By now, you've likely read and watched video on STACK.com about the Gatorade Sport Science Institute in Barrington, Illinois, where athletes like Dwyane Wade, Kerri Walsh Jennings and Cam Newton have gone through various sweat and athlete testing protocols to gain a better understanding of how they can optimize their performance through hydration and nutrition. That concept has now reached the next phase of its evolution via the recently opened 9,200-square-foot GSSI Lab at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The new cutting-edge lab is situated inside the recently built, 65,000-square-foot IMG Performance and Sports Science Center. Gatorade's first satellite lab location in the U.S, it not only provides larger testing spaces and improved equipment, but it also leverages direct access to high school athletes in a practice, training and competition environment through the athletes attending school and playing sports at IMG Academy.
"Back at Barrington, it might take us several weeks to gather the right high school athletes for a study," says Melissa Anderson, principal scientist for Gatorade and leader of the GSSI satellite location in Bradenton. "Here, we can literally propose a test to the coaches and have it set up within a day. It gives us immediate access and feedback with high school athletes of all multiple ability levels."
The type of testing that is taking place down in Bradenton is truly amazing, and STACK was able to take part in it over a two-day period last month. We learned that though an extremely small percentage of high school athletes will be blessed with personal access to this state-of-the-art facility, the testing taking place within it will benefit every athlete nationwide.
The GSSI Experience and Testing
On our first day of testing, GSSI's team set out to get a sweat profile for each attendee. The goal was to monitor our sweat loss rate (how much fluid we lose per hour) and how much sodium we lost through our sweat. To do so, we weighed in and then had sweat patches applied to the top of each forearm.
We were led through a warm-up and about 30 minutes of basketball and reaction drills to get a sweat going. Perspiration has never been a problem for me, so my sweat patches were fully saturated and removed prior to us heading outside for a three-mile run.
After the workout, we weighed in again to determine fluid loss, and our sweat patches were sent to Gatorade's scientists to be tested that night. The following day, we got a full report on our sweat profile. I learned that my sweat rate is 1.7 liters per hour, which is categorized as "very high," and that I lose 1,465 mg of sodium per hour, which is classified as "high."
The results were not surprising, because I have long suffered from cramping problems, but the report was only the first part of the process. It was the personalized fuel and fluid recommendations based on my sweat profile that made the experience so beneficial. I now know which products and the exact amount to take in prior to, during and after intense activity.
Gatorade's Gx Platform
The type of testing taking place at GSSI at IMG Academy has become the foundation supporting Gatorade's latest innovation, its Gx sports fuel customization platform, which is a revolutionary way for athletes to hydrate and fuel in a more personalized way based on their specific sweat and fuel usage profiles. In short, Gx will set out to go beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to hydration by offering athletes an appropriate concentration of electrolytes and carbohydrates based on their specific needs.
This personalized formula will come in an easily transported pod inserted into the flip cap of a new type of Gatorade squeeze bottle. The athlete pierces the pod, and the concentrated solution mixes with the water in the bottle below.
Perhaps the most interesting element of the Gx platform is the development of smart cap technology, which helps athletes track their fluid, electrolyte and carbohydrate intake over the course of a workout, practice or game by way of blinking lights that monitor their actual intake against the amounts recommended based on their previous testing.
As an athlete, I often worried about whether I was drinking too much or too little during scheduled hydration breaks, and having the smart cap technology during an intense basketball drilling session proved its efficacy for me. When I picked up the bottle, I saw what hydration gap I needed to cover to maintain the appropriate intake over time until the blinking light was close to or at the target light. It was a simple process that would have put my mind at ease when I was a high school and college athlete.
Gatorade piloted its Gx platform and smart cap beginning in 2014 with the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) leading up to the World Cup. Additionally, teams like the Chicago Bulls, FC Barcelona, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos have been using the technology and providing feedback to Gatorade's innovation team regarding how Gx can be improved prior to launching it with 50 teams in 2017.
There's no need to worry if you don't happen to play for one of those 50 pro teams, however; a form of this personalized pod technology will soon be available for all athletes online and at sporting good stores. You will be able to purchase a flip cap bottle and concentrated pods based on your sweat and fuel needs. Initially, Gatorade Thirst Quencher and G2 will be the two formulas available to the masses, but big things like digital sweat patches and more personalized formulas are coming soon.
More Innovation Ahead
As if this innovation and testing were not exciting enough, Gatorade has more in store for athletes over the next couple of years. The innovation team is currently developing actual food products with ingredients that will help athletes fuel throughout key points of the day, including carb-packed wafer products and a nighttime frozen yogurt product rich in the slow-releasing casein protein that helps athletes' muscles repair and recover while they sleep.
Further down the line, we might be seeing products that help with collagen production, which would be a huge asset in injury prevention and recovery for athletes, and vegetable-based nitrate products that improve endurance by reducing the oxygen cost of exercise or competition.
This current and future innovation is only possible through the athlete testing taking place at GSSI's new state-of-the-art lab, which is why we are all benefitting from the new facility.