A Secret (Drink Mix) Worth Sharing?

Have trouble staying hydrated on rides? Guest poster Jeff Hemmel may have a solution.

Like I suspect most of you, I rely a lot on sports drinks. I may start my ride with a bottle of water but ultimately, especially in my Florida climate, I’m reaching for something more potent. And I don’t like any of them. The tablet-style mixes may be convenient but their fizzy “texture” makes me gag. I find other mixes weak and watery, with a strange artificial flavor. I’ve settled on cheap, Gatorade powder, although I find its syrupy sweetness gets old fast on anything but a short ride. It’s also packed with sugar and calories.

That’s why my curiosity was piqued last summer when the rumors started swirling about pros using a new, not-for-sale drink mix. Like many of us, pro riders were getting sick — literally — of their sports drinks, resulting in upset stomachs and dehydration. The riders in question happened to be working with Dr. Allen Lim, the renowned sports physiologist who worked with Garmin and later Radio Shack. Lim tried just about every drink on the market; none proved a winner. Cut a syrupy drink with water? It doesn’t work. The sugar might be right, but the electrolyte content gets too diminished. Lim called in a friend, Stanford professor Dr. Stacy Sims, and the two began to develop their own home-brew that had less calories, more salt, and featured absolutely no artificial colors or flavors.

All this wasn’t for resale — this was to hydrate pro riders, many of whom had drink-related sponsors. That’s how the drink ultimately got its tongue-in-cheek name: Secret Drink Mix. Only after more and more people heard of the mix and wanted to buy it did the pair ultimately offer it up for sale through a website so low-key you almost had to be a cycling insider to find it.

Apparently there are no anti-caking agents or preservatives, so they sell these tins to keep the stuff dry and from turning into concrete.

Interesting story, but what matters to the recreational rider is how it tastes…and works. The first thing I noticed about SDM was that it actually has a clean, almost refreshing taste. It’s not watered down, but light, with no syrupy sweetness that will haunt you after the first bottle. It tastes like fruit because, well, that’s what it is. Flavoring is provided by freeze-dried fruit powder. While the weather was still hot, I noticed a drank a lot more of SDM simply because I wanted refreshment, not because I knew I had to force myself to hydrate.

I also noticed I felt a little fresher after my longest rides. At first I chalked it up to my imagination, but then I noted those empty bottles. I think I was simply staying more hydrated. As Lim recommends, I was using my drink for hydration. Serious calories came from Clif Bars or the like. (There’s some interesting science to back up that assertion if you want to do a little searching on the Internet.)

The ultimate test is what happened after I used up my free sample. As it’s not cranked out by a sports drink behemoth, SDM is expensive, about $1 per bottle. I went back to Gatorade, but now knew what I was missing. So yup, I actually bought a pound of mix. As a family man with other things to pay for, I plan to ration it for bigger rides or the occasional race. It’s that good. The only other minor downside is the mix’s ratio. It’s 500ml per 16 ounces of water. Most water bottles hold 21-24.

SDM also comes in these single-serve packs. They’re pretty generous…threw in a handful of other flavors with my order.

For those of you not satisfied by your drinks, I’d suggest you give it a shot. There are codes on the Internet (SDMFACEBOOK) good for about 15% off. Reviews have been quite positive.



  1. Another Jeff... says

    Although I’m sure everyone knows how to Google, guess I should have put in the website — www.secretdrinkmix.com. And since I’ve already been asked this by a friend of mine, no it doesn’t taste salty in the least.

  2. Puddle says

    There was an article about Allen Lim in an issue of Bicycling a year or so back. Sounds like an interesting guy…

  3. bikelife says

    Great Post, Jeff! but a couple questions pop to mind, web
    http://www.secretdrinkmix.com lists several flavors, which did you try?
    Like you, I use the larger )21oz) bottles, which i usually use a 16 oz packet of mix to water down the syrup, would you recommend the same or go full dose?
    The site lists several flavors for exercise, and one for “anytime” any thoughts on what the difference is?

    • Jeff says

      I tried all three flavors – lemon/lime, raspberry, and orange. Really liked the raspberry at first, but over time found the lemon-lime most refreshing. I’ve just been filling my bottles short of full to keep the ratio what they recommend. As to the exercise/anytime thing, apparently the anytime is kind of like Pedialite…good for hydration when not exercising.

      I don’t think I’ve read a single bad comment about the stuff anywhere. I love it…just wish it was cheaper!

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