Make Your Own Sports Drink

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Tired of shelling out $1.00+ per bottle of your favorite sport drink?  Although that may not seem like much, it adds up quickly.  You can easily spend $10.00 a week on something you can easily make with household ingredients.

Not that you should never buy a commercial sport drink; there are times when grabbing a bottle of Gatorade at a convenience store is, well, convenient.  And it’s a good idea to practice long runs and rides with whatever your A race will be providing at aid stations.

But if you’re on a limited budget and you’re training for an event that is likely to take you longer than an hour to finish, you might want to consider making your own sport drink. 

First, what does a good sport drink have in it?  There are three essential ingredients in a well-made sport drink for consumption during a long run or ride: water, carbohydrate, and sodium. No, you don’t need potassium, magnesium, and a bunch of vitamins and minerals (you can get those after your long run or ride). Just H20, carbs, and salt will do.

The key is to make your drink so that the carbohydrate concentration is between 6% and 8%.  If it’s higher than that, you run the risk of GI distress and frequent trips to the port-a-potty. If it’s lower than that, you might as well drink water.

And why not just drink water, you ask?  Water is the fluid of choice for replacing the fluid you lose in sweat but there are some advantages to having a few carbs and a smidgeon of sodium in each sip you take, especially on a hot day.

The carbs help to delay the depletion of glycogen in your muscles and the salt replaces the sodium you are losing in all that sweat your body is producing. Sodium also makes you thirstier, which makes you drink more, which makes you take in more fluid, which prevents dehydration. Sodium also helps prevent hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels) which can result from drinking too much water.

Knowing this, you can find all these ingredients in your own kitchen. For carbs, you can use plain old sugar or honey (remember, the amount is small and your muscles will take it up quickly so no need to worry about causing your blood sugar to go out of whack).

Here are two recipes from Julie Hansen, MS RD, that are approximately 6% carbohydrate concentration.  Keep in mind they will taste very “dilute” because they are low in sugar and salt. You can add other flavorings or a few drops of pomegranate juice to add some color.

4 cups water

2 Tb lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon of salt

5 Tb sugar

OR

4 cups of water

2 Tb of lemon juice

1/8 teas of salt

4 Tb honey

Mix together in a BPA-free water bottle and wa-la, you’ve got an inexpensive sport drink!