Fruitcake seems to get a bad rap. Sure, it's comprised mostly of unnaturally colored things, has a clawing sweetness, and a completely strange combination of flavors and textures, but the more we thought about it, the more we realized that Fruitcake really is one of those amazing nutrient-dense foods that can be perfect for any endurance athlete. Okay, maybe you don't want to be eating it alongside a big meal, but definitely try this recipe the next time you go for a long hike or get out on your bike.
The problem with most fruitcake recipes out there is that they are too complicated and contain way too many ingredients. As Thoreau said about life in general, Simplify. Here is Chef Biju's take on a simpler and healthier version that starts out with the crazy idea of only adding fruits and nuts that you actually like eating. Crazy, right? To keep in line with the "fruitcake for athletes" thing, we've skipped the rum and candied neon-bits-of-yuck and kept the sugar to a minimum.
Plan ahead for this one- The night before place 1.5 cups of your favorite combination of dried fruits and nuts in a large bowl, cover in orange juice and soak overnight in the fridge. If you don't know what your favorite combo is you can simply use a trail mix recipe that you like!
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a large bowl whisk together:
Then blend in one at a time:
Line the bottom of a 6-8" cake pan with parchment or wax paper, pour in the batter and bake on the center rack for about 90 minutes, or until a knife poked into the center comes out clean. Enjoy, and don't forget the velvet bow!
Makes 8 servings, at about 200 Cal each.
If you're looking for a quick and easy (and super yummy) source of natural protein that you can take when you're on the go, give this simple Feed Zone Portables recipes a try.
Step by step video instructions above, step by step written instructions below.
Liberally coat a medium nonstick saute pan with olive oil and place it over high heat.
Once the pan is hot, add the cooked rice, spread evenly, and cook until crisp (about 3 minutes). Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl and pour over the rice. Mix gently, then let the eggs begin to set up.
Loosen the edges of the omelet with a spatula as you tilt the pan, allowing the uncooked eggs to fill in around the edges. Cover and cook until the eggs in the center of the pan set up, or finish in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 5 minutes. Top with the grated parmesan and a hearty amount of salt and pepper.
Cut into 6 triangles. Let cool to the touch before wrapping.
Each piece will contain approximately 133Cal and 8g of protein.
The Back Story:
For the last two years, we’ve been making a secret drink mix that is extremely high in sodium to over-hydrate or “hyper-hydrate” athletes immediately before they put themselves in grueling situations where they end up sweating more than they can possibly drink.
Given its purpose, we called the product our Hyper Hydration Drink Mix and kept access to it limited to only our most hot and sweaty customers – NASCAR drivers, fire fighters, and a handful of professional runners and cyclists. We weren’t trying to be elite by limiting the product’s access. Rather, we had legitimate concerns about the product’s taste and worried about what might happen if the product was used inappropriately or without hands on instruction.
So for almost two years, we tinkered, studied, and worked carefully with a cast of characters – some very fast, others slow, but all extremely smart & sweaty - to evolve our formula until we reached a point that we felt, when used as directed, the product was safe, effective, and palatable for the general athletic population to use as a method to preemptively hydrate before events known, or with the potential, to elicit severe dehydration.
It took us a while, but we felt it important to take the time and care. As part of that diligence, we want to emphasize that our Hyper Hydration Drink Mix is not a sports drink or a “use every time you exercise” product. More to the point, this product is not intended for casual hydration. In fact, we encourage you not to use our Hyper Hydration Drink Mix until you finish reading this blog, talk to your coach, health care professionals, visit google, and give your individual situation and this product some real consideration. It may not be for you. But if you decide it is, then our experience has been that it’s probably exactly what you’ve been looking for.
First, a Review of Sweat – Water & Salt:
When it’s hot or more appropriately when we get really hot, whether it’s through intense exercise or from baking under a garish sun, we sweat to cool our bodies. Without that sweat and the evaporative cooling that comes with it we can overheat and literally start cooking ourselves from the inside out, which isn’t exactly good for either performance or one’s health. Unfortunately, as we sweat we also dehydrate, losing precious water and salt, both of which are critical for normal bodily functions. It’s a bit of a catch 22. Either overheat or dehydrate or both – all of which are bad.
