Interview with Tim Shead, Founder of P2Life and Ultima

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Interview with Tim Shead, Founder of P2Life and Ultima

Today we’re talking to Tim Shead, the guy who started it all here at Ultima. Tim, who was inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame in 2014, has set over 43 Masters World Records. We’ll find out about how he got his start in the swimming world, what led him to explore nutrition and start the Ultima business, and why the Ultima 1 shake is “not just another protein shake”.


Tim, tell us about your swimming career and how your story began.

Well, my brother was a top swimmer in the U.S. and I just kind of tagged along until I started training seriously at age 11. In high school in Miami, I was one of the better swimmers, but wasn’t recruited to a college team. I went to Penn and was on for their swim team. For the first 2 years at Penn, I didn’t progress and was about to quit. So I talked to my coach, George, who talked me into staying on. He put me on the training table and I started eating with the football players and other athletes where they had professional chefs and nutritious meals. Low and behold, I had tremendous improvements in my time and performance. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, my nutrition was a key factor. At first, I was eating junk food from the food trucks and then with a change in my diet, my time dramatically dropped.

Sounds like the beginning of your idea to start a nutrition company. So what happened next?

I graduated, moved to California, lived in Los Alamitos, and was working up in Century City, while training twice a day. But I got into my old habits of eating rubbish - whatever was around. Even though I was training 4 hours a day, I swam slower than when I was at Penn, when I was only training 1 hour a day. I didn’t even qualify for the trials, let alone the Olympic team. So that was the end of that. 

In 1975, I was elected by the top swimmers in the U.S. to represent them as one of the 5 National Athlete Representatives. It was an initiative that provided swimmers with both a voice and vote in all matters governing the sport. In 1976, I was elected Chairman of the Committee, by my peers, and as such I represented all swimmers in the U.S. on the Executive Board and Board of the Directors of Swimming, as it moved to break away from its previous international multi sport affiliation (the Amateur Athletic Union-AAU) to become what it remains to today. FINA recognized “United States Swimming Inc”, and the hiring of its first Director Ray Essick.


Speaking of Ultima, how did you get the idea to start a nutrition company?

While in California, I took some nutrition courses that changed the focus of my beliefs about swimming. It became crystal clear about the relationship between nutrition and performance. It was at this point that I realised you are what you eat.

I eventually moved back to Miami and became a U.S. swimming international head coach, where I coached David Marsh, who is now the Olympic head coach. During this time, another coach in Miami told me about a product that his kids were using and performing better than ever.

It was called the Cambridge diet. It was the first and only nutrition formula that has ever been patented, and of course generated a lot of controversy. The Cambridge folks said that you could live and be healthy on less than 2000 calories, actually 330 calories! But it got a clean bill of health from the Senate.

So I moved to South Africa with my wife, who is from there, and we addressed the protein and calorie issues in this product and looked at beneficial taste properties. Down in South Africa, Ultima grew in leaps and bounds compared to what I thought would happen and it just kept growing and growing. Back then it was sold primarily word of mouth!

What an amazing start! Tell us about your signature product, Ultima 1.

The Ultima 1 shake is a very unique formula that anyone at any age can take. How you take it depends on your lifestyle, and when and how you train. In today's fast paced and stressful lifestyle, eating 3 nutritionally balanced meals each day is extremely unlikely – it’s a sign of the times. This drink maximizes your nutrition and gives you a boost. It’s not just another protein shake; it’s balanced nutrition.

How is it different from the other protein shakes out there?

Most of the protein shakes out there fall into the flavored whey category. Whey’s a buzzword in the body building market. But the reality is that swimmers need to be lean and powerful. Of course swimmers want to be strong, but it’s important for swimmers not to bulk up. Your ideal body weight is critical and pounds sometimes equate to time.

Definitely. How should people use Ultima?

You should feel great when you wake up in the morning. Maximize that sleep period and give your body adequate time and nutrition to recover. I recommend taking the Ultima shake before going to bed. If you have dinner at 7, that meal not only needs to replenish the nutritional needs of day, but it has to last you until breakfast. The reality is - it doesn’t. And this is compounded for athletes who need additional nutrition. You get the carbs and the calories, but you don’t get the nutrients. Sleep is an important time of day. It’s when we rejuvenate and recover. When the only thing the body has to do is get better and stronger.

What’s the response been from the swimming community about your products?

The whole company grew out of the community of athletes in South Africa. I’ve been taking it since 1980 and and am swimming my lifetime best times. Faster in my 60s than I was in my 20s! When we launched P2Life in the U.S, we got a tremedous response from Olympians, Masters swimmers, and everyone who’s taking it. People writing to us and are telling us how much better they feel, are able to cope with their lifestyles, how much better their kids are doing in school and in the pool. It’s heartwarming. There’s no stimulants, no steroids. I even gave it to my competitors, Rick Colella and David Guthrie, and they’re all beating my world records!

Well those are definitely satisfied customers! Any closing thoughts for our readers?

If you want to see how well you can start to feel and perform, what you’re capable of, get good nutrition before you go to bed. All encompassing, full spectrum nutrition. Firstly, if you want to have maximum health, you never want your body to need something and not have it. And secondly, you never know what you’re gonna need from day to day, and every nutrient needs other nutrients to work. So make sure your body is getting it all.

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