CategoriesFitnessGearTastes

Testing the SOS Hydration Mix

Hydration is the difference between a good ride and a low-down, cramp-filled, no-good sufferfest that will make you regret ever getting on a bicycle (or running, or kayaking, or whatever it is that you do). I largely have my regimen set, but I’m always on the lookout for the Next Big Thing. That’s why I was excited when SOS Hydration contacted me about testing their electrolyte mixes.

SOS Hydration sent me a sampler of two each of several of their flavors, including berry, citrus, mango, coconut and watermelon.

Putting SOS Hydration to the Test

I took a little time to crunch the numbers to try getting the liquid-to-’letctrolytes ratio just right.

My typical loadout for a hot summer ride is three bottles:

  • One 20-ounce one (exactly like the nice one SOS Hydration sent me) with a single Trace Minerals Magnesium tab in it. That 4-gram tablet contains 150mg of magnesium – which I’ve discovered is critical for me – along with 175 mg of sodium and not much else.
  • Two 25-ounce bottles each packing 1 Trace Minerals magnesium tablet and a Nuun Hydration Sport tablet.

To be somewhere in the ballpark with SOS Hydration, I’d need 1 5-gram sachet in the small bottle and two in each of the big bottles. Let’s break down the comparison between my two big bottles of Justin Formula versus the SOS Hydration bottles. Oh, and I’m also going to list my go-to Gnarly Hydration mix that I use for particularly hot days and races. All serving sizes are 10 grams. (I’m only hitting the electrolytes that are most-important to me rather than the whole laundry list. I also don’t really care about calories.)

Magnesium Sodium Potassium Sugar
Justin Formula 175 475 150 4
Gnarly 96.6 250 100 7
SOS Hydration 67.2* 660 190 3

*I calculated based on two things: The USRDA of magnesium for guys my age, which is 420mg, and the SOS Hydration label that said that each sachet has 8% of the USRDA of magnesium. That comes out to 67.2mg for two sachets, well short of the 100mg claimed on the comparison page of the SOS website.

 

That’s not the only discrepancy I noticed. It also appears that the SOS is comparing two servings/sachets of their mix to one Nuun tablet. I didn’t check the numbers on Skratch, which is the only other legit hydration mix for athletes in the table. Pedialyte, Gatorade and coconut water don’t belong, and I’ve never heard of WHO ORS.

My main takeaway from the chart is that SOS is really salty, and it lags in magnesium. Through trial and error, I’ve found that potassium isn’t a difference-maker for me.

So how would it perform?

Testing on the First Ride

I had my three bottles all frozen the day before the ride, and my plans to use my road-plus Lynskey Urbano for a 50-miler want to hell. It had to get some attention from the good people at Bicycle Haus.

That meant it was time for a summer mountain bike ride! Hot weather makes desert mountain biking a real bear, and I had a nasty sunny morning to deal with.

I headed to South Mountain since it had been awhile since I’d been there. Right from the get-go, I could tell this ride would be pretty tough.

Aside from the heat, there are no casual, easy rides on a singlespeed hardtail. They’re demanding bikes that flog their riders pretty hard.

sos hydration test
There’s never an easy ride on this thing.

And I just wasn’t feeling it after the first five miles.

I slugged generously from my icewater-filled Camelbak and my two bottles of SOS Hydration mix. My first impression was that this is some seriously salty stuff. There was more than a hint of the Dead Sea to it.

I’d planned to ride at least 25 miles. But I turned around about 13 miles into it to head back to my car. I stopped at a trailhead to drink the rest of my SOS mix, then I refilled them with the sachets I’d brought along.

My ass was well whooped after this short ride. It was a nasty day, to be sure.

So I had to give SOS a more regular test.

Round 2 – Apples to Apples

With my Lynskey back in action the next weekend, I set my course for San Juan Point, which is about a 53-mile jaunt from my house. It’s also a ride I do often, so I have plenty of data to compare SOS and look for any major observations in performance.