While the body is almost 60% water by weight, a 70 kg person doesn’t have 42 liters (1 kg of water = 1 L of water) of water to spare to keep them cool. Depending upon the situation (airflow, temperature, work intensity), exercise performance can suffer with as little as a 2-3% drop in body weight due to dehydration. By the time someone loses 10% of body weight from dehydration (7 kg or 15.4 lbs for a 70 kg or 154 lb person), it’s likely that they are critically ill or very close to it. Unlike stored fuel in the form of carbohydrate or fat, we’d kill ourselves before we even came close to tapping into all of our water reserves.
In addition to thinking about total body water, it’s also important to realize that the water stored in our body isn’t all in one big reservoir. About two-thirds (2/3) of it is inside our cells (intracellular space) while the other one-third (1/3) is outside of cells (extracellular space). Of the water outside of the cells only one-fifth (1/5) of it is in the circulatory system as plasma in the blood (intravascular space), while the other four-fifths (4/5) lies in the space between blood vessels and cells (interstitial space).
The net result is that for an average person our blood volume is only about 5-6 liters, with only about 2.5-3 liters of that being water or plasma. Because maintaining that small plasma volume is critical to keeping our cardiovascular system functioning and precious oxygen flowing to our cells, it’s very easy to see how quickly even a small amount of dehydration can affect performance and thermoregulation (i.e., the maintenance of a stable body temperature). Although, our body can quickly shift water from one body space to another to maintain central blood volume and blood pressure, in the heat or during heavy exercise, sweat rates can easily reach rates as high as 2-4 liters per hour, which puts an incredible strain on our total body water reserves and on the availability of water in our cardiovascular system. One way to think of it is that in an hour or two of intense exercise in the heat, our bodies need to find a way to replace almost all of the water in our blood.
Equally important, however, is the fact that the water in our plasma or blood isn’t just water – it’s more of a salty soup, containing about 9 grams of sodium chloride per liter (3.5 grams from sodium and 5.5 grams from chloride) – an amount that is similar to the sodium concentration in chicken noodle soup which comes in at 3 to 4 grams of sodium per liter. Since the water in our bodies or more specifically in our plasma is so salty, the fluid that enters any one of the two million sweat glands across our skin is also salty. In fact, while a number of electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium are also lost in sweat, sodium chloride makes up the overwhelming majority of the electrolyte loss in sweat. For this reason, electrolyte loss in sweat is really synonymous with salt loss. More importantly, it’s the loss or dilution of sodium, not chloride, that negatively affects our physiology – a phenomenon called hyponatremia that can result in a host of problems that range the gamut from fatigue, confusion, headache, nausea, muscle cramps, seizures, and in rare cases death. Because of these potential issues, getting a handle on the concentration of sodium in sweat (i.e., “sweat sodium”) and replacing that sodium in addition to water, instead of water alone, when dehydrated from heavy sweating is paramount to performance and survival.
Unfortunately, getting a handle on the amount of sodium we lose in sweat isn’t that easy. Unlike the relative ease of estimating water loss through changes in body weight using a simple bathroom scale, measuring sweat sodium requires expensive and less accessible equipment. When sweat sodium is measured, however, incredibly large differences between individuals are found, with sodium concentrations ranging from 300 to 2000 mg per liter of sweat with a median somewhere between 700 to 800 mg per liter. The bottom line is that the sodium concentration of sweat is not a “one size fits all” phenomena.
The reason behind this massive sweat sodium range is primarily genetic. When sweat first enters the sweat gland it has the same sodium concentration as blood at 3500 mg per liter (3.5 g/L). But as that sweat moves through the duct or lumen of the sweat gland towards the surface of the skin, small channels inside the duct reabsorb, on average, two-thirds of the sodium. But like many physiological attributes, the number and performance of these sodium specific channels is highly individual with a genetic basis that explains most of the extreme range in sweat sodium concentration. Non-genetic factors, however, can also affect sweat sodium. These factors include heat acclimatization (spares sodium), training (spares sodium), the sweat rate in and of itself (increases in sweat rate increase sweat sodium loss), body weight and shape (a low body surface area to mass requires more sweat), and dietary sodium intake (increases in dietary sodium increase sweat sodium loss).
