Evidence Based Nutrition Science

What exactly does “evidence-based” mean?

The science behind Amara sets us apart from other sports drinks, because we are dedicated to developing a product attuned to what our bodies need from an evidence-based standpoint. Evidence based comes from the scientific method used in medicine. Would you want your Dr. making decisions about what drug they used on you after that drug had only been tested on 5 people, or even 50? For research to be statistically significant, there must be a large sample size, otherwise differences in our anatomies and genetics could account for the differences in the results.

Why does this matter?

There are many products on the market that make claims based off of studies with a sample size of 5 people, or ingredients that were only tested on animals. These products tend to have a “Supplement Panel” because they cannot get FDA approval for their ingredients, because these ingredients have not been adequately tested to actually know if they work or not. These products serve only to confuse consumers who fail to recognize what evidenced-based science actually is. It is impossible to draw credible conclusions about a product or ingredient from a very small sample size, because results may vary wildly for the rest of us. These companies are able to sell products to gullible customers though by making headline grabbing claims, that are often times found to be untrue.

At Amara we wanted to build a product based in proven science, so we took an innovative approach by studying and using solid evidence-based research to bring sports and energy drinks in line with 2015 nutrition science. The benefits of our proven ingredients –electrolytes, vitamins, GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) caffeine–are supported with decades of solid science and large sample size studies. And, we choose high quality and natural forms of these ingredients–the CoffeeBerry,® for instance, powers our drinks with caffeine and vitamins.

Many of us strive for balance in our lives–in work, relationships, fitness, and nutrition. Achieving the kind of balance needed for you to function at your best, ideally means knowing how what you eat and drink affect your body at the cellular level.

We aren’t all scientists or doctors, so most us follow common wisdom–stay hydrated, avoid sugar and junk food, work out regularly–without necessarily understanding why, or how to achieve higher levels of health and fitness. The Amara development team does the extra research legwork, looking to the M.D.s and PhDs who are researching and publishing the latest evidence-based science related to hydration and other biological functions. We continue to seek out the most cutting-edge, trusted scientific research on the topic, so that Amara will always provide the most beneficial balance of hydration, nutrition, and energy.

Pasteurization

The last area we would like to discuss is pasteurization. Right on the front of Amara we have “100% Raw Fruit Sports Drink,” and for good reason. Often times when consumers purchase products they read the nutrition panel and see vitamins listed. In the case of fruit and many other foods there are also enzymes that are unlisted. Consumers unknowingly buy these products thinking they are getting 100% of their Vitamin C for example, when in actuality the drink they are consuming has been pasteurized and now contains much less if any of the vitamins and enzymes they thought they were getting. Many studies have shown that Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, and other B complex vitamins are particularly vulnerable to heat destruction compared to sugars or minerals. [3] This results in millions of consumers consuming juices, vitamin drinks, and sports drinks that are little more than sugar water after they have gone through extensive pasteurization processes.

Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, especially compounds called phenols, are also very sensitive to heat and oxidation. As such, many studies have shown that a significant amount of antioxidants are destroyed by commercial production of juice and the pasteurization process. Antioxidants bond with free radicals, which are chemical by-products that damage and age tissues such as arteries. Fruits, especially pineapple and papaya, contain enzymes that help break down protein and other components of food. Enzymes such as those are also destroyed by heat.

Hydration Science

When you think hydration, you probably think “water.” Water is generally understood as an essential part of successful weight loss, athletic training, and basic health and wellness. Yet, as Dr. Tim Noakes argues in his book Waterlogged, the commercial world (including well-known sports drink companies) has exaggerated our need for daily fluid intake. Noakes’ highly regarded research has probably made a lot of people, even the sweatiest marathon runners) think twice about taking on a daily gallon of water challenge.. When we were developing Amara, we learned that common hydration wisdom overlooks and over-simplifies a wealth of scientific research on how the body becomes and stays hydrated.

Because of the popularity of the basic wisdom to “stay hydrated,” some myths have also become commonplace. Did you know that the widely held idea that dehydration causes muscle cramps is in fact not supported by hard evidence, even though the majority of athletes and coaches believe it?[1] Did you know that over-hydration poses a serious risk to athletes? Despite the constant reminders to drink more water, the main takeaway from Noakes’ book is to drink when you’re thirsty. Because the research shows that the human body has evolved to become a well-tuned water regulation machine, the thirsty rule applies to the masses and the endurance athletes alike.

Some scientific research confirms that it is better to be well-hydrated for athletic performance because dehydration impairs even short periods of exertion.[2] However, and in line with Noakes’ argument about the influence of the corporate world on hydration knowledge, the Gatorade Sports Science Institute supports such research and encourages coaches and athletes to follow its results. It’s not hard to see how sports drink company Gatorade benefits from supporting research that supports statements like, “with a game plan to help your athletes drink the right fluids at the right times, you’re giving them the strategy for a high-powered performance that matches their will to win.”

