Eric's Arcana and RiderX

Two blogs, one author, munged together.

Accelerade light recipe

clock July 6, 2010 06:55 by author ericgu

I've used berry as a hydration drink for quite some time. It works pretty well, but it has a problem - it's sweetened mostly with sucrose, which means that it's quite sweet. They use some citric acid to counter that a bit, but after a couple of hours it gets too sweet to drink.

Some people dilute it, which makes it less sweet but also reduces the number of calories in a bottle. I prefer to make the existing drink less sweet.

What we need is a sugar that acts like sucrose but is less sweet. Maltodextrain is a complex carbohydrate - a chain of glucose molecules all hooked together (sometimes known as a glucose polymer), and it breaks down to glucose very easily.

I get mine from the supplement house:


My current recipe is 2.5 parts Accelerade to 1 part maltodextrin. I did one batch at 2:1 which is another option.


3 3/4 cups Accelerade (750 grams)
2 1/4 cups Maltodextrin (300 grams)
1 teaspon salt

Put in a big bowl and mix. This amount will fit in one of the small accelerade containers. The amount of salt is slightly more than what it would normally have - if you want to keep the sodium the same, you need 8/10ths of a teaspoon.

This also has less protein - instead of the 4:1 ratio, you're down to something less than that. You could add more whey protein if you wanted.


Diet, hunger, and blood sugar

clock January 27, 2009 06:45 by author ericgu

My good friend Chris wrote a nice post about nutrition - one which I am very much in agreement with, and I thought I'd use it as a jumping-off-point to put down some thoughts I've had for a while.

One of the problems in talking about this stuff is that there's a paradox in how you eat as an athlete. Sometimes you should eat really well, and other times you should do the opposite. But I had a thought recently.

It all revolves around blood sugar. The whole goal of performance diets is to keep a constant blood sugar level, but the way you do it depends on the circumstances.

It starts with your base diet - what you eat normally. You want to keep your blood sugar constant, which means avoiding the things that will cause your blood sugar to move quickly. Which means refined sugar, flour, rice, etc. - anything that has a high glycemic index.

If you eat it, your blood sugar goes up really fast, your body releases insulin, and the sugar gets converted to fat and stored. And your blood sugar drops, and you get hungry again. Which is what is behind the "chinese food" syndrome, where you eat a meal with lots of white rice, and then get hungry again a few hours later.

It's not quite that simple, however. It turns out that the absorption of carbs - and therefore their effect on blood sugar - is moderated by the presence of other foods. If you have fat, protein, or fiber, it will slow down the spike in blood sugar.

So, to keep your blood sugar constant and your hunger in check, you want to have some fat, some protein, some fiber, and any carbs of the less-refined variety. If I had to pick a popular diet that's close to this, I'd pick something like South Beach.

That will moderate blood sugar normally, but it doesn't work when we are exercising. During exercise, we are burning carbs in conjunction with fat, and over time - if we exercise long enough - we will totally run out of carbs, leading to the dreaded "bonk". Even if we don't totally run out of carbs, we will end up with very depleted carb reserves. Which means, at the end of the ride you'll be very hungry, and likely to overeat, or at the very least, not eat very well.

You also may not be able to fill up those carb reserves in time for your next workout.

So, we need a way to keep your blood sugar up during the workout. If you can do that, not only will your carb reserves last longer, but you will be less hungry at the end of the workout.

And how can we do that? Well, we could eat more of our normal healthy diet, but that has a few problems. It's fairly hard to digest, and you probably don't have enough blood supply to spare from your muscles to send to your stomach to digest. It's also pretty bulky, and you don't really need any extra fat during exercise - there's plenty in your fat stores.

So, we need something that's easily digested, and will support our blood sugar. That's exactly the simple, refined carbs that we are avoiding in our normal diet. We don't get an insulin response because we are burning enough carbs that we aren't going to spike the blood sugar.

And finally, when we're done exercising, we haven't quite refilled our carb stores, so we can take in some extra simple carbs and protein, and that will let us refill those carb stores.

How does this work if we are trying to lose weight? We might burn 1500 calories on that 3 hour ride, but if we are taking in 250 cal/hour of carbs, we'll only net a 750 calorie debt. So, if we don't eat at all, we'll lose more weight.

But remember the blood sugar thing. Sure, we'll have a 1500 calorie deficit at the end of the workout, but we'll have to work hard to not to eat more than that when we're done. Or, we can burn 750 calories of fat, replace the carbs, and - because we've kept the blood sugar constant - not replace the fat.

