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
- Pour hot water over coconut in a blender and allow to sit for 20 minutes.
- Blend for 2 to 3 minutes and press through a fine sieve.
- Replace pulp in blender and again add 2 cups hot water and all to sit for another 20 minutes.
- Blend again for 2 to 3 minutes and press through a sieve. Discard pulp. Refrigerate milk.
- 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
1 tsp. dulse leaves
Optional: few springs of fresh mint
- 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)
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
- 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 large stalk celery
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 BrendanBrazier.com.
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.
Author, Speaker & Registered Nutritional Consultant