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Military stores are preparing to offer two new versions of sugar-free electrolyte replacement tablets that give back just the minerals and salts lost to sweat — not the sugar that can make you feel queasy, adds pounds, and feeds the disgusting fungus trying to grow in your portable hydration bladder.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has reached agreements with military equipment supplier CamelBak and a small, independent company called Nuun to carry the effervescent tablets, according to the manufacturers.

The tablets are the brainchild of Tim Moxey, a British investment banker and an Ironman triathlete, who developed the tablets in 2002 for the endurance athlete market.

Compared to endurance athletes, “soldiers face yet harsher conditions — extended hours with intense physical activity, hotter conditions wearing heat- trapping uniforms, helmets and protective gear — so the need for electrolyte replacement probably exceeds an athlete’s needs,” Moxey told Stripes in a telephone interview from Nuun headquarters in Seattle.

Last year, the U.S. Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., took notice of Nuun, and Moxey began to supply his product to the special operator community.

Meanwhile, Nuun was also approached by CamelBak for a possible partnership.

Because the tablets don’t contain sugar — which grows fungus if it isn’t thoroughly washed out of its containers — they are particularly suited for use in portable hydration devices, CamelBak representative Mac Tillman said.

“We were thinking especially about guys in forward operating locations in places like the remote mountains of Afghanistan, or doing recon missions, where they are on the move or water is scarce, including water for cleaning [Camelbaks],” Tillman, a former Marine, told Stripes.

The cooperative arrangement didn’t work out, however, and Camelbak decided to bring its own product to the market, dubbed Elixir.

To match CamelBak’s large presence in the military market, “we spent a great deal of time working with military personnel to make sure Elixir is optimized for use in both training and combat,” Tillman said.

The company tailored each tablet to mix specifically with the exact amount of water in a CamelBak-proprietary portable hydration bladder (the Nuun tablets make 16 oz. of fluid, versus 24 oz. per Elixir tablet).

CamelBak also decided to use a slightly sweeter formula than Nuun for its Elixir tablets, choosing sucralose (commercially known as Splenda) for the product.

Nuun, meanwhile, uses sorbitol, which has a slightly less sweet, “cleaner ‘mouth feel’,” Moxey said.

Nuun also offers four flavors (citrus fruit, tri-berry, lemon+lime, and kona cola, the only offering that includes caffeine in it, at 40 mg. per tablet) to Elixir’s single lemon-lime.

CamelBak is also planning on adding more flavors to its current lemon-lime offering, Tillman said.

Differences aside, both versions of the sugar-free tablets provide similar benefits.

Tasters who are expecting the tablets to produce a liquid with a flavor intensity similar to Gatorade will be disappointed: both Elixir and Nuun deliberately developed a much more low-key level of flavor in their products.

“We tested the product extensively, using a variety of different [levels of] flavor,” Tillman said. “We were keeping in mind something that people would be drinking in the field day in, and day out.

“Too much or too little flavor can be an issue, especially during prolonged use.”

The more diluted flavors are also much easier on the stomach, Moxey said.

Adding electrolytes to plain water can also prevent a condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication, that is the opposite of dehydration (see sidebar).

And while the tablets aren’t quite calorie-free, they come very close — they contain about five to 10 calories per serving, depending on the brand.

Most people don’t think of troops as being particularly calorie-conscious, Tillman said.

But in truth, he noted, there are a number of jobs downrange — such as convoy operations, or even just sitting around for several hours in a Stryker combat vehicle, waiting for a road to be cleared — in which troops are stationary for long periods of time, but lose a lot of sweat.

The tablets are also packaged appealingly for military users, their makers said: unlike powders, which can be messy and sticky when they spill, Elixir and Nuun’s solid tablets are in sturdy plastic crush-proof tubes that fit into cargo pockets or can be tucked beneath the universal webbing on US military body armor or packs.

Where to Buy ItCamelBak will sell Elixir through AAFES, including stores downrange, at a special military-only price of about $8 for a single 12 tablet tube and $24 for a 3 tube multi-pack.

The tablets are also available in the U.S. at 12 tablets for $10, 36 tablets for $28, suggested retail price. For stores and online sales go to www.camelbak.com.

Note: CamelBak is also sending over 25,000 free Elixir samples to troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in the next three months, according to Tillman.

Nuun is finalizing a deal with AAFES to be available through the military stores’ online sales later this fall. Nuun is also available in the U.S. at bike stores, R.E.I. and online at www.nuun.com. Retail price is about $8 for a 12-tablet tube; three tubes for $19.50, and boxes of 9 tubes for $49.

Nuun is offering a 50-percent off, “try it and see” deal on nuun.com to U.S. and coalition troop until Oct. 31, 2007. To get the discount, use this code word: siryessir

4C’s Energy Rush is available at grocery stores throughout the United States, and online at for about $6.99 for a box of 14 sticks or $29.36 for a case of six boxes. Go to www.4C.com to purchase.

The military supplier for 4C is offering a special deal on bulk sales Energy Rush for military buyers: boxes of 500 sticks for $60, or about 12 cents per stick, plus shipping (350 sticks normally sell for $94.99 online). Contact Bob Crimi at bobcrimi@hotmail.com.

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