Disclaimer: This review was sponsored by Tespo Vitamins. All opinions are my own.
Tespo Vitamins. The “Keurig Vitamins.”
If they haven’t been flooding your Facebook timeline with ads…well…I have to question whether or not you are really a post-op! (Seriously…the ads are everywhere! Kudos to them for going all-in on marketing.)
So there’s a lot to discuss here. Grab a cup of tea, snuggle up on your sofa, and let’s dig in.
Ok so here’s what I’m not gonna do in this review.
I’m not going to say to you “these vitamins are the perfect blend for bariatric patients.” I’m not gonna do that.
I’m not going to tell you “these vitamins have the correct amount of x, y or z for wls folks…and for you!” Nope. Won’t do that either.
I’m not a dietician. I don’t play one on t.v. And in reality your dietician and bariatric staff (or your primary care physician) should be the ones advising you on the content of your vitamins. Not me. So…while I can comment all day long on the user-experience of this vitamin system…sorry, I’m not making any comments on their appropriateness for bariatric patients or you.
What I will do, however, is link you to the nutrient panel of the vitamins so you can print that out and ask people who know bodies, vitamins, medicine and you way better than I do. Fair enough?
What is Tespo? Why is Tespo?
I thought that would be a good place to start. Tespo is actually not just vitamins, but a vitamin system.
Yeah, I know that sounds like some BS companies say to get you to pay more money for something, but in this case (hand to the sky) it is the truth. But what the hell does that mean?
It means Tespo is not simply presenting you with a new vitamin product, but also a new way to take your vitamins. There are three main things that come together in the Tespo vitamin system:
- The Tespo dispenser
- The Tespo vitamin discs
So as you probably guessed the machine makes vitamin drinks. And that really sounds over-simplified and I’m going to tell you why in a moment, because the mere fact that it does that means so many more things. But I’m trying hard not to get ahead of myself.
Why is Tespo? Well, I talked to the CEO of the company, Jeff Linton, and he told me he worked in the vitamin industry and he saw first-hand the benefits of taking vitamins but he also saw that most folks just didn’t do it consistently. So he started out wanting to find a way to make it easier. He did not start this company for bariatric patients (nor do I think he even knew what a bariatric patient was when this venture began). But he did see the ease of use and success of…the Keurig coffee machine. And that gave him an idea.
So I’ll skip a lot of the details of this story I’m likely to get wrong, but basically after getting his idea rejected a bunch of times, he decided to make a go of developing a machine himself and the Tespo machine was born.
The other mission of Tespo, according to Jeff, was to make a vitamin that is all-natural as possible. Many vitamin products on the market today, he says, contain bulking agents and fillers designed to make our vitamins hold together into the shape of a tablet or a chewable, along with artificial sweeteners, for flavor. He wanted to eliminate all that stuff and give folks just the vitamins. But…that wasn’t as easy as he originally thought and he realized it wasn’t something he could best do in conjunction with other vitamin companies so eventually he decided to develop his own, proprietary (read: Tespo makes it themselves) vitamin blend. This will become significant when we talk about how the vitamins relate to bariatrics, I promise!
So after developing the machine, Jeff says he was contacted by some folks in the bariatric world and he began to learn about our needs, compliance challenges, and the overall importance of vitamins in the lives of bariatric patients and so he decided to try to develop a Tespo vitamin product for us, to help make being vitamin compliance easier.
Now that all sounds very idyllic when I write it like that but look here. I’ve spoken to this guy on the phone several times and I can attest that, if nothing else, this guy’s main concern in life is getting people to take their vitamins! Seriously. It’s a passion of his. He lost me like four times geeking out about vitamin blends and the properties of various nutrients. (In reality, most of this stuff goes way over my head.)
So that is to say that I believe Jeff when he says he cares about bariatric folks and whether we take our vitamins or not, and I believe that he’s genuinely interested in creating a vitamin product that will work for us.
Now…let’s look at the actual system.
Ok so…I’ll admit. I was kind of skeptical about the dispenser when I first heard about it.
It was pretty obvious to me that the purpose of the dispenser is to make some sort of vitamin drink for you. But…there are already vitamin powders that make vitamin drinks, right?
For reasons I’ll explain in a minute, I wasn’t seeing the big picture. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let me back up.
So the dispenser does, in fact, look a lot like a Keurig machine. The front has a slot where you put the vitamin discs (we will talk about those in a moment), a magnetic cup/dispensary, a button to power it on/off and to start the machine, and a display screen. Let’s go over these briefly:
- The vitamin disc slot holds one disc of vitamins. I’ll show you this in the next section, but each disc has foil backing that the dispenser punctures to access the vitamin powder to mix it with water. The dispenser also “knows” how many vitamin servings you have used based on this foil punching system.
