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Jay Litherland Loves The Freedom of Swimming and Staying Hydrated

When I was in Japan and swimming across Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, across Tsugaru Channel between Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido, across the Five Lakes of Mount Fuji, around Yonaguni Island, and between Iriomote, Ishigaki, and Taketomi Islands in Okinawa, I drank Pocari Sweat and ate Calorie Mate during the multi-hour crossings and circumnavigation swims,” says Steven Munatones.

Both Pocari Sweat and Calorie Mate are extremely popular in Japan and are produced by Otsuka Pharmaceutical.

The history behind Pocari Sweat is explained by Otsuka Pharmaceutical, “Over 40 years ago, Rokuro Harima, a researcher at Otsuka, had a dream of developing a new beverage. On a business trip to Mexico, he was hospitalized with diarrhea. The doctor told him to get enough water and nutrition, but he was only given a regular carbonated drink. Harima thought about an easy-to-drink beverage that could supply the water and nutrients he needed.

Harima saw a doctor drinking an IV (intravenous) fluid to hydrate himself after surgery; this was the inspiration behind producing a drinkable IV solution. Because he worked at Otsuka that was a a leading IV company, Harima had the expertise and resources to turn his inspiration into a reality, and began to develop a beverage that could replenish the water and electrolytes lost while sweating during daily activities.

In 1980, Otsuka launched Pocari Sweat during the jogging boom in Japan. However, rather than develop a sports drink, Otsuka brought Harima’s dream of creating a healthy beverage that everyone could enjoy in their daily lives.

Through research, Harima and his colleagues at Otsuka discovered that there are different kinds of sweat. They also found that the concentration of salt in sweat excreted during everyday activities is lower than in sweat produced during sports activities. Based on these findings, Otsuka created a beverage to replenish body fluid after regular everyday perspiration. However, their first trials proved to be too bitter, and did not taste good.

After years of experimentation, over 1,000 test products were made, focusing on a combination of electrolytes and citrus juices. When the two were mixed, the bitter taste disappeared.

The test products were narrowed down to an option with high sugar content and another option with low sugar content. In the final stages, a researcher tested the final two choices after mountain climbing. The result was that the more lightly sweetened test product was chosen.

At first, neither the newly minted Pocari Sweat concept nor the taste captured much market share.

But Otsuka was relentless in its efforts – the company distributed 30 million free bottles of Pocari Sweat in taste tests throughout Japan.

In the summer of 1982, two years after the launch, Pocari Sweat became a major hit as a rehydration drink to be consumed after sweating.

With the World Aquatics Championships being held in Fukuoka, Japan, two-time American Olympic swimmer Jay Litherland has become a spokesperson for the drink and company.

The 27-year-old Litherland, a triplet, a musician, and a silver medalist at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the 400 IM, has a Japanese mother and a father from New Zealand. He was born in Osaka, Japan and received his American citizenship in high school after moving to the state of Georgia. “I love Pocari Sweat. Drinking this during my workouts is a game changer, especially out in the heat. I remember always getting Pocari Sweat from vending machines while growing up in Japan. I was always drinking it like it was water. I’m so excited for our partnership and can’t wait to share this incredible and impactful drink with the U.S.”

Video and photo credit ©︎Giuseppe DeMasi.

Pocari Sweat is distributed by Crystal Geyser Water Company in the United States.

Follow @jaylitherland on Instagram.

© 2023 Daily News of Open Water Swimming

to educate, enthuse, and entertain all those who venture beyond the shoreline

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