What is Matcha Green Tea and Why is it in a Sports Drink?

Posted on August 19, 2014 by Allen Lim, PhD | 0 Comments

     At Skratch Labs, all of our hydration products are driven by science but crafted and sold as real food, not as supplements. While it’s a subtle distinction for some, it’s a fundamental difference that defines everything we do. For example, we are meticulous about the formula in our Exercise Hydration Mix, making sure that we have an electrolyte ratio that best matches what we lose in sweat and a blend of sugars that optimizes absorption in the small intestine to prevent gastrointestinal distress (i.e., gut rot). At the same time, none of our drink mixes contain flavoring agents or artificial ingredients. Instead, we use whole functional foods that have been dried and crushed like raspberries, oranges, lemons, mangos, and pineapples to flavor and enrich our line. This gives all of our drinks a simple and clean taste that hydrates us while also providing the nutritional benefits associated with the foods we use. Most recently, we took this a step further by developing a flavor using Matcha – a type of green tea that is consumed whole rather than brewed, making it convenient and incredibly nutrient dense compared to other teas.


     Like many plant-based foods, tea is a functional food. A functional food contains essential nutrients like carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals as well as biologically active compounds that affect one’s physiology and that can contribute to disease prevention (Hayat, 2013; Deldicque, 2008).  The natural compounds in foods that are not essential nutrients but that are important to our health are referred to as phytochemicals or phytonutrients. Phytochemicals in turn have a broad and complex classification system that has generated a litany of jargon in the marketing and science surrounding functional foods as well as an equivalent amount of confusion when it comes to understanding what we are actually consuming and whether it’s actually good for us. 


     For now, I’ll skip out on describing all of the classes of phytochemicals but mention the ones that are more common and relevant to tea. For example, one class of phytochemicals are alkaloids that include caffeine and caffeine-like compounds like theobromine and theophylline found in tea, coffee, and cocoa. Another class of phytochemicals are polyphenols which are further categorized into non-flavonoids and flavonoid compounds. Non-flavonoids include compounds like reseveratrol common to grapes and wine while flavonoids include compounds like anthocyanins, quercitin, and tanins, which can be further classified into catechins or flavan-3-ols. It’s these catechins that are specifically found in high quantities in tea and which can be further broken down into four major types of catechins in tea including epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), and epicatechin (EC) that are the compounds that impart many of the health benefits associated with tea (Kim, 2014). 


     While all of these names are confusing all by themselves, the confusion is often confounded because when people describe a particular phytochemical, it’s common to use the different names within a particular class as synonyms for one another. For example, EGCG can be described as a catechin. A catechin can be described as a tannin. A tannin can be described as a flavonoid. A flavonoid can be described as a polyphenol. And finally, a polyphenol can be described as a phytochemical.  To keep things easy and coming full circle, we’ll just describe good things in food that aren’t essential nutrients as phytonutrients and only talk about specific compound like the caffeine or EGCG in tea when appropriate.


     With that in mind, the reason that phytonutrients in tea, specifically, catechins like EGCG have physiological significance and a number of health benefits is because they have an incredible array of unique attributes that include anti-oxidative (Jowko, 2011; Panza, 2008), anti-inflammatory (Hagiwara, 2014; Haramizu, 2013; Nicod, 2014), anti-carcinogenic (Sato, 1999; Siddiqui, 2014), anti-hypertensive (Khalesi, 2014; Mousavi, 2013; Onakypoya, 2014), anti-microbial (Hagiwara, 2014; Lin, 2014; Pang, 2014), neuro-protective (Noguchi-Shinohara, 2014), DNA protective (Ho, 2014), cholesterol lowering (Eichenberger, 2009; Kono 1996; Onakypoya, 2014; Yousaf, 2014), and thermogenic or metabolism increasing properties (Hodgson, 2013; Jeukendrup, 2011). And ultimately, all of these things are good things, especially when reviewing the wide array of research studies describing health benefits for specific diseases like cardiovascular disease (Ghanbari, 2014; Santesso, 2014), cancer (Butt, 2013; Green, 2014; Greenberg, 2013; Huang, 2014; Inoue, 1998; Wang, 2014), urinary tract infections (Katz, 2014), type II diabetes (Pham, 2014; Venables, 2008), arthritis (Byun, 2014; Yang, 2014; Riegsecker, 2013), stroke (Nabavi, 2014), obesity (Byun, 2014), dental diseases (Gaur, 2014), neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s (Qi, 2014; Gao, 2013; Albarracin, 2012; Tanaka, 2011), and dermatological issues (Scheinfeld, 2013; Pazyar, 2012). 


