What hydration products should you use for your next workout? Austin Bonds from Big Peach Running Co. Suwanee shares some products that can help!
Like any Transformers movie from director Michael Bay, this article epitomizes product placement as the title leads off with a strong cast of players, including Generation UCAN, Skratch, Tailwind, and Nuun. Furthermore, this title makes for a good running pun as everyone likes a good pun. Truth be told, these four hydration products are a sample of the selection of hydration and nutrition options available to you at your local Big Peach Running Company. If you remember the recent article I wrote (“What Color is Your Pee?”), the focus was on the importance of hydration during a run or race; the focus of this article is on the composition of products like Generation UCAN, Skratch, and others, along with how they can be used effectively. Let’s unpack a few of note that are situated on the Long Run Ready wall.
Skratch, based in Boulder, Colorado, is a hydration mix with “simple sugars, electrolytes, and only real fruit for flavor.” In short, Skratch is an alternative to Gatorade or Powerade – it’s less sweet too. Skratch hydration mixes all contain dextrose, a simple sugar quickly used by the body for energy. For runners who have a sensitive stomach, the Skratch mixes are gluten free and dairy free, along with owning the title of kosher and vegan. Skratch hydration mixes are unique as hydration and nutrition co-exist in the water bottle. In other words, one mix provides carbohydrates for energy and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) to avoid cramps.
Tailwind, based in Bayfield, Colorado, is similar to Skratch, though I will say from experience that the mixture is slightly sweeter. Tailwind is comprised of dextrose and sucrose, and the addition of sucrose may be what provides the added sweetness. Like Skratch, Tailwind is gluten free, dairy free, and vegan. According to a June 2016 Facebook thread from the company, Tailwind doesn’t have a kosher certification, but the ingredients are all certified kosher. This mix also combines hydration and nutrition in the water bottle for the sake of keeping it simple.
And to Generation UCAN, based in Woodbridge, Connecticut. Though UCAN is wildly popular now as Meb Keflezighi has brought more widespread attention to the brand as a sponsored athlete, I still meet many runners who are not familiar with this “Super Starch.” Let’s begin there. What’s unique about UCAN is that it’s designed to be mixed in a blender bottle before a run. Wait – what?
This seems strange at first glance, but the purpose of the Starch (ground up corn cooked in a patent pending way) is to create a steady stream of energy without any spikes that a gel or chew might yield. Incidentally, I have met runners who have turned a serving of UCAN powder into a gel of sorts to carry with them during a run (thanks to YouTube). Based on the UCAN flavor you are intrigued with, there are a few sweeteners and other ingredients to keep in mind, including stevia extract, sucralose, annatto extract (used to color food), whey protein isolate and concentrate, soy lecithin, and “natural flavors.” In summary, study the nutrition facts on the label to avoid any stomach issues.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Nuun, based in Seattle, Washington. Unlike Skratch, Tailwind, or UCAN, Nuun tablets (usually 10 in a tube) primarily provide electrolyte replacement; however, Nuun Plus tablets bring carbohydrates back into the bottle, and thus we have four distinct brands that potentially negate the need for gels, bars, or chews (though this is based on the intensity and distance of a given run as some runners may carry both). And the ingredients of note in Nuun? Dextrose, stevia extract, and beet root juice powder (for color). Nuun introduced a new formula earlier this year, and these are the changes of note: Sorbitol (a sugar substitute) and sodium benzoate (a preservative) were eliminated from the lineup.
Needless to say, this is only a sampling of the brands available at Big Peach. Gels, chews, and bars are all great products. But what these four brands share is the ability to energize your run and hydrate your run by way of the trusty water bottle. What’s more, many races today, both large and small, are now using these mixes in lieu of the mighty Powerade and Gatorade.
So – which hydration product is best? Is one brand superior to another? Ask a fellow runner, and you are likely to hear which one is best. But try one (or all four) for yourself and decide the answer to this vexing question. As an added bonus, Skratch, Tailwind, and UCAN are all available in single serving packets so you can avoid shelling out for a large bag (or tub) of one flavor. So – in the spirit of the four (and counting) Michael Bay films about Autobots and Decepticons – transform your next run into a mighty one.
Austin Bonds is a Guest Advocate at the Big Peach Suwanee location.