DIY Sports Drinks

DIY Sports Drinks

Scared of “caramel coloring”? Looking to save a few bucks? Here’s how to a make cheap, easy sport drink at home!

The benefits of homemade foods and beverages are fairly self-evident: they taste better, they’re easier on the wallet, and they don’t require a scientist to decipher their processed nutrition facts. Not to mention, your food dollars are supporting producers of fresh, natural ingredients versus a multi-billion dollar food manufacturer that makes the majority of its products from corn (okay, maybe that doesn’t bother you, but it should!).

The sport drink though can be trickier than the traditional DIY recipe because it’s formulated to produce optimal results in physiologically stressful situations. So, here are some important considerations when formulating the optimal sport drink recipe:

1. Ingredients:
For hydration, maintenance of fluid and electrolyte balance, and optimal performance during endurance exercise, a sport drink must contain appropriate concentrations of water, carbohydrate, and electrolytes (primarily sodium and potassium). The exact amounts of sodium and potassium needed depend on the type, duration, and intensity of exercise, as well as the amount of sweat produced.

2. Osmolality:
(Good word, right?!) Osmolality is the number of particles in a solution. With regard to sport drinks, it describes the concentration of carbohydrate. This can be easily calculated by dividing the total amount of carbohydrate (in grams) by the total amount of sport drink (in milliliters) and multiplied by 100. For example, 240 milliliters (8 ounces) of sport drink that contains 14 grams of carbohydrate has a 5.9% concentration:

(14g / 240mL) x 100 = 5.9%

Sport drinks with concentrations >8% are called hypertonic and can delay gastric emptying. This means that important nutrients will sit longer in the stomach often causing discomfort and delaying delivery of carbohydrate to muscles. Beverages with concentrations <3% are called hypotonic and don’t contain adequate carbohydrate for optimal performance. To promote optimal delivery of fuel, gastric emptying, and comfort, both the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend isotonic solutions, which contain 6-8% carbohydrate.

3. Carbohydrate Composition:
Carbohydrates come in many forms, but consensus says simple sugars are the ideal form of carbohydrate delivery in sport drinks. Recent studies have found that a combination of simple sugars work best, because they are delivered through different transport mechanisms. Fructose alone often upsets the stomach, which is why you don’t see many athletes downing fruit juice during a game. Recent evidence shows a combination of glucose (your body’s main source of fuel) and fructose, other simple sugars, or maltodextrins, are most effective. In the recipes below, citrus juices were chosen because they have a near equal makeup of fructose and glucose. Other juices are much heavier on the fructose and may cause stomach upset.

So, the following recipes were designed with all of the above in mind, and ultimately based off of the nutritional composition of Gatorade’s basic “quench” formula. All recipes make 2 liters of sport drink.

Gatorade formula per 8 ounce serving (240 mL):
50 calories
14 grams of carbohydrate (5.9% concentration)
110 mg sodium
30 mg potassium

RECIPE 1: ORANGE SPORT DRINK

1 cup orange juice (about 4 medium oranges)
½ cup granulated sugar
3/8 tsp salt
1760 mL water (remainder of 2 liter container)

Nutrition per 1 cup (8 ounce) serving:
60 calories
15g carbohydrate (6.3% concentration)
105 mg sodium
60 mg potassium

RECIPE 2: LEMON SPORT DRINK

1 cup lemon juice (about 4 large lemons or 6 medium lemons)
½ cup granulated sugar
3/8 tsp salt
1760 mL water (remainder of 2 liter container)

Nutrition per 1 cup (8 ounce) serving:
56 calories
14g carbohydrate (5.9% concentration)
105 mg sodium
30 mg potassium

RECIPE 3: GRAPEFRUIT SPORT DRINK
1 cup grapefruit juice (about 2 large grapefruits)
½ cup granulated sugar
3/8 tsp salt
1760 mL water (remainder of 2 liter container)

Nutrition per 1 cup (8 ounce) serving:
60 calories
15g carbohydrate (6.3% concentration)
105 mg sodium
48 mg potassium

The great thing about DIY sports drink recipes is you can tailor them to fit your needs. You can experiment with different flavorings, carbohydrate concentrations, and even electrolyte composition based on how much you’re sweating and how much carbohydrate your body can tolerate at once. Unless you’re a math-nerd and actually enjoy calculating these kinds of things, I’d recommend seeking the help of a nutrition professional if you’re thinking of making any major changes. Otherwise, enjoy these as a natural, budget-friendly sport drink alternative!

References:
http://www.ajcn.org/content/92/5/1071.short
http://jap.physiology.org/content/96/4/1277.short
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/Other/herr48.pdf
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/
http://www.poweradegb.com/powerade/ion4/isotonic-hypotonic-hypertonic

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About the Author

Alyssa grew up in New Hampshire and is a lover of any activity that involves mountains (especially the Greens and the Whites!). She speaks Mandarin Chinese and Japanese and lived in both countries as an undergrad (which partially explains her love for Beijing eggplant, lychee, and anything green tea flavored). Currently, she lives in New York City and is working on her master’s degree in public health nutrition at NYU. For the past year, she has been working at NYU School of Medicine’s Center for Immigrant Health, and last fall was awarded the Gstalder Memorial Scholarship for her research and service in minority health. Active in the Greater New York Dietetic Association, Alyssa is working with student members to create a low-literacy cookbook and nutrition guide for cancer patients, which she hopes to have translated into Chinese and Spanish. Before getting into nutrition, she spent time working for several environmental groups, including The Nature Conservancy in Yunnan, China, the Missouri Botanical Gardens in Madagascar, and the Green Mountain Club on The Long Trail in Vermont. Alyssa was recently accepted to a dietetic internship program at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in the Bronx, where she will begin work in the fall.