As an athlete and former university men’s basketball coach, Yanni Hufnagel, founder and CEO of Lemon Perfect, has a longstanding interest in beverages that can hydrate and replenish lost nutrients to keep athletes in top performance mode. Like any athlete or coach, he’s aware that the role of “thirst quencher” for casual to professional athletes has long been sports drinks. Those unnaturally neon blue, lime green, and bright red drinks from Gatorade and Powerade have become so commonplace on benches and sidelines that they almost seem inevitable.
But Hufnagel wondered if these artificially sweetened and colored sports drinks were really the best choice for people looking to enhance their health. On closer inspection, he realized that these sports drinks being marketed as healthy options for anyone from kids to college athletes were actually loaded with sugar, calories, and artificial dyes. In other words, they were full of unhealthy ingredients that actually contributed to outcomes like weight gain and poor health. With their bright colors and associations with athletes and sports, sports drinks are particularly problematic for kids. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics noted that: “frequent or excessive intake of caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents.”
Hufnagel decided that there had to be a better option. He’d read about the benefits of lemon water for hydrating while boosting electrolytes and Vitamin C, and he started making his own at home. In 2017, Hufnagel left his basketball coaching career to follow a new path as the founder and CEO of Lemon Perfect, maker of lemon water drinks in four refreshing flavors — Just Lemon, Blueberry Acai, Dragon Fruit Mango, and Peach Raspberry — all with zero sugar and just 5 calories. Compare this to a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade which contains 34 grams of sugar (over 6 teaspoons), and 140 calories. Or a 20-ounce bottle of Powerade which contains 34 grams of sugar and 130 calories.
Instead of sugar, Lemon Perfect drinks are sweetened with erythritol—an all-natural, low-calorie sweetener found in fruits like grapefruits, peas, and watermelons, as well as with stevia leaf extract—a zero-calorie sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. These alternative sweeteners are used in thousands of foods and drinks on the market and, unlike high fructose corn syrup and the like, they don’t cause blood sugar levels to spike or add to someone’s calorie load.
Athletes of all kinds who are involved in tough training sessions do need to rehydrate. In fact, people can lose as much as one to two quarts of water during an hour of even low-intensity exercise like walking or jogging. This, in turn, can lead to fatigue, injury, and cramping. The more strenuous the training, the more water is lost, and the more serious the consequences. During intense workouts (like running, cycling, or high school or collegiate sports training sessions), athletes can lose three quarts of water in an hour and are at serious risk for dehydration and heat exhaustion. One trainer, Amanda Carlson, who studied college football players, found that 98% were dehydrated as they went into evaluations with NFL scouts. “Just losing 2% of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25%,” Carlson said.
It’s crucial, says health professionals, that athletes of all levels drink enough water before and during workouts, using the scale to determine how much water weight has been lost and needs to be replenished (every pound lost should be replaced with 16 to 20 ounces of fluid).
And while sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade like to tout their performance-enhancing electrolytes, achieved with liberal amounts of added salt, Lemon Perfect drinks also replenish electrolytes through the nutritional power of lemons.
Following an intense training session, athletes lose not only water but also electrolytes — the minerals that balance the amount of water in the body and maintain the body’s acid-to-base or pH level. Other important functions of electrolytes are to help move nutrients into and waste out of cells, and to keep organs and nerves functioning properly.
For athletes working at top performance levels, maintaining electrolyte levels is important. One recent study found that athletes can stave off fatigue 37% longer if they drink sports drinks containing electrolytes and carbohydrates. The same study found that these drinks contribute to the athlete’s performance, boosting speed, motor skills, and mental sharpness.
Lemon Perfect’s electrolytes come from a truly healthy and natural source—their hand-picked, cold-pressed, USDA-certified organic, Southern California-grown lemons.
In addition to boosting electrolytes, Lemon Perfect drinks also provide an essential dose of Vitamin C — an antioxidant that helps protect the body against disease, aids in the absorption of nutrients (particularly iron), and supports collagen production and healthy skin. Each 12-ounce bottle of Lemon Perfect contains 100% of the Food & Drug Administration’s recommended daily dose of Vitamin C. A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains just 5% of the FDA’s recommended daily dose of Vitamin C. Powerade contains none.
And traditional sports drinks are packed with unnatural and unhealthy ingredients — high fructose corn syrup (in the case of Powerade) or dextrose (in the case of Gatorade), both of which have negative impacts on blood sugar levels and contribute to weight gain. They also contain artificial dyes like Red 40, Blue No. 1, and Yellow No. 5, derived from petroleum and tied to hyperactivity in children and even cancer. And both Gatorade and Powerade contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).
Meanwhile, Yanni Hufnagel has made environmental commitments a core part of the Lemon Perfect brand — recognizing that personal health and planetary health go hand in hand. There are zero artificial ingredients in Lemon Perfect beverages. The drinks are produced from an eco-friendly pasteurization process, the bottles are made from BPA-free recyclable plastic, and the company contributes at least 1% of annual sales to environmental causes.
About Lemon Perfect
Lemon Perfect is a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with antioxidants and electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting, and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.
About Yanni Hufnagel
Yanni Hufnagel is the Founder & CEO of Lemon Perfect, a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with essential antioxidants and hydrating electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect – named “Best New Product” at BevNET’s Best of 2019 Awards – is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.
Founded in 2017 and backed by an extraordinary team of investors, the company’s mission is to democratize drinkable wellness by making Lemon Perfect accessible for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Before starting Lemon Perfect, Yanni Hufnagel served as an assistant men’s college basketball coach, with stops at Nevada, California, Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Oklahoma. Yanni Hufnagel earned the reputation as one of the most dogged recruiters in America, consistently lauded for signing nationally-ranked recruiting classes. In Yanni Hufnagel’s 10 years coaching college basketball, his teams reached the NCAA Tournament six times.