Sports drinks get a bad rap from public health figures because they’re loaded with sugar. And they get a bad rap from people like me because they’re full of other crap that won’t improve your performance (such as food coloring and preservatives).
I get the public health stance, because sports drinks are just glorified soda. However, the research is unequivocal in that sugar (aka simple carbohydrates) is beneficial to performance in events lasting an hour or longer. That’s why they put the sugar in there!
No, sports drinks aren’t meant for the sedentary or the 5k runner, despite what you’ve been told. The chances of a person running low on electrolytes or energy stores in non-endurance activities are basically zero.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with commercial sports drinks on a limited as-needed basis, but when I’m in a heavy training period, and I need to consume a lot of fluid with energy in it, I just don’t want to be drinking all of the food coloring, additives and other preservatives in commercial drinks. I can’t say they make me feel worse, but I just don’t feel good about it. It makes me feel uneasy…who knows what that stuff is doing to your body in large amounts?
Eating solid foods on the bike is a challenge for me (but I’ll take a couple of food bars on rides that last several hours), and I’m always afraid I’ll choke on those chewy thingies they make during a run, so I needed to find something that gave me energy, the right electrolytes, and didn’t make me feel like a sugar junkie at the end of the day.
Here's what you'll need to make a delicious, healthy sports drink:
- 1 orange -or- 1 cup berries -or- 1 lemon + 1 lime
- 3 dates
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- <1 scoop branched chain amino acids
- 2 cups water with ice
Peel the orange, pit the dates and add everything else in with the ice and water.
Blend it until there are no more solids. (I have a VitaMix; it will turn an old leather boot into dust, as someone once said - so it’s ideal for this operation.)
There you have it – keep it cool and take it with you on your run or ride. This recipe isn’t rocket science, so play around with the fruit content and taste. You may need more or less depending on your distance.
Here’s the nutrition breakdown; I only listed sporty-related ingredients:
One orange contains:
-230 mg potassium
-16-20 grams carbohydrate
One date contains:
-5 grams carbohydrate
Salt contains about 40% sodium and 60% chloride.
One tablespoon honey contains:
-17 grams carbohydrate
1 teaspoon coconut oil:
-4.5 grams fat
1 scoop branched chain amino acids (BCCAs)
-3000 mgs Leucine, valine and isoleucine.
You’re getting plenty of sodium, chloride and even potassium (which most commercial sports drinks neglect), a mix of some complex and simple carbohydrates, a good dose of BCAAs and even a little fat for the long haul.
Some sources claim that a bit of protein or branched chain amino acids will improve performance and delay fatigue. You can add a bit of protein powder too, but really the BCAAs provide the punch from the protein.
This mixture will cost you pennies compared to buying a bottle of commercial sports drink, and it will take you about 3 minutes to prepare, start to finish.
Oh and hey look! – No citric acid, natural flavor, gum arabic, yellow 6, or glycerol ester of rosin. Now how do those make me faster again??