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Meet Bob Murray, PhD. The Father of the Formula

When we set out to develop a hydration solution for everyone from elite athletes to weekend warriors, we knew that one thing was critically important: nailing the formulation. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of hydration solutions on the market today, ranging from drinks to tablets to gels. Sadly, many of them are heavy on sugar and light on electrolytes, meaning they simply don’t meet muster when it comes to rehydrating athletes in motion. We knew that we could do--had to do--better.

Enter Bob Murray. Bob played an incredibly important role for us in taking Stage from whiteboard to reality. His expertise in exercise science, nutrition, and hydration helped us craft a product that is loaded with electrolytes and precisely formulated to meet the needs of athletes at all levels. Furthermore, because of Bob’s history as a competitive swimmer and recreational athlete he brings a great perspective on how to deliver an accessible and all-around solution for athletes hydrating on the go.

 

But who is Bob Murray?

We’re glad you asked! Bob is the Founder and Managing Principal of Sports Science Insights (SSI), a Chicago-based consulting firm that helps businesses meet and exceed their goals by harnessing the power of science. Bob received a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from The Ohio State University and was a co-founder and Director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute for 23 years before starting SSI. At Gatorade, Bob helped Quaker Oats Company--and then PepsiCo, which purchased Quaker Oats in 2001--better understand the product they had in Gatorade and its impact on hydration. Bob’s work also focused heavily on understanding the science of hydration, the physiology of exercise, and how nutrition and hydration impact athletic performance.

We recently spoke to Bob—via phone to maintain proper social distancing—to discuss his career, the finer points of his exercise and nutrition philosophy, and his work with Stage.

Can you tell us a little bit about what drew you to study exercise physiology?
As early as high school, I believed that my calling was to be a high school PE teacher and coach. I thought that line of work would be an ideal combination of my two biggest interests: competitive sports and fitness. However, a semester of student-teaching quickly disabused me of that notion, and I looked elsewhere for my future career path. I thought that maybe being a college professor would be a better option, which led me to pursue a Masters degree in physical education and, ultimately, to Oswego State University in Upstate New York, where I was an Assistant Professor of health and physical education and a coach of the men’s Swimming and Diving team.

Oswego State is really where I got the bug for exercise science. My swimmers, eager to improve themselves and hone their craft, were asking me questions that I simply couldn’t answer. The realization that I was unable to help them put me on the track towards my doctorate and a lifelong path to make science accessible to non-scientists. My ultimate goal is to help people, from weekend warriors to elite athletes, cut through the noise to develop exercise and nutrition plans that allow them to achieve their goals. That has really been my driving force since my days at Oswego State.

How would you describe your philosophy around fitness, nutrition, and hydration?
Reflecting on this question, I am reminded of a quote from Jack LaLanne, the godfather of American fitness: “Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.” Whether your goal is fitness for overall health or you’re striving to achieve competitive athletic goals, putting together three key elements--fitness, nutrition, and hydration--and calibrating them to work in harmony will allow you to meet and exceed your fitness goals.

While it’s true that the broad strokes of this approach hold constant across all levels of athleticism, the more elite your goals, the more important nutrition and hydration become to your overall success. Circling back to Jack’s analogy, the needs, demands, and stresses an elite athlete places on their body requires an even greater level of attention to “the Queen” to build their performance kingdom on solid ground.

What are some of the common misconceptions around nutrition as it relates to sports performance?
The diet and exercise industry is absolutely huge. Billions of dollars and many millions of words have been dedicated to helping people improve themselves at all levels of athleticism. The unfortunate side effect of all of this effort is that there are mountains of conflicting advice and evidence that can confuse even the most dedicated reader. Fortunately, there are easy to implement and well-established guidelines to use as a baseline--eat a well-balanced diet consisting of lots of fruits and vegetables, consume adequate protein from plant and animal sources (1g per pound of body weight is more than enough), work in whole grains, seeds, and nuts, and consume lots of fluids to stay hydrated. Before and during strenuous exercise, carbs are king for fuel, and hydration is absolutely key to perform at the highest level.

From there, it gets more complicated. While some people should add supplements to ensure they get adequate levels of certain micronutrients, there are tons of misconceptions out there around the topic. For most people, the above guidelines will be enough--eat a healthy, balanced diet with adequate protein and be sure to hydrate. While some people may require supplements to achieve their goals, I think most people can minimize or avoid them.

Really, the deeper you dive into nutrition the more disagreement and conflicting advice you’ll find. I do my best to stay up-to-date on all of the latest trends in nutrition and supplementation, I use my family and friends as “canaries in the coal mine” to get ahead of misconceptions as they start to rise in popularity and get more attention. To bring it full circle, fighting some of these misconceptions is where I am able to fulfill my goal of making science accessible to non-scientists and provide plain-language guidance to those around me.

What led you to Stage? And what makes them different?
I was approached by the Stage team early on in the development of the product and I could immediately tell that they were onto something really cool. Through working closely with them throughout the iterative development process, I’ve come to really respect what they’re trying to accomplish with Stage as a product that delivers on not only nutrition but also personalization and usability aspects for their customers. While I know we’ve developed a formulation that will really deliver what athletes need from a hydration perspective, the fact that Stage is delivered through the Cirkul system really sets it apart from other products.

There are tons of hydration solutions out on the market today, but there are none that allow you to adjust the amount of electrolytes you’re consuming on the fly. Sure, you can take two bottles with you on the road, but it’s cumbersome and once you drop a tablet in a bottle, that’s it--it’s no longer water. The ability to seamlessly switch between straight water and an electrolyte replacement product with total control over how much electrolyte solution you’re actually drinking is really a game-changer. It gives you a level of control over your hydration and electrolyte dosing that we’ve simply never seen before, and that flexibility is unquestionably the result of Cirkul’s technology.

You clearly have a passion for empowering athletes. What are your own athletic interests?
There’s no question that swimming is my first love. To this day I still swim as much as possible, whether alone or with my Masters group. While I no longer compete in swim meets, I like to say that each practice with my Masters group is its own competition--it’s a great group of people that still love to get in the pool and push each other hard. Outside of the pool, my wife and I are avid cyclists, hikers, and kayakers. We also try to strength train a few days a week because it’s so important in all phases of life, but especially as we grow older.