Skratch Clear Hydration Mix
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For as long as I can remember, most athletes I worked with or observed in the wild would have a bottle of water along with a bottle of sports drink when training and competing. This was something I went on a personal crusade to change. And while “crusade” might be a bit of hyperbole, what is not is the evidence that, for a sweating athlete, there’s no situation where drinking plain water is better than drinking something with a little bit of carbohydrate and sodium. The carbohydrate helps to keep blood sugar up during activity and along with sodium helps to facilitate water transport across the small intestine. Replacing the sodium lost in sweat also helps to appropriately drive thirst so that the body can stay both hydrated and in electrolyte balance.
But, despite the facts and my best efforts, it was difficult to get athletes to only use a sports drink while exercising. Skratch Labs began after we made a sports drink for athletes who traditionally disliked sports drinks by formulating something that was less sweet and extremely easy on the palette and gut. There was something about the refreshing taste of plain water that the athletes craved, especially when working out in the heat. Mostly, the athletes I worked with just wanted variety. They wanted the option for something sweet as well as the option for something that wasn’t. They wanted plain water to wash down the salty and sweet portable foods they consumed, like rice cakes or energy chews. They wanted plain water because they were concerned about consuming too much simple sugar. They wanted plain water to reset. They wanted plain water because in the middle of a hard day, tasteless can taste great.
It’s with all of this in mind that since the inception of Skratch Labs, we’ve been working on a sports drink that tastes as close to water as possible while also giving athletes all of the carbohydrate and sodium they need to optimize their performance. The earliest version of this sports drink was one flavored with pomegranate powder. For whatever reason the pomegranate helped to mask both the metallic-salty taste of the electrolytes as well as the sweetness of the sugar. But, when made in large quantities and when the pomegranate powder would oxidize, the drink would taste like processed turkey slices. Certainly, turkey is not an acceptable drink mix flavor.
The Secret Sauce of No Flavor: HBCD
I was close to giving up on solving this problem until I began working with Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (i.e., HBCD or Cluster Dextrin ®) - an extraordinarily heavy, complex, and soluble carbohydrate molecule - that forms the basis of our Super Fuel or super high carbohydrate product. It was in working with Cluster Dextrin that we discovered that it was so complex that it was tasteless. In addition, that complex structure allowed electrolytes and any other simple sugars (e.g., fructose) to literally hide within its structure, keeping them from stimulating taste buds that effectively masked their taste. Initially, we thought that we needed a lot of Cluster Dextrin for it to hide the taste of electrolytes and other sugars. But, we were pleasantly surprised when we were able to find a blend of carbohydrates and sodium that was enough to hydrate but easily masked by Cluster Dextrin. This gave us a sports drink that could be mixed to the same ratio of carbohydrate to electrolyte as our Sport Drink Mix with the caveat that it also tasted like plain water - clear of any taste whatsoever.
How to Use Clear
From a physiological standpoint, there’s no situation when drinking plain water when sweating and exercising is better than drinking something with some carbohydrate and a sodium concentration that matches sweat. Thus, the strong desire for athletes to drink plain water does come with a performance cost. With Clear Hydration Drink Mix, we have all of the “taste and feel” advantages of water along with all of the benefits of a sports drink. There is no compromise.
Because Clear Hydration Drink Mix tastes like water across a wide range of concentrations, this drink has a great level of flexibility allowing people to mix it 1) at lower concentrations for a carbohydrate and electrolyte beverage when not exercising, 2) at medium concentration for those who lose a moderate amount of sodium and energy during exercise, and 3) at higher concentration for those who want more energy and who lose more sodium in their sweat.
What is the primary recommended use case for Clear?
The primary recommended use for Clear Hydration Drink Mix is to use it as you would our Sport Hydration Drink Mix when you want the clear taste that only water can provide but all of the carbohydrate and sodium that only a sports drink can provide. Because Clear Hydration Mix tastes like water at a wide range of concentrations, it can also be used at varying concentrations to meet a wide range of needs.
1. At lower concentrations it can serve as a “drink all day” beverage with a very low sugar level as well as some sodium to help water absorb across the gut faster than plain water. This speeds up hydration and is a great way to stay properly hydrated ahead of activity or when rehydrating after.
2. At higher concentrations, Clear can provide for those who want more carbohydrate and sodium than our standard Sport Hydration Mix can, but who also want fewer calories than our Super High Carbohydrate Drink Mix is designed for.
3. Clear can be used to supplement our regular Sport Hydration Drink Mix, for those who want some sweetness and flavor, but also want more calories and sodium.
4. Clear can be used to supplement our Super High Carbohydrate Drink Mix, for those who want more calories but want to keep the sodium levels closer to the average of sweat.
Long story short, we recommend that Clear be used like a standard sports drink with a lot more innate flexibility to meet the varied needs of individual athletes.
