Science

A Protein Q&A with Dr. Nima Alamdari, Our Chief Scientific Officer

7 min read
Meet Dr. Nima Alamdari, Ritual's Chief Scientific Officer and the mastermind behind Essential Protein.
Meet Dr. Nima Alamdari, Ritual's Chief Scientific Officer and the mastermind behind Essential Protein.

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From the beginning, It’s been our fervent belief that our products are only as great as the people and science behind them. It’s why building an in-house team of researchers, health experts, and product development gurus was always a non-negotiable—the integral force behind our Made Traceable approach.

At the helm of that team is our Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Nima Alamdari, PhD—a career physiologist, former Harvard faculty member and currently, Professor of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter. Dr. Nima has long been immersed in the world of sport and nutrition sciences—which is why developing the first-of-its-kind, stage-specific, made traceable protein supplement became something of a passion project as we planned to expand the Ritual universe beyond multivitamins. The result, of course, was Essential Protein.

So, who better to shed some light on the making of Essential Protein—from why we need protein in the first place, to the future of nutrition at Ritual? Below, Dr. Nima invites us along for the ride.

Let's get started by introducing yourself.

I’m Chief Scientific Officer at Ritual and also Professor of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter in the UK. Prior to Ritual I was faculty at Harvard University where I also did my postdoctoral training. I completed my doctorate in muscle metabolism and physiology at the University of Nottingham in the UK. My career interests are in sport and health sciences, nutrition, exercise training, and injury prevention.

At Ritual, our team consists of experts in physiology, nutrition and dietetics, public health, food science, chemistry, toxicology, quality control, and food safety who have trained in applied fields at top-tier institutions. Our common goal is to apply cutting edge science to optimize human health.

You have expertise in developing and testing protein-based products. What makes Ritual’s Essential Protein and manufacturing approach different?

From a physiological standpoint, what stands out about the products is that they are designed to meet the unique needs of different life stages. Given my background in muscle metabolism and physiology, I know the increasing importance of adequate protein intake and/or physical activity as we advance in different life stages. For example, because we become more resistant to the effects of protein as we age, more protein or anabolic stimulus is needed to support maintenance of muscle mass and strength. Protein needs also increase in life stages like pregnancy and postpartum, but these heightened needs are often overlooked. It’s a novel approach to support healthy, active aging.*

From a product standpoint, what stands out are the composition and ingredient choices. Each product is plant-based and has been designed to provide a complete amino acid profile. The availability of amino acids is important because most plant-based proteins are usually suboptimal with either a low amino acid profile or a shortage of a certain essential amino acid. A complete amino acid profile enables muscle protein synthesis, and a lack of one or more will compromise the response. Beyond the amino acid profile, there are science-backed accessory ingredients targeted for specific life stages such as choline to further support the needs of pregnancy and postpartum, and calcium HMB for adults 50+ to further support the maintenance of muscle mass.*

Lastly, from a supply chain standpoint the products are made traceable, meaning customers can identify the sources and suppliers of our labeled ingredients. Being so transparent gives customers access to our decision making and specific ingredient and supplier choices, underlining our commitment to efficacy and quality in a category that’s commonly under the veil.

Why do we need protein?

Most know that eating protein is a key component of a healthy and well-balanced diet. The protein we consume and synthesize has a lot of different roles, including regulating muscle protein metabolism, muscle mass, and muscle strength. Our own muscle tissue is dynamic and in a constant state of turnover, with muscle proteins being synthesized and broken down simultaneously throughout the day. When muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown, muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs. This net effect is dependent on the balance between muscle protein synthesis and breakdown and can be influenced by many factors, including dietary protein (and exercise). Muscle protein synthesis works in opposition to muscle protein breakdown, which can accelerate the loss of muscle mass, as experienced in normal age-related muscle loss, immobilization, inactivity, and other catabolic conditions. Normal age-related muscle loss can be up to 2% of total muscle mass loss per year from the age of around 50 years onwards. The turnover of muscle protein is regulated largely by what you eat (which is where protein-rich recipes come into play) and also how you move (which is why keeping active is also so important).*

What protein characteristics were most important when formulating Essential Protein?

We were set on making products that were based on a more sustainable model, using non-GMO food from plants rather than from animal sources. With this approach, it was important to design the right combination of inputs to create a complete amino acid profile and customize each product to support the unique nutrient needs of each particular life stage. As we developed our products, we spent a lot of time ensuring we had the top-tier ingredient and supplier choices that matched our standards for science, traceability, and quality. We also invested a lot of time with our food scientists creating customized taste and sensory attributes.*

What part of the formula are you most proud of?

High-end science, and high-end experience. It sounds simple but it’s difficult to achieve both. I’m also very proud of being a first-mover and advocate for transparency, unveiling our product ingredients and supply chain—a description we term as Made Traceable™.

What does the future look like? What can we expect to see?

We’ve spent a lot of time working with Informed Sport, a leading global testing and certification program which provides assurance to users that tested products are free of 250 banned substances and manufactured to high standards. We believe this is important in the category because research has shown that some supplement products may be contaminated with substances that are prohibited by groups such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Carrying the Informed Sport mark on our products provides assurance that our products and their ingredients have undergone a rigorous screening program. You’ll also be getting to know our ingredients and suppliers better as we showcase our choices and describe where they have come from and why they have been included.*

The future is equally as exciting. We’re already planning for innovations as we evolve the brand, from product features to flavors. Our innovations also extend to clinical trial programming, where we are exploring university partnerships geared toward demonstrating the utility of our technologies in different demographics and use cases.

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