Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Homemade Electrolyte Sports Drink {Honey & Stevia-Sweetened}

September 27th, 2013 · 29 Comments · Natural Health, Recipes

Ingredients for Homemade Gatorade Sports Drink Recipe with Stevia

When athletes are working out, they’re losing sweat and expending energy, and the purpose of a “sports drink” is to replace that liquid as well as other necessary electrolytes and carbs to keep the athlete’s energy up as they continue to exert themselves (or recover).

To develop a recipe for a natural electrolyte sports drink, I did my best to achieve the proper proportions of all those things as well as mimic the fun taste of Gatorade that my husband enjoys. It irks me when he (a) spends $1+ a bottle on junk and (b) drinks the junk. I try to jump in when I know he’s going somewhere that he’ll want Gatorade and hand him our homemade sports drink instead. Winking smile

We’re going to do a lot of Math today, so put your thinking caps on and I’ll grab my chalk. (I know, that dates me. I actually had a white board when I taught but still think of chalkboards as the standard.)

What’s in Gatorade?

Gatorade drinks (and any other electrolyte-replacing sports drink, as well as drinks designed to rehydrate and heal during a bout of diarrhea or childhood illnesses) contain five major components:

  • water (for hydration, obviously)
  • sugars (for energy/carbs)
  • citric acid and sodium citrate (both preservatives, also sodium citrate in some forms has been show to increase running performance – but it also chelates calcium, a necessary electrolyte that needs to be replaced!)
  • salt (to replace the electrolyte sodium)
  • monopotassium phosphate (chosen form of potassium, another essential electrolyte)

Besides the questionable “natural and artificial flavors” and the artificial food dyes, that’s all that’s needed to be “Gatorade.”

We can do that.

Ingredients for Homemade Gatorade Sports Drink Recipe with Stevia

In fact, we can do one better with real food. We first look at the World Health Organization’s recipe for a rehydration drink, which serves a very similar purpose for dehydrated individuals: replace electrolytes, give energy, hydrate the body. It includes:

  • sodium chloride
  • trisodium citrate
  • potassium chloride
  • sugar/glucose
  • water

This post is sponsored by HoneyMaxx.

How Much Sugar?

We know white sugar is bad for us. We know high fructose corn syrup is worse. Why work out and try to keep your body healthy and then pour junk into it?

Regular Gatorade has a lot of sugar. Check this out:

  • Gatorade = 21 g sugars in 12 oz. (over 5 tsp. sugar)
  • 12 x 5 = 60 (pretty close to 64 oz. in a half gallon)
  • 21 x 5 = >105 g sugars in a half gallon of Gatorade
  • 1 teaspoon sugar = 4 g
  • 105 / 4 = 26.25
  • **Over 26 teaspoons of sugar in a half gallon Gatorade**

(I chose a half gallon for comparison’s sake, since that’s what this homemade sports drink recipe will make.)

The idea behind the sugar (carbohydrates) is to give energy to the athlete. I wonder how much athletes really need to keep going though.

WHO rehydration recipes range from 6-8 tsp. sugar for a liter, about 5 cups (1.2-1.6 tsp. per cup) or the latest calls for 13.5g anhydrous glucose per liter. Wikipedia lists it at 2 Tbs. (6 tsp.) per quart, or 1.5 tsp. per cup.

x 8 cups in a half gallon = 9.6-12.8 tsp. sugar in a half gallon

x 4 g sugar in a teaspoon = 38.4-51.2 g sugar in a half gallon rehydration electrolyte drink, according to what a dehydrated person needs to perk up

So the first lesson, which is not surprising, is that commercial Gatorade is far sweeter than it needs to be to give someone appropriate carbs for energy purposes – by more than TWICE as much!

Homemade Sports Drink

To make a natural electrolyte replacement that is also good for athletes to replenish their energy in the form of carbohydrates, we’d want approximately 40-50g of sugar, which is 10-12 tsp., or a scant 4 tablespoons in a half gallon.

I’d rather use honey, which is a much better carbohydrate energy source because “honey contains three different natural sugars – glucose, fructose and maltose. Each of these sugars is absorbed into the bloodstream at a slightly differently rate,” explains HoneyMaxx, “making it virtually time-released, which is perfect for endurance athletes.”

Besides that, there are other benefits to honey, especially natural raw honey, that white sugar certainly does not share. It still increases your glycemic index, however, so for diabetics it is no better than sugar (or not enough to make a marked difference).