Together, these genetic and non-genetic factors explain why some of us are consistently covered in white salt at the end of a long day of exercise while others are not. They may also explain why some more easily exhibit signs associated with severe dehydration and hyponatremia like cramping, nausea, fatigue, heat stress, and headaches after a prolonged period of heavy sweating despite the use of a sports drink. Ultimately, whether someone knows their sweat rate or sweat sodium, these collective signs are a real world and real time barometer that are extremely important to pay attention to and understand.
If you’ve paid enough attention to yourself during prolonged endurance exercise or during any activity that causes you to sweat at unreasonably high rates then you probably already have a pretty good sense of whether or not your current hydration strategies are adequate. But as a point of self-review, ask yourself the following questions:
There’s a possibility that you think these questions are crazy and that you answered “no” to most of them. If that’s the case and none of the issues listed above are a problem for you, then you can stop reading. Our Hyper Hydration Drink Mix isn’t for you and you don’t need to waste your time and money to try it.
On the other hand, if these questions resonate with you and you feel like you’ve just locked eyes with someone standing off in the distance - someone who really understands you, then we may be on to something. Despite our irrevocable propensity for jocularity (i.e., we like to laugh at ourselves & keep things funny), this really isn’t a laughing or joking matter. Severe dehydration resulting in both water and sodium loss can be very dangerous. But so can loading up on a lot of water and sodium that you don’t need, which is essentially the solution that we’ve come up with to help all of the folks out there who do answer the questions above with a definitive “yes.”
The Solution (Common sense, inspiration, and the formula):
One thing to realize is that, despite the product we’ve developed, there is no one simple solution to all of the problems listed above. Ultimately, common sense and safety during any activity needs to rule supreme. So as a reminder, realize that you still need to take care of yourself with proper nutrition, sleep, and training. No single product will ever make up for self-awareness and consistent preparation. With that in mind, also realize that science is not a set of facts, it’s the testing of theories. And in the realm of your personal performance, you are the experiment, which requires a level of precision, care, and honesty that may lead you to conclude that our Hyper Hydration Mix does or doesn’t work for you. Ultimately, knowing how something works for you as an individual is far more important than knowing how it works for others, despite the fact that every bit of data informs our personal decisions.
That all said, the basic question we’ve been working on is how to safely and effectively maximize the water and sodium reserve within the body, in particular the volume of the intravascular space (i.e., the water & salt in the cardiovascular system, aka, vascular space or plasma volume), to preemptively combat dehydration. Obviously, one strategy is to simply drink more water and increase dietary salt intake in the week or days before an event. Many bowls of miso soup come to mind. In addition, another practical idea is to dramatically increase the intake of carbohydrate in the week or days before an event, since stored carbohydrate in the form of muscle glycogen contains a significant amount of water. If these two strategies are implemented properly, many athletes will gain anywhere from 3-5 pounds of water weight – an indication that they are properly tapered and nourished before an event.
While there are a host of other techniques that have been used, with varying efficacy, to hyper hydrate the body immediately before exercise, we’ve drawn inspiration for our Hyper Hydration Drink Mix from the most effective and commonly used technique for treating severe dehydration and for increasing intravascular volume - IV hydration using normal saline. Normal saline, also known as an isotonic saline solution, has the same osmolarity and the same sodium chloride concentration as the plasma in the vascular space, making it a perfectly balanced solution to quickly rehydrate the body.