     Beyond these disease preventing properties, tea also can act as a stimulant due to naturally occurring caffeine as well as an amino acid called L-theanine, which has been show to be a mood stabilizer, working synergistically with caffeine to improve focus (Yoto, 2014; Camfield, 2014; Ross. 2014; Giesbrecht, 2010).  And while much has been made about caffeine as a performance enhancer due to its ability to mobilize free fatty acids (Jeukendrup, 2011), improve alertness (Beaven, 2013), and enhance glycogen re-synthesis (Beelen, 2012; Taylor, 2011) it’s also clear that those effects only come at high doses of caffeine (3-6 mg per kg of body weight) and are better if you are unaccustomed to caffeine (Burke, 2008; Ganio, 2009; Deldicque, 2008). In addition, it’s also clear that at very high doses, caffeine can have negative affects ranging from sleep disturbance to anxiety to cardiovascular complications (Youngstedt, 1998, 2000; Rogers, 2013; Chrysant, 2014).


     From an exercise standpoint, there’s less evidence that phytonutrients beyond caffeine like catechins in tea are beneficial to actual performance. That said, some studies in mice have shown improved endurance capacity in mice associated with EGCG supplementation resulting from an increase in fat use (Murase, 2005) as well as less of an age related decline in endurance performance (Murase, 2008). Interestingly, one in vitro (outside of the body) study has shown that EGCG can help prevent muscle wasting (Mirza, 2014) which may have implications for humans during exercise or in recovery from exercise, though those implications may be a bit of a stretch, especially since actual benefits in exercising humans are unclear. For example, a single 640 mg dose of EGCG in soccer players showed no reduction in oxidative stress or muscle damage (Jowko, 2012). An acute dose of green tea catechins (22 mg per kg of body weight), however, immediately after exercise in Tae Kwon did show improvements in immune function (Lin, 2014). Finally, in one human study, short term consumption (945 mg over 48 hours) of EGCG has been shown to increase maximal oxygen consumption without changes in cardiac output, hinting a greater ability of muscle to extract oxygen (Richards, 2010). Unfortunately, much more research is needed to bear out any real world performance benefits.


     That all said, we weren’t just thinking about the potential health or performance benefits of tea when we developed our newest Exercise Hydration Mix that contains Matcha – a type of green tea. For what it’s worth, like many people, we just like tea. We like the way it tastes and how it makes us feel. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the time or resources to brew it. This is where Matcha comes in. Like all other teas, Matcha comes from the plant Camillia Sinensis. There are three basic types of tea – green, oolong, and black tea. They’re distinguished by whether the plants are allowed to ferment before drying. Green tea is unfermented, oolong is partially fermented and black tea is fermented. The fermentation process changes the amount of phytonutrients available. For example, black tea is higher in caffeine than green or oolong, but green tea is higher in catechins like EGCG than either oolong or black tea. Unlike other teas, Matcha is unique because it’s grown in the shade, significantly increasing its chlorophyll content—the component in plants that make them green and that may also add to the positive health benefits of tea (Jiang, 2013). In addition, Matcha is not brewed. Instead, the entire leaf is ground into a powder and consumed whole. Because the entire leaf is consumed, this increases the amount of phytonutrients that can be consumed and concentrated into a drink, compared to brewed tea. But most importantly, because Matcha is a powder it’s actually possible to blend it into a drink mix making it a convenient and highly functional ingredient.


