A few weeks ago we shared a blog post by the LA Times, which explained how making your own energy drinks can be a great money saver. This week The Kitchen Vixen shares the science behind the nutrition in energy and sports drinks, and how the ingredients can help fuel your body. You can read about the science behind the important nutrients in energy and sports drinks, or jump right to the recipes.
- Antioxidant Rich Energy/Sport Drink
- Oral Rehydration Energy/Sport Drink
- Mineral Rich Energy/Sports Drink
Nutrition encompasses math, chemistry and a lot of confusion. When I explain nutrition principles, I often employ the math and science to hopefully clarify the confusion.
Sodium is one component of a well known condiment–Salt (Sodium Chloride or NaCl). The role of sodium in our diets can be confusing. While sodium is essential to life, most people consume too much of it.
Salt is 40 percent sodium by weight. One teaspoon weighs 6,000 milligrams. Therefore one teaspoon contains 2,400 milligrams of sodium. Your body needs sodium to function properly. It helps maintain fluid balance, transmit nerve impulses and influence the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
After a “salty meal,” you tend to drink more fluids. The hypothalamus region of the brain monitors blood-sodium levels and triggers that feeling of thirst when sodium levels become too high. Your body cells also dehydrate because too much sodium attracts water and pulls it out of the cells and into the blood stream. An increased blood volume means your heart and kidneys have to work harder to circulate blood and rid the body of excess sodium and fluids. In some sensitive individuals, this system of sodium regulation breaks down and this failure may be the main cause of high blood pressure.
Salt is often a key ingredient in recipes because it “pulls” flavors together. Although these days salt is used excessively in processed foods as a preservative, it was once a valuable commodity, used not only for enhancing flavor but also for the exchange of goods and services.
There are times when your body’s sodium levels could be too low. For example, when you exercise heavily or work outside in extreme heat, you lose sodium and potassium through sweat. Stomach viruses can also cause excessive loss of sodium. Under these circumstances you must replace sodium, potassium and water immediately to keep the body functioning properly.
When you eat a very clean diet, free of processed foods, you may want to add salt (sodium) to recipes not only to enhance flavor but also to replenish one of the most essential elements of life.
Sodium and potassium follow water which means that they not only leave the body as a group but also enter the body better en masse. Sugar or glucose (as it is referred to in the blood) also travels with water, so these four elements hang out in all of the body’s social circles. That’s why energy / sports drinks and oral rehydration drinks, such as Pedialyte, were created, to replace this group of elements.
Energy/sports drinks tend to work best in a “sugar” or glucose solution that is between four and eight percent. Oral rehydration drinks are ideally two to three percent glucose. For example, for every eight ounces (227 grams by weight) of an energy drink, there should be nine to 18 grams of carbohydrates. Nine divided by 227 equals 0.0396, or about four percent. Oral rehydration drinks have five to six grams of carbohydrates for every 227 grams of fluid which equals about two percent.
The sodium content should be 20-60 milliosmoles per liter. Milliosmoles per liter measures the concentration of a solute, such as sodium, in a liquid such as water. This translates into 109 to 326 milligrams (mg) of sodium in eight ounces of water. Potassium should be at least 18 to 46 mg per eight ounces of fluid and can be easily obtained by using fruit juice as the source of glucose. So when you are adding fruit juice to give you that needed glucose, you also get potassium as a bonus. Most fruit juices contain ample amounts of potassium. Juices with vibrant hues contain more potassium and antioxidants than lightly colored juices such as apple juice.
Sodium increases thirst thereby promoting fluid intake and fluid retention (you don’t pee it all out right away), and it increases blood volume so nutrients can more easily reach the working muscles and vital organs.
Potassium helps the water stay inside each cell. If you added only sodium to a drink you would still get some benefits but some of the water inside the cell may get drawn out by extracellular (outside the cell) sodium which in turn may “dehydrate” the cells. Dehydrated cells are obviously less effective than cells which are fully hydrated. Just a little potassium, such as the potassium obtained from a vibrant juice, is enough to keep fluids optimally balanced both inside and outside the cells.
Energy/sports drinks are recommended for exercise sessions of 60 minutes or longer to help your body replenish blood glucose, muscle glycogen (stored glucose) and prevent mental fatigue–that foggy brain feeling which might otherwise hinder performance. Glucose is the primary fuel for the brain, but the brain uses it quickly it so you need a regular supply.
Perhaps after reading all of this, you are feeling a little foggy brained. But now it’s time to test your mathematical abilities: How much juice and salt should you add to water to make a homemade energy/sports drink and an oral rehydration drink? The answers lie in the following recipes.
Antioxidant rich energy/sports drink
(made with your choice of brightly colored juice)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) pomegranate, cranberry or grape juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/8 tsp sea salt (276 mg Sodium)
Mix everything in your favorite stainless steel water bottle or multiply the recipe for your camel back hydration system. This formula is perfect for fueling long runs.
Serving size 8 oz. (227 grams) 56 calories, 14g carbs, 283mg Sodium, 145mg Potassium. Plus up to 92% DV for Vitamin C.
Oral Rehydration Energy/Sports Drink
(for replenishing fluids and electrolytes during or after illness)
- 1/4 cup juice
- 6 oz water
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
Serving size 8 oz. (227 grams) 28 calories, 7g carbs, 276 mg Sodium, 73 mg Potassium. Plus up to 46% DV for Vitamin C.
Mineral Rich Energy/Sports Drink
- 8 oz water
- 1 Tbsp molasses (16g carbs/ Tbsp)
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (added as a potassium source)
Yields 11 ounces (309 grams), 84 calories, 21g carbs (7%), 295mg sodium, 76mg Potassium, plus 0.24g Fiber
Mix everything in your favorite stainless steel water bottle or multiply the recipe for your camel back hydration system. This formula is even more perfect for fueling long runs thanks to the minerals supplied by the nutrient rich molasses.
Written by The Kitchen Vixen.
*This blog post is brought to you by Women’s Health. For more information, please visit RUN10FEED10.com.