A miserable but learning experience...

clock July 15, 2007 20:36 by author ericgu

Yesterday I headed out with a few friends on a 120 mile 8000 ft "training ride". The plan was to start in Enumclaw, ride up to the top of Chinook pass, descend and ride up to the top of Sunrise, eat lunch, and then return back to Enumclaw.

I was a bit worried because I was riding with my friend Joe, who not only puts in at least twice as much mileage as I do but is also perhaps 30 pounds lighter than me. Luckily, Joe doesn't mind riding slower so that others can keep up.

My nutrition plan was to use the Perpetuem, to hopefully avoid the issues I've had with Accelerade in the past on long rides. I also brought a bunch of Endurolyte capsules to give me a little extra electrolyte, and some Newtons to chew on. I made up two "two hour" bottles - with enough perpetuem for two hours in each - and carried a camelback for the extra water. I usually don't like to do that, but we were limited with water sources and it was hot hot.

Joe had written up the ride as "16-18MPH on the flat", which is what some of our other group rides. We tended towards the upper number (well, actually, above the upper number) for the first hour, which would have been very pleasant if not for the fact that we climbed around 1000 feet during that time. But, though my HR was a bit higher than I had planned (in the mid 140s rather than the 130s), that's still right around my lactate threshold and I felt good and spent time talking with Greg as we rolled towards our first stop at Greenwater.

The next 17 miles we picked up another 1200 feet of altitude, as we journeyed towards the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. By that point, I was starting to feel a little out of sorts - I didn't have the same sort of snap, but I knew that I wasn't dehydrated nor was I down on sugar. I took a few more endurolytes. Then the fun began, as we climbed up Chinook pass (9 miles, 2400 feet)

I did okay on the first part. I gapped off the back of the group - not a surprise - and just tried to ride my own pace, and finished the whole section in about 75 minutes. Not horrible, but not a lot of fun.

A quick descent back down to the white river campground, $5 to enter, and it was time to work on the Sunrise climb. By this point, I was seriously down on both oomph and motivation, and the other riders just rode away from me (partly because I forgot one of my gloves at the water fountain, but mostly because I was so down on energy). I did okay on the first 5 miles - which aren't very steep - but then the road kicked up and it was all I could do to ride on my smallest gear (a 30/27) at perhaps 80 RPM. I rode a mile or so, and stopped to take a quick break and stretch. After another 15 minutes, it was clear to me that I wasn't going to finish the climb, and I stopped, sat for a while, phoned Joe and my wife to tell them what was up (interestingly, there was great cell coverage there. My guess is that we were using the towers at the summit of Crystal Mountain Ski area, which is just across the valley from sunrise (and sports the best view of Mt. Rainier around)). And then I descended back down, and started suffering...

It was 26 miles from where I turned around back to Greenwater, which was the first place where I could get some real food. Suffice it to say that it wasn't fun - I stopped a couple of times to rest, but it really didn't help much. Eventually, I made it to Greenwater and stopped by the Naches tavern for some food.

The chicken strips and fries did wonders for me, and I ate them with considerable amounts of salt. I tried a Coke but the fructose did not sit well on my stomach, so I only drank about a third of it. After about 30 minutes, I got on the bike and rode the remaining 18 miles back to Enumclaw. I got a little bit of snap back in my legs and started to feel better.

The exact distance isn't clear - because of me not remembering to start my new HRM - but it's pretty close to 100 miles, with about 6500 feet of climbing.

The whole experience is eerily reminiscent of my experience on STP last year. I felt good at the beginning, then after 3 or 4 hours started to really lose power. Both days were hot, and both days I sweated a lot.

On the other hand, I did another hard climbing ride earlier this year (59 miles with 4K elevation) where I felt strong, but it was cool and overcast that day.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking, that perhaps I was down on sodium?

But that shouldn't happen, should it? The perpetuem has electrolytes in it, and I was supplementing with Endurolytes. *But*, if you look at the labels, you find that Perpetuem only has 231mg in two scoops (a one-hour dose), and the Endurolytes only have 40m each. So, that puts me at about 350mg per hour of sodium. As a comparison, the Accelerade I use has 380mg in my hourly dose.

Is that enough? I did a little research...

While there are guidelines around how much sodium is necessary to help water absorption, there are differing opinions on amounts above that. In Serious Cycling, Burke reports a recommendation of 400mg to 1000mg per liter and ACSM recommends 500 to 700mg per liter.

The amount you need depends on how acclimatized you are to the heat - more highly trained atheletes sweat more water and less salt. And it depends on your personal physiology.

The anecdotal stuff I've read from the ultra groups (running, cycling, triathlons) says that at least for some people, salt supplementation is pretty important.

