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CLIENT NEWS: Young kiwi cyclists launch innovative Hypotonic sports drink

Two former cycling rivals have joined forces to develop and launch an innovative rehydration drink to the New Zealand market.

Hayden Washington-Smith, 20, and Olly Ng, 20, have launched PowerAmp Sports and over the past 18 months have developed a range of hypotonic sports drinks targeting elite cyclists, endurance athletes, triathletes, CrossFit devotees and those competing at high intensity or in hot conditions.

Their Rapid Hydration range is designed to better rehydrate the body than water or standard sports drinks.

Although hypotonic sports drinks are popular with professional cyclists worldwide, and used at events such as Tour de France, it has been difficult to get quality products in New Zealand until now.

“There are a handful of products sold in the USA but not exported overseas,” says Olly. “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.”

Hypotonic sports drinks are scientifically formulated to allow rapid hydration to occur in the body at a rate two or three times faster than water alone. They contain a specific concentration and ratio of sugar and electrolytes, which help drive water into cells – important to high-performance athletes or those training at high-intensity or in hot conditions – to replace water lost in perspiration.

There are three products in the range:  1 - Preparation 2 - Rapid Hydration and 3 – Recovery – each specifically designed to support hydration before, during and after intense competition. The Preparation and Recovery ranges are in the research and development stage, with plans for launching those in 2019.

The drinks are vegan, gluten-free, low-sugar, naturally flavoured and do not contain any genetically-modified ingredients. “I think there is a gap in the local market for an effective rapid hydration drink that doesn’t compromise on taste or nutrition,” says Hayden.

“There is a whole lot of misinformation out there about nutrition, and people get caught up in the latest nutrition trends, which was one of our motivations for developing the drink. Our mission is to use cutting-edge sports science to support high-performance athletes, and help them get a better understanding of the value of rehydration and the role it plays in overall nutrition.”

Ensuring their sports drink was backed by nutritional science was important to Hayden and Olly, and that’s where Hayden’ father, Grant Washington-Smith, has helped the duo.

A well-regarded nutritional physiologist, Grant has been the scientific and entrepreneurial force behind many other new food product launches.

Grant says that a typical athlete competing at high-intensity loses 1.5 to 3 litres of sweat per hour, and that rehydration is vital to performance: a two per cent loss in body fluid during a race can have a negative impact on performance of up to 30%.

“If you are perspiring a lot, you need to replace that lost hydration quickly and that’s where our products come in,” says Grant. “They help with sweat salt loss, and enable the body to better absorb molecules of water more effectively and efficiently.”

PowerAmp Sports’ Rapid Hydrate drink has less sugar and calories than other isotonic sports drinks. Grant says sugary sports drinks can have a negative effect on performance, causing an insulin spike then blood glucose crash.

“Science shows that getting the right amount and ratio of glucose to sodium can activate the body’s transportation channels and rehydrate cells much faster than water alone. It also means that water isn’t sloshing around the stomach, but is quickly utilised and absorbed into the body where it is needed during sports, training or competition,” he says.

Hayden and Olly’s business partnership and friendship were born out of a competitive friendship. Olly, was in Hamilton Boys High School’s elite cycling squad, while Hayden was with Palmerston North Boys High School’s cycling team.

Hayden had the initial idea, spurred by his involvement in a Massey University study in 2016 which tested the effect of taking pomegranate extract on high-intensity cycling performance. He was stunned at the impact it had on his time cycling on a challenging uphill course at Ohakune.

He discussed it with his father, and they began to research options for creating a more effective sports drinks targeting elite cyclists.

Olly and Hayden were both in Hamilton during the university summer holidays of 2016/2017 and caught up for training rides. “When he told me about his idea, I wanted to get involved,” says Olly.

“Each of us has our own strengths. Dad’s pretty good in terms of technical and scientific product knowledge; I’m pretty good with business development and marketing and Olly is pretty good at looking at consumer thinking and sustainable aspects,” says Hayden.

The trio worked on the product range, trialling various formulations and flavours in laboratories at Waikato Innovation Park, where Grant is based.

Initially about a dozen flavours were developed and tested, says Hayden, but the mango, pineapple and raspberry lemonade came out on top.

The PowerAmp Sports’ Rapid Hydration range comes in 400ml pouches and are sold online at powerampsports.com. One pouch makes up 10 litres of drink or 20 serves (of 500ml).

Long term, Hayden and Olly hope they can get PowerAmp Sports products independently certified to ensure contaminants are not present and ingredients and label claims are verified, to meet World Anti-Doping Agency standards, which will ensure they are guaranteed safe for consumption for elite cyclists. “It’s a major barrier for us at the moment, as a lot of our friends who are top cyclists and compete at elite levels can’t risk trying our product unless it’s been certified. One banned ingredient can ruin your whole career,” says Olly.

“One of the reasons we wanted to develop this product is because we know how careful athletes have to be about what they put in their body,” adds Hayden. “We’ve been motivated to do this to support other New Zealand cyclists, but we can see it’s got potential for any athletes training and competing at an elite level.”

PICTURED ABOVE:  Cyclists and business partners Hayden Washington-Smith and Olly Ng are behind the PowerAmp Sports drink range