Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a dedicated athlete, sometimes you need a sports drink for longer bouts of physical activity — generally exercise sessions lasting longer than 60 minutes. While there are many products on the market that can take care of this need, you may prefer to make your own so you can create your own flavors and control which ingredients are used.
When creating your own sports drink, you need to make sure you have three key components: fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes (particularly sodium). Fluid helps prevent dehydration, carbohydrates provide fuel to the working muscles and electrolytes promote adequate fluid intake and ensure the fluid in your body stays in all the right places.
Beverages contain different amounts of fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes. Water, for instance, is just fluid. Coconut water, however, offers fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes, but not necessarily in the ideal quantities. A sports drink recipe aims to strike an ideal balance among the three components to prevent dehydration, an upset stomach or an electrolyte imbalance. These issues tend to occur only with longer bouts of activity (multiple hours or in very hot conditions), but it’s always good to be vigilant.
Generally, you want to aim for about 14 to 20 grams of carbohydrates, 100 to 125 mg of sodium and 20 to 35 mg of potassium per 8-ounce cup of fluid. (Eight ounces of Gatorade, for example, provides 14 grams of carbohydrates, 110 mg of sodium and 30 mg of potassium.) That might sound like a complex formula, but don’t worry: The recipes below do the work for you. Use them as a base and adjust them as needed; some people feel better with fewer carbohydrates, while others might be salty sweaters and need more electrolytes.
When in doubt, consult with a sports dietitian. Note, too, that for competitive endurance athletes participating in events longer than 2½ hours or so, commercial sports drinks might be preferred, as they provide a blend of carbohydrates that is hard to replicate in homemade versions.
Combine 1 cup carrot juice, 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Per 8-oz serving: 17 g carbohydrates, 119 mg sodium, 387 mg potassium
Combine 1 cup pineapple juice, 1 cup coconut water, 1 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Per 8-oz serving: 14 g carbohydrates, 112 mg sodium, 271 mg potassium
Through his book and blog, Death of the Diet, Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS, empowers people to live the life they want by integrating healthy eating and physical activity habits into their daily routines. You can follow him on Twitter @JMachowskyRDFit.