Skratch Labs Neutral Human Support at the Amgen Tour of California

Who hasn’t dreamed of having a support staff to feed you before, during, and after every bike ride? Our friends at Skratch Labs have turned that dream into reality, at least at the AMGEN Tour of California! In what marks a first for the cycling world, Skratch Labs will be supporting the human element of racing as the Official Hydration and Real Food Sponsor of the AMGEN Tour of California.

Skratch Labs will be directing their efforts toward supporting the actual humans involved in the race (both riders and staff) by providing real food and hydration products throughout the weeklong event. During each road stage Skratch will have a support car and moto inside the caravan to distribute needed items to riders on every team.

Chef Biju and his team will be cooking up delicious and nutritious recipes from The Feed Zone Cookbook every day from their mobile kitchen – everything is all natural and made from scratch (of course).

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Tasty real food is cooked up daily for racers and support staff.

A Skratch Labs motorcycle and car will even deliver their healthy food options during the race. How would you like this nutrition delivery vehicle for your next ride?

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Skratch Labs Neutral Human Support moto

Because when guys are racing this hard, they need some real food to recover:

5 Great Spring Power Foods

It’s spring, which means that everyone is starting to ride more. We’ve focused on the bike, we’ve focused on your prep. Now it’s time to start looking at how to fuel those spring rides. Remember, the base miles you put in during the early spring are the important ones, because they lay the foundation for the rest of the year—so it’s crucial to make sure they are good ones. And one of the best way to do that is by properly fueling your rides.

Here are our favorite 5 Spring Power Foods:

1. Waffles

Both delicious, and nutritious, these delightful pastries have been a training staple for years in Belgium and the Netherlands, and with good reason. With plenty of carbs, simple sugars, and a lighter consistency that’s easy to get down even when you’re suffering, waffles are one of our favorite treats to enjoy on a ride.

To learn more about fueling your ride, check out our article.

Waffles are a great, delicious way to fuel your ride

2. Chews

Because you can eat them one-handed, sometimes we find chews a little easier to eat on the bike, especially on windy days or on a fast group ride. Packed with simple sugars and carbs, chews are an easy to eat, quick fuel that can give you instant energy on the bike. On longer rides, we also look for chews that include some salt to help prevent cramps.

To learn more about fueling your ride, check out our article.

Chews are an easy, efficient way to fuel up on the bike

3. Hydration Mix

To avoid dehydration, it’s important to carry two water bottles on your ride: one with water, and one with a hydration mix. When you sweat, you lose more than just water—you also lose vital electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and calcium. It’s vital to replace these lost salts to not only avoid cramping, but also hyponataremia, a potentially life threatening condition caused by too little salt in the body. The leading cause of hyponatremia is athletes overhydrating with plain water without replacing lost electrolytes.

To learn more about hydration, check out our article.

Hydration mix is essential to avoid cramping and staying hydrated

 

4. Recovery Drinks

We used to not be a big believer in recovery products…until we tried some after a century ride. The next day we woke up feeling totally refreshed and without the aches and pains we were expecting. Recovery drinks are specially formulated with plenty of carbs, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to help rebuild sore muscles, replenish muscle glycogen, and inhibit inflammation, so you can feel refreshed and recovered.

To learn more about recovery, check out our article.

Recovery drinks can help you feel better and performance better after a hard ride

 

5. Real Food

As great as all of the above foods are, spring is a time when some of nature’s finest bounty is at its best. Even if you do everything to fuel your rides the right way, it won’t matter much if you’re neglecting your diet the rest of the time. Spring is a time when fresh greens, fruits, and vegetables are all becoming available again. The micronutrients, vitamins and minerals found in foods like beets, carrots, kale, and other fresh foods are important to help your body stay balanced, repair damage and function at its best.

Oatmeal is a great way to start the morning. Filling, healthy, and full of energy. Find this recipe in the Feed Zone Cookbook from Skratch Labs.

Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods is a great way to fuel your rides before they even start

Going The Distance: A Guide To Long Distance Cycling

Riding a century is one of the most challenging, and rewarding, things a cyclist can do

Riding a century is one of the most challenging, and rewarding, things a cyclist can do

 

Long distance cycling is some of the most challenging, and rewarding, riding that a cyclist can do. Nothing compares to the feeling of satisfaction of setting yourself a goal that seems difficult—if not impossible—and reaching it, exhausted, tired, but full of pride.

Everyone’s definition of what a long ride is will be different, but for the sake of making this easy, we’ll say a long ride is 100 miles, a type of ride also called a century. It sounds daunting—and it is, but there are few things as defining and rewarding for a cyclist as riding your first century.

But before you start thinking “how hard can it be?”, and go off to jump on your bicycles, bear in mind that long distance cycling puts unique demands on your body, and it’s something you need to work up to and prepare for.

