During exercise the body loses many fluids and electrolytes. It is important to keep them replenished to avoid dehydration and allow your muscles to repair themselves more quickly. When your out for long bouts of training (runs, cycling, swims over 45 mins.), drinking only plain water can cause bloating, cramps and actually suppress, rather than quench, feelings of thirst which can lead to dehydration. The body's cells need salt in order to actively transport water between them and replenish hydration within the body. In other words, an active body needs constant electrolyte replenishing.
When looking at the major sports drink on the market you will find that many of them are packed with high fructose corn syrup, unhealthy levels of caffeine and a wide range of additives and preservatives. While it is possible for high levels of sugar to be burned off by a serious athlete, most of us are not performing at a level to properly deal with that insulin boost. This can disrupt our blood sugar levels causing weight gain, energy crashes and a lowered immune system.
I've been tinkering with ways to get those electrolytes in without all the junk of the shelf versions. Some times that means I mix 50/50 coconut water and filtered water; sometimes I add a dash of salt to filtered water; some times I add 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1TBS of honey to 1 liter of filtered water; and when I am really inspired and have the time to plan ahead I turn to the botanicals to create an electrolyte sun tea. The herbs used in this tea specially blended by a herbalist friend of mine to address the needs of an athlete. The Skinny: Hibiscus and lemon balm both lower blood pressure, peppermint is a stimulant that increases both speed and strength, tulsi is a metabolism booster and lowers cortisol, and eleuthro is an energy booster and that can aid in muscle recovery. These teas can be bought loose from the bulk bins at your local health food store (if you live in San Francisco, Rainbow is your best bet.) You can mix and match herbs and flavors depending on your needs and tastes.
Drinking your electrolytes before, during and after your next workout for sustained energy, increased hydration and fast recovery!
Herbal Electrolyte Tea
3 1/2 gallons water
4 cups lime juice
2 cups of honey
1/2 cup of salt
Fresh herbs of your choice. Try hibiscus, peppermint, tulsi, lemon balm, eleuthro. (These can be bought in the bulk section of a good health food store. i.e. Rainbow)
Brew sun tea using 1/2 gallon of water and fresh herbs. Let sit in sunny place for 1-2 days until a strong tea is brewed.
When ready to make your electrolyte tea, start by dissolving the honey in salt in hot water. Then in a large jar, add the additional 3 gallons of water, the diluted honey and salt mixture and lime juice. Stir until mixed well. Serve in your water bottle over ice.
Here are a few more ways to create a homemade sports drink:
Energy Water: In 1 quart water add ¼ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp baking soda, 2 Tbs honey, 1 tsp. Ginseng
Water Booster: In 1 quart water add ¼ tsp sea-salt, juice of 1 lemon, and 1/2Tbs honey.
Isotonic O.J: Isotonic sports drinks quickly replaces fluids lost by sweating and supplies a boost of carbohydrate.To make-In 1 litre of water add 200ml of concentrated orange and a pinch of salt (1g). Mix all the ingredients together and keep chilled
Coconut water: Coconut water naturally has 650 mg of potassium (15x more than a banana), 25mg of magnesium, and 35 mg of sodium. Low calorie. Packed with natural electrolytes coconut water hydrates, increases energy, balance bodies pH, cools the body, transports nutrients to cells, improve digestion and increase libido.
*Drink unsweetened coconut water before and after exercise. Try dilute with water and use for hydration during training.