As a point of education or review, osmolarity refers to the number of molecules per liter of solution and can be thought of as analogous to the number of total passengers on a plane. This is different than concentration, which accounts for the mass or weight of those molecules in a given liter of solution and is analogous to the weight of the passengers on a plane. It’s the osmolarity of one solution relative to another that determines the movement of water across a membrane. In order to keep water within the vascular space, the osmolarity needs to be kept constant. Otherwise water would shift from an area of low osmolarity or osmotic pressure to an area of high osmotic pressure. Likewise, the concentration of sodium also needs to be kept constant since most physiological functions depend on a stable sodium concentration. For example, if the concentration of sodium where to decrease in the blood, also resulting in a drop in the osmolarity of blood, water would begin shifting out of the vascular space, into the interstitial or intracellular space, essentially dehydrating the cardiovascular compartment. At the same time, water would also be excreted by the kidneys to help return the concentration of sodium back to normal - a situation that would further dehydrate the body as a whole. Ultimately, osmolarity and concentration rule supreme. An ideal sports drink, for example, needs to have the same sodium concentration as sweat and a very low osmolarity compared to blood so that water in the gut can rapidly move into the blood stream. Similarly, the ideal solution to increase total body water, especially in the vascular space before sweating ensues, needs to have the same sodium concentration as blood or plasma as well as the same osmolarity making it “isotonic.”
Under the right circumstances, IV hydration with normal saline is safe and effective. But the use of IV hydration immediately before an athletic event in an otherwise healthy individual is not the right circumstance for a number of reasons. First, it’s just not practical or efficient. In fact, a number of studies have demonstrated that in patients that are conscious and free of gastro-intestinal problems, oral rehydration is easier and faster than IV rehydration. Second, the use of IV hydration is cost prohibitive for most athletes, though there are a number of reports that in some sports like American football, that the use of IV hydration pre-game is common practice, especially for athletes known to have issues with dehydration. Whether this is ethical or not is its own and final debate against IV hydration as a pre-exercise hyper hydration technique.
More importantly, however, there’s a very specific reason why normal saline is generally infused and not ingested orally. That reason is because it’s nearly impossible for someone to rapidly ingest a large volume of normal saline because of it’s taste and because of the irritation caused by the large chloride concentration. Anyone willing to drink a liter or more of a normal saline solution would likely end up feeling nauseous and vomiting. It’s that bad, so we’ve been told by our local ER doctors. Our experience with athletes has always been that when too much sodium chloride or table salt was put in solution, the chloride could be a major irritant. That said we never experienced problems with sodium chloride when it was paired with real food. It’s a funny thing but perhaps a sign that we are not yet smarter than nature when drinking a bowl of salty soup is soothing while a saline solution with the equivalent amount of salt is not. Go figure.
Based on all of this, we formulated our Hyper Hydration Mix to have the same osmolarity and sodium concentration as blood at 3.5 grams per liter. But, instead of using sodium chloride, we paired the sodium in our solution with citrate, which is essentially a neutralized fruit acid or citric acid, the primary ingredient in lime juice. One of the major benefits of using sodium citrate instead of sodium chloride is that sodium citrate is very easy on the gut. The second benefit is that citrate, unlike chloride ion, can be consumed as a substrate or fuel source for energy creating metabolic pathways, specifically as a metabolite in the Citric Acid Cycle (aka, Kreb’s Cycle), a critical pathway for the conversion of sugar and fat into energy. Finally, sodium citrate is a very strong buffer. When it comes to the control of our body’s acidity level (i.e., acid-base balance), increasing positively charged sodium ions and decreasing negatively charged chloride can actually help to buffer or make the body less acidic – an idea known as the “Strong Ion Difference.” Ultimately, this buffering capacity may have positive consequences during intense exercise, especially in the first 5 to 10 minutes, though the performance literature supporting this is mixed.
Beyond the use of a large quantity of sodium citrate instead of sodium chloride, our Hyper Hydration Mix is also paired with a small amount of cane sugar and glucose. Water movement across the small intestine can be facilitated by the co-transport of sodium and glucose, where the pairing of 1 glucose molecule to every 2 sodium molecules allows the movement of 210 water molecules across the intestine via a specific sodium-glucose transporter. This co-transport is in addition to the passive movement of water across the intestine via osmosis. Because of this mechanism, we added enough glucose to the formula so that every sodium molecule could be used to maximize the movement of water into the body.
