DIY sport drink posted: Thu 2011-07-14 13:58:32 tags: recipes, fitness

The purpose of commercial sport drinks (Gatorade, Powerade etc.) is twofold: primarily to hydrate while maintaining electrolyte balance, hence the sodium and potassium content; and secondarily, to supply carbs.

There's certainly room for product improvement, though. For starters, marketing is a significant chunk of the price of each bottle. I don't have any recent numbers to approximate just how much, but this article may suggest some perspective.

Over 75% of the cost of liquid Gatorade appears to be the sheer cost of distributing the water that makes it a ready-to-drink liquid. To wit, a $12 jar of Gatorade mix powder makes 9 gallons, which would cost ~$53 packaged as ready-to-drink 20oz. bottles.

So I figure, if you're going to mix a drink from powder anyway? you may as well mix something more nutritious than your typical sport drink. For example, Tang, which offers vitamin C and a little calcium; and we'll use Morton's "Lite Salt" to add back potassium and sodium. First, let's look at some base cost and nutrition numbers:

Serving size8 oz8 oz
Carbs (all sugar)22g14g
Sodium35mg110mg (4%DV)
Potassium030mg (<1%DV)
vitamin C100%DV0

So, Tang is more expensive per serving vs. Gatorade powder, though still comfortably more economical than bottled Gatorade. It's also way more sugar. I'm not a big fan of sweet soft drinks to start with, and sugarless sweeteners are generally worse than no sweetener at all, so to me cutting back the powder:water ratio to 2/3 or even half still tastes okay, and drives the cost back down to flip off Gatorade.

Now to fix the electrolyte profile. Americans generally get more than enough dietary sodium, in the form of salt, from prepared foods, fast foods, salting to recipe during food prep and salting some more to taste at the table. What Americans often don't get enough of is potassium. And while we're talking electrolytes, let's also note that dietary calcium isn't just important for bone integrity, it also plays an important role in hydration and electrolyte balance. So yay for Tang having at least a little calcium, where Gatorade has none.

The cost of adding the electrolytes plants crave to our Tang is negligible: a container of Morton's "Lite Salt" costs $1.79, and contains 222 servings at 1/4 tsp (1.4g) per serving; i.e. less than a penny per serving. Each serving consists of 350mg potassium (10%DV), 290mg sodium (12%DV), and some essential iodide that you won't find in your commercial sport drinks (40%DV). Still leaning a little heavier on sodium than potassium, but much closer to a good 1;1 ratio than Gatorade. In keeping with the understanding that 8oz is not a realistic "serving" size, we can safely dose our 32oz reused Gatorade bottle, now refilled with dilute Tang, with a 1/4 tsp serving of "lite salt"... and still blow Gatorade's electrolyte profile out of the water (er, so to speak).

So how does this "electro-Tang" taste? It's not bad at all. I would drink it with breakfast; I would also mix it with vodka, white wine or champagne. And I would definitely have no qualms about sipping 8 oz before sweating my balls off for an hour of cardio training and sucking down at least another 16oz after.

Quick recipe: 2 rounded tbsp Tang powder + 1/4 tsp lite salt + 1 quart water --> 200%DV vitamin C, 20%DV calcium, 10%DV potassium, 15%DV sodium, 40%DV iodine, 180 cal, cost ~$.40