To use honey, we do a little more math:

Honey = 16 g sugar in a Tbs. (about 5 1/3 g per tsp.)

We want between 40-50 g sugars in our drink, a little lower for people who are just replacing sweat, I’d think, and higher for hard core athletes in training (and maybe children?). So that’s between 2-3 Tbs. of honey for a half gallon.

That amount is a good “sweet” for some, but considering your average American is expecting double that, we can make up the sweet without extra unnecessary carbs with a little stevia.

Gatorade happens to have a “low calorie” version of the sports drink called G2. Guess how many carbs (sugars) it has? 40g per half gallon, exactly what it should have. The remainder of the “sweet” is made up by Sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame potassium, another artificial sweetener i.e. poison. We can do better than that!

Rehydrating when Sick

Ingredients for Homemade Gatorade Electrolyte Drink with Stevia

For a diabetic or someone who only needs to replace electrolytes, not carbs, such as a more medicinal use like during a bout of diarrhea, you could totally skip the honey and double the stevia, more to taste if necessary. If you have the unrefined brown stevia concentrate like in the picture, you need at least double the stevia, or a half teaspoon total for a half gallon.

My husband thought that ratio was just perfect, although some may want a bit more. That’s the wonderful thing about sweetening beverages with stevia; you can always add a few drops to an individual serving or taste and improve the whole batch (can’t do that with muffins, for example).

For children who are ill, I might still keep the honey in, especially if you have raw honey, for its antibacterial, immune boosting and upper respiratory supporting properties (source) and because kids need carbs for energy, even if they’re not expending as much because they are sick. Pedialyte does include sugars (refined corn sugars, ick), although I’m unclear whether that’s for a health purpose or just taste. Livestrong says that the dextrose increases the absorption of water and sodium.

Pedialyte also includes zinc, which is great thing to have when you’re under the weather. Pumpkin seeds are really high in zinc, so be sure to buy pie pumpkins this time of year and make crispy roasted pumpkin seeds as often as you can. Please keep in mind that I am neither a doctor nor a nurse, and I don’t give out medical advice of any kind.

How Many Electrolytes?

Homemade Stevia Sweetened Electrolyte Sports Drink

“Electrolytes are minerals that use electric charges in the body to produce reactions such as muscle contraction, nerve movement and a regular heartbeat.” (source: Livestrong)

Let’s take them one at a time:

salt / sodium

  • Gatorade = 13.75 mg/ oz.
  • WHO rehydration recipe = ~18 mg / oz. + baking soda usually recommended in the same ratio I use (technically sodium is measured as an osmolarity of 245 mmol/L, my first chance to use high school chemistry in 15 years…and heck if I can remember how to figure molarity.)
  • Our recipe = ~18 mg / oz. from salt and 4.8 mg / oz. from baking soda

Baking soda is included because it’s a different kind of salt than table salt (sodium chloride) and our bodies need both kinds:

Strenuous exercise leads to the buildup of lactic acid with associated muscle pain and fatigue. The longer an athlete can delay lactic acid buildup, the better his performance, especially in situations that require endurance. That’s exactly what drinking baking soda does for athletes. Baking soda has been found to be effective in boosting multiple sprint performances by neutralizing lactic acid buildup, thereby delaying muscle pain and fatigue. (source: Livestrong)

A rough guide to the amount of salt is that the solution should taste no saltier than tears. The sports drink will taste too salty if your body doesn’t need the salt. When you are genuinely depleted, it should taste just right (I love that God made our bodies so well that they can teach us what we need!).

Too much baking soda – like massive amounts – can be dangerous for children, but it would be highly unlikely that someone could overdose on baking soda by drinking homemade sports drinks.

Folks with high blood pressure need to be careful of sodium intake overall, so it might be a good idea to check with your doctor if you have that condition. “Lite salt” could be a safe substitute in a homemade recipe – but those with high blood pressure really should check with their doctor before drinking the commercial sports drinks, too, as they have a high sodium content as well. How many people drink Gatorade as a random “I’m thirsty” drink when they haven’t expended enough energy to need to replace electrolytes and sodium? It’s really not a good idea.

