HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- When you're sweating yourself into oblivion on a ruck march, there are a number of ways to quickly rehydrate -- water, sports drink or in the worst case, intravenous fluids.

But not all hydration sources -- including sports drinks -- are created equal, according to the creators of Cerasport, a rice-based drink powder you can drop in a canteen and gulp down in a hurry.

"You get the benefit of a carbohydrate, but then you get all the electrolytes pulled into your bloodstream quicker and for a longer period of time," Cera Products president Jennifer Gurrola told Army Times on Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army's Global Force Symposium.

"Water doesn't work well enough because your body sweats sodium and potassium," she added.

Gurrola's product was developed by her mother in the 1990s, with public health workers from Johns Hopkins University, trying to efficiently re-hydrate cholera victims in Bangladesh. Today, convenient pour-packet versions in several fruity flavors are used in several corners of the Army, including medical commands and some basic training units as well as Airborne, Air Assault and Ranger schools.

The Air Force was the first service to field it, after it was approved in 2005, putting the packets in flight jackets and combat lifesaver bags.

Cerasport is available for commands to buy through the supply chain, so the company is trying to get the word out about its benefits and eventually, Gurrola hopes to see it alongside chocolate drink mix in meals ready-to-eat.

Each half-ounce packet, which is designed for a 16.9-ounce water bottle, has 40 calories, 10 carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, 400 mg of sodium and 200 mg of potassium.

The gluten-free packets have a five-year shelf life and can be stored at 120 degrees, she said, which more than meets the requirements for the MRE. If the Army is looking for something in the pack to increase performance or replenish at the end of the day, Gurrola said, Cerasport would fit right in. 

The product, she added, is easier, safer and more efficient than re-hydrating with water or even an IV.

"Sugar has a tendency of dehydrating you," she said. "Your body doesn't know what to do with all that sugar and your gut can't absorb the electrolytes if there's too much sugar."

There's also a biological benefit to a rice-based product, because it's a mixed-chain carbohydrate that your body can absorb quickly and for longer periods of time, rather than short-chain sugars that can only be absorbed in the stomach.

"If you can take it into your mouth, it's absorbed into your gut and reabsorbed at the beginning, middle and end of your gut, next to your colon," she said. "So you're pulling electrolytes through your intestines."

This approach is more efficient than an IV, she said, not only because it can be tough to carry around equipment and keep an area clean for needles, but because of biological responses to dehydration.

"With an IV, what starts to happen is, your veins start to collapse because they're so dehydrated, so you have to sort of stagger the IV," Gurrola said. "So things go very slowly."

And it works better than something like Gatorade, which is only absorbed through the stomach, according to a study by the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences published in January.

There are also the health benefits of staying away from added sugars, said Gurrola, who has a bachelor's degree in health sciences.

"I think people know that now," she said. "People are more educated now than they were 10 years ago."