When you study the etiology of industries which got surprisingly big they all share one thing in common: they had insipid beginnings.
At their birth the businesses and their customers were not taken seriously, either ignored or viewed as oddball cranks that take their hobbies to extremes.
But the awkwardness of the products creates a unique appeal that catches the eye of people on the fringe of their customer base. The openness of their community and its uninhabited niche creates a self-perpetuating growth cycle that maintains its goofy nature until it suddenly gets really, really big.
And then everyone wonders how it got to that point.
When we think of such industries examples from tech are usually the first to come to mind. The internet grew out of a research project at the Department of Defense (Arpanet). The PC industry was commercialized under the auspices of two nerds (Bill Gates and Paul Allen) who made over 50 billion dollars by building a software language called Altair BASIC for the world’s first microcomputer assembly kit. When it was released it was projected to sell 200 copies.
While the natural products industry doesn’t have the economics to allows its founders to amass the wealth found in tech, it does provide them an outlet for idiosyncratic expression. The supplement business has quirkiness in its DNA, and its biggest successes were built on the backs of homeopathic quacks that were too busy fiddling with their tinctures to make an actual living.
No product category demonstrates this effect better than whole food supplements. Back when the national BMI was on the right side of 25 the idea of freeze drying fruits and vegetables to mix with water seemed a little odd. But in the last 30 years our free time and disposable income has shriveled up, but the need to eat healthy has not.
So as a response the greens powder industry has exploded. The manufacturer that produces Incredible Greens was opened about 30 years ago by an Indian pharmacist, a capsule machine, and a staff of 4 people. Now they have over 100 employees and do more than 1 billion in sales and 3 million kilos of vegetable powders a year.
And in the larger context of the industry, that’s just a drop in the bucket.
…….Which brings us to today’s review.
Today we’re going to pick it apart and discover what it should be used for and what kinds of people ought to be slurping it down their shaker bottles every morning.
Let the games begin!
Here’s a condensed run down of Mobius Breakfast’s most important qualities.
What it is: A paleo-ish meal replacement powder that emphasizes healthy fats, a robust vitamin stack, and a variety of stimulants that’ll serve as an adequate replacement for your first meal of the day.
Its Most Unique Features:
- The first meal replacement powder to use coconut milk powder as its primary ingredient, which makes it unusually creamy and filling.
- Has a complete vitamin stack.
- Contains 7-11 g’s of medium chain tri-glycerides (MCT’s), which have unique health benefits.
- Contains nootropics, which gives long-term use of Mobius some unique properties, which I’ll get to later.
- Your package comes with a shaker bottle and wrapped up in packaging that has an unusually high aesthetic appeal.
- Each packet contains 71g of breakfast powder, which is almost 3x as large as some other competitors.
What One Might Be Cautious About:
- Outside of three herbs (ashwagandha, rhodiola and gotu kola) it does not contain any plant foods.
- At $135 for a month’s supply it’s not the cheapest option out there.
- The combination of nootropics + caffeine could be a little taxing for some people’s systems.
- They use subpar forms of certain vitamins and minerals. Not a big deal normally, but for the price being charged it’s a genuine nit to pick.
So with all that being said, what kind of experience can one expect if they take Mobius for 30 days?
If you order a box of Incredible Greens you’re not greeted with anything special when it arrives in the mail. A cardboard box with an Amazon emblem is all you get. (What can I say, I’m a simpleton).
However, a Mobius customer is treated to a product package that’s uniquely high class and convenient. You get a branded cardboard box with your individual sachets, as well as a shaker bottle to take it with you wherever you go:
My 30 day supply came in a dark chocolate flavor and it was unusually delicious. The coconut milk gives it a very thick, creamy flavor that blends well and isn’t too sweet. After a few days I found myself craving it in the morning and it quickly became my go-to morning snack if I found myself having a pang of hunger.
The heavy use of coconut really comes through here because it allows a product to both be creamy and filling without having to add a lot of cheap calories. So Mobius is particularly useful for people looking for taste and satiety.
This observation is true both in the short and long run……….two weeks in and I was still finding it satisfying.
Like any physical product, the cost and quality of a physical supplement comes down to how much attention is paid to its physical components and whether or not they fit well together.
A meal replacement powder is only as good as its individual ingredients, and how they add up to provide 3-dimensional nutrition.
How does Mobius do on this front?
Let’s break it down.
Coconut is unique in that a lot of its fat comes in the form of medium chain tri-glycerides (MCTs).