 

So here are some tips for that first big ride—whether it’s the first century you’ve ever done, or if you’re just putting in some base miles for the season ahead.

 

1. Work Up To It

First things first, you need to make sure you’re in shape to ride this kind of distance. Just hopping on your bike and trying to set out to ride 100 miles without any preparation is not a smart thing to do. Set a date on the calendar at least 6-8 weeks in advance (if you’re doing an organized ride, then you’ve already got a timeframe to shoot for), and do multiple weekly rides, trying to increase your mileage by 10-20% every week (depending on your fitness level).

 

2. Plan Your Route

You should have a definite route set before you head out the door. Even if you have a GPS or a smartphone, make sure you bring a cue sheet so you can always find your way back. Also ensure that your route will include plenty of places to stop and top up on water, pick up some food, use the bathroom, and just get off the bike for a few minutes. Ideally, your route should include a rest stop every 20 miles.

If you’re a little uneasy about getting stranded in the middle of nowhere if you bonk or have a mechanical issue, try finding a 20-30 mile loop near your home that you can ride repeatedly. This way if something goes wrong you can always make sure you can get home.

Lastly, plan a “B” route that will get you home faster in case of a mechanical problem, bad weather, or an emergency.

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A GPS computer like this Garmin 810 can help you stay on your route

 

3A. Have The Right Gear

Depending on your speed, riding 100 miles means you can be on the bike anywhere form 4-8 hours. That’s a lot of time for the weather to change or something to go wrong. Always make sure you have the follow with you when you set out on a long ride:

Remember though that tools are useless if you don’t know how to use them. Before you set out, make sure you know how to repair a flat tire, fix a broken derailleur, or adjust loose brakes. To learn more about basic bike maintenance, check out the How To page on our Learning Center.

Commuter Kit (carried in messenger bag): Tire lever, multitool, patch kit, spare tube, pump

A comprehensive tool kit, like this one, can save you some trouble down the road

3B. Pick The Right Clothes

This also isn’t the ride to wear your “B” gear. Wearing the shorts with the ok-but-not-great-pad, a pair of ill-fitting shoes, or a jersey that is either too thin or too warm will have you hating life somewhere around mile 55, if not sooner. For your big ride, break out your best shorts, favorite jersey and make sure your shoes fit properly. You’ll thank yourself later.

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Choosing the right clothes, like the Performance Ultra shorts and jersey, can help make the miles a little more comfortable

 

4. Fuel Up

Inadequate fueling is the biggest reason most failed attempts at a century ride don’t succeed. You need to start eating before you even leave the house, with a good breakfast that includes plenty of carbs and protein. The second you get on the bike and start riding, start eating. Gels and chews are essentials to bring, since they pack plenty of energy in a small package. But you also want to avoid having a belly full of nothing but sugar, so ensure you’re eating real food too, like bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers, and other high-energy, easy to digest foods.

You also need to make sure that you are drinking. Drink one bottle of plain water the first hour, then a bottle of hydration mix the second hour. Keep alternating water and hydration mix every other hour.

If you find yourself cramping, that’s usually your body’s way of telling you you need more salt, so make sure you pack some chews (Clif Shot Bloks margarita flavor is a delicious choice) or other snack with plenty of sodium.

And the biggest thing to remember: bring twice as much food as you think you’ll need.

For more tips on cycling nutrition, check out our guide.

Picking the right nutrition items, like these salt-filled energy chews, will help keep you fueled up and avoid cramping

 

5. Sit Up and Stand Up

Most professional riders can spend 6-7 hours on the bike no problem, but they’re getting paid to suffer like that. When riding a century, make sure you take plenty of stops to stand up, get off the bike, walk around a bit, and stretch. This will help restore blood flow, stop muscles from cramping, and help you feel better during the day.

You also don’t have to hammer all day. Riding a century is more about your ability to endure than to go fast. Take it easy, spin in an easier gear than normal, and really take the time to enjoy the sights you’re riding by.

Check out this article to learn more about preventing fatigue.

 

6. Mentally Prepare

There’s no two ways about it, no matter how fit you are, riding 100 miles is tough. You need to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable aches, pains, and defeatist thoughts that are going to come to you. Things are going to get sore, weird muscles are going to cramp up, you’ll be riding into a bad headwind at some point, and you’ll probably reach some dark places where you think you can’t do this. You may even get chased by a dog or two.

Just remember that this happens to everyone, and our minds and bodies are much more resilient that we give them credit for. Riding through those aches and pains and low moments are part of what makes riding long distances so rewarding—overcoming our own perceived limitations and doing things we thought were impossible.