I still hadn’t acclimated to the saltiness of the SOS Hydration mix.  But I did find that I liked the coconut and watermelon flavors best. I wonder if I like the watermelon so much because real watermelon contains big amounts of magnesium, which makes this guy happy.
sos hydration test
I had a pretty solid ride that day, especially since I’d bumped up my tire size from 32C to 38C. The big tires cost me very little time, only about 8 seconds slower than my personal best on a 3.1-mile climb. The very next weekend, though, I set a new PR that was 20 seconds faster with my usual mix.

As per usual, I drained my three bottles (all filled with SOS) and had to refill. Those were the last of my sachets, so I finished my ride with a bit of Gnarly mix. By that time, though, all the serious work was over.

Wrapping Up the SOS Hydration Test

It appears that SOS works pretty well. Aside from that one especially unpleasant mountain bike ride, it wasn’t a liability.

Still, I’m not a fan of the taste and I’d like to see more magnesium in it along with less salt.

I think it would also be a good idea for SOS to double-check the numbers in its comparison chart to make sure they’re measuring similar serving sizes. They should also include more serious competitors, like Gnarly, EFS and CarboRocket Half-Evil. That’s serious stuff that you’ll see at the big races.

And that might be the problem with SOS: It positions itself not just for sports nutrition, but also for hangovers and illnesses. Casting a wide net might cause some of the finer points of more-athletic use to get overlooked.

There’s also something else to note: There is literally no one-size-fits-all formula for every bike racer, marathoner or (insert sport here). This makes me extremely skeptical of their research claims. I know I said this a few sentences earlier, but it bears repeating: The same formula will not work for every single person.

We’re all individuals, and the ratios in SOS Hydration might be exactly what you need. If it fits you and you like the taste, you’re good to go.

CategoriesAdventuresBlogging/WritingFitnessTravel

Don’t Make This Mistake if You Visit the Desert

You know why so many post-apocalyptic movies are about scarcity of water? Because water is really, really, really ridiculously important for the functioning of the human body and little things like growing food.

After reading stories about a French family’s disastrous experience with the a desert hike in the American Southwest, I felt awful.

If you haven’t heard, here’s the quick version: A vacationing French family went for a hike near White Sands National Monument in Mexico. In August. With barely any water. The parents died; their 9-year-old son, Enzo, survived, but will have to live with the most awful memories and probably a terrible case of survivor’s guilt.

"How stupid! Didn’t they realize what they were doing?" squawked many people.

I understand this knee-jerk reaction: The national park authorities did everything possible to alert people of the dangers, with more than adequate warning signs. I can’t say why Ornella and David Steiner didn’t obey them. This unbelievably sad situation was unnecessary and easily avoidable.

I think I found the real identity of the doctor who wrote about water intake for the New York Times.

But I feel a great deal of sympathy. Maybe they just didn’t understand the basics of human physiology and the critical role water plays in it. Or exactly how the hot, dry and unbelievably vast desert can suck moisture from a person’s body, especially during physical exertion. There is just nothing in France that can prepare a person adequately for the desert Southwest; it may as well be a different planet. Irresponsible articles like this mind-boggling piece of shit in the increasingly out-of-touch and haughty New York Times don’t help matters. The staggering ignorance of the comments is nearly equaled by the author’s ridiculous generalizations. The writer also failed to prove the harm in drinking 64 ounces a day, even in cooler, more humid conditions.His attitude encourages American to stay inadequately hydrated, fatigued, over-caffeinated and overfed.

hemp clothing
Your author (right) with Cody Lundin, putting our water knowledge into practice in the best laboratory there is – the high desert!

Where I live, people need to get rescued from Camelback Mountain – which is right in the middle of a city – every single year. In 2014, first responders went on 120 rescue missions (remember, this is just one mountain among many in the Phoenix area). Nearly every one of these rescues can be traced to dehydration – from getting immobilized by heat exhaustion to the lack of mental sharpness induced by dehydration. That leads to bad decision making, which leads to falls and injuries. Note to the New York Times: Precisely zero people have been rescued from Camelback Mountain due to the effects of hyperhydration. No adult is going to get hyper-hydrated by drinking that often-stated 64-ounces-a-day standard.

