Commercial sports drinks can be great for hydration, fuel and convenience. However, some contain an array of artificial ingredients, they're expensive, and all the plastic bottles come with environmental repercussions.
The solution? Make your own. It's easier than you might think.
What Makes a Good Sports Drink?Before you get to cooking, first consider the four key ingredients that are required to make an effective sports drink:
1) Fluid: A sports drink is ultimately a means of providing fluid to the body to help maintain a stable blood volume and also offset sweat losses to prevent dehydration.
More: Tips for Hydrating in Cold Weather
2) Carbohydrates (sugars): Sugars in sports drinks help maintain stable blood glucose levels and can supply quick energy to the working muscles during exercise. Carbohydrates also stimulate fluid absorption from the intestine, therefore increasing the rate of hydration. Furthermore, sugars help improve the palatability of a drink, which increases one's desire to drink.
3) Electrolytes: Electrolytes, and sodium in particular, are important for improving palatability and also play important roles in decreasing the risk for hyponatremia and muscle cramps. Electrolytes become increasingly important whenever sweat losses are high and/or when you're an especially salty sweater.
More: Why the Sodium-Potassium Balance Is Critical for Better Hydration
4) Taste and thirst-quenching ability: An effective sports drink must taste good and be desirable to drink during activity. Most athletes prefer, and therefore drink more of, a drink that's flavored and sweetened. If a drink doesn't taste good or doesn't do a good job of quenching your thirst, plain and simple, you won't drink it.
How to Prepare Your Own Recipe
The nutritional profile of most commercial sports drinks is approximately 50 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrate and 110 grams of sodium per 8-ounce serving.
More: 5 Whole-Food Alternatives to Sports Products
The following recipe comes from Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 3rd edition. It provides a skeleton for how to develop your own sports drink, leaving room for you to add in your own personal preferences.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1/4 cup orange juice (not concentrate)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 1/2 cups cold water
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