Editor’s note: Marc and I competed as a duo in the 2013 Trans-Sylvania Epic, but our on-bike nutrition strategies couldn’t have been more competitive. We outlined our opposing approaches in detail in this post, where he chose Infinit’s everything-in-the-bottle plan and I opted for Osmo’s drink to hydrate, eat to fuel theory with Larabar providing the solids. Here’s it went for him:
There are a lot of theories about how best to deliver nutrition on the bike. And given the wide range of rides, riders, and riders’ aspirations it’s little surprise to find that what works for one rider may not work for the next. While some will happily hit the bacon station in the middle of a 24-hour race, others will be ill at the thought alone.
Having flushed months of preparation and hundreds of dollars in fees and expenses down the tubes as the result of poor midnight fueling choices (a fried egg sandwich with mayo and pickles sounded good at the time), I have paid increasing attention to food over the years. Sure, it’s easy (and cheap) to head out for a couple of hours’ riding with a bottle of water and bag of Peanut m&m’s, but when there are big days (or big entry fees) on the line it’s best to find a solution that works well for your personality, tastes, and stomach.
After meeting with the Infinit folks at Interbike last year, I came away with an excellent impression- and a handful of samples. The samples subsequently proved themselves on the trail- and Infinit was the first name that came to mind when preparing for last month’s Trans-Sylvania Epic. This time, Infinit wanted to showcase their :CUSTOM drink blends. Custom drinks? Yup- hit the jump to find out how they worked…
As they like to do with every customer, Infinit set up a telephone appointment between myself and nutrition consultant Ryan before taking my order. There is a 3-minute online questionnaire, but spending 20 minutes speaking with Infinit was an enjoyable and informative experience. Ryan took down–and into account–everything from my age and weight to my flavor preferences, sweat rates, and desire for caffeine. The results were two custom formulations, one each for short (sub-2 hour) and long (2 hour-plus) days.
While the eat your food, drink your drink approach has been gaining momentum of late, Infinit comes at things from another angle. As many of us know, when riding at eleven tenths we become a bit less detail-oriented. In the heat of the moment, after several hours on the road, or in the wee hours of a 24-hour race it’s easy to make nutrition choices that come back to haunt us. Infinit aim for simplicity: one small bottle (20oz of fluid) per hour. That’s it. No gels, no bars, no quinoa/date balls (ed. funny, Marc. That’s the last time I let you try my homemade snacks!) needed. The necessary carbohydrates, electrolytes, and amino acids are provided- with a bit of optional protein in the mix to keep hunger away and caffeine to maintain alertness.
But what about the term of the moment: osmolality? Osmolality is the measurement of the particles dissolved in a given volume of liquid. The more stuff in a beverage, the higher its osmolality. It’s more or less accepted that optimum fluid absorption takes place when a sports drink is roughly equal in osmality with our body’s fluids- these are known as isotonic solutions. Now over to Infinit:
“Optimal absorption of fluids within the body happens when a sports drink solution is equal in terms of osmolality to what naturally occurs in the body. The osmolality of our body’s own fluids are approx 300mosm/kg water and are regulated by the intrinsic mechanisms within our own system.
- Fluids supplied with osmolality above 300mosm/kg [milliosmoles, per kg of solvent], (i.e. hypertonic solutions), cause not only delays in gastric emptying but also more importantly will cause fluid shifts from the body to the gut before absorption occurs. Such delays in rehydration introduce the real potential to delay and reduce performance. (Alonso, 1998, Hargreaves, 1991, Sowka et al, 2000).
- Solutions that are isotonic, (having the same osmolality as our own body fluids), are without this effect.
- Solutions, which are marginally hypotonic, (that is are below the osmolality of the body), are known to be emptied quickly from the stomach and have the potential to be absorbed the most rapidly. (Leiper, 1998).
Still with us? What Infinit offer is a patent pending process that balances carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes to provide a mildly hypotonic solution (256mosm/kg in the case of the Endurance Fuel above). More in our TS Epic Prep post here., but Infinit’s Michael Folan puts it this way:
“A lot of it has to do with the materials we’re using. Maltodextrin can be used in high concentrations without affecting the osmolality. Being a long chain polymer, it doesn’t spike osmolality, so we use that for the bulk of our calories, plus a bit of sugars. As soon as you start adding protein, it spikes it a little tiny bit, then it flattens out. It’s tougher when you have a really big guy that’s prone to cramping, then it really becomes a balancing act. But if you’re drinking sports drinks or water, eating gels and popping sodium/electrolyte tabs, you have no idea what all you’re getting. It works for the pros, because they have people feeding them and telling them when and what to eat. For the rest of us, that’s just not practical. With our stuff, it’s brainless and bulletproof – you just drink it and ride your bike.
“A typically hydrated person will have blood in the 260-280 mosmol/kg range. If your drink is matching that density of blood, the fluids will transport very easily across the cell boundaries. And that’s where our drinks are. If it’s a shorter distance formula, there’s more sugars to bring the number up with fewer calories. For longer distance formulas, it’s a higher percentage of maltodextrin.”
Does it work? In a word, yes. It was an adjustment for a frequent snacker such as myself to go four hours or more without something to chew on, but with a hydration pack full of my :CUSTOM blends it was easy to stay fueled and hydrated on long technical stretches- no need to wait for a fire road of smooth bit to get a gel or bar down. The lightly-flavored drink was easy to get down and I didn’t tire of it over seven days’ racing or a subsequent 24-hour race. My Endurance Mix has a noticeable whey aftertaste that resulted from the addition of protein as an appetite suppressant- odd but not unpleasant.
Back at camp every night, I would mix up a glass of milk and Infinit’s chocolate-flavored :REPAIR recovery drink. Blending 50% casein protein, 25% whey isolate and 25% soy isolate with a number of essential amino acids, :REPAIR is designed to release its 15g of protein over a long period of time, allowing the body to make the most of it. The all-natural chocolate flavoring isn’t overwhelming but is sweet and chocolate-y enough to make a post-ride glass appealing. While recovery drinks are a hard to measure, I felt better each morning that I had any right to. At $37 per 16-serving canister, it’s not inexpensive- but to this day I’m much likelier to reach for the :REPAIR than for anything else in the science food cupboard.
If I had it to do again, I might add a bit more as I found myself thinking about solid foods after an hour or two. Nothing a bite (one bite) of Clif Bar per hour couldn’t keep in check, though. While the flavor was nice, on truly hot days or when pushing especially hard I found that bringing along a half-bottle of water for occasional rinsing would keep my mouth from getting overly sticky. All in all, 7 days’ stage racing followed by a hard-fought 4-man 24-hour race without stomach issues is truly impressive.
The pictured Duro-Pouches of drink each hold 25 20oz servings- at $49.75 apiece that comes out to just under $2 per serving. While at first blush that may seem high, removing the need for gels, bars, or homemade snacks means that $2hr/hour is the total cost. Given what Infinit is offering in terms of product and service, that seems more than reasonable. Riders wanting to test the Infinit waters can do so with a $29.95 12-serving canister.
While I enjoy a slice of cold mountaintop pizza as much as anyone else, I’ve become a believer in Infinit’s :CUSTOM line. For short days, my Performace Mix has worked great and nothing I’ve tried has worked as well as my Endurance Mix for longer days. For the :CUSTOM in-activity and :REPAIR recover drinks to work for 7 days straight is impressive. For me to continue to choose it after our test period ended is even more so.