Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Home Made Sports Drink

A few posts ago I mentioned that my favorite sports drink is no loner available (Conquest). I decided to try and make my own...and the test was going to be the 8 hours of running at Howl at the Moon. My drink has passed the test! I didn't break my old PR of 47.06 miles, but I did match it. I missed my ultimate goal of 50 miles, but that had to do with training more than sports drink selection (isn't that usually the case?). I need to tweak the flavors (a little weaker) and salt content a bit (add a bit more), but it worked for 8 hours.

Runners essentially need only three things in a sports drink: calories, electrolytes, and taste. If you're fond of electrolyte capsules, you don't even need sodium/potassium in your drink. I've had great success with Succeed! S-Caps so I wasn't worried too much about adding salts to my home-made brew. No drink will supply the amount of electrolytes most ultra runners need during a long run or race.

After reading several old ULTRA listserv posts about their experiments with making sports drinks, I decided the main ingredient had to be maltodextrin. If you look at food ingredients in sports drinks (and many other food classes), maltodextrin is often listed. It's a commonly used additive that is safe and inexpensive. For runners, the key is that it is easily digestible and contains quickly absorbed calories (it's broken down almost as quickly as glucose and provides the carbohydrates runners require). It doesn't upset the stomach like fructose often can. Another positive characteristic for home-brewers (BTW, it is used in beer manufacturing too!), maltodextrin is easily available (I found several sources on the web--mostly vitamin stores that sell it as a body building/weight gain aid). I bought mine for $14.99 as a 7-pound powder from All Star Health. The actual product was called "Carbo Gain" and was made by NOW Foods. There were lots of other web shops that looked fine too, but All Star had excellent ratings from past buyers and they offered good prices and fairly quick shipping. I'd buy from them again. One warning...7 pounds is a LOT of powder. They make a 2-pound tub as well.

With the main ingredient in hand, I now needed something to flavor the drink. I always liked the soft lemonade taste of Conquest so I thought I'd try to duplicate that as a starting point. I bought sugar-free Crystal Light lemonade powder in the "on the go" packs. I figured I'd need another flavor so I also purchased their sugar-free iced tea powder. The sugar-free versions keep you in control of the carbs/sugar mixture and also make the amount of powder needed small (the large amount of actual sugar is replaced with a tiny amount of aspartame). My powder needed to be easily added and dissolved in 20 oz water bottles. I would need to experiment with how strong/weak I wanted the drink to be, but at least I had the basic taste ingredients (and a few preservatives too).

Did I really need any salt? Probably not. I decided to make the lemonade with salt and the tea without. I used Morton's "Lite Salt" brand since it has a better mixture of sodium and potassium (they call it "lite" because it has less sodium than regular salt).

After experimenting with different mixtures (varying the amount of flavor, salt, and malto), I ended up with this easy mixture for each 20 oz water bottle:

Lemonade Flavor
1/2 pack of Crystal Light Lemonade (half strength)
Rounded 1/8 cup of maltodextrin powder
Couple pinches of salt (less than an 1/8 teaspoon)

Tea Flavor
1/2 pack of Crystal Light Regular Iced Tea (half strength)
Rounded 1/8 cup of maltodextrin powder
No salt

This is about 60 calories per 20 oz bottle. I could use more malto to get extra calories, but as is, the powder takes a few good shakes before it dissolves. I'm going to experiment with different flavored teas next time. The lemonade could be even a bit weaker (more diluted) and I might add a little more salt too. Otherwise, it worked out quite well. I still have LOTS of maltodexrtrin powder left...my 7 pound jug will give me 252 (1/8 cup) servings. Since I use a well rounded 1/8 cup per 20 oz bottle, I'll still get about 200 servings. That comes out to about 7-8 cents per 20 oz water bottle! So now I need a name for my new brew...I'm leaning toward "Ultra Quest." Any ideas?


Russ Foster said...

Thanks for the info. How about: Howl-ade

elleymon said...

I forgot to mention the--Paleo Diet for Athletes--book has some homemade recipes for fueling drinks, etc. Christine loaned me her copy. See you soon.

Jim said...

Nice post, Chris. How about "trailtini"?

Chris said...

I like the name "Howlade." Trailtini isn't bad either, but a better name for an after-run drink!

brthomas said...

Here is my recipe to make Hydration Fruit-Ade all natural homemade sports drink. It works fine for my all-day kayaking trips, so maybe it will also be good for running races.

Chris said...

Thanks for your recipe. I'll check it out.