Ok, so there is certainly some serious science behind this that is probably over our heads, and it is his own  drink mix that he is advocating here, but it certainly is an interesting watch. Allen Lim has been making his own drink mixes and food as the nutritionist to some of the biggest teams (Garmin, RadioShack) and stars and offered his own line of Skratch Labs hydration mix. The result of the test is that you shouldn’t try to drink your calories since Lim claims it will dehydrate you and you won’t get the calories anyways. Instead you should drink a hydrating drink (like Scratch Labs of course) and eat real food.

Update: After doing some digging, it appears that most of this science and research behind the drink mix (which you can read for yourself here and here) is thanks to Lim’s former business partner Stacy Sims, who co-founded Skratch Labs with Lim. Stacy has a PhD in Sports Nutrition and was performing research at Stanford when Lim, whose expertise is in exercise physiology, saw her research on hydration and thermo-regulation. The team joined forces and headed over to the Garmin training camp in 2008 to try and improve the team’s hydration. Stacy created what came to be known as Secret Drink Mix, and she and Allen went into business together, selling the mix under the Skratch name. She parted ways with Lim a couple of years ago and founded Osmo, which has continued her research as Osmo continues to evolve.


  1. But if I eat real food and drink his special drinks, what happens then? What are the ratios then.

    Somethings missing here.

  2. And what does Dr Lim things that happens in your stomach when you eat an energy bar and drink some of his ‘Scratch labs hydration mix’. The concentration of particles will increase compared to the case when you’d only drink something, so the effect is the same as when you’d add more carbohydrates to your drink.

    This demonstration proofs nothing, but I’d like what he did with the eggs.

  3. A little bit extreme on the calorie drink. It would be interesting to see what happens with a normal dilution of drink mix and also when you put stumoch acid in there to help break stuff down and throw food into the Allen Lim solution. Cool, but I’m not convinced that this is a real representation. That said… i like the stuff and I do prefer to eat my calories.

    He has a PhD and is therefore a doctor. People often mistake the “Dr.” for meaning anything medical related which it doesn’t have to be. You can be a doctor and have studied physics, or engineering.

  4. BikeRumor: The troll factor is getting out of control. Seriously, a fairly informative little video on hypertonic sports drinks and someone goes off about Lance within 20 minutes?

    Please, link comments to Facebook profiles already. Seriously, it kills the trolls. No one is going to want their product reviewed on this site if the comments are the level they have been recently.

  5. I regret asking him about infusing blood into Floyd (and Levi) before a Tour of Cali (per Floyd’s statements). Or maybe just ask him about Floyd’s other statements about Allen. I like the overall idea of his drink, but will not buy his product because I think he has a high concentration of weasel in him, and my stomach won’t absorb it. There is a similar product called Osmo (I think) that I plan on trying.

  6. It seems to me that this is all about osmotic pressure. Differential salt (electrolyte) concentrations will draw water across a membrane like that. But Lim seems to be saying the effect is dependent on calorie content, not salt content. I wish he had mentioned the mechanism rather than leaving us to guess. Is it osmotic pressure or something else?

  7. “I got impatient” …. to wait an extra 30 minutes, FOR SCIENCE!? That’s some bunk science. And how exactly does the chicken egg membrane resemble a human intestine? The chicken egg membrane controls the entry and release of gases, not nutrients. About the only thing it resembles with my ass is the gas but I’m not a scientists.

  8. Quite an elaborate way of not really getting to the core of the matter. People don’t just need “calories”. People need calories by way of proper nutrition.

    At a minimum, your body needs:

    Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Fiber, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorous, Iodine, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Molybdenum, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Biotin, Panthothenic Acid.

    If you wanted to, you could drink all that and with sufficient calories. People on feeding tubes and people with severe GI irritation or absorption issues do it. Such formulas could easily be reworked to suit athletes. Or, you could just eat a good diet and add supplements as needed.

    Allen Lim may have a PhD, but he’s also got products to sell. This is why he made a 6+ minute video to answer a “question” where two sentences would have been sufficient:

    “People don’t just need “calories”. People need calories by way of proper nutrition and you don’t get that from a hydration drink.”

  9. I’mma block all this out and follow the path of ignorance is bliss. Way out of my scope of knowledge.

    I’m interpreting it like this: the body treats the calorie heavy drink as food, and all the water that went down with isn’t being absorbed and you end feel bloated? So basically the light mix is still considered and is treated as fluid, instead of food, and it hydrates you, yet replenishes the electrolytes lost from perspiration?

    Basically, this boils down to how efficiently you deliver energy and hydration to the body and how mixing food and drink together is like a sitting down for a relatively heavy meal?

  10. Wow, often I look to comments for some thoughtful critique, elaboration, or personal experience. Not this time so far, just a bunch of whiners. I agree, please link to Facebook or something to cut down on junk comments – like this one!

  11. Wonder what would have happened with plain water.

    I get that he’s talking about calories, but his result is X% hydrated, not how many calories were absorbed.

