Tips for Fueling During Endurance Sports

Secret Drink Mix

A few years ago, one of our Higher Gear customers came to us and said, “I got this ‘secret drink mix’ at a trade show and I want to know what it is and where I can buy it.” At the time, the Higher Gear mass spectrometer was down, so it took us a while to get results.

Over the last few years Skratch Labs went to what many would consider unreasonable lengths and incurred extensive personal costs to produce a drink mix they never intended to sell and weren’t allowed to promote. Their drink mix was developed and tested in the field with athletes competing in races like the Tour de France.

For years, athletes would secretly dump their sponsors’ drinks to replace it with Skratch Labs, earning the name SDM (for Secret Drink Mix) from the pros who used it. Those athletes will tell you that they felt better, performed better, and didn’t experience the bloating and stomach issues that they did with other sports or electrolyte drinks. The secret was that Skratch Labs just worked better.


Skratch Labs Hydration Mix Allen Lim Cycling Nutrition Science


Five Tips for Better Fueling During Endurance Sports

Now that Skratch Labs is available to consumers, they’re sharing the science behind what they do. Below is an article originally published on Skratch Labs’ blog as Five Tips for Better Fueling During Endurance Sports. You’ll find that some of this information mimics what you’ve already learned from our own fitness guru, Joy Sherrick, in What’s In Your Water Bottle? But we think this is good information, worth repeating. Here are tips from Skratch Labs:


1. Eat & Drink Early & Consistently

One of the biggest mistakes riders make is forgetting to eat and drink early and consistently throughout the day. While this is plain common sense, it‘s often disregarded on ride day—a mistake that can spell disaster no matter how well trained or prepared you are.

As a general rule, you need to replace at least half the calories you burn each hour, and you need to begin replacing those calories in the first hour if you’re going to be out for more than three hours. On a flat road without drafting, the average cyclist will burn about 200-300 Calories at 10-15 mph, 300-600 Calories at 15 to 20 mph, and 600 to 1,000 Calories at 20 to 25 mph.

Regarding hydration, on a hot day your fluid needs may be as high as 1 to 2 liters an hour. The best way to get an appreciation of how much fluid you might need is to weigh yourself before and after a workout. The weight you lose is primarily water weight, where a 1-pound loss is equal to about 16 ounces of fluid. As a general rule, try not to lose more than 3 percent of your body weight over the course of a long ride.


2. Try Eating Real Food

While there are plenty of pre-packaged sports bars and gels touting their ability to improve one’s performance, it’s important to realize that real food can work just as well if not better than expensive, engineered nutrition.

A regular sandwich, a boiled potato with salt, a banana and a ball of sushi rice mixed with chocolate or some scrambled eggs can all give you the calories you need without upsetting your stomach the way a lot of sugary gels or sports bars can. In fact, while coaching teams at the Tour de France, the riders I worked with used real food as their primary solid fuel source, because it just worked better.

Most of the recipes for these foods can be found in “The Feed Zone Cookbook” that I wrote with Chef Biju Thomas to promote healthful, real-food eating.


Skratch Labs Hydration Mix Allen Lim Cycling Nutrition Science


3. Don’t Just Drink Water

When we sweat we lose both water and valuable electrolytes. If you drink only water and are sweating heavily, you’ll dilute the electrolytes in your body, in particular sodium, which plays a critical role in almost every bodily function. Diluting the sodium content in your body is called hyponatremia and can lead to a host of problems ranging from a drop in performance to seizures and even death.

The amount of sodium that we lose in sweat is highly, variable ranging anywhere from 200 to 400 mg per half liter (16.9 ounces). Because of this large range, it’s always better to err on the side of more salt than less salt.

Unfortunately, most sports drinks contain too much sugar and not enough sodium, which caused many of the riders I worked with to become sick during long days on the bike. For that reason, we developed an all-natural sports drink using less sugar, more sodium and flavored with freeze-dried fruit.

Learn what makes Skratch Labs hydration mix different than other sports drinks.

Outside of using a sports drink with more sodium, also consider eating salty or savory foods on your ride rather than just sweet foods.


4. Learn What you Need in Training

HG Water Bottle at Riviere RougeRide day is not the day that you want to be experimenting with yourself. So try different hydration and feeding strategies during training well before the big day. As an example, simply weighing yourself on a long training ride before your big event can give you valuable information to optimize your hydration for that event. Likewise, taking the time to prepare your own foods or trying different products beforehand and then writing out a specific game plan for your drinking and feeding needs can go a long way to making sure you don’t make any mistakes on ride day.


5. Come in Well-Fed and Well-Rested

While proper training is obviously important, making sure you are well rested coming into an event is sometimes even more critical. You can’t cram training, so as you approach the big day, make sure you are getting plenty of sleep and aren’t killing yourself in training the week leading into your event. Just sleeping an extra hour each night the week before your event can significantly improve your performance. Finally, adding extra carbohydrate to your diet, and making sure you get plenty of calories the week before your event, will assure that your legs are fueled and ready to go.



To learn more about cycling nutrition:


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Wilmette | 847-256-2330

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