Each year, the Tour de France highlights for me just how unreal professional cyclists are. Over 1200 watts for Sagan trying to hold Cancellara’s wheel. Tony Martin pushing a 59 tooth chainring during the time-trails. 25 to 30 mph average speeds over the stages. Burning more calories in a day than most people do in a week. Sprinting up 20% grades. The list goes on and on.
Although I admire and am in awe of pro cyclists, I would not necessarily recommend a product just because the pros like it, especially as related to drinks or food. Pros have needs for fueling and hydration on the bike beyond what most of us could even imagine. Plus, pros are paid to like things. So when I read all of the hype surrounding the Skratch Labs products, most of which emphasized how much the pros like the product, I was still skeptical.
The hydration mixes from Dr. Allen Lim and his Skratch Labs have a story that reminds me of the days when some certain steel frames branded as one bike were actually made by someone else and painted. Due to sponsorship obligations, even though many pros actually preferred Dr. Lim’s drink mix, they had to secretly use it due to contracts with other companies. Hence, for a while, Dr. Lim’s product was known as SDM (secret drink mix) among the pro peloton.
Well, the secret is out, but is this product good for all of us non-pros? As much as I like to dream on my rides that I’m cruising with the pro peloton or leading a break up a climb, I know my place in the peloton would be sweeping the course and coming in hours after the last pro. And yet, the answer is still absolutely!
Dr. Lim’s mix has a relatively low number of calories compared to some other mixes such as Accelerade and this was actually one of the reasons I held off trying it for so long. The Exercise Hydration Mix offers 70 calories per 500 ml (approx. 17 oz) serving compared to Accelerade’s 120 calories per 12 oz. I had thought it was convenient and beneficial to carry a good amount of calories in a bottle. However, more and more research is recommending that we get our hydration from our bottles and calories from our pockets. Higher calorie drinks are usually packed full of sugars and artificial ingredients. Consuming this in quantities much more than one bottle over a long training ride was actually making me sick to my stomach. And the over-sweetness required me to chase each drink with a swig of water.
After reading Dr. Lim’s The Feed Zone Cookbook, and really loving some of the recipes and general nutritional theories learned therein, I knew I should give his mixes a shot. Dr. Lim stresses using natural ingredients as much as possible. This mantra carries over to the drink mixes.
The Exercise Hydration Mix is currently offered in four flavors, each of which uses real fruit rather than artificial flavoring. The flavors available are Lemons & Limes, Oranges, Raspberries, and Pineapples. I’d say the Lemons & Limes has the most subtle flavor, while the Raspberries seemed to have the most. The Raspberries was my personal favorite with the Pineapples second.
The Exercise Hydration Mix is the first hydration mix I have found that does not require me to chase it with a drink of water. That opened up a whole new world of packing both bottles full of a mix that’s going to keep me much better hydrated than water alone. Fill your bottles with the Hydration Mix, stash a few snack baggies full of extra servings, stuff your jersey pockets with gels and bars, and you can ride as far as the legs will take you only worrying about stops that offer water to refill the bottles and mix the extra servings. I’ve used this product on some of my toughest rides of the year with great results. Though we’re having some respite now, the heat is still on and the Exercise Hydration Mix is doing a great job warding off cramps and allowing me to stay well-hydrated. In fact, I feel I’ve finally nailed this hydration thing.
If your usual drink mix is giving you rot-gut, browse on over to the Skratch Labs site and try one of their four flavors of the Exercise Hydration Mix. Use it on your hottest rides or your long training rides to keep your body hydrated and going. And don’t forget, if it’s good enough for the pros, it’s good enough for the rest of us. Right? In this case, yes.