  12. What a product pusher! Fill your bottle with 1/2 water, half real juice, 1/8th tsp salt. for a ride up to 30 miles you should be ok, take some raisins and almonds for longer rides. No need for concoctions by a doping advisor!

  13. Lim did a nice job pushing dope for Phloyd & Levi…why give him a dime. He’s as crooked as they come. Go with Osmo or First Endurance.

  14. there is sooo much wrong with what this clown is saying that he loses any creditability he might have gained going to school.

    first off egg membrane and our intestines are not the same in absorption(rate and molecular) and length. duh, our intestines are much much longer. osmosis is not the way our intestines work. there is not a salt or liquid imbalance that forces water and nutrients thru them like this bogus egg trick.

    just another scam by some self proclaimed know it all. yes he forces some top racers to do his research, cause he is making this up as he goes along. sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. hey the guy has to make more millions, so he partners up with some other clowns and they have the fix all answer to the problems we never had.

    i do endurance racing and have a high metabolism. if i just drink water and eat food i will bonk. food takes too long to digest while exercising. but guess what, the hammer drinkable calories i use keeps me riding all day and i fortify with real food when i can.

    proof in the pudding. works for everybody else. no dehydration problem at all.

  15. Hey Zach: Maybe before posting crap like that, you should do some real digging. You can check the public records (business registration – see CO secretary of state) to see that SIms was never part of scratch and her and Allen dissolved their partnership long before secret drink mix. I thank Lim and Sims for both of their companies. There are some slight differences between OSMO and Skratch but the real bottom line, is that they’re both way better than anything else out there.

  16. @Nathan The comments above are the furthest thing from trolling. It’s actually called informing consumers about who they might potentially be buying a product from. Early on with Skratch Labs, there was a sense that Dr. Lim was promoting a product that had been proven to give a “scientific” advantage to elite cyclists riding in the pro peleton (specifically Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer – to name a few). Now.. many speculate about what the REAL “scientific” advantage actually was and to what extent Dr. Lim was involved.

    Relevant information for potential consumers of the product. Ultimately, it’s their right to decide, but they should at least be informed.

  17. Does anyone down a whole packet/drink at once? I’m not PhD, but seems equilibrium/osmosis here isnt representative of what’s going on in the body.

  18. I have talked to Stacy Sims about why this concept works. It is confusing why the liquid concentration matters when all your calories, solid and liquid, end up in the small intestine together trying to get absorbed. As I understand it, solid and liquid calories are treated differently by the small intestine. So, you want your calories in solid form to avoid interference with hydration. Gels are bad…they’ll be liquid by the time they get to the small intestine. Blocks are okay. Real food is best. If you look at the foods Allen Lim makes for riders, you’ll get a good idea. There are plenty of recipes on the Skratch Labs site.

    The reason there are some calories in the hydration (as opposed to plain water) is that some sugars and salts speed absorption, but after a certain point they slow it down. The type of sugars and salts matter. Fructose, for example, is slow. The folks in the lab coats keep working on optimizing the mix, which is why Skratch and Osmo, the poster children for this approach to hydration and fueling, are not the same. Stacy is still in the lab tinkering.

    So…that is the layperson’s view of how all this works. If you have a PhD, Osmo has links to various studies at http://osmonutrition.com/science/science-archives/ . Skratch has a good general explanation, but I could not find links to geeky studies on their site.

    I like the video as a demonstration. Of course there are issues as to whether it is a fair comparison, but the real science is complicated and not as interesting as watching eggs swell. Skratch and Osmo are doing missionary work here in regards to hydration science. Most missionaries end up face down with arrows in their backs.

  19. This isn’t very representative of the digestive system. Let me break it down for you guys that are too lazy to google.

    1. Your body gets things from your digestive system from diffusion, osmosis, and active transport. If it were just osmosis, all you’d ever absorb is water, no food.

    2. Osmosis (diffusion of water) primarily happens in the large intestine. Water soluble materials like carbs are diffused or moved by active transport through the membrane of the small intestine. First, however, complex carbs need to be broken down to simple sugars by enzymes from the mouth and small intestine. Fats are water insoluble so they need bile and enzymes to package them to be absorbed by the body. Proteins are broken down into amino acids by the stomach and pancreas then absorbed in the small intestine. SOOO nutrients are absorbed, then water is absorbed.

    3. Enzymes play a huge role. How many of you are lactose intolerant or sensitive? That’s one specific enzyme to break down one specific carbohydrate. The Lim experiment had NO enzymes. Any lipids, proteins, or complex carbohydrates couldn’t be absorbed by the egg.

    Allen Lim’s product is sound. He just did a piss poor job of explaining it. Your body won’t absorb and use everything that you ingest. If it did, nothing would come out at the end. Osmosis relies on a concentration gradient of water. If there’s the same concentration of salts in your cells as there are in your large intestine, there will be no net movement of water. It is, however ridiculous to say that your body won’t absorb the nutrients in your sports drink. It just won’t absorb as much water as it would if the concentration of salt (when I say salts I don’t just mean NaCl, just all solutes (stuff dissolved in the water)) were lower like in pure water or the skratch drink.