Potassium

  • Gatorade = 3.75 mg. / oz.
  • WHO rehydration recipe = might be up to 44 mg / oz. (Wiki says it uses 1.5 g/L; a liter is 4.22 cups = 33.76 ounces, 1.5 g / 33.76 ounces * 1000 = 44.43 mg / oz.)
  • Our recipe = just over 2 mg / oz. (lemon juice has 35 mg potassium per ounce; 35 x 4 oz. = 140 mg in a half gallon divided by 64 ounces = 2.18)
    • One could add 1/8-1/4 tsp. Morton “lite salt” which is potassium chloride if potassium feels more important. Some WHO rehydration recipes list 1/4 tsp. salt substitute per liter for potassium (so about a scant 1/2 tsp. for our half gallon batch).
  • If using orange juice, you’d have 3.5 mg. potassium / ounce (orange juice has 56 mg potassium per ounce)

Lemon juice even has enough potassium to treat kidney stones in place of potassium citrate, so I feel pretty confident that it can replace electrolytes. However, for serious rehydration, you couldn’t use enough lemon juice to equal the WHO recipe; that would make it so sour it would be undrinkable. The orange juice version fares better on the potassium scale, but my husband really didn’t like that flavor (although the 8yo boy thought it was the bomb). It’s still not quite enough, so if potassium is a key factor for you, be sure to try the lite salt.

Another option I’ve seen is potassium citrate, which is in Kool-aid type powders – if you’re really interested in getting enough potassium, you might look for a natural drink packet, and that would add a lot of flavor too, hopefully without any additional sweetener.

magnesium

This electrolyte seems largely unaddressed in Gatorade and most of the homemade recipes I’ve seen, including the WHO version, but HoneyMaxx includes it in theirs. Real Salt does have trace elements of magnesium, so please be sure to use whole, unrefined salt when making this recipe and at least you’ll get a little magnesium, as well as calcium and 60 other trace minerals, including silica, which can even help calcium be absorbed better into your body.

Magnesium is a very important mineral for overall health, so if you happen to have some on hand as an oral supplement, I’d include a serving in this recipe.

Calcium

I’m really not sure if the WHO recipe includes calcium or not, but the sodium citrate in Gatorade chelates (removes) calcium from the body, so that seems awfully counter-productive.

The Recipe: Homemade Electrolyte Replacement Sports Drink

Homemade Electrolyte Sports Drink


Homemade Electrolyte Sports Drink {Honey & Stevia-Sweetened}
Print
Recipe type: beverage
Author: Katie Kimball
Prep time: 5 mins
Total time: 5 mins
Yield: 8
Ingredients

All ingredients are Amazon affiliate links.

Instructions
  1. Mix the salt and baking soda with water until dissolved. Some people heat the water to get it all perfectly dissolved; I just shake it up and call it good enough. Add the lemon juice, lime juice and sweetener and shake well to combine. You may find that the honey is difficult to mix in; just keep trying, try a long knife to stir, and shake well before serving. Store refrigerated for up to a week.
Notes

I squeeze lime juice in bulk and freeze tablespoon-sized servings, then just add one cube to this mixture.

**Another flavoring option is to use 1/2 c. orange juice and 2 Tbs. lemon juice in place of the lemon/lime mixture.

 

Notes:

  • If you do use real lemons, you should be aware of the chemicals sprayed on citrus after picking.
  • You can freeze the drink, then add a few cubes to a glass of the full stuff or use a frozen concentrate cube (i.e. mix up with only about a 1/2 cup of water plus the other ingredients) and mix with a cup of water as it melts.
  • I use a bottled organic lemon juice with zero added ingredients (from Costco). It’s delicious, and so much easier than juicing my own lemons (which would be a decently big chore if you were making this regularly). I don’t recommend most bottled lemon juice though – check the ingredients and you’ll see why.
  • Stevia drops, for me, came out to about 35-40 drops per quarter teaspoon, but my friend Adrienne at Whole New Mom gets 44 drops in a teaspoon…so you might want to try it yourself to see how many drops are in a teaspoon to help you divide into single servings if necessary.
  • I use NuNaturals stevia or Sweetleaf brands. Liquid stevia extract is less refined than the powder, although my husband prefers the powder.

Clear Stevia for Homemade Sports Drink

From our Sponsor

HoneyMaxx is the world’s first honey based sport and electrolyte drink.   Using real honey as its main source of carboydrates, HoneyMaxx acts like time-released energy in the body and avoids the sugar crashes common to most sports drinks.  Containing 100% natural ingredients and zero refined sugars, HoneyMaxx is perfect for kids, age group athletes and even Olympians.

Other workout resources:

Other Homemade Sports Drinks

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Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon and Mountain Rose Herbs from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. Honeymaxx is a paid sponsor of the post. See my full disclosure statement here.


