Allen Lim is not a stranger to upset stomachs. While coaching many of the top names associated with WorldTour cycling, he heard constant complaints about hotel food, ride food, recovery drinks and drink mixes. At times, it was difficult for his athletes to complete workouts because their stomachs would give out before their legs.
With a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and a tinkerer’s mentality, Lim set out to fix the problem. He began sourcing ingredients and mixing up his own drink mix in five-gallon buckets he purchased at a hardware store. With his intimate access to top cyclists, the real-world testing began. Formulas changed routinely, always seeking to perfect the mix of calories, electrolytes and palatability.
Because virtually every WorldTour team has a nutrition sponsor, Lim initially branded his concoction Secret Drink Mix (SDM). Many athletes and even entire Tour de France squads were using Secret Drink Mix while going to extreme lengths to keep sponsors happy. One team reportedly dumped hundreds of pounds of sponsor drink mix and used the containers to carry three week’s worth of SDM.
But when it came to selling his drink mix, Lim found himself in a bit of a conundrum. He couldn’t make public all the big names that had used his mix, in some cases for years. At the same time, Secret Drink Mix would no longer be a secret, so he rebranded his company Skratch Labs. At the same time, he co-authored a cookbook with Biju Thomas (published by VeloNews.com sister company VeloPress) to help publicize his approach to on-bike nutrition.
What is the approach? Well, put succinctly, Lim recommends that you “chew your calories and drink your hydration.” In Lim’s experience the biggest limiter to hydration was an upset stomach due to too many calories in most sports drinks. But water wasn’t the solution either, as a diluted mix of sugars and electrolytes absorb more quickly than plain water.
A bottle of Skratch Exercise Hydration Mix packs only 80 calories but keeps the electrolyte levels fairly high, not something you can achieve with other drinks by simply diluting them. While you may get fewer calories per bottle, the subtle taste of Skratch’s fruit flavored drink means that you can drink it for much longer periods of time.
On the bike
I can attest to the Exercise Hydration Mix’s drinkability. I’ve used it to while racing the Dirty Kanza 200 two years in a row. This year, for 15 hours and 33 minutes, aside from two Cokes, I only drank Skratch Exercise Hydration. I never craved another drink nor did my palate ever reject the taste of Skratch. Often I’ll want a bottle of water late in a long ride because the thought of whatever I’ve been drinking will turn my stomach. Thankfully I’ve never experienced that with Skratch.
Lim and company offer the Exercise Hydration Mix in four flavors and all of them have a faint, sweet flavor that actually tastes like the fruits used to flavor them. Options are Lemon & Limes, Raspberries, Pineapples and Oranges. The strongest flavor of the lot is Pineapples and my personal favorite is Raspberry (it was the only flavor I drank at Dirty Kanza).
Skratch also offers its Everyday Hydration Mix, a 20-calorie per bottle choice for use while pre-hydrating before an event, recovering from a night on the town, or whenever you’re simply tired of sipping plain water.
Both formulas cost $19.50 per pound and can be purchased online at www.skratchlabs.com. Skratch Labs also encourages its customers to buy its $8.50 tins for storage at the time of their first order, then buy one-pound bags subsequently to refill the tins. It’s an earth-friendlier option and keeps the mix away from moisture. The tin is also secure enough to put in your luggage when traveling to rides and races.
Hydration is always an issue for endurance athletes. If your palate can’t handle heavily flavored sports drinks or your stomach can’t handle lots of liquid calories, give Skratch Labs a try. The subtle, delicious flavors are refreshing and encourage you to drink more while on the bike, which is always a good thing.