Finally, we struggled to make this high sodium drink palatable. The answer finally came to us in the form of a mango, or more accurately, in the form of many mangos. Putting aside the science hat for a moment and considering the problem from a culinary perspective, we realized that many cultures use mango to cut the saltiness of a dish. To our happy surprise, it worked. But, it took a lot of mangos. The total number of mangos, not the science, is the real secret behind the formula, so we’ll keep that to ourselves for now. Just know that it’s the most expensive ingredient in the entire product. In fact, you’re not really buying a lot of sodium, you’re buying a lot of mangos. Still, with the lower sugar and the extremely high sodium content, there’s no way that we could ever make this product taste even close to our line of Exercise Hydration Mixes. Compared, however, to normal saline and many other sports drink on the market, we feel pretty good about where we landed, especially since we were still able to solve the problem at hand with a bare minimum all-natural approach.
Based on the number of total mango molecules, sodium molecules, and sugar molecules, we pretty much had to stop there to keep the drink isotonic at 280 mOsm/L. Although, we tried throwing more ingredients in the mix, experimenting with different levels and types of sodium salts, percentages of carbohydrate, and fruits we found that the less is more approach worked the best. For example, any more sodium or additional ingredients and we risked making a solution with too high of an osmolarity which could result in significant gastro-intestinal distress and even diarrhea. In contrast, any less sodium than what’s found in blood and we wouldn’t maximize the amount of fluid retained in the vascular space before the kidneys would filter the excess water because of changes in blood pressure or sodium concentration.
In the end, this product is intended for one specific purpose – to maximize hydration before an event that’s about to punish the participant with a heavy dose of dehydration. Our solution was to create a product that increases the total sodium and water reserve within the body. Not only is this useful for athletes who know they won’t be able to drink enough to match their sweat losses, it’s also been extremely useful for athletes who know that they lose more sodium that our Exercise Hydration Mix provides them. Ultimately, dehydration is about a loss of both water and sodium and our Hyper Hydration Mix helps athletes to maintain both. And since it’s sometimes hard to get a handle on how much sodium or water you’re about to lose, then sometimes the simplest solution is to just start with more of what you know you’re going to lose and that you know you can’t afford to lose.
Concerns with the Solution:
What’s ironic about all of this is that the high sodium content that forms the basis of our solution for extreme sweat rates is also the biggest single risk and problem with the solution. At 1700 mg for a single 500 ml serving (3.5 gram per liter), our Hyper Hydration Drink Mix is inappropriate for casual exercise use. A single serving, is similar to the amount of sodium that you’d find in two slices of Pizza Hut Supreme pizza (1720 mg Na+) or six slices of bologna (1850 mg Na+), or two cups of miso soup (2000 mg Na+). Despite the fact that all of the foods listed above are commonly consumed and thought of as safe, like our Hyper Hydration Drink Mix, they can lead to the potential for an unsafe increase in blood pressure, especially in physically inactive individuals. Thus, our biggest concern is that someone who is not healthy or is not intending to use the product mistakenly uses it, putting an inadvertent strain on their cardiovascular system.
Beyond the potential for an elevation in blood pressure, there’s also the risk that sodium sensitive individuals who don’t lose a remarkable amount of sodium in their sweat or who are already adequately hydrated will experience bloating and excessive water retention with the product. For most in this category this will lead to a little discomfort and the knock to their vanity from not looking as ripped or vascular. At some point, the excess fluid will be relieved by excess urination, which in and of itself can be a hassle or concern, especially if occurring in the middle of a workout or ride.
Another concern is that because our Hyper Hydration Drink mix already has a very high sodium concentration and osmotic pressure equal to blood, if very sweet or salty drinks and foods are paired with the product, especially in the presence of a lot of caffeine, then there is a risk that the combined osmotic pressure could overwhelm a person’s gut and cause diarrhea. So it’s important that the drink is used by itself on a relatively empty stomach.
For some, a real valid concern is that they won’t enjoy the taste. If that’s the case, we’d suggest not using it and trying to drink 2-4 bowls of miso-soup right before a grueling event with minimal access to hydration.
Finally, some athletes that we worked with were concerned that the extra water weight would hurt their power to weight ratio. While too much fuel on a helicopter can definitely keep it from flying, when it comes to performance in very intense and hot situations, despite the increase in water weight, it’s unlikely that there would be any hit to that all too precious power to weight output. If anything, the improvement in cardiac output will likely enhance performance, especially relative to competitors who are more dehydrated late in a race or event.
