Before I get to the questions, I should note a couple of things.
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.
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.]