Bicycle Buyer is all about connecting you with good information, good products and good people. Why? Because we’re passionate about the cycling experience and we want to share that passion with you! This summer we’re sponsoring the Domestique 7 Peaks rides and one of our co-sponsors is Pro4mance. When we met Pro4mance founder and owner, Andrew Jacobs, at the first Domestique ride there was an instant connection and we knew we had to introduce him to you.
Not only is Andrew a mad-keen endurance cyclist, he’s also incredibly passionate - not just about cycling, but about helping endurance athletes get the best out of themselves. In this interview he talks about everything from epic rides to gut training and how the correct nutrition and hydration plan can fuel your success - whatever your goals. We know you’ll enjoy our chat with Andrew Jacobs from Pro4mance:
BB: Welcome Andrew! Just to get us started… when people ask you what you do, what do you say?
Andrew: I’m super-passionate about what I do, so sometimes when people ask me that question they regret it! I tell them that I own a sports nutrition company that manufactures products specifically for endurance athletes and then I give them the whole story! Fortunately, when people hear the story their usual response is ‘It’s great you’re doing something you’re so passionate about.” It’s funny though, business people are always talking about the ‘elevator pitch’. They always ask me, “What’s your elevator pitch?” And I tell them, the whole point is don’t let them out of the elevator - just keep talking to them!
BB: If you had to describe yourself in a few words, what would they be?
Andrew: Driven, passionate and focused. That’s not just me, that’s my whole team. You don’t mind working long hours if you’re passionate about something. It doesn’t feel like it’s a job - it’s something that you enjoy. Our generation is lucky too that we’re given a lot of opportunities. Here in Australia you can be passionate about something and turn that passion into a career.
BB: How did you first get into cycling?
Andrew: I played a variety of sports when I was younger, as most Australian kids do. Unfortunately, through playing footy I developed osteitis pubis, which is an injury to the pelvis from an excess of running.
BB: The dreaded groin injury!
Andrew: That’s the one. So I wasn’t allowed to run for quite a while. The only things I could do were swimming or cycling. Cycling was one of those things where I could get on and push as hard as I wanted to and I didn’t actually suffer from the pain. That’s what drew me to it a little bit more.
BB: And what turned cycling from a pastime into a passion for you?
Andrew: As I was riding and riding, I got fitter and fitter and next thing I was doing epic 10 hour rides with as many hills as possible. The question was, “How big can I go?” It was all about self-challenge. I did 4 hours one day, then it was - let’s do 6, then 8, then let’s do 10 and then it was how fast can I do this? I’d think of things that people said were impossible and then think how I could push myself past those limits.
The other side of it was all about community. That’s one of the best things about cycling - the community. It’s amazing how people accept you. Even if you don’t know anyone, you pull up beside someone and you start talking - you’ve got that common passion for cycling and you seem to get on really well and then you catch up for another ride and then suddenly you’ve got this amazing group of friends and fellow riders that you can tap into and go on rides with.
And it’s incredible who you meet out there. For example, the other day I met a bloke who’s a CEO of a multi-national company out on the bike and we just had a good chat. Once you’re on the bike, everyone’s equal. That’s the thing I really enjoy.
BB: And somewhere in all of that you got the idea for Pro4mance?
Andrew: It was out on the bike that I learned how important nutrition was, because a lot of the time I didn’t get the nutrition right. It’s a long way home when you’ve still got a couple of hours to ride and you haven’t eaten enough and you haven’t drunk enough and you’re literally coming back at 10 kmh because you’ve got nothing left in the tank! And you’re thinking, “How am I actually going to survive this?”
It was a slow process over a few years of riding which led me to start to think about nutrition. Having a research background - I did a Bachelor of Clinical Science and then a Masters in Health Science - I was really intrigued by what I was actually putting into my body to fuel myself. I’d be using all of these sports nutrition products and wondering what I was using and why was I using it. The more I looked into it, the more I realised that when I compared the research and all the products… they just weren’t matching up. That was pretty much what planted the seed - asking why all these companies weren’t doing what they should be doing.
BB: So you started Pro4mance?
Andrew: I was working as an Osteopath and in any spare time we used to research, develop and test all the Pro4mance products. Pro4mance has only been available to the public for two years, but it took us more than 3 years before that to build the research, get the right people involved, test and develop products, go back and test, develop, test, develop. Initially we started with just 4 products.
