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Former MCLA All-American Developing First Ever Alkaline Sports Drink

Recently, Alex Schmotter reached out to us to tell us about pHenOH 7.4, the world’s first alkaline sports drink, and its Indiegogo campaign. Schmotter, the founder and CEO of Phenoh, Inc., played four years of lacrosse at Cal Poly and was named a 2011 2nd-Team All-American.

So what’s the big deal about their drink being an alkaline one, and what does that even mean? Alkaline is synonymous with basic, or in other words, the opposite of acidic. For those unfamiliar with the pH scale, which measures how acidic or basic something is, anything with a pH below 7 is acidic and anything with a pH above 7 is alkaline. Have a pH of exactly 7? That’s neutral.

Here’s what they have to say about the importance of having an alkaline sports drink:

Our drink is alkaline, so what? Many natural foods are acidic, and consumed appropriately can be beneficial to the body. But most of the time, our diets are overly acidic. This acidity may lead to chronic disease, inflammation, acid reflux, and even tooth erosion. We feel you should be able to enjoy a drink that fulfills your energy needs, tastes good, and does not add to this acid problem. We designed pHenOH 7.4 for this purpose, and we gave it an incredible phosphate buffering system, which increases VO2 max [the maximum amount of oxygen that a body can take in and metabolize during maximal exertion].

Made with organic ingredients including aloe vera and agave nectar, pHenOH 7.4 is said to have various health benefits (all of which you can see on the Indiegogo page), with the main one being increased peak endurance. To learn more, we talked with Schmotter about pHenOH.

Where did the idea for an alkaline sports drink originally come from? Did you know that other sports drinks were acidic, or did that knowledge come only after doing some research?

I was out for a bike ride one day and I was drinking a main stream sports drink. I was paying attention to the way that I was drinking it. Sip, swish, swallow, repeat. I know that sports drinks were high in sugar, and I knew that sugar causes cavities, right? I started reading about sports drinks and found out that not only do that have lots of sugar, but they are extremely acidic. So when I said that sugar causes cavities, that’s only part of the story. What happens is that bacteria in our mouthes eat the sugar, and excrete acid as waste. Actually, it is the ACID that causes tooth decay and cavities. So then I put two and two together, realizing that drinking the sports drinks and swishing all that acid around our mouthes bypasses the need for bacteria, we get tooth decay from the drink alone!

This lead me to ask the “why” question. If sports drinks are so bad for our teeth, then what is the reason that they are so acidic? There must be a reason, Right? Wrong. I discovered that there is no reason other than shelf life and manufacturing convenience that sports drinks need to be acidic at all. I felt at this point I was on to something. But it was so simple, there MUST be a reason that no one has made an alkaline sports drink. I set out on a mission to prove to myself that an alkaline sports drink would be bad for us, but found the opposite. I found more and more research demonstrating how our diet has become increasingly acidic, and this is harmful as well as that when we exercise we naturally become acidic, and this leads to performance decrease.

There was substantial research supporting the idea that drinking an alkaline product would actually promote performance, and even more specifically supporting the alkalizing agent that we use as providing performance enhancing effects.

So what’s the problem? Oh got it, we need it to be drinkable. This was a challenge. Most things, when you change their pH from acidic to alkaline, taste god awful. This took time. I spent weeks in my mother’s kitchen over winter break trying new formulas and nothing was working. One day, it just came together. It was amazing. I tasted what I had mixed up, and it was delicious. The next question was how to mass produce it.

How has your biology and dentistry knowledge contributed to the creation of pHenOH?

Having a strong background in science allows me to put things together. Today with the internet being what it is, we have access to so much information. Having a background in biology and an interest in oral health, I was able to navigate the research and investigate the effect that different combinations of ingredients have on us. I was also able to run my own experiments to test the formula. It would have seemed pretty strange looking on, but there I was taking blood samples on myself and my friends and testing their lactate, pH, etc. My friends were real troupers with this! They must have thought I was crazy. In my fifth year at Cal Poly my roommate and I coached the Women’s lax team. I would give them incentives. Those that participated in my study wouldn’t have to do sprints at practice that day, it was great.

The name of the drink is obviously a play on pH and OH. Can you explain the significance of OH for those who might not know what it refers to?

OH- is the chemical symbol for a base.  It is a hydroxide ion.  H+ is hydrogen, the acidic counterpart.  pH is a measure of how much free H+ there is.  OH- binds to H+ and together they form H20, or water! So when we are acidic, we have too much H+.  If we add OH- to the system, we neutralize the H+ and make water.

What does the drink taste like? Does it come in different flavors?

Don’t take my word for it, order some and try for yourself! My consumer test panel thinks it tastes great.  Right now we have just the one flavor, which tastes fruit punchy, but better.  It is brisk, clean, and refreshing.  We have plans to expand our product line once we gain traction with the original formula.

Did you ever use the drink or a prototype of it while playing lacrosse at Cal Poly?

Unfortunately, I developed it during my fifth year at Cal Poly and I was out of playing eligibility. I was coaching the womens team though and they drank it! I did drink it climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro this past winter. Got me to the top, made me a believer!

If you were on Shark Tank presenting your product, which Shark would you hope to partner with?

I really need to start watching that show! I will get back to you on that.

Phenoh, Inc.’s Indiegogo fundraiser is all-or-nothing, so if they don’t reach their goal of $200,000 by October 24th, all funds will be returned to those who contribute. To learn more about pHenOH or to make a contribution yourself, check out their Indiegogo page.