In Your Bottle: Skratch, Osmo, or a Coke


Cyclists are excited about new performance drink, we’ve seen them all before

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about riding is the more real food I eat, the better I feel. Mentioned that to Skratch last year when their powder arrived for a test and review.

Skratch is easy on the stomach, but I’ve found it lacks staying power for longer rides. There’s only 80 in a scoop and Osmo has 35. With a sensitive stomach, before a ride or race I eat a good meal, then want water, calories, and electrolytes to get me to the end. My on-the-road-instead-of-a-lab, with no peer-reviewed journals to back it up study indicates the brown-rice syrup solids in Clif Shot powders work the best. Better even than dried fruit and sucrose in Skratch or Osmo’s proprietary sucrose blend.

What Skratch has done is made the powder with the most “drinkability” on a hot day. Do any of these powders do more for you than a diluted, fizzed-out cola did for generations of cyclists before? Arguably no, but they’ll tell you it does while wearing lab coats and the Slowtwitch guys obsess about the science. I don’t fantasize about Allen Lim handing me a dixie cup of Skratch at the top of climb. Never craved diluted sugar water either, but when thirsty do wish for a coke and a smile.

When I get hungry riding, my mind wanders to nachos, pizza, or a burrito with rice and beans.

rice and beans

Stopped last Sunday at Taqueria El Rincon for a burrito with a side of rice and beans

Before Skratch or Osmo, I just diluted Gatorade with water in a bottle and made sure I ate right. My performance drink use goes way back to when racers stuffed juice boxes of Extran in their jerseys, Enervit, or when Accelerade and Endurox was the powder du jour. I could never tolerate Cytomax and when mixed once with iodine tablets on a MTB death march, it tore my stomach apart.

To recovery, despite all the science they cite, as an amateur, there’s no way to know really if a recovery drink works. The product isn’t like an embrocation that tingles or aspirin that dulls pain. Never felt a recovery sensation in my legs or had a doctor test my muscles for it. The freshness the next day or lack thereof, most likely resulted from the sleep I got or the decision to watch TV all afternoon instead of mowing the lawn.

When Patrick and I climbed together up Mulholland, we ate soft rice cakes provided by the soignuers at SRAM. Those sat well in the belly and I felt good. I suggest you find a drink that sits well in your stomach too, eat more real food, and see this article from Kent Peterson on what endurance athletes eat. Also what Mike Hall ate when he rode around the world in 91 days.

The latest generation of performance drinks are about hydrating and for cyclists that can’t handle all that sugar in other formulas. Between Skratch or Osmo, both are marketing science plus lots of thinking about performing without bonking or cramping. I can’t say one is better. They’re marketing the same concept and Osmo is more expensive.

Reviewing this post, David Schloss replied, “on all of my summer centuries I stop and fill my water bottles with coke slurpies at 7-11.” Well that works too.

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