My foreign friends, especially those from Europe where deserts aren’t really in your frame of reference, I don’t want this to happen to you. I want you all to get back home safely. So I’m going to give you a few things to think about:

  1. The deserts in the American Southwest are huge. In many cases, they’re bigger than the countries you live in. Do not underestimate their size.
  2. Drink a lot. If you drink three liters a day as a baseline (more for increased heat and/or physical activity), you’re going to be in at least somewhere close to your needs.
  3. If you’re exercising or hiking or doing any physical activity, you need some electrolytes to go along with your water. Drop a few Nuun tablets or a few scoops of Skratch Labs mix into a liter of water, and you’ll stave off cramps and other effects of heat exhaustion. (NOTE: Nuun and Skratch Labs did not compensate me in any way for being mentioned. They’re just what I use whenever I exercise outdoors in the desert. Use whatever tastes good or makes sense to you.)
  4. Don’t forget to bring a snack. Raisins and nuts are compact and calorie-dense, and can balance the calories you burn.

There are a great many tips for staying safe in the desert. I can’t even scratch the surface here. If you plan to visit a desert region, I recommend picking up a copy of 98.6 Degrees by Cody Lundin. You will learn incredibly valuable information on hydration, desert safety and other wisdom that can be the difference between life and death. I’m not exaggerating. If Ornella and David Steiner had read this book, they’d still be alive and Enzo would still have parents.

CategoriesFitnessTastes

Electrolyte Drinks – Summer Exercise Help

electrolyte drinks
I don’t roll without electrolyte drinks.

During summer, I go through electrolyte drinks at an unbelievable rate – I once joked that nobody’s gone through white powdery substances so fast since Van Halen toured with The Scorpions. But seriously, electrolyte drinks let me exercise and not feel miserable the rest of the day. I had to put some thought into electrolyte drinks when my old standby added Stevia to it’s formula. I thought I’d share what I’ve found out lately for anyone who could use some help to stay hydrated during summer exercise.

First of all, what is an electrolyte drink? It’s a drink that replenishes what you sweat out. As far as I can tell, the most important of that "stuff" are sodium and potassium (Note: I am not a scientist or physician – just a guy who has exercised in heat for a long-ass time). Too little of either, and you’re the mayor of Dehydration City and the emperor of Cramp Town. There are many other electrolyte compounds, but salt and potassium seem most important.

Since I gave Cytomax the boot, I’ve tried a few other electrolyte drink mixes and some electrolyte tablets. Here’s what I’ve found out:

Carborocket 333 Half Evil Endurance Fuel

This is one of the hardest-hitting electrolyte drinks I’ve ever seen. Mixed at full-strength, Half Evil packs a big calorie punch along with a big dose of electrolytes. At 333 calories per serving, you might not need bars or gels on long rides. But man, this stuff tastes strong even diluting to half the recommended level. I halved the recipe for the lemonade flavor -- and it was tasty! I also felt pretty solid after my ride. Impressive considering I used it on some of the sunniest, hottest days of 2013 so far. And on some demanding trails.

CarboRocket takes pride in using natural ingredients for its electrolyte drinks. Have a look at its FAQ page for some other interesting info.

electrolyte drinks
See what happens when you don’t replace your fluids?

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs is a new-to-many name. I tried a few single-serving containers and liked it well enough to buy a bag. Like CarboRocket, Skratch Labs favors natural ingredients. They’re loud about the fact that users can pronounce all the ingredients (an impressive feat considering tri-geeks use it!). I got a few laughs out of the Skratch Labs video about its natural ingredients.

Of all the electrolyte drinks I’ve tried, Skratch Labs is by far the lightest tasting. Even with two full scoops in a 24-ounce bike bottle, the flavor is subtle. I usually include half a Nuun tablet to boost the flavor. I’ve been very happy with the way it works. I’ve finished many of my recent night rides stronger than I started.