 

7. Don’t Go It Alone

What’s harder than a century? A solo century. Being alone with your thoughts for 100 miles can undo even the hardest of cyclists. If you have other friends who ride, see if anyone is up to going for the 100 with you. Not only will it be fun to get out and train together, but doing a long distance ride is much easier when you have someone else with you. You can talk to each other to take your mind off the miles, help keep each other motivated, and draft off of each other if the wind picks up. Plus, in case of an emergency you’ll have someone around who can get help if needed.

 

Riding with a friend is a good way to help the miles go by a little easier

Riding with a friend is a good way to help the miles go by a little easier

 

Have you done any long rides lately, or do you have any planned? Do you have any tips or tricks that we missed? Let us know in the comments section.

Product Profile: Feed Zone Cookbook

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Our friends at Skratch Labs are obsessed with creating the best nutrition products – ones that taste great, that are made from real all-natural ingredients, and that are designed to optimize performance and health on the bike or off. Their famous Skratch Labs hydration drink mix can be found in our stores and on Performancebike.com, including their classic Exercise Hydration Drink Mix and their new Everyday Hydration Drink Mix (formulated with fewer calories). But Skratch Labs is also known for their real food recipes that you can make at home, collected in the aptly named “The Feed Zone Cookbook”.

skratch-labs_Cook-bookThe Feed Zone Cookbook provides 150 delicious recipes that even the busiest athletes can prepare in less time than it takes to warm-up for a workout (110 of them are or can easily be made vegetarian). With simple recipes requiring just a handful of ingredients, Biju Thomas & Allen Lim show how easy it is for athletes to prepare their own food, whether at home or on the go. To get a taste of what’s inside, the folks at Skratch Labs let us share 2 of their most well-known recipes below – Allen’s Rice Cakes and Biju’s Oatmeal. Give them a try and you’ll be hooked.

Allen’s Rice Cakes

AllenLim_ricecakeprep_72dpiAllen Lim started making these rice cakes at training camps and races to give riders something savory and fresh to eat while on the bike. They became a huge hit since almost everything the riders ate was pre-packaged and sweet. Not only are these rice cakes delicious, they also provide a consistent energy source that doesn’t upset the stomach.

SERVINGS> 10
TIME> 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked calrose or other medium-grain “sticky” rice [TIP: We always use calrose rice, a strain of medium-grain rice common in Asian cooking. This variety cooks fast (in 20 minutes or less), retains a nutty flavor, and is just sticky enough to hold our cakes together. If you can’t find it, use another medium-grain rice or any kind marked “sushi rice.”]
  • 1½ cups water
  • 8 ounces bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons liquid amino acids or low-sodium soy sauce
  • brown sugar
  • salt and grated parmesan (optional)

allen rice cakes-1Instructions:

  1. Combine rice and water in a rice cooker.
  2. While rice is cooking, chop up bacon before frying, then fry in a medium sauté pan. When crispy, drain off fat and soak up excess fat with paper towels.
  3. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and then scramble on high heat in the sauté pan. Don’t worry about overcooking the eggs as they’ll break up easily when mixed with the rice.
  4. In a large bowl or in the rice cooker bowl, combine the cooked rice, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Add liquid amino acids or soy sauce and sugar to taste. After mixing, press into an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan to about 1½-inch thickness. Top with more brown sugar, salt to taste, and grated parmesan, if desired.
  5. Cut and wrap individual cakes. Makes about 10 rice cakes.

NUTRITION DATA PER SERVING (1 cake)> Energy 225 cal • Fat 8 g • Sodium 321 mg • Carbs 30 g • Fiber 1 g • Protein 9 g

Biju’s Oatmeal

FeedZoneCookbook_BijusOatmeal_72dpi_800pRice or pasta are common pre-race breakfast staples for professional cyclists, but at the 2011 Tour of California Chris Horner and the RadioShack team proved that oatmeal can be the breakfast of champions. Many cyclists have mastered this recipe, and it will become your favorite standby food too.

SERVINGS> 2

TIME> 10–15 minutes

Ingredients:

  •  1 cup water
  • dash of salt
  • 1 cup “old-fashioned”
  • rolled oats
  • 1–2 cups milk, depending on desired thickness [TIP: Use any kind of milk—dairy, soy, almond. Start with 1 cup and add more to achieve your desired consistency]
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 banana, chopped
  • ¼ cup raisins

Instructions:

  1.  In a medium saucepan, bring the water and salt to a low boil. Add oats and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
  2.  Add milk and brown sugar, and return the mixture to a low boil. Add molasses, banana, and raisins, continuing to stir until oatmeal reaches desired thickness. Remove pan from heat. Let rest for 10–15 minutes if you have the time.
  3. Finish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and a splash of milk.

NUTRITION DATA PER SERVING> Energy 490 cal • Fat 6 g • Sodium 181 mg • Carbs 102 g • Fiber 10 g • Protein 19 g

Recipes republished with permission of VeloPress.

