TS Epic Prep: OSMO & Larabar Vs. Infinit Nutrition – Is Less, or More, More?

OSMO and Larabars versus Infinit Nutrition sports hydration review comparison

In the sports drink market, you have a ton of options with a basic sugar, carbs and electrolyte mix. At the extremes, you have minimal, hydration focused formulas like OSMO that restrict caloric content and suggest real food for maintaining energy levels. Then, you have calorically dense, meal-in-a-bottle type brands like Infinit Nutrition that aim to put everything you need for all day rides into conveniently used liquid form.

Obviously, the concepts don’t see eye to eye, so Marc and I thought it’d be fun to pit them against each other over a seven day stage race and see who came out feeling and performing better. There are blatant flaws in our test, like the fact that we have 45lbs of bodyweight difference, our GI systems are obviously different and our native habitats are wildly different. But, we’re pretty evenly matched in terms of endurance, fitness and speed.

And, we’ve both used both of these products, sort of. Marc’s tried OSMO’s main competitor, Skratch, and had no complaints. I’ve tried Infinit’s endurance blend with protein on several medium rides and one not too fast five hour road ride. Honestly I had no GI issues and finished that ride without eating anything and without feeling hungry. But, that wasn’t seven consecutive days of several hours in the saddle each day.

Grab a drink and slip past the break to read the thought process behind our decisions…

Tyler and his Osmo and Larabars

OSMO and Larabars versus Infinit Nutrition sports hydration review comparison

OSMO co-founder Dr. Stacy Sims’ research tells her the body is best able to use fluids and calories when the two are kept distinct. By optimizing the osmolality to be just lower than that of your blood, fluids are pulled out of the stomach and absorbed quickly. The formula uses a blend of electrolytes with a small amount of sugars to achieve this…and it’s no where near enough calories to sustain the type of riding I’ll be doing over the next seven days. For that, she says to eat. My question to her: “Won’t food just cause fluids to be redirected to the stomach to digest the food, taking them away from working muscles?”. To which, Sims replied:

“I get this question ALOT! The body is not linear and doesn’t follow an algorithmic method of digestion. Our bodies are inherently lazy- in this vein, pulling water into the stomach to help digest solids is a no-go, There are mechanisms in place to deal with the solids in the stomach- first of course, you have stomach acids/bile that breakdown the fat, protein and carbs into smaller parts. But because each of these macronutrients are different molecular lengths, they breakdown at different rates (oxidation rates). Once into the smaller parts, these molecules signal rate limiting feedback mechanisms to allow a certain amount of energy (in the form of fat, pro, carb) to titrate out per hour.

“A straight dump of carb (aka a gel or concentrated drink) doesn’t work in the same fashion as mixed macronutrient- (the macronutrients in a sense help breakdown each other through the feedback mechanisms)- the straight dump of carb overloads the signalling and the body “freaks out” saying- holy shit, I don’t know what to do with this sudden change in osmotic pressure and this concentration of carbohydrate- thus the response is to dilute, dilute, dilute! until it can slowly release the carb via rate limiting response above.

“Because it is a chemistry equation and the whole is more effective at causing “panic” than the sum of the parts, fluid with the physiological components to maximize fluid movement across the intestines is not mitigated by this same feedback mechanism.”

With that in mind, I mentioned I’d bring my own homemade fruit and nut balls, made of finely chopped nuts and seeds blended with chia and dried figs and dates in a food processor. To which Sims replied:

“You will want to rethink having fruit (especially dried!) on the Transylvania Epic. The fructose and fiber are not friendly on the best of days during exercise; and for a seven day stage race you will want to minimize that kind of stress for sure! More fat and more protein with carb will fuel you and be much easier on the intestines. Try quinoa, not the typical oat/corn/rice.”

Personally, I try to limit grains, particularly during rides, and my fruit and nut balls have treated me well on three hour mountain bike rides at a solid clip. But, to mix it up a bit, I contacted Larabar since they just introduced their new ALT and Uber bars, which add in more fat and protein from nuts and peas. I’ll rotate through the different types of bars, including the massive variety of flavors of the original Larabars, to keep it fresh and (hopefully) my tummy happy and legs turning.

OSMO and Larabars versus Infinit Nutrition sports hydration review comparison

In addition to OSMO’s hydration drink, I’ll be pre-hydrating with their Preload. Then, I’ll be capping the ride with their Acute Recovery drink and the evening with their Goodnight Recovery mix. The latter started off as a publicly available product, but is now available to their sponsored pro teams on demand only. Co-founder Ben Capron said the demand simply wasn’t there and, admittedly, the taste didn’t exactly keep people coming back for more. They’re reworking the nighttime recovery drink concept and should have something new to show in the fall.

Marc and his Infinit Nutrition

OSMO and Larabars versus Infinit Nutrition sports hydration review comparison

Everything in the bottle. In contrast to OSMO’s ‘drinks are for drinking, food is for eating’ premise, Infinit’s aim is to simplify the athlete’s nutrition and hydration intake by providing everything needed to complete a ride in a single beverage. By delivering calories, electrolytes, and hydration in one place, dosing becomes easier while sugar highs (and lows) are moderated. And they’ve been moderating the Garmin pro team for five years.

