Penn State

Penn State professor’s protein drink is a hit

Pete Bordi works on developing different recipes in the research lab. Pete Bordi is the Director of Research & Development for the Ben Franklin Center of Excellence at Penn State Universtiy.
Pete Bordi works on developing different recipes in the research lab. Pete Bordi is the Director of Research & Development for the Ben Franklin Center of Excellence at Penn State Universtiy. CDT file photo

Chocolate milk has never been better for you.

Peter Bordi made sure of that.

Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink, a chocolate milk charged with a protein formula, has become a big hit at Cafe Laura, the Berkey Creamery and with Penn State student-athletes. Franco Harris, who funded Bordi’s research, owns the rights to the drink.

Bordi, an associate professor and director of the Center for Food Innovation, spent 13 years developing the recovery drink with help from coaches like Joe Paterno and James Franklin, athletic trainers like Tim Bream and Creamery employees like Tom Palchak.

Bordi began to develop the research-driven drink, because his late father had leukemia and regularly had chemotherapy treatments.

“It was very difficult to see how limited and how difficult it was on him toward the end,” Bordi said. “I wish he’d had the energy and protein he needed. I just thought there had to be something to help him recover quicker from those treatments.”

His mission progressed into an objective to help Penn State student-athletes prevent injuries and minimize recovery time.

“This was a team effort all the way through,” Bordi said. “We really started working on it with the football team, and that was 13 years ago. We had a grant to test it to see if it helped with recovery. We determined it needed a combination of proteins to maximize our efforts. We have three different proteins in there — whey, casein and soy. It’s been a painfully long road.”

It has been a journey, however, to make the exhausting demands placed on student-athletes in the weight room and on the field less painful.

Football players like former offensive lineman Eric Shrive grew close to Bordi, because of how he was trying to help them.

“All throughout my Penn State career we tested things he did,” Shrive said. “A lot of these protein drinks taste terrible. He made it taste great every time we tried something new. And being a Division I athlete is rigorous. We always had workouts and practices, and we noticed his drink definitely made a difference.”

Typical recovery drinks have a single protein that quickly dissolves. Bordi’s drink has three proteins that disseminate at different rates to quantify muscle recovery.

Using multiple proteins, however, was challenging.

“We had to get past some stumbling blocks, because some soy proteins tasted terrible, and we wanted to make this as natural as could be,” Bordi said. “At times the direction would change with it for protein levels and the amount of sugar in there.”

Bream, the football team’s head athletic trainer and assistant athletic director, helped ensure that the drink stayed within NCAA guidelines. He previously worked for 15 years as the Chicago Bears’ head athletic trainer.

“We worked hard on maximizing the proper protein and calories and carbs that we wanted and getting the right amount of everything to ensure we were in compliance with the NCAA,” Bream said.

Bordi’s last step was to work on the drink’s taste, texture and color.

“I’ve worked with Dr. Bordi for over two years with trials and errors to get the solution to remain stable after bottling it,” Palchak, the Creamery’s manager, said. “Within the last six months, things really picked up, and we worked through small problems we had. It’s been quite an effort.”

Palchak and Bordi worked together to put the final touches on the drink.

“Our main objectives were the flavor and appearance of it with different cocoa between dark and reddish cocoas,” Palchak said. “Because it was high in protein it gave a medicinal aftertaste. We had to make it pleasing to taste.”

They think they got it right.

Orders for the drink, Palchak said, are already coming from as far away as Texas and California.

“Quite honestly, I don’t know if I ever thought it’d be commercialized, but we’ve realized we have something here,” Bordi said. “We think this will go far.”