During those long hours on the bike, I was seriously considering skipping RAMROD, but I've now decided I'm going to do it. But, I'm going to use a better salt supplement.

A few pages I found useful:






What makes a good hydration drink?

clock July 14, 2007 06:17 by author ericgu

There are a lot of hydration (aka "sport") drinks out there, ranging from the common Gatorade to esoteric ones like Gleukos. All make claims around why they are the best thing around and why all the other drinks suck.

So, I thought I'd write a bit about my understanding of what makes a good drink and help you decode some of the labels out there.

Calorie Density

The first thing that you need from a hydration drink is a sufficient calorie density. Most experts suggest 250 calories perhaps up to 350 calories per hour. So, you need a drink that has that many calories when mixed with a sufficient amount of liquid to make a reasonable dent in your hydration needs (sometimes you may need more or less water). That puts carbs in the 6% to 8% range. Drinks with fewer carbs don't provide enough energy, and those with more don't provide enough water.

Gastric Emptying & absorption

Once you have the sugar solution in your stomach, you need to get it absorbed into the bloodstream. The absorption of the water in the hydration drink is increased both by the presence of the sugar (within reason) and by the presence of electrolytes. Fructose is a bit different than other sugars in this respect - see later in the post for more info.


Sweetness is a primary factor in whether you drink enough to meet your energy and hydration needs. There are two important points here:

  1. A sweetness that tastes good at rest is likely too sweet for a workout beverage, so you won't drink enough of it...

The second point is the most important one. Sucrose (table sugar) is arbitrarily given a value of 100 on the sweetness scale. The good hydration drink makers use different sugars to give you a product that isn't too sweet but still packs enough carbs.

Acclerade is primarly sweetened with sucrose but uses Trehalose (sweetness=45) to tone the sweetness down, and also a bit of citric acid to make it more sour.

Perpetuem is at the other end of the spectrum, using Maltodextrin, which doesn't have much sweetness at all, and to be frank, has a bit of a weird taste to it.


There is some good research around the benefits of adding protein to hydration drinks. Accelerade claims that their 4:1 ratio (using whey protein) is the best, Hammer claims that their 7:1 ratio (using soy protein) is the best.

I like the protein, but it does make water bottles a bit messy. I soak mine full of water overnight to make them easier to clean, but you should still make sure never to put the lid on a dry bottle, lest it mold.


Electrolytes are added to hydration drinks to speed their absorption. They also can replace the electrolytes lost to sweat but aren't usually present in amounts that will replace all the lost electrolytes, so you may need to supplement.

Simple or Complex carbs?

There is a lot of marketing out there on the advantages of complex carbs or glucose polymers over simpler sugars. I'm somewhat skeptical of the claims of benefits (other than their lack of sweetness) - maltodextrin is (for example) rapidly broken down into dextrose.

Food Fatigue

If you ride for long periods - say, more than 3 hours - it's not unlikely to find yourself unable to stomach another swig of your drink. This is known as "food fatigue", and is a good argument for a variety of foods rather than a single one. 

Bad Ideas:

Plain Water

Water by itself is bad for a few reasons.

Most obviously, water doesn't have any caloric value, so it doesn't help towards your energy needs. But there is a more important reason...

When you are sweating, your body is trying to maintain both your blood volume and the sodium concentration in your blood. If your blood volume goes down, you get thirsty, but if you drink plain water, that ends up diluting the sodium concentration in your blood, and your thirst is turned off.

Not to mention the fact that water is absorbed less quickly by itself, which may lead to a waterlogged (ie "sloshy") feeling.

Now, if you're using gels, solid food, or a concentrated drink, then when you add water, you get a good mixture, so that's okay.

Fructose in drinks

Pre-mixed "original" Gatorade and powerade are both sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is a bit of a weird sugar that has a couple of disadvantages:

First, it has a different absorption mechanism that limits how much you can absorb over time. If you get more than the amount that can be absorbed, the rest will be unabsorbed in your digestive tract, which can lead to the dreaded "GI difficulties" (typically diarrhea). Some people have fructose malabsorption which may make this worse.

Second, fructose gets processed through the liver, and is useful primarily in replacing liver glycogen rather than muscle glycogen.

In hydration drinks, the sweetness of fructose is also a severe disadvantage, and premixed gatorade is quite sweet but low on calorie density.

So, fructose is a bad choice as a primary sweetener, but not a problem as a secondary ingredient.

Powdered Gatorade does not have fructose, and their "endurance" formula is a combination of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, so those are likely better choices.

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice has (no surprise) a lot of fructose in it, and tends to be very sweet.