     A single 16 oz serving of our Exercise Hydration Mix with Matcha + Lemons contains about 500 mg of whole ground Matcha. Traditionally, if someone were making a 16 oz serving of Matcha tea, they might use about 2000 mg or a teaspoon of whole Matcha powder. So per serving we’re about a quarter of a typical serving of Matcha that someone might traditionally consume. The reason we did this is that our assumption is that during prolonged exercise someone might consume multiple servings of our Exercise Hydration Mix and we wanted to make sure that people didn’t over-consume Matcha relative to what’s traditionally consumed. In addition, this helps to keep the overall flavor profile light and prevents the overly tannic taste profile that is common when drinking Matcha and other teas. This also means that the amount of caffeine per serving is lower at approximately 16 mg per 16 oz serving. As a point of reference an 8 oz cup of coffee might have anywhere from 70-100 mg of caffeine whereas a typical 8 oz cup of Matcha tea might have about 30-40 mg of caffeine. While the amount of caffeine in our Exercise Hydration Mix with Matcha + Lemons is not high, it is there and it is natural with 5 servings equaling a cup of coffee. Over the course of a long day, this small amount can add up if someone is consuming enough to keep hydrated, which is the ultimate purpose of our line of Exercise Hydration mixes.


     Although it’s nice to know that teas, in particular, green teas like Matcha have a host of potential health benefits (Hayat, 2013), it’s unlikely that a single drink of anything is likely to improve performance or health (Jowko, 2012; Randell, 2013). The reality is that we never intended nor do we think that our Exercise Hydration Mix with Matcha + Lemons is, by itself, a panacea for poor health or performance. Like all things in life, it’s important to always look at the big picture when thinking about one’s well being. That picture includes one’s overall diet, physical activity, stress level, social support, sleep and innumerable other factors spread over a lifetime. Ultimately, what we believe is that using whole food ingredients with known functional benefits is just better than the common practice of using artificial ingredients like coloring agents, emulsifiers, and synthetic sweeteners that may actually be harmful to our health (Simmons, 2014). By using Matcha we don’t just get a functional food, we get an incredible and refreshing taste that helps to encourage drinking and that keeps us hydrated with all of the potential upsides of real tea.



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Posted in Science

Hearty Cinnamon Almond Pancakes

Posted on August 07, 2014 by Skratch Labs | 0 Comments

Made with almond flour, these pancakes are gluten-free and lower in carbs than traditional pancakes. Skip the sugar crash and fuel up for morning rides with these hearty pancakes that have an ideal mix of carbs, protein, and fat. The batter will be thin and delicate, more like a crepe than a pancake.

Almond flour is just finely ground whole almonds. Most groceries now stock it in the baking goods aisle or with natural foods (one common brand is Bob’s Red Mill). You can make your own using a food processor or blender—just be sure not to grind the nuts too long or you’ll end up with almond butter!




TIME: 20 minutes

1 cup almond flour
2 eggs
¼ cup milk or water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon honey or
agave nectar
a dash each of ground cinnamon and salt


toasted almonds
plain yogurt

  1. Mix together all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Bring a lightly oiled sauté pan to medium-high heat. When pan is hot, pour batter to form pancakes, leaving ample space between each to allow batter to spread. Unlike traditional pancakes these will not bubble, so watch for the edges to brown, then gently flip over and brown the other side.

Serve hot, topped with toasted almonds, yogurt, or fresh fruit. Makes about 6 pancakes.


TIP: Even easier: If you’re not concerned about gluten, add ground almonds to your usual packaged pancake mix. Follow package directions from there.


