker for fatigue) the muscles will develop less fatigue...

    ...Lactate, though not the cause of fatigue, is a key marker.

    ...In an Ultra it is vital to do everything possible to reduce lactate production to a minimum because, over time, the levels are going to creep up and fatigue set in.


    It's been a while since I've been any kind of student of the physiology of performance, so I hope I'm not embarrassing myself. I'm skeptical, but remain open-minded about Vespa's benefits. I had a bad experience with it, but I'm not averse to trying it again. Having said that, I'm seeing a mixed signal here. Whereas I once believed (like many) that lactate build-up is, in and of itself, a bad thing, I do recall learning at some point it is merely a symptom of fatigue, not a cause of it -- something that Peter mentions a couple times in the interview.

    Peter repeatedly mentions the reduction of lactate as a chief benefit of using Vespa. What then is the benefit of reducing lactate if, as Peter acknowledges twice, it is a marker for fatigue and not the cause?

    Chris O'Connor

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  7. Thanks Will – you are a good guy too and damn you ran well at Ohlone. I have been using Vespa CV-25 for a couple of years now. Some ultra-distance cyclists whom I really respect referred me to it. I recommended it to you Scott, since I was intrigued with your use of the coconut water so I knew you would be up for trying novel (and natural) fuel sources.

    The reasons I use Vespa are much simpler than those Peter has outlined. Put simply an ultra-endurance event results in muscle catabolism. The bigger the athlete, the more intense the exercise and longer the duration, the greater the muscle breakdown. A protein source should contain the BCAA’s to prevent muscle breakdown and be biologically available. I believe Vespa CV-25 fits the bill here. Second, low levels of BCAA’s allow serotonin to enter the brain causing CNS fatigue.

    When I use Vespa, I tend to use fewer calories than on my non-Vespa runs. While protein does suppress the appetite, I do not think that is the effect going on here. I believe the Vespa might be buffering my simple sugar intake.

    I use the stuff about every 2-3 hours during a long run. I only use it for training runs lasting longer than about four hours. Use Vespa closer to every two hours during a race. The net effect of using Vespa has been positive for me. I'd recommend trying it - but don't try it for the first time on your big race of the year. Note: at Western States I’ll also eat flan during the run since (being egg-white based) this has a lot of BCAA’s.

    Chris is correct. Lactic acid has received a bad rap for the better part of a century. Most current thinking is that lactic acid actually helps prevent fatigue.

    I’ll also make a plug for my favorite athletes nutrition book here. The Paleo Diet for Athletes. It contains a lot of valuable info. on how to eat for endurance events.

    Cheers, Paul Charteris

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  8. "I'm skeptical but remain open to the benefits..." - well said, Chris. That's the approach I take with every supplement, shoe, or aid, and it's the best one. I don't post blog entries about the stuff that DOESN'T work for me...that could fill a library. But just cause it works for me, doesn't mean it works for anyone else. Case in point - I have yet to find a Heed/Perpetuem/energy mix that doesn't end up splatted at mile 20.

    Will - I'm a sell out! That's funny. I appreciate the kind comments about my running skills - you are a helluva runner yourself. I don't think I quite qualify for sellout on this one - that would be endorsing a product I don't use or believe in. I've tried Vespa on training runs and races from 13-50 miles, with a lot of A/B testing over the last few months, and I consistently get the same effect. It's still a mystery to me how it works, which is why I asked Peter for some insight. I have tried Hornet Juice and other supplements touting similar effects, but none of them seemed to make a difference. This one did, and I'm still trying to figure out why. Sorry to hear it doesn't work for you (or Chris), but as we all know, what works for one runner doesn't always work for another. I could never keep up the weekly miles that you do, for example.

    Vespa is on the spendy side for sure. That's why I spent a lot of time with it before incorporating into my races. In retrospect, what I found on the first sample told me 80% of the story. If you want to try it, I think you can take one and go run for 15 miles on a single gel and find out quickly if it's worth the $$$. The other supplement I take, OptygenHP, is also on the expensive side. I guess I'm not real price sensitive about these things if they work.