- The magnetic cup/dispensary is actually kind of neat. The cup is magnetic because the machine actually mixes your drink together with the water so that it blends. The magnets hold the cup in place as it spins and spins. But then the cup also has a little “rod” on the inside that also aids the mixing process.
- The power button is also a visual cue to what’s going on with the machine. You touch it to turn the machine on. And if all is a go to mix up your vitamins, the button lights up green. If there is something wrong, it lights up red (which means you should check the display screen to find out what is wrong). After you press the button for it to mix your vitamins, it turns blue and when your vitamins are done it turns green again.
- The display screen contains a few important pieces of information. It tells you when you don’t have enough water in the machine to make a drink (and also the dispenser won’t operate without the proper amount of water, so the power button will turn red), it also tells you how many servings of your vitamin disc you have used.
On the side of the machine there is a compartment to hold the vitamin discs. Which I LIKE! The last thing I need is another thing to have to find storage for, so it’s pretty handy that you can store your vitamins right in the machine. Plus, the number of slots is perfect for what you’d take as a bariatric patient (again, we’ll get to that next!).
And, finally, in the back we have a water reservoir. It holds…maybe a cup and a half of water. Each vitamin serving is about 2 ounces of water, so you get more than a few servings out of that reservoir.
Here are a few shots of the dispenser at various angles so you can see all these fabulous parts. 😉
Before I talk about what I think of the dispenser, let’s talk about the vitamin discs.
The Vitamin Discs
So as I said, the vitamins come in discs that you insert into the dispenser. Each disc contains 31 servings of vitamins (or a month’s supply). But it’s important to understand how they intend for bariatric patients to take their vitamins.
When you order the “bariatric bundle” of vitamins you will get three vitamin discs for the month:
- One regular multivitamin disc, either formulated for men or women
- Two bariatric supplement discs, which contain additional vitamins
Tespo recommends taking two doses of the bariatric supplement disc daily and one does of the multivitamin daily, to fulfill your vitamin needs. Further, they suggest you take your bariatric supplement in the morning/evening and the multi midday.
Which elicits a question: “What if you aren’t home during the day?”
Included with every order is an apparatus called a “Tespo Go,” which is a flat disc that sits on top of the vitamin disc. It basically punctures a hole in the disc so that you can mix it with a bit of water yourself. Truth be told, that stole a little bit of the magic of this thing, but I find that in life in general, practicality has a way of doing that. Let’s not get hung up on it. Onward!
Now…as you are talking to your dietician or doctor about the vitamin content in Tespo, realize that they are aware of one major thing your medical folks will pick up on right away. The discs (even combined) don’t contain a full day’s serving of calcium. They are aware of that and they say that’s because the vitamins do contain a full day’s serving of iron, which should not be taken together with calcium. They recommend taking a separate calcium supplement.
Again, here is the page that displays the nutritional panel for Tespo’s bariatric vitamins, which you should absolutely share with your medical team if you aren’t well-versed in vitamins!
The User Experience
Ok…so here’s where I can deviate from “just the facts” and give my opinion!
Before I get into all that I feel compelled to do a brief summary of the state of my vitamin compliance.
In a word, I’ve struggled. HARD.
I come from a family where addiction was always a problem so getting me to take vitamin tablets was hard because in my mind they read like pills and I have a “mind thing” about pills. So I’ve almost always done bariatric specific vitamins and within that I have always done chewables. I simply am not great at being compliant with swallow pills.
Having said that, I still struggled. Mainly because I perceived sorting my vitamins to be a chore. Notice I said perceived. That means it isn’t necessarily a chore, isn’t necessarily time-consuming, and is probably totally possible for me to do if I buckled down and just did it. But. I wasn’t doing it. And therein lies the problem!
This brings me to a short (I promise!) soap box moment. I felt like a failure for many years of my post-op life because of those types of issues. Because I didn’t recognize that my perceptions were getting in the way of my reality. It’s only been in the last few years that I realize it’s OKAY that I have those sorts of “funny things” about me. That I need to acknowledge them without judgment and figure out strategies around them. So if you, like me, struggle with compliance because you perceive sorting, carrying, etc. vitamins…it’s OKAY. It’s not okay to not take your vitamins though. So whatever you do…figure out a way to get around that perception to do what you are supposed to do. Vitamins are important! (/end soapbox moment)
Ok so now that I have bared my soul to the world…let’s talk about how Tespo factors into this.
