Fred Sexton didn't exactly have triathletes in mind when he came up with the idea for XRCEL, but multisport competitors are enjoying the benefits of his invention.
December 5, 2017 | Nutrition|
It all started as a way for junior soccer players to stop fading over the final few minutes of their games. Now its becoming the fuel of choice for some of the world’s best triathletes. This weekend Australia’s Carrie Lester used XRCEL to help fuel her way to a runner-up finish at Ironman Western Australia.
And it all began with a “soccer dad.”
Fred Sexton, who had spent much of his working career developing innovative anti-cancer drugs, had suddenly found himself spending a lot of time watching soccer.
“When I retired from the big pharma world. I became the quintessential soccer dad,” he says with a laugh. “My oldest son was playing for the US development academy in high school. I was going six days a week to their practices. I’m watching these kids … in practices and games I would watch them fade.
“I started studying in more detail what was happening in terms of the conversion of fuel into ATP, which is what your muscles use to generate power and your brain to work effectively. Your body largely uses glycogen, or it takes glucose directly.”
After doing some extensive literature research, Sexton wondered whether he could improve an athlete’s performance by finding a way to improve the way glucose got delivered to the body. He wanted to “increase the length of time the glucose would be available so the athletes would have more fuel when they really need it.”
Sexton uses the analogy of a racing car. His goal was to give the athletes the equivalent of “a bigger gas tank.”
It’s not like he hadn’t done something like this before. That previous “big pharma” career? He’d been involved with developing Niastan, a billion dollar product that helps reduce cholesterol levels.
Since the athlete he was most interested in helping was his son, Sexton was determined that whatever he came up with had to be something a parent would be comfortable with. It had to be made up of simple ingredients that are all part of the natural food chain. He enlisted scientists from his alma mater, Clarkson University, to help develop and test the product.
The end result, XRCEL, uses microgels that are both PH and temperature responsive to deliver glucose to the body, which can then be converted to glycogen, the critical fuel for athletes, when the body needs it.
As high-tech as the product is, from where Sexton sits, it’s just a simple solution to a complex problem.
“Simple is sometimes better,” he says.
One of the things athletes have found to be one of the most positive aspects of using XRCEL for endurance activities is how easily it goes down and how few GI issues they seem to have with the product. That’s exactly what Sexton was aiming for.
“We hyper engineered XRCEL,” he says. “We wanted it to be extremely GI tolerant. When you go back to its roots with soccer – the athletes don’t have the chance to hydrate consistently. It was about finding the right concentration with the extended release function in a volume that was going to be easily tolerated by the athlete.”
The results speak for themselves. In addition to athletes like Lester and Patrick Evoe, who both competed in Kona this year, a number of US university teams have become big fans of the product. Sexton notes that many strength and conditioning coaches now use it regularly to get athletes into peak physical shape. Others have found it to be a great pre-game meal, providing an “immediate and long duration fuel source – it gives them the ability to stay fueled for their game.”
One coach found that since his basketball team has started using XRCEL, they’ve increased their free throw percentage by 25 to 30 %
For triathletes, though, XRCEL has become a useful nutritional tool that allows them to get sustained energy throughout the bike and run portions of the race, without the GI issues that so often plague long-distance competitors.
Triathletes weren't the ones Fred Sexton initially had in mind when he came up with XRCEL, but he’s certainly not complaining that they're seeing the benefits of his invention.