Make Your Own Sports Drink For Running

Why sports drinks are useful, and how you can save money (and plastic) by making your own!
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sports drink

By Coach Alexa, We Run Coach for Reading

It’s important to keep hydrated when running, especially in the warmer weather. Losing just 2% of your body’s fluid can have a big impact on your running performance, and can start to cause other symptoms like dizziness and a racing heartbeat. So how do you best stay hydrated when running? Are sports drinks the only answer? And what do all the sports drinks buzz words even mean?! Read on to find out!

What’s In A Sports Drink For Runners?

Sports drinks basically contain a mixture of water, carbohydrates and electrolytes. The carbohydrates provide your body with fuel, and electrolytes replace the salts you lose in your sweat. These electrolytes help regulate muscle contraction and lots of other important processes in the body. The common electrolytes to look out for are;

• sodium
• potassium
• magnesium
• chloride
• calcium

Common Sports Drink Buzzwords
If you’ve ever looked at the label of a sports drink, you’ve probably noticed words like ‘isotonic’, ‘hypotonic’ and ‘hypertonic’ on there. While they sound fancy, their meanings are fairly simple; 

Isotonic Drinks:
• Provide carbohydrates to fuel you and keep you hydrated
• Have the same carbohydrate/electrolyte/water balance as your blood
• Typically contain 4-8g of carbohydrates in each 100ml of drink
• Are ideal for sports where both hydration and a lack of carbs (fuel) can limit performance (like long distance running)

Hypotonic Drinks:
• Maintain hydration but without much fuel
• Typically contain less than 4g of carbohydrates per 100ml of drink
• Provide better hydration due to the higher water content
• Don’t usually provide enough fuel for long workouts or runs

Hypertonic Drinks:
• Typically provide more carbohydrates
• Contain more carbs than is present in your blood, so they can be more difficult to absorb
• They are, therefore, more likely to cause tummy upsets
• Typically contain higher than 8g of carbohydrates per 100ml of liquid
• Need to be used alongside water when exercising to keep hydrated

Making Your Own Sports Drinks!

To make your own Isotonic Drink to keep you fuelled and hydrated, try;

• 50% fruit juice (i.e. from concentrate, not squash!) and 50% water, plus pinch of salt

To make your own Hypotonic Drink to keep you hydrated on a run, try;

• 75% water to 25% fruit juice, plus pinch of salt

How To Choose A Running Sports Drink

The ideal drink should; taste good, not cause stomach discomfort, and provide some carbs and electrolytes. Everyone is different, so you’d do best to experiment to find the best one for you. Or try the ones they give out on your target race to practice.

Look at the labels of lots of sports drinks and compare them by;

• Carbohydrate concentration
• Type of carbohydrates used; a mix is good
• Other ingredients like electrolytes, sweeteners, and vitamins

How Much Should I Drink On A Run?

Try weighing yourself before and after a shorter run (with no food, drink or loo trips). The weight you lose in grams is the water you should have drunk in millilitres. So 250g of weight lost means you should have drunk 250ml of water. Use this to estimate the amount of fluid you need on runs of different lengths. And remember you’ll sweat more when it’s hotter!

what you need to know
  • Sports drinks are handy to hydrate and re-fuel. Some trade-off better fuelling for worse hydration and vice versa

  • You can make your own sports drinks with just fruit juice (i.e. from concentrate, not squash!), water and a pinch of salt

  • Keeping hydrated improves performance and recovery post run

what you need to do
  • Weigh yourself before and after a run (with no food, drink or loo trips) to see how much water you lose, and therefore how much you should be drinking to remain hydrated!