In emails with founder Michael Folan, he said I’ll be riding light while Tyler’s “having to carry around a roast beef sandwich” or something. And that I wouldn’t have to worry about eating something every hour or be otherwise encumbered.

But wait, you say. What about osmolality and moving all that fluid out of the stomach? How can you cram that much stuff into a drink and still have it be isotonic? Here’s Folan’s reply:

“A lot of it has to do with the materials we’re using. Maltodextrin can be used in high concentrations without affecting the osmolality. Being a long chain polymer, it doesn’t spike osmolality, so we use that for the bulk of our calories, plus a bit of sugars. As soon as you start adding protein, it spikes it a little tiny bit, then it flattens out. It’s tougher when you have a really big guy that’s prone to cramping, then it really becomes a balancing act. But if you’re drinking sports drinks or water, eating gels and popping sodium/electrolyte tabs, you have no idea what all you’re getting. It works for the pros, because they have people feeding them and telling them when and what to eat. For the rest of us, that’s just not practical. With our stuff, it’s brainless and bulletproof – you just drink it and ride your bike.

“A typically hydrated person will have blood in the 260-280 mosmol/kg. If your drink is matching that density of blood, the fluids will transport very easily across the cell boundaries. And that’s where our drinks are. If it’s a shorter distance formula, there’s more sugars to bring the number up with fewer calories. For longer distance formulas, it’s a higher percentage of maltodextrin.”

While the company offers a whole suite of off-the-shelf hydration, energy, and recovery drinks (reviewed here), their custom formulation program allows riders to work with an Infinit consultant to design drinks tailored to their own tastes and bodies- and even to particular events. My TSE nutrition preparation began with a phone call to Infinit, where I spoke with consultant Ryan about the upcoming 7 days’ riding, my body type, in-ride concerns such as hunger and cramping, and flavor preferences. The result? Two custom lemon-lime flavored drinks: one for shorter days (such as the 11mi prologue and 22mi enduro stage) and another for the longer 30-50mi days. Each bottle will have about a cup of coffee’s caffeine dose to keep my spirits up and focus on the trail.

In addition to the intensive and endurance blends, I’ll be starting off the day with the brand’s coffee-flavored Mud beverage and recovering with the Repair protein/carb mix and tryptophan-enhanced Nocturne nighttime mix.

Stay tuned to see how we, and our stomachs, fare…

OSMO and Larabars versus Infinit Nutrition sports hydration review comparison

22.5g of carbs and 87 calories versus 58g and 230 calories per 20oz serving.

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Comments

#commonsenserider - 05/25/13 - 9:29pm

Water in the bottle. Pop tart in the pocket. Longer rides, need more water or pop tarts.

Eyal - 05/25/13 - 9:46pm

Osmo Active Hydration is great but too expensive. Going bak to Hammer.

Mindless - 05/25/13 - 10:31pm

Gobble gobble gobble. Bestest sugary water evar.

Haywood - 05/26/13 - 1:55am

I’m just trying to force myself to not throw away the larabars I own. They’re pretty disgusting. Maybe I hit the jackpot of bad larabars flavors, but the only flavor that I like so far is the banana bread.. Three more boxes to go & I’m not really looking forward to opening them.

Also, I’ve tried Infinit’s Napalm and liked the flavor of my first bag, but the second one was a little off. Anyway the stuff works well for me and it’s cheap if you have a coupon code so I’ll order another. At a race they sponsored I tried their sport drink and recovery drink and they taste good. Light in flavor and taste great even when they’re at ambient temp.

JimmyZ - 05/26/13 - 4:28am

They should make jerky without all the preservatives and seasoning. Add carbs to it instead. There should be a variety of animals used, including fish.
Many sport nutrition products evoke a strong craving within me for the roast beef sandwich that Michael Folan eschews. If I take one with me, I ride further before taking a break to eat, despite my preference.
If I could buy good jerky, I wouldn’t even need to stop.

RC - 05/26/13 - 9:23am

Organic Prairie’s organic Beef Jerkey. Excellent. And no preservatives. http://www.organicprairie.coop

OSMO Pricing? - 05/26/13 - 2:20pm

When OSMO changed their Packaging / pricing scheme a while back…
YOU GET LESS PRODUCT BUT PAY THE SAME PRICE.

eg ““Acute Recovery””

Retail is $29.99
Old Packaging (Brown bag w/ zip lock)
Net Weight: 17.2 oz (487 G)

Same price of $29.99, but you get about %30- LESS!?
New Packaging (Plastic jar)
Net Weight: 13.4 OZ (380g)

Don’t get me wrong, I like their products.
But this is like big food corp America who attempts to raise their profits with shady bait and switch tactics.
Also why did Osmo go away from more or less Enviro friendly packaging to Plastic jars…
If the answer is the plastic jar packaging is more expensive, go back to the bags!
Last thing we need more of is more plastic in the world…

I don’t mind spending money for a premium product(s) but I don’t like companies that lack integrity. I hope they adjust their pricing accordingly.