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29 Comments so far ↓

  • Tina

    I didn’t do any of the math, but got my husband off nasty sports drinks a long time ago. I brew hibiscus tea (nice red color!). I then add honey and coconut sugar for a wide range of different sugars/carbohydrates and a sprinkle in some real sea salt. I don’t even measure, just kind of eyeball it. He loves it and it’s a zillion times better for him! Plus, hibiscus has some wonderful healing properties – lowering blood pressure is one of them!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Cait

    I’m planning on making ‘laborade’ for my next birth (not til February – hopefully a second homebirth!) and I’m guessing it’s a similar recipe, though I haven’t looked closely at them. I don’t know if my brother drinks Gatorade since he lives overseas, but I need to make sure he knows all this stuff since he’s into sports! He’ll appreciate the science too :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Cait,
    The recipe at Cardamom’s Pod that I used to jump in is called “Laborade” so yep, it’ll be much the same! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lynda

    This is great information, thanks! I’m curious if you can substitute pure maple syrup for the honey, since it’s got a low glycemic index.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Kathryn Reply:

    Looking forward to making this up for husband and his cycling buddies rather than the commercial mix (complete with aspartame) they’ve been buying in bulk. Timely recipe thanks!

    re: glycemic index – Maple syrup (according to current Uni Sydney GI index) has “glycemic index of 54, where honey has index of 35-64 (with pure floral honeys appearing to have lower GI). Straight fructose has GI of 19.”

    I’m guessing that maple syrup and honey probably have differing GI rates depending on where the bees/trees are making it so might be different where you are too? Adding acid (lemon/lime juice) will slow the absorption of sugars anyway so the GI will be lower overall by that.
    Maybe mix half/half maple and honey to cover your bases :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Lynda,
    Both honey and maple syrup will impact the taste – so it really depends on what your drinkers will enjoy and actually drink, you know? If they’re really working out hard and don’t have diabetes, GI is less of a concern (esp. compared to aspartame!). :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Lynda Reply:

    Good to know, thank you! (and thank you Kathryn too) I was under the impression maple syrup had a significantly lower GI. I’m hypoglycemic, so I guess I better get my info straight, huh? :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kim

    Oh my gosh, I absolutely love this, Katie! My kids constantly pester me about that blue, anti-freeze looking liquid in a bottle. Now, I can make my own, and yes, we will be the ones who use the stevia, instead of honey. Blessings to you~Kim

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Debbie

    Does anyone in the States carry the HoneyMaxx drink?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mark Reply:

    Hi Debbie,
    We don’t currently have any retailers in the States but we do sell online and ship there almost daily. If you go to our website you’re able to order the product directly from us. Thank you for your interest and please let me know if you have any other questions.

    Best regards,
    Mark Y.
    Co-founder

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sharon

    Katie, this is impressively researched. Well done!

    But there’s a topic left unaddressed: when are sports drinks necessary? In my experience as a runner and cyclist, almost never. Sure, if I’m running more than 10 miles/pedaling a couple hours in the heat of summer, something along those lines can be helpful. But most of the time, plain old water does just fine, sometimes with some sort of salty snack.

    I do use a homemade sports-drink equivalent on occasion. But I turn to a traditional food: switchel, also known as ginger water or haying water. It was taken out into the fields when farmers were doing heavy work in the summer heat. I don’t have a recipe handy, but it’s water with sugar/honey (I usually use sorghum syrup instead), cider vinegar, powdered ginger, and salt. Goes down smooth and refreshes.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Sharon,
    Very good point – and you’re right, although I wonder how this might be different for kids. Do they have higher energy needs? I’d love to try switchel, which I had heard of before but completely forgot about, but a lot of folks were worried when I mentioned I was working on this recipe that it would include ACV. Although I don’t mind it at all, I think you’d find many who disagree with you that it “goes down smooth.” ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Andrea

    Forgive me, Katie, I’m having difficulty deciphering your recommendation on the recipe to make the frozen concentrate cube: “You can freeze the drink, then add a few cubes to a glass of the full stuff or use a frozen concentrate cube (i.e. not only about a 1/2 cup of water with the other ingredients) and mix with a cup of water as it melts.”
    Great ideas! Thank you for being the test kitchen!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Andrea,
    Oops! Sorry about that – an errant “not” in there – to make a concentrate, just leave out most of the liquid, in other words: “ONLY about 1/2 cup of water with the other ingredients.” Thanks for pointing that out – going to fix it now! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Andrea Reply:

    Ahhh. Makes total sense now. Thank you again!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jonathan

    I think you might have a conversion error in the Potassium section. The second bullet point reads:

    “WHO rehydration recipe = might be up to 18.75 mg / oz. (Wiki says it uses 1.5 g/L; if we estimate a liter at 5 cups = 80 ounces, 1.5 g / 80 ounces * 1000 = 18.75 mg / oz.)”