Nuun Active Hydration electrolyte tablets

I don’t like taking in calories for exercise less than an hour long. But in this heat, I still want to bring in some electrolytes even if I’m just doing a 60-minute run or a hot yoga class.

Nuun is my favorite way to make electrolyte drinks without many calories. I usually dissolve a tablet and a half into a 24-ounce bike bottle, and I’m ready to go. I prefer the Kona Kola flavor. It’s just plain tasty.

Coconut Water

After exercising I recommend you add coconut water to your electrolyte drinks arsenal;. Apparently, the electrolyte composition of coconut water is similar to the human body. It also has about 70 calories per serving, so it helps top off your tank after exercise. I also like the taste – for some extra fun, ask your favorite barista to make an iced americano with coconut water instead of regular water. You’ll love it, I promise (and it’s way better than the boxed kind).

One Last Tip

Mix your electrolyte drinks about 12 hours in advance, when possible. Pitch them in the freezer to keep them from turning into hot electrolyte tea.

 

 

 

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CategoriesFitnessGear

Bike Gear I’ll Never Buy Again

The Specialized Comp shoe looks good, but has room for improvement.
The Specialized Comp shoe looks good, but has room for improvement.

Sometimes, I cross the fine line between brilliant bargain hunter and mere low-rent cheapskate. And it usually happens with mountain bike products. Here’s my list of mountain bike gear that’s burned me the worst.

Specialized Shoes
After 10 years with a pair of Sidi Dominator 3 mountain bike shoes, it was time to get a new pair. I was hoping for a bargain, so I picked up a pair of Specialized Comp bike shoes. You can read my full review for all the dirt. Bottom line? Weak ratchets and a plastic-like feel that never seemed to mold to my foot like the Sidi Dominator 3.

You could say I saved $60 by buying the Specialized Comp bike shoes. But I think I set $140 on fire when I should’ve just bought the updated Sidi Dominator 4 in the first place.

 

Stay away from Clarks Skeletal disc brakes.
Stay away from Clarks Skeletal disc brakes.

Clarks Brakes
I was skeptical of disc brakes at first, and I whinged when I had to bring home a bike that had the Hayes Nine hydraulic disc brake. My skepticism didn’t last but a ride.

When it came time to slowly gather parts for a new bike, I realized that hydraulic disc brakes are a big chunk of change to buy separately  Then I heard about a special deal on Clarks Skeletal disc brakes. There wasn’t much buzz about them – kind of like when I bought my first Santa Cruz Heckler way back in the pre-Superlight days. This was another chance to lead the way in finding something new!

Um, no. The Clarks Skeletal brake levers rattle like skeletons shagging on a harpsichord. Their stopping power is far below the generations-old Hayes 9 brakes, and far inferior to the Avid Elixir 5 brakes on my Santa Cruz Superlight. Never again.

Cytomax
For years, Cytomax kept my soreness and dehydration at bay. I loved the tropical fruit flavor. It was my gold standard.

A little more than a year ago, I picked up a new can of Cytomax. Mixed a bottle, froze it, hit the trails and took a drink. And nearly spit it right back out. Something tasted weird. And not in a way I could tolerate. Well, it turns out that Champion Nutrition added the sweetener Stevia to the ingredients. Sure, it’s plant based -- but I’m suspicious of low-cal sweeteners. Mind you, I didn’t know about the switch when I drank it. I detected the off flavor, researched and found out about the Stevia switch. So, see ya, Cytomax. These days, I’m in the middle of experimenting with Gu Brew, Nuun (bring back my cola flavor!) and Skratch Labs.

MagicShine Lights

For awhile, the MagicShine lights were THE hot pick for bargain hunters. Cue a battery recall, and everything just went down the crapper. The main MagicShine dudes, Geomangear.com, even went out of business. Look, I’m convinced light systems are overpriced. But even at the low prices of the MagicShine racer’s specials, they were still more TragicShine (or MagicShite?) than MagicShine. I hate to say it, but you have to lay out cash for good lights. And if you mountain bike at night, you need something you can count on. Nightrider, Lupine … stick with the big guys like them.

 

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