Friday, April 12, 2013

Fuel and Cool: How to Make Your Own Sports Drink
Sports drinks like ... um ... a couple that end in "ade" are popular on soccer fields, at race water stations, and unfortunately, in kids lunchboxes. But, at about 300 calories a bottle and including ingredients like flame retardants, they aren't exactly the healthiest thing to toss back after a workout. Yes, we do need to replenish our bodies with liquids and electrolytes after a tough workout or a long run, but there are clean and natural ways to do it without all the sugar and chemicals.

The whole point of energy drinks is to replace the sodium and potassium that we lose when we sweat. Its important that we do this so we don't get muscle cramps or get dehydrated, and so we have enough energy for our next workout. Some foods that are naturally high in sodium and potassium, and therefore great options for a real-food alternative to sports drinks, are:

Potassium and Sodium-Rich Foods 
  • yogurt
  • orange juice
  • bananas
  • raisins
  • potatoes
  • pretzels
  • kiwi
  • iron-fortified cereal and milk
To assess how much sodium you lose in sweat, weigh yourself without clothes before and after an hour of exercise and note the difference. Each pound lost is about  700-1,000 mg sodium, and you can easily replace those losses with one of the snacks listed above. If you want to have a sports drink to accomplish that, keep in mind that most sports drinks are simply water, sugar, and salt. Remember, the goal of companies that make miracle gels and potions is to to sell them to you, not necessarily make you healthier.

Workout recovery is as simple as diluting some orange juice with water and eating a banana, or creating this recipe from Web MD:

Homemade Sports Drink

  • 1 quart (950 mL) water
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 g) salt substitute (potassium-based), such as Lite Salt or Morton Salt Substitute
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) sugar
It's not neon colored, but it'll get the job done.

The key to pre and post-workout nutrition is to keep it real: real foods and water are what athletes relied on before the wonders of food technology, and they are still our best bet for a sustainably healthy life. Get out there and get healthy today, even if you don't sweat neon.

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