    I wish I could comment more on the science, but it's all over my head. Thanks for the comments from everyone though - a good dialogue can help others figure out what does and doesn't make sense.

    Thx, SD

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  9. Scott, I'm glad you posted this as I've been following the talk around ultras as Vespa is starting to be vetted by the community. Like many, I first heard about this from His Kiwiness, Paul C. I've noted that the results seem to be a bit polarized; there's no real middle ground: it either works great, or it ends up like the aforementioned Hammer products. In my case, it was little green spots and a tingling, dizzy feeling on a night run.

    Anyway, I'm interested and I'm glad the science & anecdotes are on the table. I'm following it. Or trying to anyway.

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  10. Scott & Paul-

    Sorry I'm not real delicate with the dialogue thing, but this whole recent push of the product (been around 12 years?) seems very contrived to me, and centered at one source.

    Bottomline in my opinion is that the overly promotional claims will go unsubstantiated because there's no regulation.

    See you (Scott) Sunday.

    Will G.

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  11. Hi all. Just wanted to clarify a couple of things.

    Lactate - Is it good or bad? Well, it's a sign of ischemia. If a patient has high lactate, you worry about ischemic gut or MI or another cause of shock. Lactate is not dangerous in itself but it's a sign of badness somewhere in the body. In fact, we infuse lactate into patients with "lactated Ringer's", which is an IV fluid.

    Lactate's half-life is so short that it's only a marker for ongoing problems, not things like an ultra. In other words, it's not like a runner will have a lactate of 3 at 30 miles and a lactate of 5 at 50 miles.

    For the record, I am not coming out against this product at all. But I do find the scientific explanations unreliable.

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  12. To add some fuel to the fire - I'm pretty sure any enzyme or peptide that enters the body through the digestive tract would be almost completely split into its comprising amino acids, thus losing any effect it could have on fat metabolism.

    runningdoctor - can you confirm or refute that? I understand the body is not too welcoming when it comes to letting proteins pass through the gut.

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  13. Harald, I agree. The gut can't absorb whote proteins, only individual amino acids and oligo-peptides (probably up to 4 amino-acids in size). There are very few exceptions to this, such as in the very first few days of life.

    A corollary to this is the pains pharmaceutical companies go through to get proteins into our bodies. Many hormones are proteins, most importantly insulin. People hate injection themselves so several companies are in a race to find the best way to avoid injections. Pfizer invented Exubera, inhaled insulin, but had to take it back off the market as no one was prescribing in. Other companies are working on intra-nasal insulin.

    In short, you can't absorb proteins. In fairness, I don't think the VESPA rep claims that the proteins are absorbed. He could be talking about the composition of amino acids in VESPA, rather than the whole proteins.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Is this the Vespa that is in Ultrarunner Magazine all the time with the Japan 100k team picture?

    ReplyDelete
  15. I was recently introduced to Vespa at work, and like most people, was extremely skeptical about this little 2.7 oz packet of liquid for $6. Then I decided to see what the hype was about and actually try it.

    In a recent 5-day period, I had a pretty big training block:
    Day 1, 38 mi, 7 hours, 2 Vespa, 500 calories
    Day 2, 20 miles, 2:45, 1 Vespa, 167 calories
    Day 3, rest day
    Day 4, 26 miles, 3:45, 1 Vespa, 200 calories
    Day 5, 44 miles, 7 hours, 2 Vespa, 650 calories

    Usually on long runs, I take in 150-250 calories/hour. But for this little experiment, I did approx. 100 cal. every 1:15. The 3 longer runs were some of the best long runs I've had in a while, and with minimal calories. Yes, I am getting fit, but usually to be able to run that hard for those disatances, I need calories. This just wasn't an issue. I never felt like I was rocking, but I never bonked, either. Rather, it was just a smooth, even energy most of the way. Sure I got pretty tired near the end of my 38 & 44, but I think that's to be expected.

    I tend to get stomach issues a lot (i.e., I'm a puker), so I'm really hopeful that being able to take in less calories, while still maintaining an even energy level, will pay off well for me.

