Can You Chew Your Way to a PR?
Olympian Nick Symmonds wants to change the way athletes consume pre-race caffeine.
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At last year’s Oxy Invitational at Occidental College, two-time Olympic track athlete Nick Symmonds ran a big PR. “At first I was ecstatic, I was jumping up and down,” he says. “I posed for the photo, they handed me the giant check and then—like a minute later—I was on my hands and knees, throwing up in front of everyone.”
Like many elites, Symmonds liked the zip he got from a pre-race dose of caffeine. But his two main caffeine delivery systems—coffee and energy drinks—often upset his stomach. A biochemist by training, Symmonds thought: Surely I can find a better way.
That better way is Run Gum, a candy-coated gum that packs 50 mg of caffeine into every piece. It also contains B-vitamins and the amino acid taurine.
Symmonds says there were a few challenges during the product development process, including figuring out the intricacies of sublingual absorption and developing a recipe that masks caffeine’s naturally bitter flavor. But after a few trials, Symmonds and his business partner (and coach), Sam Lapray, got it right.
Recently there’s been a fair amount of negative press regarding the dangers of mixing caffeine with endurance sports. Symmonds, however, sees his product as alleviating the issue, not exacerbating it. “With coffee there can be a big variation in how much caffeine you’re getting. A cup can vary by 100 mg,” Symmonds says. “But Run Gum is clearly labeled. A packet has two 50-mg pieces, so people know exactly how much they’re getting.” (FYI: Science says a 150-pound person should consume no more than about 200 milligrams of caffeine a day.)
The sugar-free gum comes in a mint and a fruit flavor. Symmonds says he’s partial to the mint. “I don’t recommend people running with the gum,” he advises. “It’s more meant to be chewed with the intention of spitting it out before the race.”