Practical Advice on Experimenting & Usage of Hyper Hydration:
Like most ideas concerning training and nutrition, we are all individuals and responses will vary from person to person. As a generic recommendation, we advise the following directions for use:
Based on these generic recommendations, the athletes we have worked with to develop this product have adopted varying personal strategies for the use of the product. Many find that it’s helpful to “top themselves off” the morning of an event by drinking 1 to 2 servings of Hyper Hydration Mix a few hours before competition. If they are already dehydrated from training or the previous days competition, they’ll tend to hold most of the extra fluid they consume and not urinate a lot of it away. If, however, they are adequately hydrated, then using the drink in the morning gives them time to urinate any excess fluid away before competition.
Other athletes have reported that they have good success when they begin using the Hyper Hydration Mix the day or night before a very important event as part of their taper. While simply increasing their water and dietary sodium intake might work equally as well, for some using our Hyper Hydration Mix is a simple and convenient way to bolster their water and sodium reserves. That said, it’s by no means the only way. In fact, we’ve found that some athletes simply use our product because they are unsure of where they are with respect to their hydration status on any given day. One way to get to know where your hydration stands is to get familiar with your morning body weights as well as the changes in body weight caused by training or competing in different environments. Large or sudden drops in weight are likely due to dehydration.
For athletes, who know that they are adequately hydrated, they have found that our Hyper Hydration Mix becomes more effective when they consume it closer to the start of exercise. This is because if they drink too far out from exercise, the sudden increase in blood pressure simply causes them to urinate most of the extra water away. By waiting until just before exercise, blood flow is redirected away from their kidneys while sweating begins to pull away the excess water and salt reserve. This typically creates the biggest increase in performance relative to their non hyper-hydrated competitors. That said, it only works in very hot environments and for very intense bouts of exercise or competition.
The most important thing to remember is that our Hyper Hydration Mix has very specific use parameters. It’s not a drink anytime sports drink and needs to be used carefully and sparingly with real attention to how you feel and respond. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for you. Be willing to experiment and test and above all else use common sense. Less is often more, especially with a product that already has more in it.
We’re pretty big fans of Matt Segal here at Skratch Labs. If you don’t know Matt, he’s a professional rock climber who travels the world doing things most of us only dream (and some of us probably have nightmares) about. Even if rock climbing isn’t your thing per se, the way he chases his goals can translate to anyone’s life pursuits. No two ways about it, the guy gets after it in a way that is inspiring and we’re proud to be associated with his efforts.
Earlier this year, Matt enlisted the help of two of our resident smart guys, Dr. Allen Lim and Chef Biju Thomas, in preparation for taking on a never before climbed route in the Bugaboos of British Columbia. Imagine that- NEVER climbed before! Matt was no stranger to the climb itself as this was to be his third attempt. He and his partner Will Stanhope were looking for any advantage they could get. Allen and Biju happily shared their expertise by creating meal plans that were both easy to cook and provided the correct nutrition for recovery. And if you know anything about Allen and Biju, you know the meals were also super yummy because otherwise, what’s the point really?
In August, the guys came really close to completing the first ascent on the East Face of Snow Patch in the Bugaboos. However, since completing a first ascent is neither horseshoes nor hand grenades, getting close doesn't really count. At least not as far as being an official First Ascent it didn’t, but there’s a lot to be said for giving it their best shot, coming up a little short, and still holding their heads high. The guys are already back to the drawing board and planning for next year. We’re betting the fourth time’s gonna be the charm.
How do you relax after a tough adventure like that? Easy, you head out to Yosemite Valley and climb one of the most beautiful big walls to be found anywhere, El Capitan. Matt and Will are taking on the nearly 1000 meter climb and have teamed up with us again to provide them with yummy meals and hydration solutions to keep them going all the way to the tippy top. They’ve been kind enough to agree to check in with live updates that we’ll be reposting on our social media (Instagram - Twitter - Facebook) sites so stay tuned to see how it goes.