    ReplyDelete
  16. There's no doubt in my opinion that someone of the fitness/ability of Sean M (saschasdad) could repeat that training experiment w/o the Vespa an have the same results.

    Do a bit of research into the growth of this hype product in Japan...pretty funny shit.

    Vespa rep (Peter Defty) says..."There are synthetic copies (VAAM & Hornet Juice) and, in all studies, VESPA has consistently out-performed synthetic versions", while Takashi Abe, the guy who developed the VAAM drink says that "the Vespa product is only made with hornet extract, as opposed to amino acids, and should not be mistaken for the real thing".

    Scott, I honestly don't buy your claim of ignorance to the junk science behind this product. Also, is Peter suggesting that there are employees at Vespa (or outside lab) who's job it is to actually extract the 'food ball' from the (tens of?) thousands insects it would take to support a product line? VAAM claims they "painstakingly" harvested 80 specimens to derive the synthetic amino acid version.

    This whole product is based on the Japanese theory that what works for an insect must then work for a human. Why not extract the nut sack from a common ant and make a drink out of it...you could run as fast as a race horse and lift 20X your weight?!?!

    Will G.

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  17. I joke too soon...

    Ant Juice Bites Into UK Energy Drinks Market

    MIDDLESBROUGH, UK—An energy drink that has an Asian ant as its principal ingredient has confounded skeptics by making a successful entry into the UK stimulant-drinks market.

    Ant Natural Stimulation, launched in the UK late last year, is produced and distributed by independent drink supplier InterContinental Brands (ICB).

    Marketing Manager Lindsey Booth said plans are afoot to establish Ant in other regions, including a soon-to-be-concluded deal with China, where the two breeds of Polyrachis ant used exclusively in the drink are farmed.

    The drink is thought to raise energy levels, fight ageing and enhance sexual vigour, as well as fortify the immune, nervous, muscular, digestive, kidney and skeletal systems. It is also believed to possess detoxification properties.

    Ant consumption, traditionally popular with middle-aged and older Asian consumers, has become popular among young Asian adults as well.

    Ant contains 1.65mL of the herbal formula, which consists of Polyrachis ant plus schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) and lycium (Lycium barbarum, L. chinense) in a blend of 38 per cent fruit juices (passion fruit, lychee, white grape, apple and lemon juice).

    ReplyDelete
  18. An interesting article...In the New York Times today is worth a read for all. June 6th--NYTIMES-"Real Thought for Food for Long Workouts"
    I found this quote of particular interest...
    “It does seem to me that as a group, athletes are particularly gullible,” said Michael Rennie, a physiologist at the University of Nottingham in England who studies muscle metabolism.

    I guess the bottom line is that if it works for you fine..It maybe true or not..yet there sure are a lot of studies on how we preceive how something will work based on a label or brand name bears witness that a little marketing spin with a smidge of science can do wonders for a product.. Cheers!

    Tony

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  19. Ah, Will. Always the skeptic! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, and having the balls (ant balls or no) to sign your name. It will make a good discussion for many readers to come.

    For what it's worth, I typically try out products to test their claims long before I attempt to understand the science. I didn't do any research on Vespa beforehand, I just got some and tried it out. I find it consistent and beneficial, regardless of what is actually occurring. As long as it's not illegal or causes me to grow a third eye, I'm game.

    My approach on testing new products may not be the best, for I've certainly wasted hundreds of dollars on supplements, energy drinks. gels, food, headlights, shoes, and more. But it's fun to try them out, and it adds a new dimension to the long runs.

    Flan at Western States...sounds good to me, Paul! Honestly, I could eat just about anything around mile 60.

    SD

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  20. Hey read something about endurance level, I have a high on antioxidant drink with a 7 fruit juice strongest punche ever! which helps in preventing premature ageing and cancer, reports say so, since high antioxidant levels boost the immune system, and boundless energy and endurance levels and also it helps prevent premature ageing, no wonder the celebs are having it! If you want more information to check whether what I am saying is right you can get it at www.drinkpurple.com , Please let me know if you tried it and liked it or not.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm a little late in this discussion since I was struggling through sweltering humidity and wading in mud and puddles over the weekend, but I guess since you all know I'm a doctor, I guess I should put in a few words for anyone reading this later.