5 Tips for Better Fueling from Skratch Labs

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The nutrition experts over at Skratch Labs are on a mission to use real world science and practice to create the best nutrition products – that taste great, that are made from real all-natural ingredients, and that are designed to optimize performance and health for both sport and life. Their story began while Dr. Allen Lim was working as a sport scientist and coach for a professional cycling team – he started making his own training food and sports drink from scratch for the cyclists he worked with because too many of the pre-packaged sports bars and drinks that were marketed or given to them were laden with artificial ingredients and making them sick to their stomach. Eventually, Allen started making a “secret drink mix” in his kitchen using a recipe with less sugar, more sodium, and no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors, with a simple and clean taste created by using real fruit – thus Skratch Labs Hydration Drink Mix was born.

So with that in mind, we thought we’d ask Allen to weigh in with some tips for fueling for your next ride – whether it’s a training loop, a local race or a long-distance charity ride. Read on below for his 5 top tips to improve your performance on the bike by taking a holistic approach to your nutrition planning and preparation, before, during and after your ride.

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1. Eat & Drink Early & Consistently—One of the biggest mistakes riders make is forgetting to eat and drink early and consistently throughout the day. While this is plain common sense, it‘s often disregarded on ride day—a mistake that can spell disaster no matter how well trained or prepared you are.

As a general rule, you need to replace at least half the calories you burn each hour, and you need to begin replacing those calories in the first hour if you’re going to be out for more than three hours. On a flat road without drafting, the average cyclist will burn about 200-300 Calories at 10-15 mph, 300-600 Calories at 15 to 20 mph, and 600 to 1,000 Calories at 20 to 25 mph.

Regarding hydration, on a hot day your fluid needs may be as high as 1 to 2 liters an hour. The best way to get an appreciation of how much fluid you might need is to weigh yourself before and after a workout. The weight you lose is primarily water weight, where a 1-pound loss is equal to about 16 ounces of fluid. As a general rule, try not to lose more than 3 percent of your body weight over the course of a long ride.

2. Try Eating Real Food—While there are plenty of pre-packaged sports bars and gels touting their ability to improve one’s performance, it’s important to realize that real food can work just as well if not better than expensive, engineered nutrition. A regular sandwich, a boiled potato with salt, a banana and a ball of sushi rice mixed with chocolate or some scrambled eggs can all give you the calories you need without upsetting your stomach the way a lot of sugary gels or sports bars can. In fact, while coaching teams at the Tour de France, the riders I worked with used real food as their primary solid fuel source, because it just worked better. Most of the recipes for these foods can be found in “The Feed Zone Cookbook” that I wrote with Chef Biju Thomas to promote healthful, real-food eating.

skratch_real_food3. Don’t Just Drink Water—When we sweat we lose both water and valuable electrolytes. If you drink only water and are sweating heavily, you’ll dilute the electrolytes in your body, in particular sodium, which plays a critical role in almost every bodily function. Diluting the sodium content in your body is called hyponatremia and can lead to a host of problems ranging from a drop in performance to seizures and even death. The amount of sodium that we lose in sweat is highly variable, ranging anywhere from 200 to 400 mg per half liter (16.9 ounces). Because of this large range, it’s always better to err on the side of more salt than less salt. Unfortunately, most sports drinks contain too much sugar and not enough sodium, which caused many of the riders I worked with to become sick during long days on the bike. For that reason, we developed an all-natural sports drink using less sugar, more sodium and flavored with freeze-dried fruit. Outside of using a sports drink with more sodium, also consider eating salty or savory foods on your ride rather than just sweet foods.

4. Learn What you Need in Training—Ride day is not the day that you want to be experimenting with yourself. So try different hydration and feeding strategies during training well before the big day. As an example, simply weighing yourself on a long training ride before your big event can give you valuable information to optimize your hydration for that event. Likewise, taking the time to prepare your own foods or trying different products beforehand and then writing out a specific game plan for your drinking and feeding needs can go a long way to making sure you don’t make any mistakes on ride day.

5. Come in Well-Fed and Well-Rested—While proper training is obviously important, making sure you are well rested coming into an event is sometimes even more critical. You can’t cram training, so as you approach the big day, make sure you are getting plenty of sleep and aren’t killing yourself in training the week leading into your event. Just sleeping an extra hour each night the week before your event can significantly improve your performance. Finally, adding extra carbohydrate to your diet, and making sure you get plenty of calories the week before your event, will assure that your legs are fueled and ready to go.

You can find Skratch Labs Hydration Drink Mix in our stores and on Performancebike.com, including their classic Exercise Hydration Drink Mix and their new Everyday Hydration Drink Mix (formulated with fewer calories). For real food recipes that you can make at home, check out the “The Feed Zone Cookbook”.

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