Healthy Sports Drinks

I am often asked about the quality of the sports drinks that are available. The general public and the exercise enthusiasts seem to think these bottled drinks and squeeze tubes contain good nutrition.

Sports drinks are comprised of two ingredients, sugar and electrolytes. Electrolytes (usually sodium and potassium) replace the salts lost through sweat, and they directly enhance the fluidity of muscle contractions as well as reduce muscle cramping. These drinks are packed with artificial colours and flavours, and the sad part is the poor source of the carbohydrates they contain. Usually the sugar is from highly processed, denatured and often genetically-modified sources, most commonly high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup solids. It is used because it is cheap, plentiful and has a shelf life similar to plastic. Many classify this sweetener as a food-like substance. (3)

There are many simple alternatives, some you may purchase, and some easy to make suggestions at the end of this article.

It is important to replace fluids when exercising to prevent dehydration. Sports drinks are meant to replace fluids, electrolytes, and energy stores used up during exercise. Drinking sports drinks can cause weight gain and erode tooth enamel (high citric acid levels). (1) Sports gels and sugar fortified energy bars and drinks ignore the fact that fat is better for fuel then carbs, as fat yields three times the energy as a carb. (2)

It is possible to suffer from heart palpitations, lightheadedness and trouble concentrating as well as muscle cramping when not consuming enough liquids with electrolyte minerals. Consume fluids before, during, and after exercise regardless of whether or not you feel thirsty, as this helps prevent dehydration and muscle cramping.

Did you know that enough water can significantly ease back and joint pain for many sufferers? Along with the liver, our kidneys are important for detoxification, and they extract a litre and a half of urine daily. (4) Regardless of drinking any sports drinks, be sure to drink two to three litres of pure water daily.

The following healthy drinks make great sports drinks, help replace electrolytes and are beneficial for all of us. If you are interested in more specific nutrients for serious workouts, two good resources that I recommend are Cory Holly and Brendan Brazier, as they use all natural nutrient dense ingredients.


– Purchase bottles or tetra packs of pure coconut water, a great source of nutrition.

– Have cans of coconut milk (or bottles of coconut water) and Bolthouse Carrot Juice on hand for a fast drink to take with you. Simply mix half and half and place in a thermos.

– Blend half and half of any unsweetened fruit juice and water.

– Make your own coconut milk (recipe below) and/or your own carrot juice for an even healthier drink.

– Blend your favorite fruit(s), make your own nut milks, add essential fats like hemp oil; concoct your own drinks using whole healthy ingredients .

– Add ginger and/or turmeric to help reduce inflammation.

– Add Yerba Mate (a natural stimulant) to provide a boost in energy.

– For a variety of green smoothies containing many raw ingredients, check Eat Away Illness, second edition.

Spriulina Green Drink

Mix 1 tsp. of spirulina with water, or any smoothie. Add coconut milk or water to up the nutrient value.

Spirulina contains gamma linoleic acid, linoleic and arachidonic acids, B 12, iron, protein (60 70%), EFAs, nucleic acids RNA and DNA, chlorophyll, land more. It is a naturally digestible food that aids in protecting the immune system, in cholesterol reduction, and in mineral absorption. (5)

Coconut Milk (from Eat Away Illness, second edition by Paulette Millis)

2 cups organic desiccated coconut, unsweetened

4 cups hot (not boiling) water

  1. Pour hot water over coconut in a blender and allow to sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Blend for 2 to 3 minutes and press through a fine sieve.
  3. Replace pulp in blender and again add 2 cups hot water and all to sit for another 20 minutes.
  4. Blend again for 2 to 3 minutes and press through a sieve. Discard pulp. Refrigerate milk.
  5. Makes about l6 cups.

Sport Drink– from Cook Your Way to Health by Paulette Millis

3 cups coconut milk

1 serving of protein powder (Vega or Whey Protein Isolate)

2 large dates, soaked in warm water to rehydrate

½ banana

1 tsp. dulse leaves

Optional: few springs of fresh mint

  1. Blend well and pour into thermos to carry with you to the gym. Start sipping during the workout. Great snack anytime; great for travelling.

Dulse (trace minerals and iodine) and coconut milk supply electrolytes. Banana and dates supply high quality carbohydrate. Protein powder supplies energy.

Workout Smoothie (from Cook Your Way to Health)

½ banana

1 scoop whey protein powder

1 tbsp. hemp or Udos oil

1 tbsp tahini

¼ cup dates (presoak to rehydrate)

1 cup pure water

3 4 ice cubes

  1. Blend and enjoy.

Bananas and dates have potassium and the smoothie provides protein, vitamins and minerals. Prepare and carry to the gym in a thermos.

Sweet Kale Smoothie (From Eat Away Illness)

3 small kale leaves

1 small banana

1 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup filtered water

2 tbsp. hemp seeds

1 tbsp. hemp oil

Optional: liquid multivitamin and mineral, daily serving

Optional protein: 1 serving of Vega, natural flavor, or Whey Protein Isolate

Blueberry Green Treat( From Eat Away Illness)

2 cups blueberries

1 banana

1 large stalk celery

½ avocado

1 cup mixed field greens

2 cups filtered water or cold herb tea

Juice of ½ lime, squeezed

1 serving Vega natural or Whey Protein Isolate

Optional: 2 tbsp. hemp seed

1 tbsp. hemp oil

Cinnamon to taste

3 or more drops of liquid stevia, to taste

Liquid multivitamin and mineral

Chocolate Almond Smoothie

This smoothie came from the site

1 banana

2 fresh or soaked dried dates

2 cups cold filtered water

¼ cup raw almonds

1 tbsp. ground flaxseed

1 tbsp. hemp protein

1 tbsp. raw cacao nibs

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender. It may be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, but is best fresh.

Please feel free to reply with your experiences trying any of the above ideas! I look forward to hearing from you.

1. The Athletes Deadly Mistake, Shane Ellison M.Sc. Healthy Horizons Spring 2007

2. Running Out of Steam, Eric Viallagran, Alive June 2006.

3. Quenching Your Thirst After Sports, Brendan Braxier, Vista Magazine #65.

4. Are Kidneys Your Weakest Link?, Peter Melnychuk, Mosaic Magazine Summer 2009.

5. Spirulina: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James Balch, M.D. and Phyllis Balch, CNC.

Disclaimer: the above article is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.

Paulette Millis
Author, Speaker & Registered Nutritional Consultant


5 Responses to Healthy Sports Drinks

  1. Karen says:

    What a great post: with your permission I’d like to pass on your helpful suggestions with athletes in my community.

  2. Once again this information is Great, Informative and Beneficial. I have just listened to Brendan Braxier and have used some of his product before and remembered how much energy and how great I felt while using it.

    I have wasted money and burnt up precious energy trying to digest the “sports drinks” and “tubes” you mention in the beginning.

    Thank You

    Charlena Robinson
    Trackin’ It Up — Digital Journal For Health

  3. Charlena says:

    Reblogged this on Trackin' It Up and commented:
    Thank You for this Great Information Paulette Millis

  4. Kika says:

    This issue is important to me as my son is very involved in sports and this year began experiencing extreme muscle cramps. In addition to plenty of pure water there is a “push” from coaches and schools that organize tournaments to drink those colored sports drinks. I’ve bought some healthier coconut water versions for him to try but he has felt a little resistant but I’ll keep trying. He need drinks that are easy to pack and travel with or he’ll fall back on whatever is provided by others/vending machines.

    • Yes, the secret is to have ones that he likes on hand and ready to go. So many good sports drinks you can make with dates as a sweetener; very nutritious. Thanks for your comment.

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