OSMO, whats up w/ this?

Adam - 05/26/13 - 9:17pm

Nuun + Larabars!

sh00gs - 05/27/13 - 10:06am

CarboRocket is my first choice. Infinit second.

patrik - 05/27/13 - 2:05pm

Hammer Perpertuem Caffé Latte powder in coconut water. PB&J sandwiches. Rice cakes with sesame seed paste (tahini).

And that’s just for a 30-minute ride.

mike - 05/27/13 - 3:22pm

I’m eager to hear the results of this test.

Adam, which Nuun do you drink?

ChadQuest - 05/27/13 - 7:52pm

My current nutrition keeps me solid for rides up to 20 hours long, i just really start falling apart after 24+ hours straight. I need to figure out that 24-34 hour straight nutrition, hoping trying that infinit will help. Trial runs to come.

Chad

askar larkinyar - 05/27/13 - 10:21pm

could not make osmo or skratch work at any level of exercise more than zone 1-2 or not even breathing hard. added eating real food tot he mix.
crashed twice just trying to eat and ride and then got upset stomach due to high exertion rate and digesting food.

the body slows and stops digesting at higher levels of exercise. unless you have a super slow metabolism and don’t ride hard, these products are just a waste of money.

the same problem with sugar water(Gatorade) drinks. the short chain sugars make upset stomach and slow absorption the higher the exercise rate.

hammer nutrition is the only thing that works for me. long chain maltrodextrin and added protein if you need it with sustain or perpeteum.

its cheap and works great. a proven product.

El Vira - 05/28/13 - 10:21am

@JimmyZ making your own jerky is a piece of cake. $30 dehydrator whatever your flavor meat with and blend of salt, seasoning of your fancy. I’m a big fan of Venison as I hunt a good bit in the fall. Bringing in my own “Farm to Single Track” motto!

Kid A - 05/30/13 - 1:05pm

The Infinit structure is intriguing, but Hammer still has them all stumped. Quality, all natural and now even value compared to the new boutique brands (like Osmo). Hammer is also the best at providing exceedingly detailed information about their product; but always cross reference the information they provide with non-profit resources to research their claims. Educate yourself, research all perspectives, listen to YOUR body.

Ben Capron - 05/30/13 - 9:01pm

Hi… Ben Capron from Osmo here.

I wanted to answer the question on pricing of Acute Recovery and our change in packaging.

It’s true that the cost per serving went up on Osmo Acute Recovery at the same time that we changed packaging. But it went down on Active Hydration ($1 per 16 ounce serving).

Acute Recover went up because the cost of our ingredients went up. Specifically the whey and casein. We get our whey and casein from New Zealand, where the cows that produce the milk that the whey and casein are derived from. These cows eat grass. Grass that has not been treated with chemicals. The cows aren’t fed hormones and aren’t treated with antibiotics.

In short, it’s the highest quality whey and casein in the world. And when our price on it went up we were faced with a decision: do we change to lower quality, less expensive ingredients, or do we stand by our beliefs and use the highest quality ingredients money can buy? We did the latter. Even at the new price, a serving of our Acute Recovery is less than a morning latte.

In the end, you are worth it. You can’t expect the best our of your body if you don’t put the best into it.

Regarding your question about our move from the brown craft bags to the new plastic tubs, this was a tough decision. We wanted to use the lowest impact packaging possible, and we thought the bags were it. Turns out that many of the bags failed in shipping, resulting in a far greater “footprint” our mother earth. So we did a lot of research and found that (for now) the best solution is recyclable plastic tubs.

Regarding the questions on science, please have a look at our science page for videos and on our archive for the published, peer-reviewed research that our products are based on.
http://www.osmonutrition.com/science

Thanks for the questions and stoked at the interaction.

Good luck out there, Marc and Tyler.

Live long and perspire!

Ben

max - 08/31/13 - 8:28am

I’ve gone through 3 bags of custom formulas from Infinit. Can’t say too much good or bad about them really but don’t plan to use them again. I always feel a little flat when using it but maybe that’s how I’m supposed to feel?

I’ve never used Osmos but through my personal experimentations I’ve come to agree with what the Dr. up above had to say regarding food is for eating and water/fluid is for drinking. More than once I’ve started out at the beginning of an endurance mtb race using either Hammer or Infinit products and about halfway through I switched basically to just Fig Newtons, water and Shot Bloks. Each time it was unreal how much better I felt once switching from the mixes! When I’m riding really hard for long period of times my body CRAVES plain water! With endurance mixes I don’t feel as though I get hydrated very well. It’s almost like my body has trouble pulling the fluid from the mixes! and getting it to my body? My skin will get a dry/arid look to it that amazingly goes away once using plain water. The fig Newtons are soft and easy to eat/wash down and they seem to satisfy my hunger and provide good energy. A couple of Shot Bloks every 45min or so give me a boost/kick that I can actually feel working. Don’t know where I’m going with all of this but this is what works for me. Really inexpensive as well!

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