Article by Hunter Calder:
Two 20-year-olds have developed a vegan, gluten-free, GM-free, low-sugar sports drink – it has now been approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“If people vibe with that then that’s cool,” Olly Ng said. “And if not at least we have had some fun doing it.”
Ng and his mate Hayden Washington-Smith are just 20 years old but they’ve developed their own hydration drink for endurance athletes – one that contains less sugar and more sodium.
It’s an idea Washington-Smith has been pondering since a high school research project. When his cycling buddy Ng heard about it, they decided to take the idea seriously.
“We saw heaps of different versions of the same product with minor differentiations and as an athlete, you sort of have to wonder ‘if they all have benefits why would I not, take all of them?'” Ng said.
Pretty soon they realised there was a gap in the New Zealand market for a less sugary hypotonic hydration product.
“There are a handful of products sold in the USA but not exported overseas,” Ng said.
“I’ve tried a few and they are effective but some of them taste super synthetic or super salty. So, we thought we’d look at formulating a better tasting, hypotonic sports drink here in New Zealand.”
Not only are their dry-powder blends lower in sugar, they’re gluten-free, naturally flavoured and don’t contain any genetically-modified ingredients.
And the drinks are vegan because they use citrate salts such as sodium citrate and potassium citrate, which are of an organic origin.
The other part of the product beyond the electrolytes are the bio-actives such as astaxanthin and l-citrulline – also from a vegetable source.
Hayden’s father Grant Washington-Smith is a nutritional physiologist, and has been the brains behind the science in formulating the products.
He trialed different formulations to give the young men a product that he reckons can help the human gut absorb water more quickly.
“It’s real function is to activate certain pathways in the gut that literally pull the water out of the intestine and into the body,” Grant Washington-Smith said.
“The idea is only putting enough carbohydrate and sugar into this to facilitate the absorption of both water and mineral components to get it rolling and speed up the absorption process.
“If you are perspiring a lot, you need to replace that lost hydration quickly and that’s where our products come in,” he said.
Over the last 18 months, there’s been a lot of trial and error sampling flavours and formulations in the lab, and on the road.
They started with flavours like chilli lime and salted watermelon – but it’s the simple flavours that work the best.
“I think the flavour changes with taste,” Ng said. “Also your tolerance levels are way higher just coming here rather than if you’re three hours deep, breathing through your eyeballs, on a bike.”
The men had high hopes for PowerAmp to be a hit among high-performance athletes if their hydration products meets World Anti-Doping Agency standards.
Of course, there was a patriotic motivation behind the product too – supporting Kiwi athletes.
“A lot of our friends have made it onto Commonwealth Games teams,” Ng said.
“Being able to support those guys and the next generation that could be superstars in the future, if we could figure out the nutrition and rehydration side then they have to worry about one less thing.”