Nutrition is the great equalizer in triathlon. Finding the right mix of calories, carbohydrates, electrolytes, etc. can feel like a never ending process. Plus, what works for one race may not work at the next. It can take a lot of trial and error and trying various product combinations to fully understand what your body needs.
Instead of trying to find a mix that works you, Infinit Nutrition’s custom blend program lets you create your drink from scratch. There is an overall philosophy and some guidelines, but with the exception of a few rules, which they do allow you to break as long as you acknowledge your formula is outside of their recommendations, you can create whatever you want. From flavor and calories to sodium and caffeine, your mix is up to you.
Drink mixes that focus only on hydration and delivering electrolytes, at the expense of calories and protein, have gained in popularity recently. And while you can create a low calorie, high electrolyte mix, Infinit is designed for athletes who don’t want to, or can’t, take down bars and gels during their races. The concept is that if you design and refine the mix yourself, you can find a solution that will allow you to get in the majority of what you need from a single formula.
Even if you have successfully used drinks, bars and gels, there is another reason that a formula that provides everything you need can be advantageous- simplicity. When you don’t have to worry about which bar or gel when, and how much water to take with each, then add in the need to get in electrolytes, your nutrition plan can get pretty complex. Going the all liquid route means all you need to do sip from your mix or take in water.
Making the Formula
The process can begin in a few ways. You can schedule a consultation with one of their specialists free of charge. You can also fill out a simple online questionaire that will determine the best formula for you. The last option is to simply start the process yourself using a series of sliders to determine what goes in and how much. If you create formula that is out of the recommendations, i.e. you want 20g of protein, a warning will appear to make sure you really do want that.
The goal of all three methods is to ensure you get the best formula for you. Infinit pays a lot of attention to the osmality of your formula, which acts as the main guiding principle for your formula. In simple terms, osmality is defined as how well one substance desolves into another and is measured in terms of milliosmoles per kilogram. The higher the concentration of the substance dissolved, the higher the osmality score. An example is that a cup of water with 5 tablespoons of salt will have a higher osmality than a cup of water with 1 tablespoon.
A good osmality score is 275 to 300 mosm/kg. Above that range and your body will likely have trouble processing all the various ingredients of your drink causing your body to shunt fluid from your body to your gut before it can be absorbed. This delays your rehydration and decreases your performance. Mixes that focus only on hydration and electrolytes have a very low osmality score, making their digestion easier. Since Infinit is trying to deliver more than just sodium and hydration, the chance of a high osmality, and thus less than optimal digestion is greater. To ensure the osmality doen’t get too high, Infinit employs an Osmality Score that you can see as you create your formula. A simple green, yellow, red system is used to keep your formula in line.
Having a long history in the sport and knowing pretty well what works best for me, I went for the DIY slider approach. It starts by choosing from one of eight flavors: orange, fruit punch, grape, lemon lime, pink lemonade, cranberry, chocolate and salted caramel. Then you choose, on a scale of low to high, the strength of the flavor.
Next is to determine your level of carbohydrates using Speed and Endurance as the end points. Infinit uses dextrose and maltodextrin as their two sources of carbs. Dextrose breaks down faster, so if you choose to slide towards Speed the formula will have more dextrose in it. The reverse is true if you slide towards Endurance.
Then comes your amount of calories, electrolyte level, if you want protein, amino acids or caffeine in your mix.
It may seem like a lot to cover, but the information boxes for each section explain what you are doing and give tips on where to start. Plus, as you move each slider you can see how it changes the osmality, the total calories and/or sodium content. This makes the process pretty straight forward and less daunting than it may sound. When finished, you can give your custom formula it’s own name and save it for future reference.
To make it even easier, I didn’t overthink the process. As I mentioned earlier, I have a good understanding of what works best for me and I understood this to be the first attempt. Subsequent mixes could be modified to get my formula more dialed in. Using the sliders to monitor my mix as I went, in less than 20 minutes I created two formulas, one for shorter rides, creatively named Shorter Rides, and the other for endurance building days, which I called Longer Rides.
My fruit punch flavored Longer Rides mix ended up at 280 calories, 66g of carbs, 20g sugars, 4g of protein, 380mg of Sodium and 110mg of Potassium and an osmality score of 264. I also added the amino acids to this mix. For the Shorter Rides mix, which was grape, came in with 230 calories, 57g carb, 21g sugar, 380mg of Sodium, 110mg of Potassium and I added the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee.
Testing My Creation
My formulas arrived in large resealable bags with the name of each and the osmality of each hand written on them. Printed labels disclosing all of the ingredients and amounts were placed on the back to refer to if need be. The fruit punch flavored bag had an orange scoop and the grape one had a purple scoop to remind me of what flavor to expect.
Both were solid first attempts that if they came a pre-made formula I would purchase again. I could certainly tell the difference between the two formulas and each worked well for their given intention. The added protein was nice for my longer aerobic days and I felt strong despite taking in fewer calories via bars. The Shorter Ride mix gave me the boost I was looking for during more intense workouts.
There were a few things I would have changed for the next round. At regular strength, the flavor was a little weak for my taste and while I could have added more mix to each serving, this mix isn’t cheap. My other change would be to add a bit more caffeine to my Shorter Rides mix.
Of course I could take things further and see what would happen if I added more carbs to my Long Ride mix. Would I feel stronger? Or what if I added protein to my short ride mix? Could I create a mix that would work good for both applications? That’s the real beauty of this program. You don’t have to be bound to someone else’s idea or philosophy of what “should” work for you and you can continue to refine your exact mix. If you want to try adding 10g of protein to your drink you can.
There are other benefits to the program. First is that you can customize your formulas to different environments. For instance, if you are a heavy sweater you may create a race only formula to use during hot races. Also, once you have your formula(s) down, you can replicate them in multiple flavors so you never get tired of drinking the same thing.
There are a few drawbacks to customizing your own drink. The biggest is that like any custom product, the price is higher. At $36 for 12 servings or $60 for 25 servings, it’s not cheap. I found myself using a little less than recommended per serving to try to get a few more servings out of the bag. I also only used it on days that I knew I would really need it. This likely won’t be your every day formula.
The other potential issue depends on your obsessiveness. As I mentioned above, the possibilities are nearly endless, so you could constantly be tinkering and searching for your magic formula. This could be exacerbated if you try to make different mixes for different race conditions. And, with the drawback of the price, this could be a costly process.
Infinit offers the right amount of choices to cover the key ingredients while providing enough education for you to make informed decisions about what your are making. The cost of this process and product is certainly high, but for athletes who have struggled with their nutrition, the custom blend program could be your answer. It may take a few batches to dial in your mix, but once you do, you’ll have a product you know you can rely on.