    The market is rife with a variety of lucrative products of dubious medical merit. But there are enough slutty doctors out there who are willing to give talks about products if you pay them enough. (My own brother even admits to this. My large medical group is fairly unusual in that it actually prohibits our physicians from accepting perks from drug companies.) Probably the same with athletic supplements. As runningdoctor pointed out, there are at least a few phrases in there that make absolutely no physiological sense. When money is being made, skepticism makes healthy sense.

    The only way to definitively prove any claims that any company makes about its product is to conduct a randomized blinded clinical trial with placebo, and have enough subjects to eliminate the noise of a gazillion other variables that play into every race. Obviously since only the company making the product would ever go to such a painstaking and expensive endeavor, you're never going to get a objective proof of anything, since a negative study is not in their interests.

    As Will G. points out, and as I know from my ancestry and direct observation, the Japanese are nuts about popping all kinds of pills and other medical and nutritional gimmicks.

    Finally, part of me feels like people should use what's offered at the aid stations, rather than special stuff on the outside. (Not that I've never put stuff in my drop bags). As someone who makes do without pacers and crews, I see this as another way to promote a more even playing field.

    Having said this, the competitive athlete should use whatever legally works for them and feels like it's worth the cost. If Vespa were to supply me like they do you, Scott, and I liked the stuff, I'd be willing to say good things about it-- to a point.

    ReplyDelete
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  23. Lactate was recently proved to be a performance enhancer, not a limiter. (NY Times article by Gina Kolata - search on their site.) The scientist who discovered this observed that it's a classic mistake in science. But he also noted that it doesn't really matter at all, since athletes and coaches have a way of discovering what works regardless of the underlying minutiae. Empiricism trumps science every day.

    ReplyDelete
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  25. I never post to people's blgs, but maybe I should. Anyway, I am skeptical about alot of products but do like the VESPA product. I have triend it and it does appear to work for me. So, there is my 411 on the bee stuff. I think it is goooood stuff.

    Rob Evans

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  27. A couple of things here...First of all, I'm surprized that the plethora of doctors writing here haven't mentioned the placebo effect. There is a REASON that double blind studies are done to substantiate the efficacy of new medicines. The MIND is unbelievably powerful (I have personally witnessed blisters being raised on human skin by the end of a pencil eraser by someone who was hypnotized and told by the hypnotist that they were being burned with a lit cigarette.) If you BELIEVE something will work, often it will. Again, along the same lines, sugar pills, when given to patients by doctors who believe them to be morphine can, up to a point, mimic the pain relief of morphine! This is why we must be VERY dubious of all of the "weird science" out there.

    The ONLY way this stuff can be proven to work or not is through statistically controlled double blind studies...otherwise, I call BULLSHIT. And, yes, Scott, if a pencil eraser can raise a welt on human skin and if a sugar pill can kill pain like morphine, than a bottle full of junk that YOU believe works CAN cause you to do things in training and races that you don't believe you could do otherwise.

    The supplement market is a multi-billion dollar market that is largely filled with crap. Period. There really is only three things that work...Genetics, Training, and Proper Nutrition.
    BTW, I don't think you are a bad guy at all. I believe you really and truly believe this stuff works. But that's just it...those of us who DO ultras KNOW how powerful belief is.

    Having said this, I also know that 100 years ago, "medical science" believed some pretty goofy things and I suspect 100 years from now, we will be accused of the same thing...so it is certainly within the realm of possibility that this stuff really DOES work...and not just for belief. Anyway, that's my 2 cents...take it for what it is worth.

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  28. Not sure if anyone's still reading this thread, but here's anecdotal evidence that might be of interest. Yesterday I tried Vespa before a 4-hour run and noticed one clear and dramatic difference: almost no soreness or fatigue later in the day, and very little soreness the next morning. I'm 49, have done a few 50k's, trying to get to 50-milers - basically a very average runner - and I'm ALWAYS sore after long training runs. This was truly weird, but wonderful, and the only thing I can attribute it to is the Vespa. Thanks for the tip, Scott.

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