What makes them “special” is that they’re the only fatty acid that gets turned directly into ketone bodies, which is the fuel source your body derives from fat. Most oils take a slllloooooowwwww time to make it to your liver, where they’re ultimately used for a variety of processes besides energy utilization.
But MCT’s go right into your body’s metabolic express lane, which makes them a unique source of fatty energy. Ketone bodies burn much slower than glucose, so for many MCTs are a convenient way to stay fuller longer on the same amount of calories.
For someone looking to make themselves “keto adapted” in a hurry then a heavy dose of MCTs is the way to go.
They also help your body burn more heat, which is good for losing weight.
You can buy distilled MCT as a supplement from companies like Bulletproof, but coconut oil is the best natural source of MCTs in the diet. Mark’s Daily Apple has a good write up on the use of coconut oil vs. concentrated MCT oil for sustained energy. (Hint: coconut oils MCTs are more mild since they’re not as concentrated).
The specific amount of MCTs are not listed, but most coconut oil is about 65% MCT by weight. Of that, about 1/2 is able to be turned directly into ketone bodies for energy, so it’s a safe bet that each packet of Mobius has about 8-12g of MCT per serving.[footnote]About half of coconut oil is lauric acid, which is technically an MCT but gets digested like a normal fatty acid.[/footnote]
This is on the low end of what would be considered clinically relevant.
Mobius Breakfast is the only meal replacement powder I’m aware of that contains nootropics in its formula. [footnote]Nootropics are a class of supplements that enhance mental function in some way.[/footnote]
On its website Mobius lists its Nootropic stack as consisting of Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwagandha, and Gotu Kola. In my opinion that’s not quite accurate since the last three exert the majority of their benefits outside the brain.
It’d be more appropriate if they were labeled as adaptogens, since their primary benefit is that they allow your body to adapt to the stress response. Their mechanisms of action work throughout the entire body and generally don’t do much to the brain itself.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine however, is deserving of the term and it’s important to understand how it works. It’s responsible for some of the best and worst qualities of Mobius.
Mobius Breakfast contains 1,000 mg of Acetyl-L-Carnitine, which is a modified version of L-Carnitine, an amino acid that’s made from lysine and methionine and is used in the body to metabolize fat. L-carnitine doesn’t really dance with the brain too much.
However, Acetyl-L-Carnitine passes the blood brain barrier rather easily and once there it takes part in a variety of biological processes that aid cognition.
- Increasing mitochondrial count, which improves oxidation status within the brain
- Increasing the production of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter
- Improving the balance of biogenic amines such as dopamine and serotonin
Acetyl-L-Carnitine’s effects are fairly modest, and if taken regularly have a decent track record for improving cognitive function, particularly among the elderly.
However, Acetyl-L-Carnitine isn’t without its side effects. For unknown reasons it can give you the jitters with regular use, which brings me to my biggest complaint about Mobius: whenever I took it I felt slightly over stimulated.
After I gulped downs my first shaker bottle I had this unique sensation that my brain was swelling inside my head, and I couldn’t tell if I felt smarter or sketched out. I thought the effect might subside after a week of use but this was not the case.
My guess is the combination of caffeine + acetyl-l-carnitine is what did the trick. Outside of completely removing it from the formula, a way around the problem might be to use a form besides Acetyl-L-Carnitine L-tartrate. The L-tartrate salt causes ALCAR to enter your system more quickly, and using a more slowly absorbed form might stem the jitters after taking it.
What forms are used for various vitamins can have important effects for how they’re absorbed. Unfortunately, in the supplement industry these details are not always well executed. For this reason it’s my favorite way to judge a product.
It’s the best window into the company’s mind and heart.
Most people don’t know the difference so you won’t be penalized if you take shortcuts, so long as you still get the 100% DV on the label. So you can easily give the appearance of being thorough without actually having to cover your bases.
But the forms don’t lie, so going through the list tells you where they were naughty and where they were nice.
So how did Mobius do on this front?
The chief determinant for how well a mineral is absorbed is the carrying molecule that accompanies it. Minerals have to disassociate inside the stomach so they can travel into the bloodstream.
The best minerals are light and fluffy, easily dissolving in stomach acid to free the mineral to do its thing.
Here’s what Mobius used in its product:
The Good: phosphate (calcium, potassium), aspartate (magnesium), citrate (selenium, molybenum), chloride, glycinate(zinc, copper).
Phosphate was used to deliver calcium and potassium and this is a fine choice, since calcium phosphate is the form that’s assembled into your bones and phosphate is easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Citrate and aspartate are two of the more commonly used salts to deliver minerals and they’re usually adequate since they have low solubility constants.