BB: It’s one thing to be producing products for elite athletes, but how does this benefit age-groupers or sports cyclists?
Andrew: We’re trying to create products for elite athletes which everyday athletes can use as well, because everyone needs to be fuelled. Everyone has goals, but if you’re not fuelling the engine, you’re not going to be able to achieve those goals. Think of it this way - everyone has the most complex machine in the world - the human body is the most complex machine ever created, so if you’re not fuelling and hydrating that correctly you’re never going to get the best outcomes. You don’t have to be a top triathlete or cycling professional to get the best out of your body. Whether you’re an age-grouper or a club cyclist, everyone wants to do as well as they can - that might be beating your PB or winning a world title. But everyone’s got those specific goals and Pro4mance allows them to achieve those by fuelling them correctly - through providing the correct products, but also through education and helping them know their body.
BB: Research is obviously an important part of the process…
Andrew: That’s why we have partnered with the Human Nutrition Department at Monash University in Clayton. They’re one of the world leaders in endurance nutrition - especially when it comes to the gut - from the stomach to the large intestine to the small intestines. Being able to absorb nutrients correctly and optimally is such an important thing, because no matter what you put in your mouth, if you can’t absorb those nutrients it’s not going to do anything anyway. The team at Monash are incredible with what they’re doing - looking at the gut. What they’re focusing on at the moment, and what we’re assisting with, is gut damage - the ischemic damage that occurs while an athlete is under endurance demands. Researching what damage occurs and what products can be used to help prevent that.
BB: Tell us about ‘gut training’. A lot of Aussies understand ‘beer gut training’, but that’s not what we’re talking about here is it!
Andrew: One of the big things we’re working on and one of the connections we have with Monash is gut training. Everyone’s always known how to train their bodies correctly, but they’ve never really looked at training the gut. And that’s one of the big things that we’re really starting to educate people on. The gut is something that you can train. You can train it to absorb nutrients better. If you can teach it to absorb certain types of nutrients, it’s going to start to become familiar with those nutrients and products. Then, if you can keep things as much the same as possible, your body’s actually going to perform a lot better on race day. You have your training program for cycling - this is your practice program for nutrition so that when it comes to race day, your stomach and your gut go, “Oh, I know this! I’ve absorbed this before.”
Originally we developed a 10-week gut training program, but working with Monash Uni they were able to bring that down to an effective 2-4 week program. They’re currently writing that up and when that’s done we’ll take that on board and push it out there. We’re trying to take a lot of the science that we’re building up with our university contacts and the research projects that we’re doing ourselves and then push that across to the everyday athlete, so they can benefit from this research and improve their performance.
BB: There are plenty of sports nutrition products and companies out there - what sets Pro4mance apart from the rest?
Andrew: There are definitely a few points of difference! From the very start we haven’t done things in the normal way. We like to be disruptive, we like to be creative and not stick to what everyone says to do. We thought outside of the box. We questioned everything that was put into our products, we questioned the research and that’s why we’ve created these relationships with research institutes - to improve on that research.
One of the biggest things we’ve done is keep all our manufacturing here in Australia and we’ve done that for a purpose. It gives us more quality control, access to higher-quality ingredients and it also allows us to be dynamic and customise the products. So, if we get enough feedback from athletes who say ‘We’d prefer it if you did this…” , as long as the research backs it up, in regard to flavour, texture, taste and packing we’re very flexible with that. We love positive, constructive feedback - that’s how you develop better products.
We also wanted to change the business model for how people purchase nutrition. We don’t use retailers, so we manufacture it and we sell direct to athletes. The online world allows us to do that, but that model also allows us to spend more on higher quality ingredients and get it to athletes at really good prices as well.
With Pro4mance we feel the benefit isn’t just with the products, it’s with the education. That’s something we’re passionate about - making sure the everyday athlete understands their body a lot better - how to utilise nutrition and do that specifically according to their body type, so they can optimise their performance. You can’t expect people to buy a box of gels and then be fine. We want people to buy a box of gels and then be educated, understand about their body and then use that information to achieve their goals.
BB: Thanks for your time, Andrew! Keep that passion burning!
You can find Andrew Jacobs and the Pro4mance team at www.pro4mance.com.au