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Telling Hydration Secrets: Skratch Labs

April 17, 2012

During Winter’s cooler months I, like many riders, often forget or neglect to drink enough during rides. (I, for one, don’t have an excuse as I set one of my timer alarms on my Garmin to sound every 10 minutes in attempt to remind me.) But as the temperatures creep up, it becomes easy to remember that staying properly hydrated is key to happy, healthy riding.

But what to drink? There are so many different drinks on the market, and the numbers are only growing. Add to that the seemingly daily reports that what was once thought of as good for you is now bad for you and then that now-bad-for-you item itself becomes good again in the next report you read or hear and it starts to seem that reaching for almost any “sport drink” is better than nothing. And yet, to get the most from your body, proper fuel—including a hydration product that actually is good, encourages you to drink a little more, and that tastes good and agrees with your stomach—is a must.

Enter Skratch Labs and their Exercise Hydration Mix (formerly known as Secret Drink Mix).  Skratch Labs is the brainchild of Dr. Allen Lim. I was first aware of Dr. Lim back in probably 2009 from his work with the then Garmin-Chipotle (now Garmin-Barracuda) team. He was the guy behind things like ice-vests on riders warming up for grand tour time-trial stages to cool core temperature, camelbaks worn on the chest of riders during time trials, and a host of other items that then seemed odd and now seem almost commonplace—at least in the pro peloton.

Exercise Hydration Mix. Three flavors to choose from: oranges, lemons and limes, and raspberries.

Dr. Lim created his drink mix in an effort to alleviate problems he saw within his team: guys getting belly aches from all the sugar they were drinking, burned out on a given drink flavor, and/or diluting their drinks to lessen the sugary taste, which also lessened the electrolytes needed. After experimenting with other drinks on the market, Dr. Lim made his own from scratch (pun intended) and found that athletes using his “Secret Drink Mix” (called that because guys were replacing their sponsor product with his) felt and performed better. His secret? Lessen the sugar, get rid of the artificial ingredients, and up the electrolyte count. Pretty simple. Initially, Secret Drink Mix was simply given away to other pro riders not on Lim’s team. But demand crept up as first Lim’s friends and colleagues tried it, and then others got the chance to use it. Soon it was time to take it to market.

Despite having heard of the drink, and having heard of its availability on-line, I never gave Secret Drink Mix too much thought until Valentine’s Day. My wife got me Dr. Lim’s cookbook and we took to it like a mountain bike rider to the Greenbelt! Simple foods, big flavors, and good calorie counts. (As an aside, I’ll say that his “famous” rice cakes are great on the bike!) It reminded me and got me thinking about Secret Drink Mix again.

But I couldn’t readily find it.

A few weeks later and a Facebook post from another member of the Bicycle Sport Shop Mountain Bike Racing Team lead me to the drink in it’s new form: Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix. A quick email to Pookie, the shop’s nutrition buyer (among other duties), and samples were in hand!

Everyday Hydration Mix for off the bike.

And the reviews and accolades are spot on. The drink has a clean flavor. Light, but not watered down. Without artificial ingredients, the flavor in Skratch Labs’s drink comes from real fruit. Yes. Real fruit, in freeze-dried form. The drink dissolves easily, stays tasty as your bottle warms on your bike in the Texas sun, and has a light color in each of the flavors I tried, apart from the “lemons and limes,” which is almost clear. I also loved the packaging. The mixes come in a bag. No more getting a plastic container open only to find out a portion of your mix has turned into a brick! There is a slick looking re-useable metal container available if you are so inclined, but I haven’t had a chance to see one in person.

I can’t speak to long-term use—Pookie only got me a few samples—but I can say that I’m switching over from a drink mix that I’ve been using since 2008 or so. I’m also excited about Skratch Labs Everyday Hydration Mix. As named, this is what you’re drinking off the bike. Dr. Lim has described it as being similar to Pedialyte without the horrible taste. It’s low calorie, high electrolyte content is perfect for staying topped off when in between rides. I tried this too and loved it.

The secret is out with Skratch Labs and is now available at Bicycle Sport Shop!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2012 8:08 pm

    After getting Lim’s Feedzone Cookbook and loving it, I decided to try this drink mix.
    Really, really good stuff. Can’t wait to use it this summer when the heat is on. I’ll probably drink much more than I have in the past, which is great.
    Eat your calories, drink your hydration & electrolyte requirements. Seems to make sense.

    • djcurtin permalink
      April 17, 2012 9:28 pm

      Thank you for reading, Merlin! I would agree–calories/food in your pocket and hydration/elecrolytes in your bottles! Enjoy your riding!

  2. April 18, 2012 9:31 pm

    Holy crap! You have your Garmin set to remind you to have some water every ten minutes? I’ve never thought of this, and it’s a very good idea. (I get “into the zone” and forget, too.) But … every ten minutes? Really? Is that necessary? A lot of the time, lately, when I do a loop around my home town, I’ll drink some water before I leave the house, not bother to fill my bottles if I’ll be gone less than an hour and a half, and drink more when I get home.

  3. djcurtin permalink
    April 19, 2012 12:40 pm

    Hello, Forrest! Yes, the timer alarm on the Garmin is super handy. And, as memory serves, there are multiple timer alarms you can set, as well as HR and others too. I find a couple of alarms helpful reminders because I often get caught up in simply enjoying my ride!

    As for how much to drink, I find that a sip out of the bottle every 10 minutes puts me right around the “typical” hydration recommendations–that is 20 or so ounces of fluid every hour of exercise. This method also works for me as it is pretty close to a sweat test I did a few years back (my weight and climate haven’t really changed since then, so my sweat rate hasn’t really either I suppose–I should do the test again!)

    Of course, how much to drink is one of the things riders at all levels struggle with. Temperatures and climate, rider acclimation (or lack thereof), rider weight, and the effort for a given ride all influence how often we reach for the downtube or the camelbak. The goal isn’t really to replace every ounce of sweat lost. Rather, it is to stave off fatigue or the “bonk” that comes from being under fueled.

    Having said all that, cooler days and easier efforts I drink less than when I’m doing intervals in Austin in September to try to get ready for cyclocross season. Short of an actual cyclocross race (where a bottle on the bike would be in the way, but where there are often bottle hand-ups) I always have a bottle on my bike and always drink some of it.

    Thanks again for reading!

  4. Keith permalink
    May 8, 2012 12:24 pm

    Glad to hear that BSS is carrying the Skratch products (I did understand that correctly, yes?)! I am loving me some Exercise Mix, but not paying the shipping charges. This is GREAT stuff! I’ll swing by later and get me some more!

    • djcurtin permalink
      May 8, 2012 5:48 pm

      Keith: We’ve got the Exercise and Daily Hydration Mixes in stock. I’ve been rally pleased with the product thus far, and it sounds like you’re a big fan too. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you at the shop!

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