NUTRITION DATA PER SERVING (3 pancakes) > Energy 557 cal • Fat 47 g • Sodium 447 mg • Carbs 23 g • Fiber 6 g • Protein 19 g


Click here to download the complete recipe

Posted in Recipes

Coconut Water - The Bizarro Sports Drink

Posted on July 14, 2014 by Allen Lim, PhD | 2 Comments

Coconut water is naturally sweet and high in the electrolyte potassium. So it’s not uncommon for people to ask about the use of coconut water as a real food sports drink. But, when assessing the use of coconut water as sports drink, what comes to mind is C.G. Jung’s idea of “shadows” – the aspects of our lives that are in actuality completely opposite of what we think or perceive. It’s an apt reference point, because if sports drinks have a dark shadow, it’s coconut water.  Coconut water is fine if you just want something real to drink when you’re not exercising or for short duration exercise (< 90 minutes or less) (1), but if you’re sweating a lot during prolonged exercise, it’s definitely the wrong choice.

In the realm of human physiology, coconut water is the exact opposite of what we need to replace the sweat we lose when we are exercising. The reason for this is that the primary electrolyte in coconut water is potassium, whereas the primary electrolyte in sweat is sodium. More specifically, 16 oz of coconut water contains 950 mg of potassium and only 50 mg of sodium. In contrast, 16 oz of sweat contains anywhere from 200 to 700 mg of sodium, and only about 50 to 110 mg of potassium (2,3) (Table 1).  


Coconut Water



Sodium (mg)



450 ± 250

Potassium (mg)



80 ± 30

Calcium (mg)



25 ± 17

Magnesium (mg)



6 ± 6

Table 1. Electrolyte Content in 16 oz of Coconut Water, Skratch Exercise Hydration Mix, and Sweat.

The high sodium and low potassium content of sweat reflects the relatively high sodium and low potassium concentration found in our blood or vascular space that feeds our sweat glands. This difference is due to the fact that pumps in our cell membranes that set up the chemical-electrical gradients across cells that allow proper cell function and communication, do so by pumping potassium into cells and sodium out of cells, making intracellular (inside cells) potassium levels very high compared to sodium, and extracellular (outside of cells) sodium levels very high compared to potassium.

Because water equilibrates between the major spaces across the body, which include our vascular space (blood vessels), extracellular space, and intracellular space, when we consume an excess of sodium we tend to shift water into our vascular space and when we consume an excess of potassium we tend to shift water into our cells. This is why, in some people, excess sodium consumption can raise blood pressure. Likewise, when we consume foods or liquids that are very high in potassium, we tend to increase our intracellular water stores. 

During exercise, however, increasing the water volume in our vascular space is what is critical to help provide the necessary blood volume to deliver oxygen, eliminate heat, and provide valuable fluid for sweat. So in the context of exercise, consuming water and ample sodium is much more important than consuming potassium, not just to replace what we lose in sweat, but to maintain an adequate blood volume to meet the increased demands on our circulatory system especially in the heat (4,5). In contrast, consuming coconut water or plenty of fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium along with water isn’t a bad strategy for rehydrating cells when recovering, though it’s important to remember that we don’t deplete nearly the same amount of potassium during exercise as we do sodium.  

In most cases, drinking a bottle or two of coconut water during exercise isn’t going to kill us, as our kidneys are pretty good at keeping our electrolyte concentrations in check, especially if consumption isn’t excessive. But it definitely isn’t going to help us during exercise compared to a good sports drink with adequate sodium. That said, drinking only coconut water for long periods of time while exercising in the heat is one of the rare situations that could lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalances within the body that may be extremely harmful. While, a lot has been written about the hyponatremia that can occur if we only drink water during prolonged and heavy exercise in the heat, drinking only coconut water can exacerbate the situation, since the excess potassium consumption only compounds the inadequate sodium replacement (6).  Thus, in situations where drinking water alone can be harmful, be assured that drinking only coconut water may be just as is or even more harmful (7).

