When Michelle King goes on her morning run along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, she’s not just putting in her miles — she’s also gathering data. “I’m observing things like the pace of the other runners, who they’re
running with and what they’re wearing to exercise,” says Michelle, an Associate Principal Scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) in Barrington, Illinois.
“People are trying to perform at their best when they exercise,” she notes. Her focus: to help them optimize that performance. The Gatorade Gx Sweat Patch is the latest example of this work. At GSSI, exercise physiologists, biochemists and
dieticians pioneer advancements in exercise and nutrition. While much of their research focuses on elite and pro athletes, the goal for the Gx Sweat Patch was to bring that technology to all athletes — whether they’re training for a 10K
or entering a basketball tournament. “We have this innovative science for elite athletes, but we want to make it work for the needs of all consumers,” Michelle explains.
The breakthrough, PepsiCo's first wearable device and the first of its kind on the market, is deceptively simple. Exercisers attach the patch to their forearm before a workout. The device measures sweat rate and electrolyte concentration. Users then snap
a post-workout photo of the patch and the Gx app delivers personalized recommendations on hydration, recovery and nutrition.
We have this innovative science for elite athletes, but we want to make it work for the needs of all consumers.
“We've tested it on more than 400 athletes, validating it for runners, cyclists, team sports and high-intensity group exercise,” Michelle says. She personally helped recruit some of those subjects while also helping collect the data on patch
performance. “I love being in the field and interacting with subjects,” she says.
Getting the patch on store shelves was a marathon in its own right. Trials took place in GSSI’s high-tech sweat chamber, in Florida's sweltering 90-degree heat and even on a frigid day in Chicago’s Grant Park. As the team fine-tuned the design,
from the placement of the Gatorade logo to the stickiness of the adhesive, the patch went through round after round of clinical testing.
Using her research skills in real-world scenarios is exactly what Michelle says makes her job so fascinating. “I’m an athlete, too,” she says. “I want to help consumers who are having the same problems as I do.” As the team
went through every design iteration and exercise trial, Michelle says the consumer was top of mind. “Consumer centricity means making the science relatable and making sure this fits people’s needs.”
For Michelle, joining GSSI in 2019 was “part of a lifelong dream.” A competitive runner since high school (and a fan of orange Gatorade), she honed an interest in exercise physiology early on, particularly the impact of hydration on performance.
“I wanted to know why some people ran faster,” she says. “And I knew I wanted to work for Gatorade.”
Now she loves putting theory into practice. “It’s great to be able to show my family what I do,” she says. “I feel so much pride walking into a store and being able to pick the Sweat Patch off the shelf.”
The Gatorade Gx Sweat Patch is available in the U.S. at Gatorade.com and Dick’s Sporting Goods.