Given recent national attention to deaths resulting from over-hydration, such as that of a high school football player Zyrees Oliver who suffered from fatal brain-swelling (hyponatremic encephalopathy) after drinking too much (two gallons of each) water and Gatorade, many believe it is time to more directly challenge common hydration wisdom. Since many athletes think they need to drink more fluids than they need to,[3] researchers with the HEAT Institute initiated a concerted campaign to set the record straight about hydration. At a recent conference organized by the HEAT Institute with CrossFit, renowned hydration science experts such as Dr. Sandra Fowkes Godek (director of the HEAT Institute and debunker of hydration myths) underscored the risks of drinking too much water while exercising (known as exercise-associated hyponatremia), which include everything from irritability, fatigue, and nausea to seizures, coma, and death.

Okay, let’s get a deeper into the science to better understand Amara’s formula for hydration. Because of a measure called osmolality, the ingredients in sports drinks that can make them a better choice than water for staying hydrated and supporting athletic performance. Simply put, osmolality measures the balance between water and solutes in the blood. Solutes are substances dissolved in a solution, such as salt (solute) dissolved in water (solution). Your osmolality is higher when you are dehydrated (higher concentration of solute), and lower when you are over hydrated (lower concentration of solute). A “good” osmolality measure sits in between under- and over-hydration, creating a balanced environment for your blood cells.

The best environment for your cells is an isotonic one, in which water molecules in and outside the cell have the same amount of electrolytes and other materials in them. If there are too many water molecules in the cell, the cell’s environment is hypotonic. The cell swells and can burst. If there are too few water molecules in the cell, it is hypertonic, and the cell shrinks and loses essential functions.

Based on advice from hydration experts, we made sure Amara was isotonic, which means our drink’s mix of electrolytes, nutrients and glucose perfectly matches the body’s blood plasma osmolality. The electrolytes from sports drinks should hydrate and fuel you better during a workout than water, but not all sports drinks are created to support “good” isotonic osmolality. Many popular sports drinks load up with sodium and refined sugar (as well as other processed and artificial ingredients), meaning that they may make you more thirsty and drink too much fluid, posing the risk that you may become over-hydrated.

Our goal was to find a perfect hydration balance, without using overwhelming amounts of sodium or sugar (and our light sweetness comes from natural fruit sources, rather than the refined sugar in most sports drinks).

Sodium Confusion – is it Good or Bad?

Ideally, a sports drink allows you to replace lost sodium during physical exertion, while maintaining just the right replenished, isotonic balance. You probably know that medical professionals intravenously deliver a saline solution (sodium dissolved in water) to the blood in order to hydrate someone. A sports drink should use sodium (and other electrolytes) to serve a similar function, but at the right balance.

When you consume a sports drink, you introduce nutrients and minerals into your body that affect the ability of your blood cells to absorb those nutrients and maintain balanced hydration. Consuming too much sodium, for instance, can lead to dehydration (hypertonicity), because water molecules are drawn to sodium and will leave the cell to follow it.  However, if you drink too much water, especially if you’re working out and sweating, the sodium levels in your blood can drop too low, leading to hypertonicity and even fatal over-hydration (sometimes called water intoxication). A sports drink should provide enough sodium to replenish what you lose during exercise, but not too much to leave you feeling thirsty and un-satiated, which can cause you to drink too much fluid.

Because we care about diet and nutrition as a whole, not just within the approximately one hour a day or less most people exercise, we didn’t want to add excessive amounts of sodium to the high sodium diet that most people already consume. According to the FDA, 90% of Americans eat too much sodium, an average of 3,300 mg per day. Over-consumption of sodium can cause health problems such as high blood pressure (because, as we described above, when the water molecules leave the cell to follow the sodium, blood volume increases). Dietary guidelines recommend that everyone should limit daily sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams, but this is an upper safe limit, not a recommended daily allowance. Even active people who lose lots of sodium through sweating require no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.

With that in mind, our goal was to provide a balanced isotonic profile of solutes (substance per kg of liquid) to promote rapid absorption of the electrolytes, vitamins, and nutrients provided by our drinks. Since isotonic balance is key to avoiding both over-hydration and dehydration, and since water lacks electrolytes, Amara is perfectly designed to support everything from athletic performance to rehydrating and energizing everyday life.

WORKS CITED

[1] See research by Dr. Kevin Miller, including his and colleagues research on “Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention,” published in 2010 in Sports Health.

[2] Bob Murray’s 2007 Gatorade Sports Science Institute research study “Hydration and Physical Performance,” published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

[3] Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach; Gordon M. Wardlaw et al.

“The 2015 CrossFit Conference on Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia, Organized by the HEAT Institute.” Region Line. N.p., 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

Godek, Sandre F. “Dehydration Myths, By Dr. Sandra Fowkes Godek.” THE RUSSELLS. N.p., 27 Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

“HEAT Institute Home – West Chester University.” HEAT Institute Home – West Chester University. N.p., 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

Lamb, David R. “Athletic Performance.” The British Medical Journal 2.5200 (1960): 721-23. Performance Playbook. Web.

Payne, Marissa. “A High School Football Player Dies after Reportedly Consuming Two Gallons Each of Water and Gatorade.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

Textbook of Nutritional Medicine; Melvyn Werbach and Jeffery Moss. 15 July, 1999

“U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” Sodium in Your Diet: Using the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake. N.p., 20 June 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.