Cameron C. Murphy, Ph.D - VP Operations and Product Development Krampade - highlights to DeliveryRank the undeniable benefits of the Krampade high potassium powder products on performance, reduction of cramps and recovery.
Why the love for Potassium?
Low potassium consumption is the single largest nutrient deficit in the developed world. The low consumption is magnified by high sodium consumption, which speeds potassium loss.
To put things in perspective, potassium loss per day ranges from an average of 4500 mg per day for a sedentary lifestyle in a hot climate to 5600 mg per day for those with very active lifestyles. The average American consumes 2600 mg per day.
Interestingly, Germans consume about 4000 mg of potassium per day, but have many of the same issues seen with lower consumption. This is explained by the 10,000 mg per day of sodium consumed. The obligatory loss, in other words, the loss under starvation conditions, is 200 mg per day for sodium and 600 mg per day for potassium. This would indicate that there should be 3-parts potassium consumed for every 1-part sodium.
There are lots of great sources of potassium in whole foods, with beans, potatoes, and milk being the leaders amongst staple foods. Krampade is an easy way to get the potassium needed, even overcoming high sodium consumption, in an easy to use and inexpensive form.
From experiment to market, a true success story! What can you tell us about this journey?
Eric, Dad to me, once had whole body cramps so bad that he was taken to the hospital. Our family physician was there, and his plasma potassium content was very low. When plasma potassium is low that means that the tissues are very, very low. Think about it as if there is a bucket of potassium in the tissues, and a thimble in the plasma. If there is no longer enough to keep the thimble full, the bucket is very low. Our family physician instructed Cindy (Mom) to always have grapefruit juice on hand.
Regular consumption of both expensive and calorie heavy grapefruit juice worked to an extent, but each summer Eric would get sick which was thought for years to be some kind of recurring virus. Turns out it was severe hypokalemia, or low potassium.
The use of grapefruit juice eventually became entirely ineffective and Eric knew that the thing that made it work was potassium citrate. Since there is lots of potassium chloride in the lab, he started making solutions of potassium chloride to see what amount was effective.
Once he figured this out many of his health issues disappeared. This includes frequent chest pains, indigestion, constipation, tight muscles, and of course chronic cramping (he thought everyone cramped when picking things up off the floor, just part of getting old).
My first experience with high potassium was as a remedy when I had heat exhaustion and stopped sweating during a building project in the summer of 2014. Once the potassium in Krampade hit my lips I started sweating profusely, and no, it was not tasty, but it worked.
After Grandma passed, Grandpa used her life insurance money as our initial seed capital. Given that I was the one in graduate school in nutrition/food science, it was my responsibility to make something that was at least palatable under the restrictions of 2000 to 4000 mg of potassium and less than 6% sugar in the solution.
I was able to do this and make something that might be salty but is at least palatable for most people. My taste testers were the hockey players at the University of North Dakota and before we were available to the public, we were instrumental in the team winning the national championship in 2016.
Since then, we have continued to add new features such as magnesium, fiber, and protein all around the center of potassium
What is the science behind Krampade?
Research into the importance of potassium starts back in World War 11. Back then the British Army discovered that it was low potassium that was causing insatiable thirst and high urine output in soldiers stationed in modern Iraq during the Africa campaign.
The de-emphasis of sodium was also discovered during this time by the US Army. At the time, the US Army wanted to know what to feed soldiers fighting in the tropics of the South Pacific against the Japanese. They discovered that the body changes the amount of sodium lost in sweat and urine in relation to how much sodium is consumed, without any drop in athletic performance.
Contrarily, potassium loss in sweat is a constant no matter the diet. Urine potassium loss is also not affected significantly even with a low potassium diet. This makes sense given that all bodily fluids are driven from the inside of the cell to the outside via potassium. This explains why when someone stops sweating, potassium consumption causes them to sweat immediately, as what happened to me.
During Vietnam the US Army wanted to know why so many otherwise healthy young men were suffering heat injury, which ranges from heat cramps to heat stroke. This is when they discovered that the average potassium loss during basic training in the heat is 5600 mg per day, but the loss of potassium was not detectable in plasma. This is important relating back to the reason that low plasma potassium is a medical emergency.
When simulating the potassium loss observed in these young men, the researchers at Fort Sam Houston discovered using dogs that rhabdomyolysis, or muscle cell death, occurs due to necrosis, or low blood flow to the low potassium tissues. The blood flow in normal tissue increased 400% when exercising and only increased 30% in the low potassium muscle. When infusing potassium, the researchers were able to increase blood flow in both normal and low potassium tissues.
