Customizable Nutrition and Hydration Mix
I first learned about INFINIT from a friend, Doug McConnell, an ultra-distance swimmer. While swimming and cycling may require some different nutritional and hydration needs, similarities exist. Believe it or not, you do sweat when you swim, thus needing to replace sodium and electrolytes. Also, your body has post-workout needs, like tart cherry and L-Glutamine, to reduce inflammation. Are you seeing parallels between swimming and cycling?
After trying INFINIT off-the-shelf and custom blends of the product for myself, I sat down with Doug to understand how he’s come to rely on INFINIT for his ultra-swims. Now 65 years old, he’s been swimming crazy long distances for 17 years and continues to push himself.
Sheri: You are an ultra-distance swimmer. What are some of the longest swims you’ve completed?
Doug: A few of my longer swims include the following:
- Ka’iwi Channel (Molokai to Oahu) – 32 miles
- English Channel – 21 miles but ended up swimming 30 miles, due to currents and tides
- Loop around Manhattan Island – 29 miles
- Length of Tampa Bay – 24 miles
- Catalina Channel in California – 21 miles
- USMS National Open Water – 25K (15 miles)
- Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard – 18 miles
Sheri: There are strict rules in ultra-distance swims, including not touching the boat even when taking in nutrition. Can you elaborate on these rules?
Doug: For safety reasons, every swim has an escort boat, sometimes two. The swimmer cannot touch the boat or anyone on the boat during the swim, or it is an immediate disqualification. But, I must say, reaching out to the boat is mighty tempting after a few hours, as the cold and swallowing/inhaling salt water gets to you.
As for how these rules impact the feeding plan, a crewmember must reach or toss the nutrition bottle to the swimmer at feeding stops. In the early days of our swims, my sons rigged up a long paint roller extension pole with a basket on the end to hand me the bottles, but we changed the approach when we got to England for the English Channel swim. We realized that the pole wouldn’t work in really rough water. So, they tied the nutrition bottles to a long rope and tossed them to me. It worked great, and we never used the paint roller pole again.
The other issue is more of a habit than a rule about feeding cycles. We generally stop every 30 minutes and try to keep the feeding stop (again, especially in cold water) to a minute or less. As we get later in a swim, we shortened that cycle to 20 minutes. Thirty minutes is nice because it is 1,750 strokes away (yes, I am a stroke counter). The longest feeding cycle I know of for any other swimmer is 45 minutes, which I think would be a challenge just because of the number of calories you would lose out on consuming.
Sheri: When and why did you start using INFINIT ?
Doug: When I was training for the English Channel swim, I was given a product called Maxim (or something close to that) that many marathon swimmers used at the time. I learned that it just didn’t agree with my stomach, and I was pretty worried; if you don’t have the nutrition figured out for a marathon swim, it isn’t going to work. As an aside, I’m told that (especially in cold water) the nutritional budget is something like 1,200 – 1,400 calories per hour. There is no way to replace all those calories because your body can’t synthesize them even if you could ingest that much, so you are trying to minimize the deficit. Being in a position to have your nutrition “not agree with your stomach” is a show-stopper. I was pretty shook.
I was concerned about this other product, which was ghastly expensive, and then I ran into a training buddy who is an Ironman triathlete. He specifically asked about my nutrition plan, and I told him about my bad experience. He told me about INFINIT and how customizable it was for the needs of different swims. So I looked them up.
Our first try with an INFINIT formula was Tampa Bay in 2011, and it is the only product we have used since then. Each swim has had a little different recipe; bump the carbs/calories for a colder water swim, jump the electrolytes and trace minerals for warmer water. Flavoring is mid-range for me, but caffeine is always high. I love this stuff.
Sheri: Do you take in any other nutrition or hydration when swimming these long distances?
Doug: Not really. I drink straight water sometimes, but otherwise, it is just the INFINIT recipe of the swim. My wife, Susan, has even warmed up INFINIT, as the effects of the cold water seep in late in a swim. Very nice.
Every swimmer is different; I know one woman who likes to eat oatmeal raisin cookies on her feeding stops and she even dunks them in the saltwater. BLECH! I’ve gotten everything I need out of the INFINIT, so that is what I stay with.
