Fall 2021

Natural Selections

Photo courtesy of Michelle McBride


When her son started playing baseball, Michelle McBride discovered an empty niche in the world of sports drinks.

“We didn’t want him drinking traditional sports drinks because they’re filled with artificial ingredients and too much sugar,” says McBride, an entrepreneur. “We tried some natural options, but he didn’t like the taste. And I learned that they provided no better hydration than plain water.”

So McBride studied up. She found solid evidence that milk is extremely effective at hydrating the human body. “When I saw that, I thought, ‘Wow! Milk is packed with electrolytes and all of these other nutrients — I really should be able to make a sports drink out of it,’ ” McBride says.

McBride enlisted the help of several experts, including an experienced sports nutrition scientist. She also started working with a lab in her home state to formulate prototypes using milk. But the taste wasn’t quite right. Following a suggestion that she seek out a dairy scientist, McBride contacted the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and connected with K.J. Burrington BS’84, MS’87, who was dairy ingredients applications coordinator at the time, and Vic Grassman, manager of CDR’s business accelerator, the TURBO Program.

Burrington immediately knew McBride was on to something. But she also knew that using skim milk in the formulation would not provide the appearance, flavor, or mouthfeel of a typical sports drink. Instead, she suggested milk permeate.

Milk permeate is generated through ultrafiltration, where fat and protein are removed and used in other applications. The leftover milk permeate contains milk’s natural ingredients — essential vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium — as well as electrolytes and a clean flavor, all of which, Burrington says, make it a perfect candidate for a sports drink ingredient.

Dairy Sustainability

Some dairy companies dispose of milk permeate because they don’t have a market for it. Products like GoodSport help increase the value of milk permeate and improve sustainability in the dairy industry.

Using milk permeate, McBride and Burrington developed a lactose-free and shelf-stable sports drink that would come to be known as GoodSport. McBride was pleased with the look of it. Next was the taste test.

“I remember K.J. and I toasted cheers with our little sample cups, and then we tasted it,” McBride says. “Right away, I knew we had done it, and I literally cried tears of joy right there with K.J. in the lab. I was so happy.”

Independent research shows that GoodSport performs as well as it tastes. With support from Dairy Management, Inc., Penn State University studied GoodSport’s hydration efficacy by testing it against water and a traditional carbohydrate-based sports drink. The results, published in Nutrients, show that milk permeate’s natural combination of electrolytes and carbohydrates promotes the body’s ability to retain more fluid at a cellular level than its counterparts.

“They found that GoodSport stays in the body and provides hydration more than two hours after it’s consumed,” McBride says. “The results were significant. There’s real science that goes on behind hydration. It’s very important that you have the right type and level of electrolytes and the right balance of carbohydrates.”

Looking back on the product development phase, McBride says she is grateful that she connected with CDR. “We had help troubleshooting a ton of issues that will come up with any dairy project,” she says. “And any one of those issues can seem insurmountable if you’re trying to solve them by yourself.”

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