Saturday, September 22, 2012


One of the bummers of not riding since my accident in May is that I was really getting my bike nutrition down. Last year I started experimenting with a recipe for my own drink to take on long bike rides and this year I started making my own "bars" to eat. While the bars still need some work, now is as good a time as any to share the drink recipe:

Mix together with water in a 24 oz. water bottle.

The story behind the recipe:

A couple of years ago I was listening to a podcast on Competitor Radio with Asker Jeukendrop, a sports nutrition scientist. On the show, he talked about how glucose and fructose have different pathways to get absorbed by your body, so by consuming both (in about a 2-1 ratio--it's around 9:00 into the podcast) you would increase the amount of carbohydrates you can absorb compared to consuming either by itself. Makes sense. He also gave an amount of carbohydrates that people can typically absorb so I did some mental calculations (drinking every 15 minutes on the bike, typical amount per drink, 22 oz water bottle, composition of sucrose (table sugar), taking in other food, etc.) and came up with 2 Tablespoons each of table sugar and dextrose. That didn't sit so well in my stomach on long, hard rides, though, so I dropped down to 1½ Tablespoons each and that worked much better.

What to do for electrolytes? I looked and looked but there aren't a lot of choices for electrolytes on their own. There are things like Nunn tablets, which act like Alka-Seltzer when you drop them in water. Unfortunately, they tasted like Alka-Seltzer, too. I found Elete Electrolytes, a liquid that I could add to my drink but that wouldn't be so convenient to take along on long rides when it came time to refill my bottles. I used to crack open an Endurolyte capsule and put its contents in my bottle but it doesn't dissolve in water so well. I finally settled on the Base Performance Electrolyte Salt (even though I have a sneaking suspicion that it is just re-packaged Real Salt). Each container comes with a tiny measuring spoon and I scoop one of those in my water bottle. I tried using two spoonfuls but it was way too salty.

As for the Kool-Aid, I needed to put some flavor in the drink. Sure, I could go with something all natural but, frankly, I can get three servings out of a 20-cent package of Kool-Aid and there are a lot of flavors to choose from. I really don't think that it's going to kill me.

Why come up with my own drink? Why not just buy a bucket of stuff they sell in bike shops? For one thing, I don't want to spend a bunch of money if I don't have to. What do I need this drink to do? Hydrate, replace electrolytes, and supply as many carbs as I can handle. Do I, a 49-year old, middle-of-the-pack triathlete, really need so-called cutting-edge nutrition? Or do I need some water, sugar, electrolytes, and flavor? I'll go with Door #2, if I can.

A side note: I am training with Gatorade on the run. Why Gatorade and not Michaelade on the run? Because on the bike I have four water bottle cages that let me carry whatever I want. I can also put some drink mix in ziploc bags (which I can stash in a jersey pocket) to make more when I finish the bottles. I can drink higher-calorie drinks on the bike than I can on the run because of the pounding one's body takes on the run. On the run, even if I take a FuelBelt with me, that will only last eight miles in the heat. During an iron-distance triathlon, I have to live off the course for drinks, though I plan on taking some gels with me. Gatorade lets me do that and it's what they have on the Vineman course.

How does Michaelade compare to store-bought mixes? First, you have to remember that I don't know what I'm doing. Given that, though, I like the drink. It doesn't upset my stomach, and it, combined with other foods (Snickers, e-Gels, and the aforementioned homemade bars) works for me on my rides. YMMV. Let's compare it to Hammer Nutrition's HEED and Perpetuem, and Skratch Labs' Exercise Hydration Mix:

  Michaelade HEED Perpetuem Skratch EHD
Cost per 24 oz. bottle $0.38 $0.66 $1.50 $0.98
Calories per Serving 139 100 270 80
Sodium per Serving 290mg 40mg 220mg 310mg
# of Flavors 11 4 3 4

What does all that prove about Michaelade? Well, the cost is cheaper, calories are okay, sodium is good, and a lot more flavors, for starters. The point of all this is that my homemade, relatively cheap sports drink is working for me. Will it work for you? Don't know. You could give it a try, make some adjustments, and see what happens. Or not. Remember, this is not cutting-edge research. It's just me trying to save some money in my triathlon hobby and if I can, you probably can, too.

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