Glycinate is a term you use when you attach the amino acid glycine as a salt. It’s the most common amino acid used in chelates because it’s the smallest, which makes the glycine:mineral complex likely to make it to the brush border membrane, where it can dissociate when it’s about to be adsorbed out of the small intestine.
The Not So Good: carbonate (calcium), oxide (magnesium), sulfate (manganese)
They used magnesium aspartate as the dominant form in the mixture so they get a bit of a pass here, but a $135/month supplement should not be using an oxide to deliver its minerals. They are dense, making it easier to make label claims with a minimal amount of space, but they are also dense, making good absorption all but impossible.
I say this all the time, but magnesium oxide is one of the only minerals that’s clinically proven…..to not be absorbed.
Carbonate is another problematic carrier molecule. If you’re wondering why it’s not particularly well absorbed, you’ll probably understand once we call it by its colloquial name: chalk.
The sulfates are easy to use, but the coordination bonds found in sulfate complexes are not easily broken up by the chemical and physical pressures that occur in the GI tract. These three ought to be replaced with something more becoming of the product.
Here’s what they used for the vitamins:
B1: Thiamin. This is standard and basically fine.
B2: Riboflavin. This is standard and basically fine.
B3: Niacin. You can also use niacinamide here, which has the benefit of not providing a tingling sensation at high doses, but you need a good amount more than what’s contained here for that to kick in so this is also fine.
B5: Calcium pantothenate. They used calcium to complex with the pantothenic acid, which has the benefit of increased stability……this is fine.
B6: Pyridoxine HCL. Standard.
B9: They list it as “folate.” This is a bit confusing, since folate itself is not an actual molecule, but instead refers to a variety of compounds which share the same folate backbone.
Synthetic folate comes as folic acid, which is what I’m going to guess is being used here. Circulating folate occurs as 5-MTHF (which can also be made synthetically), and the folate you find in plants is called 7,8 – DHF.
Lots of companies are using the generic folate term, but it ultimately confuses more than clarifies. To learn more about folate read my previous article on the topic.
B12: Again, they simply say “Vitamin B12”, which doesn’t distinguish between cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, and hydroxycobalamin. See my article on taking B12 for further details. Dollars to doughnuts cyanocobalamin is being used here.
Vitamin A: beta carotene/retinyl acetate. They use a hybrid of the plant (beta carotene) and animal (retinol) here, and that’s basically fine. Both are good.
Vitamin K: Again they get all generic on us and simply coin the ingredient as “Vitamin K”, neglecting the curiosity of their more informed customers who’d like to know which of the 13 different vitamin K molecules they decided to use. I’m going to guess it’s phytonadione (aka K1).
Vitamin D: Same as vitamin K. The good news is that this time the choices are narrowed to 2: cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol. In this case the difference is huge since ergocalciferol only exhibits vitamin D like activity at deficiency levels but has none of the higher level regulatory effects that normal vitamin D has.
Vitamin E: dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate. When it comes to vitamin E you can use full stack mixed tocopherol, d-alpha, and dl-alpha tocopherol. Alpha tocopherol is what your body uses, but there’s only 1 geometry that your body accepts, which is D-alpha, which is what you want. DL-alpha signifies a synthetic mixture which contains all 8 possible geometries. The other 7 are inert within your body. There’s no evidence to suggest that DL-alpha is bad (lab rats do just fine on it), but it’s not hard to source natural vitamin E from sunflower or soybean oil.
Vitamin C: All vitamin C is basically the same. It’s ascorbic acid. Here they included 1,767% of the DV of vitamin C. That amounts to about 1,000 mg. There’s nothing wrong with including 1,000 mg of vitamin C in a formula, but it’s likely done out of naivete or marketing zest since your body stops absorbing it at about 300-400 mg.
Overall, these infringements on quality are modest. The vitamin stack for the most part is pretty good, and the difference between what’s best and what’s used here is slight and not something that’ll make-or-break the product for the people that want to try it.
But I always like to pass over this ingredient list with a fine toothed comb to separate the men from the boys.
You can read more about what forms of vitamins are found in food and supplements here.
As a whole I liked Mobius Breakfast quite a bit, and think the current version is a good choice for someone looking for a low-glycemic, paleoish meal replacement powder. The combination of nootropics and heavy use of coconut make it a nice alternative to Primal Fuel, which is a similar product but with a much more pared down ingredient list.
You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth paying the $5/meal price compared to other products out there, but Mobius Breakfast definitely has its own spot in the meal replacement space.