By GREGORY ZELLER //
From the Future Physician, Heal Thyself file comes the promising tale of Alpha Wolf LLC and its brawn-meets-brains founder, who was really tired of being tired.
At the time, Michael Chalavoutis was working two jobs, as an adjunct biology professor at Hofstra University – where the Wesleyan University graduate earned a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology – and as a strength-and-conditioning coach at Xceleration Sports Training, a Deer Park gym specializing in customized workouts for high school, college and semipro athletes.
Chalavoutis was also studying to take the MCAT, with an eye on a potential career in medicine. It was a grind, and the “mental fatigue” was weighing heavily, he said.
Already tinkering with ingredients and extracts to concoct sports beverages that might benefit his strength-training clients, Chalavoutis shifted his focus from physical to mental fatigue. His goal: A pleasant-tasting product that does for the mind what sports drinks do for the muscles.
“I was making my own supplements, or trying to,” he told Innovate LI. “Post-workout, high protein, blood-flow antioxidant stuff, things you’d take after lifting.
“I extended the research to mental fatigue because I was working the two jobs and trying to study for the MCAT, and I was miserable.”
After independently researching the benefits and side effects of a host of vitamins, minerals and other natural and manmade compounds, the biologist started mixing ingredients in varying amounts, everything from a dash of caffeine to 1,000 percent of the recommended daily allotment of vitamin B12.
By and large, the blends tasted awful – “A lot of the ingredients are very bitter,” Chalavoutis noted – but using family and friends as “my guinea pigs,” the inventor started recording impressive results. His father blew through a four-hour online professional-development accounting course with laser focus, he said, while others reported less fatigue and better concentration.
“You don’t have a rush or want to run into the wall,” Chalavoutis noted. “You just feel awake and attuned. You feel like you’re in the zone.”
Inspired, he continued working on his formula, including ingredients such as grape seed extract (a blood-flow promoter), amino acids (crucial to “awake-state neurotransmitters,” according to the scientist) and vinpocetine, the so-called “Viagra for the brain,” a manmade compound modeled after a periwinkle extract that supercharges cerebral blood flow.
Another key addition to his cranial cocktail is a carefully balanced combination of two extracts common to most tea leaves: caffeine, whose effects are well-documented, and L-Theanine, a glutamic acid known to induce relaxation without drowsiness, with a list of potential – and well-debated – side effects ranging from cardiovascular benefits to cancer prevention.
The most important ingredient to Chalavoutis’ entire enterprise, however, might come from Kentucky, home of leading beverage-development firm Flavorman. Chalavoutis started tinkering with “raw rebuilding materials” in 2013, but it wasn’t until 2015 – with Flavorman adding some sweet to his science – that he incorporated Alpha Wolf.
With the bitter-but-brain-bracing beverages now available in four tasty varieties – lemon, goji-pomegranate-mango, passionfruit pineapple and fruit punch – Chalavoutis has set aside his medical studies to focus full-time on brand promotion.
Working with independent Pennsylvania bottler Castle Co-Packers, Carle Place-based Alpha Wolf has already secured small distribution agreements placing the drinks in independent retailers on the East End and in Port Jefferson. While not designed specifically for athletes, Alpha Wolf is finding an early audience among the exercise set, Chavaloutis noted.
“They’re not my go-to target,” he said. “I’m not even marketing toward them. But athletes are taking to it very well.”
With the early returns promising, bigger deals are afoot. Up next are new distributor agreements that will take Alpha Wolf into Manhattan and down the Jersey Shore, according to Chalavoutis, who sees his mental fatigue-fighting brainchild “going from something very small to something very big in the Northeast, hopefully in the next two to three months.”
“Personally, I’m going to have more fun going out and assisting distributors on the Jersey Shore,” he noted. “But obviously, Manhattan is a bigger thing. If you can get a foothold and find some traction there, it’s easier to get everywhere else.”
The bigger the better for Chalavoutis, who estimates a $500,000 investment – combining his personal stake and family and friend support – to get Alpha Wolf through its R&D and product-development phases, and to begin marketing and distribution operations.
His ideal end game, he said, is a buyout that not only turns a handsome profit on those investments, but allows him to move on to new inventions.
“I want to grow this over the next five or six years and sell it to another company,” Chalavoutis said. “I have other ideas I want to pursue, other beverage- and food-type things and one or two ideas for new apps.”
But first, Alpha Wolf must mark its territory, and “we’re on the precipice of taking this to the next level,” the founder noted.
“We’re having discussions with a ton of distributors,” Chalavoutis said. “It should all be coming on line this fall.”
Alpha Wolf LLC
What’s It? Energy drinks for the mind
Brought To You By: Biologist-turned-beverage-baron Michael Chalavoutis
All In: About $500,000 in personal and family/friend investments, for R&D and early rounds of production, marketing and distribution
Status: Concentrating now on the East End; taking Manhattan next