Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne (right) of ESA exercises on a space treadmill inside the Russian Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. Cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, flight engineer, is at left on June 20, 2009 during the Expedition 20 mission.
Spacewalks, extreme G forces, micro-gravity - astronauts must be able to handle it all. Staying hydrated and healthy is crucial.
To help astronauts avoid muscle fatigue and dizziness from dehydration, NASA scientists developed an electrolyte formula that is now available for weekend warriors and athletes here on Earth. The formula is a concentrated liquid that when mixed with water quickly restores hydration and prevents fluid loss.
Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., put 15 years of research into the drink's development. NASA astronauts have been drinking the formula on missions for nearly 20 years. The commercial version was licensed to Wellness Brands Inc. of Boulder, Colo., and branded "The Right Stuff." They shipped their first orders on June 11.
"We developed the hydration formula to perform optimally under the most extreme conditions. The health of our highly trained astronauts was paramount," said John Greenleaf, a former Ames research scientist and inventor of the formula, in a recent statement. "With all that Americans and the government have invested in the space program and our astronauts, this is one clear way to protect and maximize that investment."
A NASA study from early in the drink's development found that the drink boosts endurance by 20 percent compared to water alone or drinks containing carbohydrates.
During exertion, whether on a space mission or at a softball game, your body sweats and loses water, which throws your cells' electrolytes out of balance. The formula works by restoring these electrolytes through a NASA-patented blend of sodium chloride (sea salt) and sodium citrate, making the drink isotonic, meaning it helps the body maintain the right amount of water on the inside and outside of its cells.
The formula was developed without sugar or carbohydrates because they interfere with the body's electrolyte absorption, said David Belaga, president and CEO of Wellness Brands.
The NASA version of the formula has a naturally salty taste, "about same level of sodium as a cup of chicken noodle soup," Belaga told SPACE.com. To improve taste, sucralose, a zero-calorie artificial sweetener, has been added. Sucralose, while derived from sugar, is not recognized as a carbohydrate by the body and is not metabolized, Belaga said.
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