Some of you may have heard about the scary ingredients found in common sports drinks like Gatorade already. For those of you who haven’t, this blog post is for you.
Hydration during physical activity is incredibly important- we all know that. Low levels of electrolytes can cause dehydration, muscle cramps, heart irregularities, and more.
Beverage companies all have their own versions of drinks supposedly formulated to replete electrolytes and help refuel after workouts. The problem with these drinks is that aside from the essential electrolytes and glucose the body requires after strenuous activity, they also contain additional sugars, dyes and other ingredients that have no health benefit. In fact, some ingredients, like propylene glycol and food dyes have been shown to be detrimental to health.
When you think about it, something used to de-ice airplanes should not be in anything you eat or drink. Propylene glycol can potentially cause cell mutations as well as skin, liver and kidney damage if ingested in high enough amounts. Increasing research is coming forth on many food dyes (although, not all, which important to note) having links to cancer and behavioral changes. Proponents of sports drinks say the amount of propylene glycol one would have to ingest to cause health concerns is so large it’s impossible to consume enough. The same with food dyes. While it’s true more peer-reviewed, hard science has to be executed before we can truly prove these claims, I can’t see any reason to consume a chemicals like these when it’s possible to achieve the same effects from your own homemade sports drinks. Aside from that, extra sugar, even glucose, beyond what the body needs to help muscles recover can add to weight gain, insulin production issues and more.
Need more proof? Do a quick google search for "bromated vegetable oil" or BVO. If I haven’t convinced you yet, try these recipes below to make your own sports drinks- you've got nothing to lose. They contain ingredients you have around the house, and several are items that have their own health benefits. For example, green tea has been proven to have antioxidants and other components that help fight cancer. Cherries have been shown to reduce inflammation, which makes it the perfect post-work out drink. Coconut water, while expensive, has been found to deliver up to 12 times the electrolytes of sports drinks. The best part of all- you’ll save tons of money. See how you feel and how much money you save, and I bet I'll have you convinced then.
If you're not working out at a pace where you're out of breath and profusely sweating for one hour or longer, you probably don't need a sports drink at all. In fact, good ol' tap water has been proven time and time again for being the best way to rehydrate for light to moderate physical activity. That can be boring, so check out this article with fun ways to flavor your water. Of course, many medical conditions and other factors can chance this, so always consult with a medical doctor when determining your hydration status.
One final thing- if you’re an endurance athlete competing in an event, or undergoing intense training, you may not be able to consume a drink in sufficient quantities without affecting your time and performance. In these instances, I would encourage you to consider adding EnduroPacks Electrolyte Spray to your regimen.
You should also consider consulting with a trainer and/or dietitian to create your own hydration regimen if you don't have one yet.
Green Tea Berry Quencher
Adapted from WellnessMama.com, photo also from WellnessMama.com
1 quart green tea, brewed and cooled to be slightly warm
½ tsp Himalayan sea salt or other sea salt variety*
½ tsp crushed calcium-magnesium tablets or powder**
¼ cup juice (suggestions: cranberry, blueberry or cherry)
1-2 TBSP sweetener*** (agave, sugar, honey, stevia, etc.)
Brew tea, add sweetener if desired, and let cool until warm. Add sea salt, and if using add calcium-magnesium tablet/powder. Add juice, and mix or shake well until dissolved. Cool and store in fridge until ready to use.
*Sea salt must be used to provide trace minerals that table salt does not. I like cheaper sea salts, like Fleur de Gris.
**Calcium-magnesium powder is optional. It helps prevent magnesium losses and has other vitamins and minerals to increase the utilization of calcium. These two nutrients help to prevent muscle cramping and helps to reduce lactic acid build-up.
***Use of sweetener is also optional, as is the type. The natural sugar in the juice provides sufficient glucose if you don't opt to add a sweetener. It’s important the drink is palatable and enjoyable to you, so experiment until you find something you like. Make sure to test during training and not an event.
By Rebekah Langford, RD, CDN
3 cups unsweetened coconut water
1 cup green tea, warm
¼ cup mango juice (NOT nectar)
1 TBSP honey
Measure out coconut water into container. Brew green tea, and while still warm, add honey and stir to dissolve. Add to container with mango juice, then shake/mix well and chill until ready to use. Note, you can make this without coconut water and save money by using 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and and 1/2 tsp calcium-magnesium powder to add the electrolytes.
Remember, play around with what you like and find something you enjoy that fits your needs.
Eat Well, Live Well.
-Rebekah Langford, RD, CDN
Rebekah is a Registered Dietitian/Culinary Nutritionist from the NYC area. She earned two culinary degrees at Johnson & Wales University, followed by a dietetic internship and fellowship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. She has worked in hotels, restaurants, top hospitals and private homes in Washington, Rhode Island, Tennessee, New York City and more. She specializes in eating disorders, sports nutrition, food allergies, vegan/vegetarian nutrition, and culinary nutrition. Her favorite past-times are gardening, trying new restaurants and bars, television and playing with her Frenchie, Penelope Tuesday.