Thursday, December 10, 2009

10 Engineering An Electrolyte Concentrate

So I was flipping through this year's NASA Spinoff Magazine today and chanced upon an interesting story.

You may know that it was common for NASA astronauts to return to earth in a pretty dehydrated state with low blood volume. Because of the lack of gravity in space, the human body apparently thinks that getting rid of excess body fluids is the right course of action, and there goes all the orange juice, root beer and other geeky stuff you drank before lift-off. This is how the human body attains homeostasis, or equilibrium with the new environment.

In space, taking salt tablets mixed with water isn't even a preferred solution because water quantity is limited up there and astronauts don't find favor with the method. So story made short : An ex-AMES Research Center physiologist named Dr. Greenleaf takes interest back in the day and designs an isotonic electrolyte formula based on a specific ratio of sodium citrate and sodium chloride. While the rest of the stuff in it was patented, it had no sugar, no caffeine, no carbs, no added color. I mean, this stuff was really salty. After 15 years of development and testing, he gives his formula called "HyperAde" to astronauts, they love it, and since then, this is being used on NASA's space missions.

This isn't all apparently. The catch? During scientific research and testing, not only did NASA validate that this stuff beats water and common endurance drinks by appreciable margins, but they also found that it leads to a "20%" increase in cycling endurance on an ergo meter. The reason was attributed to greater increase in resting plasma volume compared with other control products. Dr. Greenleaf's white paper for NASA, titled "Drink Composition and Cycle-Ergometer Endurance in Men : Carbohydrate, Na+, Osmolality" can be read here.

So how did this technology end up in the hands of Wellness Brands Inc, a Colorado based company and metamorphise into what they call "The Right Stuff"? The product was launched in June of this year. It is being sold to cyclists, runners and other endurance athletes and Dr. Greenleaf is on the company's board of directors as inventor of the item.

You may be interested in reading this snippet from the '09 Spinoff Magazine. Enjoy!

Page 1 : Click to Zoom


  1. Ricky7:30 PM

    20% more endurance huh? Watch 'em boys scramble to buy one.

  2. Anonymous7:49 PM

    So is this how Contador won this year?

  3. Ha, right, and Armstrong was stuck with that stupid crap FRS. By the way, say FRS over and over again at speed and it sounds like "FARCE", doesn't it?

  4. If its isotonic, how is it that it contains no sugar?

  5. Joanne8:43 AM

    I always love the variety in topics you can come up with. How does your brain work?

  6. If you want to make this stuff yourself, the recipe is given in one of their papers:

  7. Thanks for the link to the study... n=5? Untrained individuals? Ouch... hard to extrapolate from that :S

    BTW, the "isotonic" reference is frequently used with regard to salt content and not necessarily glucose. An example is saline solution used for drips - it is considered isotonic with regard to salt (and again, this is slightly inaccurate since it doesn't match the osmolarity exactly).

  8. What, no more Tang?

  9. Rod : You're right, I guess one could see that study in a different light. Untrained individuals probably make better relative improvements than highly trained, elite athletes.

    Josh : That's some of the raw recipe yes, but The Right Stuff includes some more items to dilute the saltiness of the original.

  10. There's a post over at Cycling Tips. One of the blogger's friends told him how to make this stuff at home. Might interest the amateur chemist in you :)


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