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A-Z of making your own sports drink

The components that make up the nuts and bolts of sports drink include; Water, Carbohydrate and sometimes protein and sodium (salt). Once we know this basic information we can design our own sports drink.

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  • Water is essential for maintaining hydration during exercise or for rehydration after exercise. As you all will be aware when we sweat and breathe out we lose water and electrolytes. During exercise this water loss happens at a much greater rate meaning as athletes you will need to take in more water and electrolytes than non-athletes.


  • Carbohydrate is important in a sports drink as it is an easy way to replace the carbohydrate burnt for energy during exercise. The amount of carbohydrate depends on if you are having the drink during training/ race or for recovery. If you are racing you also need to consider the temperature in which you are likely to be racing when making up your sports drink.


  • Salt is important to in sports drink as it aids with fluid absorption and fluid retention. If an athlete is exercising for long periods of time in the heat and drinking lots of plain water th ere is a danger of diluting the electrolytes in their blood. The dilution of sodium in the blood is called hyponatraemia and it is the most dangerous problem that can occur from over-drinking or not replacing electrolytes. Hyponatraemia causes athletes to become dizzy, nauseous, vomit, incoherent and collapse into a coma at the most extreme level. (Also see my article on “Salt for the endurance athlete” for more detail.)


  • Protein maybe beneficial during endurance exercise. However it is very “expensive” for your body to use for energy during exercise. The body will not go to extra lengths to convert protein into a usable fuel when other nutrients such as carbohydrate and fat are available. While the body may not be using protein as a fuel source there is some evidence that ingesting protein during endurance exercise can reduce central fatigue and decrease muscle breakdown.

Homemade sports drink

  • Now that we know that sports drink is just water, carbohydrate (sugar) and sodium (salt) we can make our own sports drink for a fraction of the price of commercial products and even more important we have control over the amounts of the ingredients added so we can adapt the concentrations to maximise performance in different environment conditions.

  • Carbohydrate – Raro or other juice powder

  • Sodium – regular table salt

  • Water – out of the tap


During a race in the heat

  • When it is hot you want less carbohydrate (a weaker tasting beverage) as dehydration is will be the problem that arises first and hinder performance so water (to cool the body and replace sweat) is the most important component (not carbohydrate). The drink should be around 4% carbohydrate. So as a rough calculation, find out how many mL your bottle is and multiple it by 4 to get the grams of Raro you need to add to make up a 4% sports drink. E.g. 800 mL => 8 x 4 = 36 g of Raro (1 Tablespoon approx. 15 g) therefore add 2 tablespoons Raro.

  • Salt should be included in sports beverages at hot temperatures to replace electrolytes at a concentration of 40-60 mmol/L. This is equivalent to ¼ - ½ a teaspoon per Litre.

During a race in colder temperatures

  • In cold temperatures your performance is much less likely to be hindered by dehydration and more likely be from glycogen/carbohydrate depletion in the muscles.

  • Therefore when it is cold you want your sports drink to contain a higher concentration of carbohydrates, up around 6-8%. In an 800 mL bottle (8 x 6-8 = 48-64 g of Raro = 3-4 Tablespoons).


So there you have it, sports drink made easy

For questions or help with your nutrition please contact me

Nicole Walker

EPC Nutrition Consultant

BBioMedSci (Nutrition), PGDip (Exercise Metabolism)

Take the guess work out of your nutrition.

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