In a word…this machine makes taking your vitamins RIDICULOUSLY easy. No…I’m serious. In my estimation this is for a few reasons:
- The thing sits on my kitchen counter. It’s there. So when I go into my kitchen I see it. And I think, “hey, have I taken my vitamins?”
- It does the work of portioning out your vitamins for you. So I don’t have to think of whether I take one of these, and two of those…the vitamin disc/machine does that.
- Once done, I have a 2-ounce vitamin drink which, as a 9-year post-op, I can just swig back and keep it moving. The whole exchange takes less than five minutes.
During the time I tested out a machine my vitamin doses usually went this way. I’d amble to the kitchen in the morning to do my little morning routine. I press the Tespo button one time to turn the machine on, and again for it to mix me up my drink. While it’s doing its thing, I go to feed my animals (three cats, one dog). By the time I’m finished feeding said animals, my vitamin drink is ready. I chug it. And move on.
The ease of this has had clear results. Tespo sent me a month’s supply of vitamins and I took the vitamins all month long. Every day.
Now you may be asking, “well what about that midday one?”
Yeah…so let’s talk about that. So when I first recieved my dispenser I totally missed the Tespo Go (it was in there…I just didn’t look very carefully at all the packaging). So I just took another chewable multi (an OTC one) with my extra calcium and my B-complex in the middle of the day. And that went well. Of all my daily doses of vitamin, my midday is the one I am most compliant with (I usually just take it with my lunch).
Once I figured out I had the Tespo Go I began throwing it in my purse to use. And to tell you the truth I still end up doing my OTC chewable most days. Frankly speaking, outside of the ease of use of the dispenser, the Tespo Go didn’t do that much for me. Your mileage may vary.
So…how do the vitamins taste, you might ask? (Another great question!)
Now I believe the multi and the bariatric are flavored differently, but honestly they taste kinda the same to me and here’s what they both taste like. Have you ever had a Capri Sun (those little juice bags)? They have a pretty distinctive flavor. Tespo’s vitamins taste like a less sweet (slightly more tart) version of a Capri sun. The texture was mostly smooth. There were a few pieces of floaty vitamin stuffs in there, but the signage on the machine warned me about that (it didn’t tell me why that happens, just that it would). I didn’t mind so much. The liquid itself wasn’t terribly gritty, so that was a plus. I think the residue on the glass is from how the plastic cup spins as the machine mixes up the drink.
The vitamin serving comes out to about two ounces (a quarter cup) of liquid, which was easy enough for me to swig back (keep in mind I am 9 years post-op…newbies, this may not be the case for you!). The liquid stays the same temperature as the liquid in the water reservoir. So that is to say that the machine doesn’t heat up or cool down the liquid. If the liquid in the reservoir is cool, your drink will be cool. If it is warm, your drink will be warm. Mine was usually just cooler than room temperature, which was ok by me.
So in summary, the dispenser is super easy to use, and it made me way more likely to be compliant with my morning/evening doses of vitamins. I’m still working on using the middle of the day vitamins (as opposed to another chewable multi). One thing that does motivate me (and I’ll admit up-front this is weird and neurotic of me) is keeping myself on the same amount of doses on all three discs they send me every month. Like…it bugs me to no end that my multi has more doses than both my bariatric discs! I believe we each have a little OCD in us…and that’s mine. Call me weird, but I’m going to start the new month with a new multi disc so my head does not explode! (And I’ll save the partially used one for “just in case I run out” or something).
The flavor isn’t something I’d want a 20 oz. bottle of but it wasn’t bad at all. I think I like that because I have been in situations where I liked taking my vitamins a little too much…for the wrong reasons. I’m just keeping it real there!
So if you’ve made it this far into the review, I’m going to assume you are really interested in this product. So I’m going to keep it 1000% real with you.
These vitamins cost more than your OTC vitamins. They also cost more than the least expensive bariatric vitamins on the market. Now…when we talk about any product you have two dynamics going on: cost and value. I go into value in the next section, but here we are talking about cost.
The system does have a start-up cost in that you have to purchase a dispenser. Full retail price on the dispenser is $129. Tespo almost always has a discount available for the dispensers though (and, as of the publishing of this review, the pop-up on their site says you can get a discount and enter to win a cruise…yay?). In fact, they made one available for us with the discount code FOODIE50. (And in the interest of full disclosure, no, I do not get a cut of anything if you use that code…it just gets you $50 off the dispenser!)
