By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
Gatorade has revolutionized the way football players fuel before, during and after games by providing nutrients in energy drinks that replace electrolytes. Gatorade’s future plans could change the way a player approaches a trip to the sideline, with personalized Gatorade bottles prepared for every break in the action.
Imagine a world in which a tracking device monitors all of a football player’s movements throughout a game, and makes that information available to coaches on the sideline. Now imagine that the player also wears a sweat patch that monitors hydration levels and also makes that information available to coaches. Finally, imagine a world in which a player stands on a scale on the sideline every time he comes off the field.
Gatorade believes you won’t have to imagine that world much longer because it’s coming faster than you think. And the goal for Gatorade will be to take all of the collected data mentioned above and provide each player with a personalized bottle with varying levels of carbohydrates and nutrients to drink in-game.
The company is continuing to work on a smart cap for a personalized bottle with LED lighting that reminds players when they need to hydrate and shows how close they are to meeting their water intake goals for the day. Gatorade is also developing blends of its drinks that are tailored to a player’s specific needs, from calories to electrolytes to sodium.
Corey Ungaro, a biochemist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), believes the personalized Gatorade Gx bottles will make their way onto high school sidelines as early as 2018.
“I see the Gatorade bottle evolving into a personalized way to hydrate,” Ungaro said. “Players will step on scales every time they come off the field, and the coach will have a roster on an iPad that shows how much each player is drinking based on their bottle’s flow meter. You’ll start to see those soon; we’re working out a few bugs and we need it to be consumer-friendly.”
The Gatorade Gx bottle is already being used by some NFL teams that have access to resources like Catapult tracking devices and sweat monitors. Ungaro said that the difficult part about providing the perfect Gatorade mix for each player is that outside factors that affect hydration – like stress or sleep – require monitoring well in advance of the game. Gatorade is also working on a sweat patch that will look like a Band-Aid and measure hydration levels.
“We need to know where they’re at in terms of hydration before they get to the field,” Ungaro said. “It’s pretty simple to envision a color metric that will show if someone is a salty sweater. Then, we can supplement more electrolytes.”
One other area Ungaro could see Gatorade exploring for football players is recovery drinks that help with sleep. The bedtime drinks might include melatonin, which is a hormone associated with sleep onset.
“There’s going to be a lot of avenues to go,” Ungaro said. “For sleep, it would be nice to look at protein levels and come up with a drink or yogurt with melatonin. A lot of factors affect sleep, like nerves, the anxiety of competition, soreness, and academic balance. Gatorade might want to get into that recovery phase.”
The Gatorade Gx Bottle
Last year, Gatorade introduced Gx, a sports fuel customization platform. The Gx ecosystem combines science-backed products with newly designed equipment, and real-time biometric and tracking technologies to provide fueling recommendations specific to an individual athlete.
The new innovations include:
Bottle with Flipcap: Squeeze bottle (without tracking electronics) specifically designed for use with pods by including a water level marking, an integrated pod piercer and a flip cap for ease of operation.
Smart Cap: In development as an upgrade to the basic flipcap, this component utilizes fluid intake tracking and provides visual feedback directly to the athlete to pace hydration.
Pods: Accompanying the bottle will be a range of concentrated Gatorade formulas and flavors optimized for use with personalized hydration and fuel strategies.
Digital Sweat Patch: Provides ability for real-time hydration tracking (in conjunction with smart cap) to allow athlete to hydrate and re-fuel accordingly.
Future Food Forms: Gatorade is creating new food forms with new ingredients that will help address athlete preferences and fuel them during more parts of their day, including protein-enriched yogurt.