Because Clear can be used as a "drink any time" hydration mix and a drink mix for long days -- What does it mean that Clear is 'flexible?'
When we say that Clear is flexible, we mean that whether you make it at half the recommended concentration or twice the recommended concentration, the clear taste of water stays consistent. This gives individual users the flexibility to make Clear at a concentration that meets their individual needs for carbohydrate and sodium without affecting taste.
What is the best way to mix this?
We suggest mixing this with room temperature water and once dissolved topping with cold water or iced water.
You can also make it up to 24 hours ahead of use and chill it in the fridge.
Clear can be mixed with other Skratch hydration mixes? If so, when and why would an athlete do this?
We didn’t initially design Clear to be mixed with other Skratch hydration mixes, but during our development and testing with athletes, we found that they did.
There were two very common situations and recipes for when athletes did so:
1. Combine Clear Hydration Drink Mix with our Superfuel for a sports drink with more calories and similar sodium composition to Sport Hydration drink mix without a concentrated flavor and a profile that tastes more like water but provides extra carbohydrates.
2. Combine Clear hydration with our Sport Hydration Drink Mix for more electrolytes and slightly higher carbohydrate content to provide the same flavor with more complex carbohydrates and to provide slightly more calories and sodium.
How does Clear Hydration Drink Mix align with our other drink mixes (Sport, Superfuel, Wellness, Hyper)?
The primary distinction between Clear Hydration Drink Mix and our other drink mixes is that it tastes like water, with just a hint of lemon or orange. It’s thirst-quenching and palette cleansing, like refreshing spa water, but with the electrolytes and carbohydrates that plain water can’t provide.
Because Clear Hydration Drink Mix tastes like water across a wide range of concentrations, this drink has a greater level of flexibility than our Sport Hydration Drink Mix, allowing our customers to mix it 1) at lower concentrations for a carbohydrate and electrolyte beverage when not exercising, 2) at medium concentration for those who lose a moderate amount of sodium and energy during exercise, and 3) at higher concentration for those who want more energy and who lose more sodium in their sweat.
For years, I’ve been asked by athletes for a sports drink that tastes like water - that is even simpler than our current Sport Hydration Drink Mix - clear of anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. While our Sport Hydration Drink Mix is still best in class in taste, simplicity, and performance, the fact of the matter is that some athletes just want water. In fact, when it comes to hydration, our primary competitor isn’t another sports drink, it’s the option to just drink water.
Making a sports drink that tastes like water was important to these athletes because even though they know that they need a sports drink to replace the carbohydrate, sodium, and water they lose when training and racing, they also want the refreshing and clear taste of water to cleanse their palate and eliminate flavor fatigue. This desire is so strong, that even with our very lightly flavored Sport Hydration Drink Mix, that did much to make flavor fatigue a non-issue, for some athletes, only an occasional drink of plain water can help. For that reason, it’s very common to see athletes always having a bottle of plain water available despite primarily relying on a flavored sports drink.
Still, from a physiological standpoint, there’s no situation when drinking plain water when sweating and exercising is better than drinking something with some carbohydrate and a sodium concentration that matches sweat. Thus, the strong desire for athletes to drink plain water does come with a performance cost. With Clear Hydration Drink Mix, we have all of the “taste and feel” advantages of water along with all of the benefits of a sports drink. There is no compromise.
On the surface, making a carbohydrate and electrolyte drink taste like water, may not seem like a remarkable innovation. But, since the salt and sugar in sports drinks are nearly impossible to hide, this innovation is a first. While there are “unflavored” drink mixes on the market, they taste briny and can leave a strong aftertaste. What allowed us to make this possible was all of the learning we achieved with Cluster Dextrin while developing our Super High Carbohydrate Drink Mix. Because of Cluster Dextrin’s large size and complex structure, it helps to literally hide the taste of the electrolytes and clear any of the salty or briny taste.
What is the reason Clear includes Cluster Dextrin?
Cluster Dextrin is really the magical ingredient that makes Clear taste like water. It has an incredibly high molecular weight, which virtually eliminates any sweetness, even at a high level of carbohydrate. In addition, its very complex structure is able to literally “hide” the taste of the electrolytes. It’s the chemistry that feels like magic.
How do I use this if I am a salty or heavy sweater?
We actually found that you can mix this in higher concentrations to get a concentration similar to Hyperhydration with about 80g of carbs to not only cover your high sodium sweat loss but also manage replacing glycogen all in one bottle with minimal flavor enhancement with increased concentration. We’ve tried mixing 6 scoops to provide 78g carbohydrates with 1620mg sodium (3200mg/L) and it has worked great in race/training settings as well as prior to the start of the race for both a glycogen and sodium pre-load.
Would this be safe for my young athlete that doesn’t like sports drinks?
Yes - just like our other hydration products, it is safe for use in children and provides them with the nutritional components for hydration without the typical taste of sports drinks.
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