Sheri: INFINIT lets you customize your nutritional blend. Are you willing to share what’s in your go-to formula during an event?
Doug: Here are two examples of my custom blends. Molokai is a warm water swim and Nantucket is a “coolish” swim.
|Scale 1 – 4||Molokai||Nantucket|
|Protein||1||2 (whey isolate)|
|BCAAs||1||1 (amino acids and trace minerals)|
My Take on Using INFINIT for Cyclists
The company initially sent me a huge box of preset single-serving samples formulated for an average weight and height person with limited flavor choices. The company sells these formulations online and in stores. The items sent included:
- SPEED blend: For short rides under 3 hours and contains no protein
- ENDURANCE blend: For long endurance rides of 3+ hours, it contains protein and an increase in calories
- Recovery blend: Designed for post-workouts
Also included was their cool 28 oz blender bottle design to mix the recovery powder with the liquid of choice.
Shortly after receiving the preset mixes, I had a free consultation with Colin Riley, one of their sports dietitians, to customize formulas specific to my needs. Anyone can receive a free phone consultation or if you prefer, customize your formulation online.
Colin asked various questions, including height, weight, sweat rate, and more. With so many options, including flavors, boosts, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, vegan, vegetarian, etc., it was helpful to have a knowledgeable professional guide me through initial customization. My custom formulas were saved to my online account, allowing me to log in and tweak them if necessary.
As a result of the consultation, this is how my custom blends turned out:
- SPEED blend: I requested a very light flavor intensity of pink lemonade (I don’t care for a lot of flavor in a drink), 239 osmolalities, 370 mg of sodium, and 202 calories.
- ENDURANCE blend: For this one, I selected orange flavor, 266 osmolalities, 370 mg of sodium, 261 calories, and for the protein, whey isolate. The whey protein isolate is derived from the milk of American-raised cows and is virtually lactose-free. Since I tend to have some lactose intolerance, this protein will unlikely cause stomach issues.
- RECOVERY blend: This time, I selected a light fruit punch flavor. Next time I order, it will be the chocolate as it mixes nicely with almond milk for a tasty recovery drink. There are 225 calories/serving, grass-fed whey protein isolate, and for boosts tart cherry and L-glutamine. The tart cherry has antioxidants, fights inflammation, improves sleep, and reduces soreness, thus improving recovery. L-Glutamine also helps decrease inflammation, aids in immune function, and is an amino acid crucial to maintaining and building muscles.
There are a lot of positives to using INFINIT. The free consultation to customize blends for my specific body and nutritional needs. This is huge! As the company name states – INFINIT – there are infinite combinations to create the perfect individualized blend. I also liked that I could dial down the flavor to my palate. I just don’t like to drink something with heavy flavors while cycling or working out. I never had any gut issues while testing the different blends. Lastly, I never bonked when using INFINIT on a long endurance ride.
The serving size is two scoops of the powder mixed with 20-24 oz of water, and you are supposed to consume one serving per hour. I struggled with a few things. First, on an endurance ride (3+ hours), it’s a lot of powder to carry on the bike, and then you must mix more bottles on the ride. You can increase the concentration of powder to water and simply drink less but still maintain the calories and nutrition. Second, my hydration and nutrition have always combined solids, gels, and liquids. It was hard for me to switch to only liquids. Simply a mindset.
Custom vs. Pre-mix Pricing
The price difference between custom and pre-mix is minimal. I recommend going custom to dial in your nutritional needs for maximum performance. A typical per-serving difference is a few cents. For pre-mix, prices range from $3.25 for a single-serving packet to $45+ for a 22-serving bag. When customizing, there are additional upcharges for boosts and other options.
According to the company, the shelf life is two years which is longer than many other brands. So your customized blends will keep for several cycling seasons.
In the beginning, using only INFINIT took some getting used to because I had always used solids and gels as part of my on the bike nutrition. But having the right calories, electrolytes, and protein in my custom blend, made a difference. Plus, adding a recovery drink after a long ride improved my recovery, and the chocolate with almond milk tastes like a milkshake! You can’t beat that at the end of a long summer ride.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women’s cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri’s full bio or visit her web site sunflowersandpedals.com.