March 2022, Articles

Hot drink boosts athlete performance

Kiwi winter Para athletes are using their own specially formulated, performance focussed ‘hot toddy’ to stay hydrated and energised in sub-zero temperatures at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

HPSNZ Performance Nutrition Technical Lead Jeni Pearce says winter athletes use as much energy and sweat as any summer athlete but there has been no sports drink to help athletes stay hydrated in cold alpine environments.

With cold drinks more challenging to consume and more likely to freeze in winter sport environments, the search was on for an alternative.

“Now we have a hot drink which was first developed in 2018 and has been refined for 2022, specifically to help the performance of our Kiwi winter athletes in sub zero temperatures,” Jeni says.

She explains that the drink – available in spiced apple, Kiwi chocolate, or honey lemon flavours – contains unique natural New Zealand flavours, molecules and nutrients which survive the addition of hot water.

“It delivers a long list of benefits. It assists with replacing sweat lost during training and competition, which reduces any perception of fatigue caused by dehydration.”

The drink may also help reduce vaso-constriction.  Vaso-constriction prevents blood moving from the extremities – toes and fingers – to the core of the body, so the drink helps to maintain core temperature.

Importantly, it also provides tailored and prescriptive amounts of easily digestible carbs before and after exercise, which assists alertness, maintains blood glucose levels and spares precious liver and muscle glycogen. These things can be hugely beneficial during bad weather and delays in competition.

“Not only are the thermogenic qualities of the drink important in keeping the athletes’ muscles warm, but it also keeps energy supplies topped up and ready to go at a moment’s notice,” Jeni says.

She points out that the drink can be particularly beneficial on competition days, when anxiety can suppress appetite, making it hard for athletes to consume the right amount of carb-rich solid foods.

But wait, there’s more.

The drink contains added nutrients such as Vitamin C and Zinc to support the immune system as well as additional sodium to help avoid frequent bathroom stops often seen when only water is consumed.

“Layers of clothing, limited access to bathrooms, and the extreme cold can make toilet stops inconvenient in the alpine environment, deterring athletes from taking in the fluids they need,” Jeni explains.

She says the drink is designed to be performance-focussed and has been trialled with the support of Snow Sports Performance Nutritionist Carolyn Cruden.

It has been developed and manufactured by HPSNZ in partnership with a private sector health company as part of the HPSNZ innovation programme.