In exercise science, potassium loss in the muscle has been identified as the primary driver of fatigue in exercise over 2 hertz, or 2 cycles per second, so anything over a walking pace. It has also been identified that low potassium causes muscles to have the inability to either make or use glycogen, meaning that the muscle is entirely reliant on fuel coming from the blood rather than internal stores. This also means that low potassium essentially stops the ability of making gains when training.
One thing people often worry about is how having more potassium impacts their heart. Studies examining why an untrained person might get sudden cardiac arrest from exercise have identified that it is actually the low potassium that occurs when stopping to rest that is the cause of this phenomenon. Hence, increasing potassium consumption is, if anything, a good thing in this circumstance.
There are many other things that high potassium has been identified as being beneficial for. This includes kidney health, diabetes, dieting (high potassium makes diets more effective for weight loss), PMS, learning (in chicks as a model organism), digestion, immune function, lung function, coordination, migraine control, and even arrhythmias. Some of these have very robust studies, such as kidney health, diabetes, and weight loss, while others aren’t as robust, like PMS, or are done in animal models such as learning. Others have been reported to us from customers regularly, such as anxiety control, resolving arrhythmias, and migraine control.
How would you rate yourselves compared to other rivals on the market?
We are really in a category unto ourselves. In the electrolyte replacement sector, there are a handful of models.
The first is the traditional sports drink. The major players are well known and there are a lot of small mimetics. These have about 200 mg of sodium and 70 mg of potassium. Most people in the athletic space would characterize these as being for those that want something that tastes like a soda pop, but want something that they think of as healthy.
The second and the one most rapidly gaining steam is the oral rehydration solution. These have around 700 mg of sodium and 400 mg of potassium and are designed around maximizing hydration as outlined by the World Health Organization. Outside of the undeveloped world, there is not much of an issue with clinical dehydration.
A third which is gaining steam in elite athletes is the high sodium formulations. These have over 1000 mg of sodium and are based on the idea of replacing what is lost in sweat. As mentioned in the science section, this results in a positive feedback loop wherein increasing sodium consumption increases sodium loss, which results in the thought of increasing sodium more. This cycle also increases potassium loss as potassium is needed to make urine which increases as the kidney tries to get rid of the excess sodium.
The closest thing to Krampade would be Coconut water. The issue with Coconut water is the potassium content is not high enough to be maximally effective, about 600 mg per serving, and the Coconut water is largely unsustainable and not ecologically friendly. The coconut water industry has greatly reduced the price the farmers in the developing world get for their produce and the coconut groves are becoming senile (infertile). Krampade, on the other hand, uses potassium chloride, which is both plentiful and more efficient. On top of that, we have found that for most people 2000 mg per serving gives the most benefit.
Which product for who - how do we navigate your range?
Our products range in potassium content is 1000, 2000, and 4000 mg of potassium per serving, which we abbreviate to 1K, 2K, and 4K.
The 1K was originally designed for elderly people with age-related kidney dysfunction. This is mainly the 75 plus crowd.
The 2K is what 90% of people should be using. This is what we have termed the drop-in replacement for competitor products. Regular use of the 2K will prevent cramp formation and give all the benefits of a high potassium diet.
The 4K is designed for instant cramp relief or for those “crampers” that lose more potassium than most. This is what Eric, our CEO, uses 3 or 4 times per day as his kidneys pump out 12 to 16 grams per day regardless of consumption. Originally this was designed to resolve whole-body cramps during a wrestling injury timeout and allow continuation of competition without a fear of recramping. Athletic trainers regularly use this as a reactive intervention and do not have to worry about an athlete being back on their table to deal with cramps later in a contest.
Our other products, the Fiber, Recover, and Complete, all revolve around the 2K with added magnesium (which we call Krampade 2.0) and add the functionality of 9 grams soluble fiber, 30 grams of whey protein, and 9 grams of soluble fiber and 30 grams of whey protein per serving.
Incidentally, what is great about all our products, including the ones with whey protein, is that they all dissolve clear, making them 100% compliant with all international sport governing bodies.
What lies in store for Krampade?
We have finished the formulation of the first meal-replacement bar with high potassium, 30 g protein, 9 g fiber, and 1 g omega-3 fatty acids. Our prototype testing has come with rave reviews, and we are in the process of getting this off the ground. I think this will be a real game changer in the meal replacement bar space.
Our customers have been asking for more flavors of our zero sugar products, so we are launching the orange and fruit-punch flavors with zero sugar. We are also looking into creative ways to further improve the overall taste, which is no easy feat considering the big players have been trying for decades to create what we initially did in my basement.