Protein-rich sports drink developed at Center for Food Innovation

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A new sports recovery drink developed by a Penn State researcher, produced by the Penn State Berkey Creamery and tested by Penn State football players is now available.

Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink, a chocolate milk infused with an innovative research-based protein formula, is currently on sale at Café Laura in Mateer Building and will be available in the near future at Berkey Creamery.

The drink is named after Pete Bordi, associate professor of hospitality management and director of the Center for Food Innovation, who developed a protein formula designed to expedite muscle recovery after workouts and prevent soft tissue injuries among athletes.

Bordi and his team had one goal in mind: to minimize soreness and injuries among student-athletes through a great-tasting product.

“These kids work out so hard and so intensely that there was a concern about soreness, building muscle and preventing injuries,” Bordi said. “It’s about recovery, building muscle and future injury prevention.”

The science

Bordi worked with DuPont Nutrition and Health to analyze research and develop a formula for a new sports drink that included high-quality proteins.

Most protein drinks on the market include one type of protein that disseminates into the body in a short period of time. However, Bordi’s research led him to develop a formula that includes three different types of protein -- whey, soy and casein -- which disseminate into the body gradually over about six hours.

“A lot of products only use one protein. We wanted to make the best possible fresh product fortified with the proteins that are needed,” Bordi said. “Slow disbursement of protein helps ensure muscles recover from a workout and reduces the chance of soreness and injury.”

The formula was developed based on research reported in articles including “Protein Blend Ingestion Following Resistance Exercise Promotes Human Muscle Protein Synthesis,” published in 2013 by The Journal of Nutrition.

In this article, lead investigator Paul Reidy concluded that a combination of high-quality whey, soy and casein proteins “offer a unique advantage for muscle growth” compared to the use of only whey protein.

The production

Once Bordi finalized a protein formula he teamed up with Tom Palchak, manager of the Penn State Berkey Creamery. The two agreed to develop a high-quality chocolate milk infused with the protein formula. Berkey Creamery’s chocolate milk is its best-selling beverage.

“Once that product went from theory into actuality what I did was work to develop the pasteurization and the standardization of the product and determine how to blend it and incorporate all of the ingredients,” Palchak said. “We turned it into a drinkable product that tasted good and would stay fresh in a cooler for several weeks.”

Palchak created nutritional labeling to insure that athletes understand what they are consuming. He also worked to ensure compliance for food safety, bacterial content and packaging.

Initial feedback from student-athletes has been positive.

“They do not notice a difference between Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink and our traditional chocolate milk, which is great because our chocolate milk is by far our best seller,” Palchak said. “It’s nice to know they find it to be a good-tasting drink to consume without the medicinal or chalky characteristics that are sometimes associated with sports drinks.”

Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink is sold in 16-ounce bottles. It is made with 2 percent milk and other all-natural ingredients. It features 34 grams of protein, which is roughly four times the amount of protein found in traditional chocolate milk. One serving contains 450 calories.

“We would never have been able to do this at another university,” Bordi said. “Not many universities have a creamery that can produce at the levels we need. The Creamery was vital in this. Without the Creamery this wouldn’t have been possible.”

The drink is part of Bordi’s ACLR8 RECOV (Accelerate Recovery) product line venture with Franco Harris, a former Nittany Lion. It is also available in strawberry flavor. Other products, including a chocolate-peanut butter protein bar, will be released this June.

The drink is designated as a PA Preferred product by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture because it was manufactured in Pennsylvania through a licensed milk processing plant and uses Pennsylvania dairy products.

The student-athletes

During the development phase, Bordi and Palchak worked with the Nittany Lions football program to create the optimal protein drink for student-athletes.

Tim Bream, director of athletic training services and head football athletic trainer, and Chuck Losey, assistant director of performance enhancement for the football team, provided feedback regarding athlete’s needs.

“It’s been a work in progress to get the formula correct where you had the right amount of protein and the right amount of calories while in compliance with the NCAA regulations,” Bream said. “It’s got everything in it that athletes need for recovery.”

Bream and Losey helped insure that the drink met NCAA requirements. A requirement that no recovery agent administered by a school be deemed a “muscle building” agent meant that a certain carbohydrate-protein ratio had to be met, with the amount of protein constituting less than 30 percent of the entire beverage.

“We also had a lot of dialogue about the protein blend used in the drink,” Losey said. “Not all protein is created equal and we wanted to ensure that our guys were getting the very best and purest form.”

The enhanced milk is beneficial to athletes because it provides sugar and calories to replace what athletes burn during their workouts as well as protein to help muscles and other soft tissue recover.

“The original purpose was to create a recovery drink to aid our student-athletes in recovering faster between physical activities,” Losey said. “By supplying the guys with the right combination of carbohydrates, protein and fats, especially immediately following strenuous activity, we can insure that the body is receiving the proper nutrients to restore energy supplies and repair damaged tissue.”

When athletes work out, their muscles lose glycogen, which is essentially a sugar, Bream said. The new drink helps replenish glycogen in the muscles, he said.

“This is not only about protein, but also proper carbohydrates to prevent their muscle tissue from tearing down,” Bream said. “Student-athletes working at such an intense level cannot keep enough stored in their bodies to keep it at a high level. Their bodies are essentially furnaces, so they need the sugar.”

In addition to being a superior recovery aid, Losey said the drink also serves as a quality snack between meals and activities.

“We all know that the everyday demands of a student-athlete are very taxing. On top of going to class every day our young men put in multiple hours in the weight room, film room, study hall and more,” Losey said. “That being said, as much as we preach proper nutrition, the time isn’t always there for an athlete to make the most health conscious choice. Dr. Pete’s Protein Drink is a convenient way for an athlete to receive proper nutrients while on the go.”

Throughout the development process, football players tasted the protein-infused chocolate milk and offered feedback to Bordi and Palchak. The final product is now available to the football team daily.

“The biggest advantage of having our own in-house recovery shake is that we know the exact ingredients being used. So many of the products being sold over the counter are so full of additives and preservatives that you can never be certain what’s in the product,” Losey said. “With Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink we know exactly where the ingredients come from as well as the amounts being used. By using the exact ingredients, quantities and trusted suppliers we take all the guesswork out and don’t have to rely on bulk manufacturing.”

Ben Kline, Nittany Lions linebacker and finance major in the Smeal College of Business, said he enjoys the taste of Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink and appreciates the blend of macronutrients.

“It is delicious. The drink tastes like a thicker version of Creamery chocolate milk. It tastes much more like real milk than other recovery shakes I have tried. It lacks the usual artificial taste of supplements,” Kline said. “The high amount of carbohydrates and protein make me feel full and make my muscles feel restored. It is an easy way to get a lot of macronutrients, which helps reduce the soreness of my muscles after a practice.”

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Last Updated April 10, 2015