In a market flooded with sports drinks claiming to improve athletes’ hydration, stamina and performance, one truly all-natural beverage has VCOM-Louisiana Assistant Dean for Research and Associate Professor for Sports Medicine, Randy Aldret, EdD, LAT, ATC, CSCS*D, touting its benefits.
Aldret and a team of researchers established a cohort of ten overweight college-aged males for the study, and each test subject was brought in on two separate occasions, two weeks apart, to collect data. Drink Simple, a small company based in New England, provided beverages for each of the test subjects, with half of them being Maple Water and the other half being a placebo that tasted similar to Maple Water but contained nothing of nutritional value, or that would affect the results of the study.
Both times the subjects arrived at the lab for the study, they had blood drawn prior to drinking their beverage. Ninety minutes after consuming the beverage, they were then put through a graded maximal exercise exam, in which they were challenged to run on a treadmill with an oxygen mask to gather data about their oxygen capacity while exercising. Ninety minutes following the exam, another blood draw was performed.
“What we found was that the group that had Maple Water 90 minutes before actually outperformed on the treadmill the group that had placebo. The times the guys came in and drank Maple Water and ran the treadmill, they performed better than the days when they came in and drank the placebo,” said Aldret. “So, there was a bit of an ergogenic effect with Maple Water. It’s a small sample, but it’s a starting point.”
The study further showed that the benefits of Maple Water were seen in more areas than just on the treadmill. “What we also found was that on those days where they consumed Maple Water, when we did a post-treadmill blood draw 90 minutes after they were on the treadmill, they actually had decreases in two pro-inflammatory markers and one increase in an anti-inflammatory marker, which meant they were less inflamed and had actually improved their ability to ward off inflammation post-exercise,” said Aldret. “It’s a big thing. It’s not so much as saying they’ll be less sore; it’s much more at the molecular level. Any muscle or other tissue damage that was accrued from doing maximal-level graded exercise testing was actually mitigated by this beverage. So, on top of it making them actually perform better, they actually recovered better by consuming the Maple Water.”
Maple Water comes in a 16.9oz serving that contains only 40 calories. It is non-caffeinated and all-natural. “The Drink Simple group goes out, they draw sap from a tree, it’s boiled, it’s packaged in eco-friendly containers and that’s it. There’s nothing added to it, said Aldret. “It’s just naturally occurring electrolytes, all the things that keep the plant alive during the winter, the sap that is stored.”
Interested to find out more about this unique beverage, he began looking into the nutrient composition of New England and Southern Quebec soil, which is where the trees are located that Drink Simple draws the maple sap from to boil down into Maple Water. There are some high concentrations of certain electrolytes and other elements in the soil in that part of North America. Aldret anticipates follow-up studies being done in those areas to see if adding or removing some of the elements native to the soil will change the findings of the initial study.
“I was very happy to see the outcome. Maple Water is a good tasting beverage, easy to consume, and it’s very simple without overloading with high fructose corn syrup and similar things like you see in other
sports drinks,” said Aldret. “And, you see a really rapid effect and, in post-exercise, a protective effect. I think we may be on to one of those super-food kinds of products, but for exercise and recovery.”
Aldret and his team followed up the initial study by looking at measures of emotional health. That manuscript is currently in review. “We found that in consuming it for over a month, there was an improvement in scores on positive affect and emotional state, so there’s actually been some positive psycho-social benefits from drinking it, as well. We didn’t look at a dose response with it, and it could have been a coincidence, but we’re trying to parse that all out,” he said. “There were no negative effects. There’s nothing in the beverage that would be harmful for diabetic populations or that would react negatively with any prescribed medication program with consuming the Maple Water.”
He hopes to continue his research by looking at improvements in cognitive function in older populations as a result of consuming Maple Water. For now, Aldret is satisfied with the results that they have achieved for Drink Simple. “Come to find out, they don’t need to modify anything right now; it’s a very healthy drink. Even if it didn’t do anything from an ergogenic standpoint and exercise performance, the fact that it reduces pro-inflammatory markers and has anti-inflammatory properties makes it a very safe and calorically efficient drink, for even weekend athletes.”