Health Technologies

Fuelling innovation: The IP behind sports nutrition

With the Euros in full swing and the Olympics on the horizon, this summer elite athletes will be pushed to the limits of their physical and mental capabilities in pursuit of gold. 

The winning formula will not only depend on talent and years of training, but also on modern products which allow athletes to push harder and recover faster.

If a product offers a tangible athletic advantage, it catches on quickly and may even be seen as an essential piece of kit.

Therefore, companies that develop these innovations stand to gain significant market share.

An infamous example of innovation in the running world is the Nike Vaporfly super-shoe.

When Nike released their first carbon-plated shoe, it was so popular that athletes sponsored by other brands were found to be wearing disguised versions of the shoe.

There was no alternative.

Kara Goucher, an athlete who missed out on the 2016 Olympics while competing against others with the new shoes, was quoted as saying:

“Not all athletes like the idea of a propulsion device on their foot, but they can’t cede three to six minutes in a marathon in elite competition.”

While technology in shoes and other kit has certainly had a big impact, the technology behind food (or ‘fuel’) is also full of innovation, and associated IP.

In the early 1900’s it was believed that eating and drinking during an endurance event would provide no benefit and cause stomach upset.

When they did drink, athletes were often given whiskey or brandy shots instead of water! (a wonderful example of wacky hydration and nutrition practices of the time is the story of the 1904 Olympic marathon.)

Modern hydration and nutrition for athletes only started to take off in the 1960s.

In 1965, the sports drink Gatorade was developed in collaboration with the University of Florida’s football team. Gatorade was designed to replace carbohydrates and salts which players lost during games.

A few years later, after a defeat to the Florida Gators, the coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets was quoted as saying:

“We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference.”

The success of products like Gatorade led to more focus on the science behind nutrition and laid the foundation for the wide variety of products available today.

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