    What Lim’s product has made me do, is be less likely to buy his product. Instead I drink straight water so more of it gets absorbed (and faster marginally) than the skratch mix. And then I eat calorically dense food. This will be absorbed faster than the stuff in skratch since the concentration will be higher. His marketing kind of backfired in my case…

  20. What Fm said. Your intestines are much more complex than a semipermeable membrane. Passive and active transport of nutrients, simple diffusion down concentration gradients, etc. On top of that our intestines differ from person to person (different enzymes and different concentrations of enzymes, etc.). The point is you just have to try different stuff and find out what works best for you.

  21. Jason-
    I think you should do some digging too. Sims was behind SDM and was cofounder of it; Skratch launched when she and Lim parted ways. Go back to some of the initial bike radar, active.com articles from 2009 and watch the evolution….

  22. Yeah, Lim is a total loser. I’m serious. Someone earlier actually claimed Lim is going around saying he is a doctor. So what if he is a PhD. No self-respecting scientist with a PhD is going to throw around their title as a doctor to everyone.

    Lim’s science and marketing of Skrach labs is total Quackery.

  23. Lim pretty quickly invalidates any scientific experimental evidence here by putting ~3 hours worth of calories in about 40 mins worth of hydration and then says “see it makes you dehydrated”.

    Stacey Sims may be on to something and I will undoubtedly try her approach to see if it works better for me but people should also critically read the corresponding opposing view in Hammer Nutrition literature which also relies on some pretty high brow science which I am not entirely qualified to fully evaluate but essentially says that by using complex carbohydrates (mostly maltodextrin) you can ‘drink’ your carbs in higher concentration without raising osmolity above that of Osmo and Skratch simple carb solutions and still hydrate.

    One of their more straight forward articles here:
    One about not combining simple and complex carbs:
    Theres a lot more stuff under knowledge tab on their website for those who want to read.

    [Note: No company affiliation other than buying and using Hammer products for past few years and probably will try the Osmo stuff this summer]

  24. This is completely wrong. Nice slick video. Nice bit of marketing.

    1. The osmotic potentials across an albumin/protein membrane that is dead from an egg is not equal to the osmotic potentials generated by the gut.

    A. The stomach, small intestine, and large intestine all have active enzyme pumps which give and take sodium/carbs/nutrients/etc… The body takes what it needs.

    B. The kidney has extreme ability to concentrate and dilute urine, this is why you can survive after eating a salty meal and not have the Na/K/Cl etc be altered because both your gut and kidneys will absorb what is needed.

    The egg has no active transmembrane pumps (esp after being in a acetic acid solution) nor does it have the ability to concentrate things. What Dr. Lim did, was basically show osmotic potentials across a gradient that are artificial and by no means representative of what goes on in the body. I don’t know if the concentrations of solutes inside an egg are the same as in a human, but I doubt it. Completely different animal systems.

    Bottom line, you drink Dr. Lim’s drink or whoevers, your body absorbs what it needs. It is possibel to overwhelm both mechanisms, but difficult with a solution that is too hypertonic or hypotonic.

    That being said, I liked his video. I do wonder what is best for maximal absorption, but I don’t think this video proves anything. That guy that posted earlier, “its easy guys beer and hot dogs” in some sense that is not incorrect though not the best for absorption (obviously) nor convienent or safe to eat/drink while riding.

    Jason Wong. MD

  25. I am not sure that having a comment section is even worth the time and I certainly regret talking the time to read it. All I got out of the comment section was very many people that appear to have zero credentials of their own putting forth opinions that are useless. Their comments have absolutely zero worth to help any consumer make a decision. The closest any of them get (except for the Dr.) is references to google, referencing to do their own research and referencing that everyone is different and that they need to try various products on their own.

    It is painfully obvious that an egg membrane is different than the human body and believe it or not most normal thinking adults can understand that this was for demonstrative purposes only.
    Taking the time to point readers to other sources of information, studies, and differing scientific opinions has great value. Spouting off how everything is wrong and incorrect without sharing or providing any bona fides of their own education and scientific background is worthless to the vast majority.

    At least there were a couple that tried to keep the discussion about the science in general

    Why is also that MD’s think they have the last word yet most all of them defer to nutritionists. Jason, I can appreciate that you have a medical degree but unless you are a expert in this exact field I’m not sure you are totally correct either. In fact if your statement about the body absorbing what it needs was correct their would only be perfect weight people and there would be no need to regulate sugar or insulin or anything else. At least those are the thoughts that statement raises with me.

    I also love the comment the one poster had “if you have a PHD here is a link to the study. So without a PHD I am a dumb*ss that could not possibly read those really big words? lol I know that is not fair. Your post aside from that comment really did have value to it. I am just caught up in the general pool of negativity and for that I apologize.

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