    There are 3.79 liters per gallon, and 16 cups per gallon. So 16 cups/1 gal * 1 gal/3.79 liters = 4.22 cups per liter. Then it looks like you multiplied by 16 ounces per cup, whereas it should be 8 ounces per cup. So, 1 liter = 4.22 cups = 33.76 ounces. Thus, 1.5 g / 33.76 oz * 1000 mg/g = 44.43 mg/oz.

    Your recipe looks good, by the way! Seeing this reminded me a little of the Gookinaid that I often run into (no pun intended) at orienteering meets. My usual go-to “energy drink” involves a liter of water with a little sea salt (1/4 tsp?) and some chia seeds (2/3 – 1 tsp) mixed in. I worked a farming job this summer that involved working outside for 6-9 hours a day, and I made sure to always have this mixture in one of my three water bottles.

    Jonathan

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Holy cow, Jonathan, you’re totally right! Apparently I can only do so much math in one sitting. ;) I edited the post, thank you so much. I guess lemon juice doesn’t have nearly enough potassium to matter…

    Thanks! Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Fructose Malabsorption Recipes: Homemade Sports Drink |

    […] recipe is adapted from Kitchen Stewardship, and it was really easy to make.  It tastes great but isn’t overpowering and it’ll be […]

  • Nanster

    The World Health Organization (WHO) Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) is intended for fluid replacement in people with diarrhea and limited access to healthcare and intravenous fluids. Diarrhea-induced dehydration has a different electrolyte composition than sweat loss. Water is best for 1-2 hours of heavy sweating for individuals who are healthy enough to choose to exercise at that level. Please see attached medical info.
    http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/selecting-and-effectively-using-hydration-for-fitness.pdf

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Regina

    Is agave a good sweetener rather than honey? Is stevia healthy I guess I mean natural like honey and agave?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Regina,
    Great questions- I’ve written a whole post to answer you! :)

    http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/04/15/agave-and-stevia-all-natural-unsafe-or-unhealthy/

    Hope that helps! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Anna

    Wow, this is really well researched! I use a mix of coconut water, apple juice, local spring water, and real sea salt for my sports drink recipe! I like the idea of the baking soda for added calcium, but does it make it taste bad, I wonder?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I was surprised that it really doesn’t – just that classic Gatorade taste. I’m not sure the baking soda has the calcium though… :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    S Nodrac Reply:

    Baking soda has no calcium. It is sodium bi carbonate. Also baking soda does not survive stomach acid (HCl). It turns to Sodium Chloride (salt) and Carbon dioxide in the stomach, so using baking soda instead of salt NaCl) only reduces the amount of chloride being consumed.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mary Ellen

    I was looking for a replacement after I was sick yesterday.
    However, it has been proven that chocolate milk is a far better post-workout drink than Gatorade.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Mary Ellen,
    I just don’t buy that – chocolate milk is packed with sugar. But if you made your own with a “better” sugar, then maybe… :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jonah

    Hi Katie,
    I’m glad I found your site! I WAS drinking the fruit punch Gatorade thinking it was good for me. I really don’t like the original flavor. But with your recipe do you think pineapple juice would work instead of lemon or lime?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Hi Jonah,
    Good for you to be ready to make the switch! I haven’t tried other juices, but canned pineapple juice should be just great, I would imagine – you’ll want to test out quantities most likely – it might be less concentrated of a flavor than lemon juice, so you may end up with a bit more juice and might be able to use less sweetener since you won’t be combating the sour of lemon. I bet a bit of coconut milk would be delicious to make that version very tropical! Have fun with it – just make a 1/4 or 1/2 batch to experiment until you love it. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Dave

    Hi Katie,
    Great article on electrolyte replacement. I am glad you highlighted the potential dangers in using some sports drinks given the amount of sugar and actual lack on electrolytes in some of the brands.

    Would be keen to hear your thoughts on sugar free, natural electrolyte replacement solutions. I have found some great advice at http://www.e21.com.au/electrolyte-replacement/ and am keen to hear your thoughts.

    Kind regards

    Dave

    [Reply to this comment]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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