Two Austin, Texas–based brothers, Jac and Davis Saltzgiver, wanted to create the world’s first precise way to measure hydration. So they developed Trago (which means “gulp” in Spanish), a smart water bottle cap that monitors your water intake down to the drop.
“Digging in and doing the research, the premise of the sports drink industry is that you should drink as much fluid as possible, going back to Gatorade,” says Jac. It took a radical form of thinking from people like Tim Noakes, author of the influential 2012 book Waterlogged, to realize that more liquid isn’t always better.
Trago, which launched on Kickstarter this Tuesday, uses an ultrasound sensor embedded in a water bottle cap to measure how much liquid you’ve consumed. The cap, designed to sense when the bottle’s tilted, also tracks when you refill and is compatible with most water bottles on the market, including bottles from Nalgene and CamelBak. It’s powered by a coin-cell battery with a shelf life of about six months.
Here’s the nifty part: The bottle connects via Bluetooth to your phone (or Apple Watch) and various third-party apps, including apps from Under Armour, Fitbit, and Garmin. It then factors in exercise and activity data—as well as other factors like the air temperature during your workout and your height, age, weight, body type, and gender—to determine how much you need to hydrate and to set a daily hydration goal.
Say you run to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. Temperatures vary radically along that journey. Trago promises to tell you just how much you should drink and when.
You can also input a future workout to see how much you’ll need to hydrate. “If you’re using MapMyRun, for example, and have opted to receive notifications from the Trago app during a workout and are in the middle of a ten-mile run, Trago will be able to understand where you are in your run, your pace, what the weather is outside, and will recommend an amount to drink to keep you hydrated and performing your best,” says Saltzgiver.
Trago can push notifications to some wearables (via the aforementioned fitness apps) like the Apple Watch, which would then ping you as a reminder to drink.
Now, Saltzgiver isn’t suggesting that most athletes don’t drink enough. In fact, he believes the opposite: They’re more concerned about young athletes overhydrating thanks to marketing by sports drink brands that for years have claimed that the more you drink (preferably of their sugar-loaded hummingbird nectars), the better. “Down the road, we’d really like to partner with a healthy electrolyte company that’s making a product that’s organic and isn’t full of sugar,” says Saltzgiver.
Saltzgiver based the app’s performance on peer-reviewed research and hundreds of studies, as well as advice from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), the Korey Stringer Institute, and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). But he also stresses that the science behind Trago and the app “is always going to be a work in progress based on the latest research and analysis.” Which is nice humility to hear, because as cool as Trago is, we’re not expecting the definition of proper hydration to be settled anytime soon.