BIO – Matt Segal
Originally from Miami, Florida, Matthew Segal left the beaches for the mountains of Boulder, CO. Segal has been climbing since 1998, the first years dedicated to traveling the US and Europe for indoor competitions. In 2004, after having a very successful competition season, he realized there was more to climbing than plastic holds and chalk-filled warehouses; he ditched the gym and journeyed outside
Some say if Segal hadn’t become a professional rock climber, he could have made a solid go at it in the world of used car sales. His level of enthusiasm for climbing is unrivaled. When pitching an idea for a trip, Matt’s voice creeps up steadily in volume, and his gaze becomes more intense. Then, at the crescendo of the proposal, he’ll explode with “It’ll be great!” A born explorer, Segal has a sixth sense for sniffing out obscure, wild rock climbing destinations.
He’s traveled the world, from China to Argentina, mostly focusing on establishing the most difficult traditional climbs he can find. Some of his proudest lines include The Iron Monkey (5.14) in Eldorado Canyon, CO, The Orangutan Overhang (5.14-) in Independence Pass, CO and Air China (5.13d) in Liming, China.
Segal graduated from Naropa University with degrees in Psychology and Religious Studies with an emphasis in Tibetan Buddhism. Even though not working in his academic field, he carries the knowledge he acquired in is everyday life. He tries to live by the words of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the late founder of Naropa University, when he said: “The arrival of chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.”
Skratch Labs might be the first sports nutrition brand to attempt predicting the weather, but the company is apparently confident enough in their forecasting abilities to introduce a new flavor in their popular line of all-natural sports drinks designed to be consumed hot and used in cold, wintry conditions. Calling the flavor “Apples & Cinnamon,” the company decided against ingredients that only taste like apples and cinnamon instead choosing to use only actual apples and actual cinnamon. While it’s true that winter has followed Summer and Fall for the last several dozen years (at least) there’s no way to be 100% sure it will happen again and, for a small company with little room for error, that’s a big gamble that Skratch Labs founder Dr. Allen Lim has complete faith in. “Winter will come,” he said. “Winter will most definitely come.”
Skratch Labs tested the Apples & Cinnamon flavor last winter by producing a small amount for only their best customers, and has spent a good portion of the last seven months reassuring those customers the product would be back permanently this year. Not to mention apologizing to those who weren’t able to try it before it sold out. The company believes the new flavor will be a “game changer” for anyone who exerts themselves in cold conditions. CEO Ian MacGregor explained, “You know how great an ice cold drink tastes when it’s hot out? This is exactly the same, except the complete opposite.” Explained that way, it makes perfect sense.
I grew up watching and admiring athletes like Greg LeMond, Andy Hampsten and Davis Phinney. I watched them on TV at the Tour and in person at the Northern California stages of the Coors Classic like the Presidio Circuit Race and the Fisherman’s Wharf Criterium back in the 80's. But I didn't want to just watch the races, I wanted to be part of the action. That was a very long time ago.
I raced a bit in college and afterwards, but I never did get anywhere near good enough to be on course at that level. It's just one of those things you think about as a kid, find out you’re not good enough for, and hopefully move on from. But I still love riding and racing my bike. And I still love watching the pros do it, too. Which is why it was pretty cool when I ate dinner with Andy Schleck a few nights ago. Nice guy. I also hung out with Peter Sagan in my hotel not long after he won Stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge. I’m a baller, yo. Sure, Andy was four tables away in a huge room full of 250 people and my time with Peter was limited to how long it took to go from the first floor to the third in the hotel elevator, but still, that doesn’t make it any less… something, does it?
I am lucky enough to have been part of the Skratch Labs crew that was the Official Nutrition Partner of the USA Pro Challenge this year. That means that we were responsible for overseeing the menus for all the meals the racers and staff consumed during the week. In addition to the meals, we also produced about 400 of our famous fresh rice cakes every morning for the riders to eat during the stage itself. Days typically started around 5am when our crew would get up to cook the rice in our sweet new propane powered 55 cup rice cooker. No, that is not a typo- 55 cups.
By 7am we’d usually been mobbed by the team soigneurs and were lucky if we’d remembered to store a few cakes away for ourselves to get through the long days. The team “swannees” seemed to arrive earlier and earlier each morning with rave reviews from their riders so we knew they were enjoying them. Once rice cake service was over, the Skratch team would pack up the food trailer and head for a good spot on the course from which to watch the race and support the fans, usually one of the later KOMs.