Ultimately, coconut water is the exact opposite of what we need when we are sweating heavily during exercise. It’s like Bizarro – Superman’s opposite – a character that Alvin Schwartz, one of the original writers for the Superman strip, found inspiration for through C.G. Jung’s “shadow” archetype. Just like Bizarro and Superman, there are a lot of similarities between coconut water and the all-natural Exercise Hydration Mix on the surface – both contain the same amount of calories, both contain electrolytes, and both are made with real food ingredients. But don’t be fooled, when you take a closer look, the reality is that coconut water is the Bizarro sports drink. 


1. Kalman, D. S., Feldman, S., Krieger, D. R., & Bloomer, R. J. (2012). Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 9(1), 1. 


2. Shirreffs, S. M., & Maughan, R. J. (1997). Whole body sweat collection in humans: an improved method with preliminary data on electrolyte content. J Appl Physiol, 82(1), 336-341. 


3. Adams, R., Johnson, R. E., & Sargent, F. (1958). The osmotic pressure (freezing point) of human sweat in relation to its chemical composition. Q J Exp Physiol Cogn Med Sci, 43(3), 241-257. 


4. Sawka, M. N., & Montain, S. J. (2000). Fluid and electrolyte supplementation for exercise heat stress. Am J Clin Nutr, 72(2 Suppl), 564S-572S. 


5. Sharp, R. L. (2006). Role of sodium in fluid homeostasis with exercise. J Am Coll Nutr, 25(3 Suppl), 231S-239S. 


6. Schucany, W. G. (2007). Exercise-associated hyponatremia. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent), 20(4), 398-401. 


7. Noakes, T. D., Goodwin, N., Rayner, B. L., Branken, T., & Taylor, R. K. (1985). Water intoxication: a possible complication during endurance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 17(3), 370-375.




Posted in Science

Skratch Labs Announces Antipodean Distribution Partnership

Posted on June 25, 2014 by Skratch Labs | 0 Comments

Boulder, CO (June 25, 2014) – Real Fruit Hydration Drink Mix maker Skratch Labs today announced a partnership with Australian-based Distributor FE Sports to bring Skratch Labs products to Australia and New Zealand.

“There is nothing artificial about this amazing company and that is why their real fruit hydration drink mixes caught our attention”, said Danny Brkic, Vice President of FE Sports. “We could not be more excited about partnering with Skratch Labs and spreading their mantra of everything REAL throughout Australia and New Zealand. 

“We’re really looking forward to working with Danny and his team – our companies share similar values and goals in business and life. However, it was a bit of a shock when they explained to us that the Coriolis effect influencing the direction of draining water in Aussie bathrooms is a myth” said Jay Peery, Skratch Labs Director of Sales and Marketing.

FE Sports is a family-owned Australian company dedicated to supporting their brick & mortar retailers by partnering with manufacturers who share the same ethos. We specialize in distributing new-world products to the Australian and New Zealand cycling, running and triathlon markets.

Support from Skratch

Posted on May 27, 2014 by Skratch Labs | 0 Comments

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Neutral Human Support. The name says it all, but there are so many stories to tell.

In the first place, there is the story about how Allen asked a bunch of us at dinner one night, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a car in the race with nutrition and hydration for everyone?” Just like Neutral Mechanical Support, we could help supply the basics that riders need to get through the day. We did all think that sounded pretty cool, so we decided to try to make it happen.

There’s a long story about how the unprecedented idea had to get approved by the UCI and race organizers, who are sometimes allergic to change but saw the obvious benefits and decided to give it a go. There’s the story about how Skratch Labs brought together a scientist, two retired bike racers, three chefs and four professional bottle washers to make the whole thing happen. There are numerous stories about getting up before sunrise to cook rice so that the racers would have fresh, delicious food in their pockets at the start line each day.