The cost of the vitamins is a recurring cost, but Tespo cuts you a deal if you do auto-shipping of vitamins. The regular retail price of the Bariatric Bundle (again, that’s one multi-vitamin disc – in either men’s or women’s formula – plus two bariatric discs, each with 31 servings) is $80 per month. If you sign up for auto-ship, that price goes down to $65. (whoa, Nelly! Yeah…if you are interested in this, go all in with the auto-ship…that’s a significant difference!)
So to start off your Tespo adventure, you will pay $79 up front (that’s assuming you use the $50 off coupon), and $65 a month thereafter. For a 31-day month, that factors into a cost of about $2.09 per day, for a 31-day month.
Ok so here’s where we can’t avoid talking about whether or not the vitamins have what you need in them. I’m not getting into your medical situation, as I said! But I will say that in my estimation, the value of this system hinges on two things:
- How many supplementary vitamins you have to take on top of taking the Tespo vitamins.
- Whether or not this system makes you more likely to be vitamin compliant in general.
I can only answer either of those questions for myself so here goes.
#1 – Yes I do have to take additional vitamins on top of the Tespo. As I said before, by design it doesn’t have enough calcium in it, so I have to take additional calcium doses. I also take additional vitamin D supplements (I’ve been deficient since before surgery), and a B-complex. That’s what I was advised to take by my dietician. (I say that to say that what you would need to take could be different which is why, again, you should consult with your dietician and/or bariatric practice!)
#2 – Yes, it did send my vitamin compliance through the roof! Even with my additional supplements. I have taken all my Tespo doses for as long as I have had the machine and I’ve taken all my extra doses for as long as I have had the machine. Which was a lot more than I was doing prior to having the machine.
So you may wonder, “well, Nik, would you actually buy a Tespo?”
I find when folks ask me that, it’s really asking whether they should buy something. That I cannot tell you. I can tell you for me…yes, I actually would buy this machine. It made that big of a difference in how compliant I was with my vitamins. I remember speaking once to Dr. Jacqueline Jacques, a person I respect very much in the realm of bariatric nutrition) about the ever-controversial Flintstone Vitamins debate and something she said stuck with me. “Almost any vitamins are better than no vitamins at all.”
Now pointing that out is nothing bad on Tespo. In asking for opinions about the vitamin content I got a range of answers about how complete or compliant they are with ASMBS vitamin guidelines (which is another reason I refuse to speak on that). But I will say that if you are facing a life where you are constantly skipping vitamins (for whatever reason) and a solution that makes you way more likely to take vitamins…it might be wise to invest in that solution.
Another thing that impressed me about Tespo was speaking with the owner. From experience I know that all vitamin companies (bariatric or not) are constantly looking at their vitamin formulations to improve them. Tespo is no different. Jeff admits Tespo is new to the bariatric arena and he wants to learn about our vitamin needs. He seems to have plans (which I’m not at liberty to share at this time) to make tweaks based on the feedback they’ve gotten so far. But here’s the one thing Jeff said that struck me. “We’d like the help of the bariatric community at large to make the perfect vitamin and vitamin system for bariatric patients to be vitamin compliant.” So the bottom line is this: they want to collaborate with bariatric patients, professionals, etc. to make taking our vitamins easier.
I’m willing to be a part of that process because I struggle and I know many of you do too!
So if it sounds like I’m being non-specific here…I kinda am! Because vitamins are both very subjective and very important to get right. So let me just take a moment to summarize what I am saying for definite:
- I find the system very easy to use and I’ve noted a drastic increase in my personal vitamin compliance
- But I still do have to take extra vitamins on top of the Tespo offering in order to follow my dietician’s/doctor’s recommendations
- Prior to receiving this system, I’d say my compliance was about a solid 50% (I’d take all the vitamins I was instructed to take about half the time, with the other half being times when I forgot at least one dose of something)
- I’ve had the system nearly a month and so far I’ve not missed any doses, even the extra ones I have to take. To be fair, part of that probably also has to do with accountability! (And I preach on this a lot y’all…you want to stick to a goal? Make it public!)
I realize that’s not a 100% thumbs up or down. (I ain’t sorry!) But I will say this. If you struggle with vitamin compliance, I would say this is definitely worth talking to your bariatric team about (and also ‘fessing up that you are struggling with vitamin compliance). Because at the end of the day, no two post-ops are the same (on a number of levels) and what motivates you may be completely different from what motivates me. That’s one reason I am definitely for having a bunch of different kinds of vitamin options out there. It increases the likelihood that there will be a “just right” product for each and every one of us.
And in that respect, I think Tespo is doing exciting work to contribute to – and perhaps even revolutionize, who knows? – the way we take our vitamins!
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