Of course, the crew doesn’t usually see much of the race as we’re mixing lots of drink mix to keep everyone hydrated and making lots of burritos to keep everyone happy during the sometimes long wait for the race to get there. There’s something pretty cool about seeing someone’s face when they ask how much the burritos cost and we tell them they’re free. Confusion eventually gives way to a smile and a happy belly and that’s what we’re there for. And hey, if that just happens to create a positive brand memory of our company that encourages some of those burrito lovers to someday buy the products we actually sell, well that’s just guacamole on the burrito, isn’t it?
It’s pretty damn cool to get a peek behind the scenes. Like I said at the top, I raced bicycles as a kid and of course dreamed of making the big leagues someday. I never even got close to making it as an athlete, but this week was about as close as anyone can get without actually being in the race. To be able to meet the riders up close and personal is something special and it’s an honor to be part of an effort that hopefully improves their race experience in some small way.
Skratch Labs has now partnered with both the Amgen Tour of Calfornia and (twice) with the USA Pro Challenge. We’re a tiny company trying to make it in a competitive industry and it’s a ton of work for our small but dedicated crew (I was only there a few days this time, everyone else was in for the duration and did a great job) but it’s pretty fun to be part of something that is so welcomed by everyone involved. The team staff digs us because we are making their jobs easier. The riders are always happy to see us because, hey, we make the food better and sometimes even slip them an unexpected burrito after a hard day on the road, (whether their team directors allow them to eat it or not.) And the fans seem to dig us being there as well, because hey, who doesn’t like some free real food on top of the Colorado Rockies while waiting to watch some of the best bike racers in the world come by?
We love being part of these great races and always come out of them full of ideas about how to make it better for everyone the next time around. Our goal is to make these events a little more delicious and a little more fun. Because without some yummy food and a few smiles, really, why bother? If you were there, we hope you enjoyed it. And if you weren’t, we’ll be out there next year doing it all again- don’t miss out.
Company believes real food made with ingredients you can pronounce is better than scientifically engineered energy bars and gels.
Boulder, CO (August 16, 2013) - Skratch Labs announced it will be the “Official Nutrition Partner” of one of America's biggest bicycle races, the USA Pro Challenge. The Skratch Labs crew will oversee menus and food preparation for all USAPC riders and staff, from start to finish, as well as prepare unique on-the-go "portables" for the athletes to consume during the race itself. For athletes used to constantly having to choke down heavily processed energy bars and gels, Skratch Labs’ involvement comes as a welcome surprise. “If I could bring one thing to every race on the calendar it would be nutritional support from Skratch Labs.” said pro cyclist and USPC competitor Craig Lewis.
Additionally, the Skratch Labs Mobile Kitchen will be on the race route each day giving fans a taste of how the pros eat. The company plans to cook burritos from scratch every day and give them away at no cost. Founder Dr. Allen Lim explained the concept behind the homemade food, “Our company is called Skratch Labs as in, made from scratch. Everything that comes out of our mobile kitchen has to fit that name and be something we would make for our own friends and family. Plus, free burritos make people happy.”
Skratch Labs was born out of a need to solve the problem of gut rot and flavor fatigue among athletes. The Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix, is an all-natural sports drink with fewer calories, more electrolytes and is flavored only with real fruit. Their two cookbooks, The FEED Zone and Feed Zone Portables, provide superyummydelicious and easy to make recipes for active humans. “It’s not rocket science. Real is better,” said Dr. Lim, who started making the drink mix from scratch in his kitchen to solve the stomach issues of the pro-cyclists he’s trained for fifteen years and followed that up with two best selling cookbooks.
Skratch Labs is a privately held company based in Boulder, CO, a city on the North American continent of the planet Earth, spinning somewhere on the edge of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.
* Burritos and portables containing bacon will be from happy farm-raised pigs only. None of those factory farming shenanigans for us. For vegetarians and non-bacon-eaters, we may not understand you, but we love you and will have vegetarian portables and burritos on hand.