Lots of the best NHS stories have nothing to do with the pro peloton. When we decided to do this, we also dedicated ourselves to supporting the race staff and fans. No one would argue that the riders have the toughest jobs, but there are lots of other folks out in the sun all day long too, and we care about them. There are hundreds of stories about someone pulling up to the Skratch tent on a hot mountainside and asking if they can fill up their bottle, and every one of them ends with a full bottle and a smile. There’s the story about the fellow who found the tent such a cozy spot that he decided to have a nap, and his wife who settled in with some knitting while he rested. When that happened we knew we’d succeeded in creating the kind of environment we wanted. We all need someone to lean on, you know.

Our first goal with this experiment was not to hurt anyone or interfere with the race, and we’re happy to have accomplished that. Our next goal was to help as many people as possible. We feel pretty good on that score too, but we know that we can always do better, and this was an enormous learning experience. Above all, it was a privilege to provide sustenance and support to so many hard working professionals and to the fans who power the sport. There are far more stories of NHS than we can tell here, please check out some more from our friends at the links below. If you want to show your support for the Neutral Human Support movement, you can pick up one of our limited editions jerseys—they go on sale Tuesday and won’t last long.



Photos and Video: Greg Erwin

Neutral Human Support at the Amgen Tour of California

Posted on May 07, 2014 by Skratch Labs | 4 Comments

In what marks a first for the cycling world, Skratch Labs will be supporting the human element of racing as the Official Hydration and Real Food Sponsor of the AMGEN Tour of California. Skratch Labs will be directing their efforts toward supporting the actual humans involved in the race (both riders and staff) by providing real food and hydration products throughout the weeklong event.

During each road stage Skratch will have a support car and moto inside the caravan to distribute needed items to riders on every team.  

But we want to get people outside the race involved in offering support.  We want to see what Human Support means to you. Share your photos and stories of what Human Support means to you by using the hashtag #SkratchNHS. Each day during the tour we’ll select a winner, at random, who will receive an amazing prize pack of Skratch Labs super yummy deliciousness, some CamelBak Podium bottles and a limited edition NHS Skratch Labs Castelli cycling jersey!



Skratch Labs To Be Official Hydration Supplier to Slipstream Sports

Posted on April 15, 2014 by Skratch Labs | 0 Comments

Skratch Labs To Be Official Hydration Supplier to Slipstream Sports

Boulder, CO (April 15th, 2014) – Skratch Labs announces they will begin supplying all hydration products to Slipstream Sports. Skratch Labs is excited and honored to help keep some of the world’s best athletes hydrated during some of the most intense conditions in sports. The all-natural sports drink replaces everything lost sweating without any additional chemicals, preservatives or artificial ingredients that can frequently impede hydration as well as upset athlete’s stomachs.

The online nutrition subscription company is the team’s Official Nutrition Supplier and has worked with Skratch Labs since its inception, so the partnership with the team is a natural fit. “The partnership was born out of the great work we’ve done with and Skratch,” said Matt Johnson, owner of and President of Slipstream Sports. “We’re excited to take the next step and create a formal partnership between one of our top suppliers of and the team.”

While Skratch Labs has only existed as a company since 2012, two current employees were riders on early Slipstream teams. Jason Donald, current Manager of Dealer Relationships, and Ian MacGregor, current Skratch Labs CEO, raced for the team in the 2006-2009 seasons. “It’s great to see it all come full circle and to now be an official supplier of the team is exciting for us,” said MacGregor. “We’re still a very small company, just like Slipstream used to be a very small team. Now they are one of the biggest and best teams in the world and we are proud to be part of their success.”


About Skratch Labs

Founded on the philosophy that real food is the best source of nourishment, Skratch Labs has revolutionized the way people think about fuel and hydration for activity and recovery.  Using science and real world practice, Skratch Labs has created a wide range of all natural fruit hydration drink mixes serving human needs from sport to medical. Skratch Labs’ hydration drink mixes taste great and optimize performance and well being.

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