Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Testing: Secret Drink Mix and Allen's Rice Bars

The pre-ride of the AntiEpic route I did with Ben was a nutrition test as well. I had just discovered Skratch LabsSecret Drink Mix(SDM), and this was the first long ride I used it on. SDM has fewer calories and more electrolytes than many other drinks. It also uses only natural ingredients – the flavor (orange, raspberry, or lemons & limes) comes from crushed freeze dried fruit that each flavor is named for. You can really tell in the taste. I’ve never had anything that tastes more like a fresh raspberry than SDM. Besides great flavor and good ingredients the stuff just works.

On the Kiowa 808 I only managed 3 bottles in 80 miles. This time I finished 6 full bottles in 102. SDM is simply easier to drink. I didn’t have to force myself to drink because I had a hydration schedule, and wasn’t drinking simply because of the weather conditions. I really feel like the light flavor and lack of calories just worked for me. It’s hard to want to stop and relieve myself (albeit easier in lonesome gravel country) but I know that if I have to go every so often I’m probably appropriately hydrated and likely to both perform and recover faster.

SDM doesn't contain anti-caking ingredients so make sure you protect it from humidity. They sell a metal canister, but I have some glass canning jars that work well for me. Besides the 1 pound bag you can also get singles. Be warned though, the singles only make 500ml and most water bottles are closer to 750ml. If you choose to get the big bag it's easy enough to find tiny zip lock bags (spice section at Whole Foods) that you can load up with enough for a single bottle. The large bags use a scoop to measure the serving, but the scoop isn't in the bag, so if you get it at a store make sure you ask for the scoop on your first purchase (if you purchase direct they'll send ya one). I'm not sure why it's not in the bag, but really you only need one and getting a new scoop with every bag would just be a waste.

Tiny flecks of raspberry skins in the raspberry flavor. Mmmmmmm....

Rice, rice, baby..dum dum dum da da dum dum...
The other thing I tried was Allen’s Rice Bars. Allen Lim is the main man behind SDM and he coauthored a book with chef Bijou Thomas The Feed Zone which describes real food recipes for athletes – some of which can be used on the bike. Allen’s rice bars are one of the top recommended recipes and made of rice, bacon, eggs, Bragg’s aminos and brown sugar. The idea of real food was highly attractive, but I admit that I was pretty skeptical of having bacon and eggs with rice on a ride. It just didn’t sound like something my tummy would want. Well, I made the bars last week and tried them. Damn, those are good! I had a harder time saving some for the Sunday ride. But would they work on a long ride?

In short, yes. They were tasty enough that I looked forward to eating them, and when I did they did not feel like a rock in my gut. Other times when I had tried something more solid (Clif, Luna and Mojo bars), or even liquids with protein (i.e. Perpertum),  I always felt like my stomach had some work to do to digest things. I felt slow for a while. That didn’t happen with these. The bars are estimated to be 220 calories each but I never felt like I just ate a whole lump of food in my gut and the bacon also never felt greasy or heavy – something I worried about. The protein in these is perfect for distance events.

There are plenty of variations on the original recipe. In this video Allen shows a slightly different version:

The drawbacks? Well, mostly my fault and easy to correct. I crushed one bar in my pocket and it fell apart. (I had two stuffed in a pocket and two in a gas tank.) Some others were also fairly crumbly. Easy fix, make the rice so that it comes out a bit stickier, pack it together tighter, and place them somewhere they won’t get crushed. The other issue wasn’t with the bar but the foil I used. I used a fairly thin and weak foil which didn’t hold up well. Sometimes it tore in ways I didn’t intend or desire. This foil also seemed to “rub off” on the bars. I had a bit of aluminum oxide that looked like brake dust on one bar. Not wanting to supplement with aluminum I’ll probably be able to easily fix both issues by using a higher grade/quality of foil.  So, the only “issues” were largely my fault and easy to solve.

This wasn’t the only thing I ate on the ride. SDM has fewer calories so you eat more frequently than with other carb/electrolyte mixes. I was eating a gummie every 10-15 minutes (GU Chomps, Honey Stinger, Sharkies etc.) and the larger stuff on the hour. I alternated between a rice bar and Organic Honey Stinger Waffles. The waffles still work very well for me. They provide a sweet treat that I’ve digested well and had no problem with.

When we got back to the car I was fatigued, but I wasn’t exhausted.  I hadn’t changed anything other than the nutrition but I felt better after 102 miles (at a faster pace) than I did after 80 the week prior. This is only the second 100+ mile ride I've done. It’s been two full days, but I fell surprisingly well. Time will tell how SDM and real food work for me in the long run and under different conditions (e.g. Summer temps) but for now I’m sold. Time to try those bacon muffins and brown rice waffle sammies!

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