Take a look at the most popular endurance sport drinks and you'll notice a surprising similarity in ingredients.
There are carbohydrates (usually in the form of sugar), sodium, potassium and sometimes a touch of protein.
You'll notice something else — these drinks are expensive.
It can cost $1.75 or more to fill one 24-ounce water bottle — and you have to drink a bottle an hour to keep up a good flow of nutrients and liquid while you work out.
There's an easy way around the expense: making your own endurance drink. It may not have all the bells and whistles of the top brands, but it should be more than enough for a long ride or run into the mountains. After all, water is the most crucial ingredient, and it's free.
The base for a good endurance drink is carbohydrates. Most manufacturers use sugar, but that is a problem: Its energy is released quickly and is followed by the dreaded sugar crash.
Hammer Nutrition, one of the top makers of endurance sports drinks, uses a complex carbohydrate called maltodextrin that gradually releases its energy. You can buy maltodextrin in 50-pound sacks from a variety of bulk food and supplement suppliers. Honeyville Grain Inc., which has a store in Rancho Cucamonga, sells a 50-pound sack for $37.47 (about $60 by mail order).
Next come the electrolytes — salt and potassium. Potassium is easily added using Morton Lite Salt, which contains a mix of potassium and sodium.
The last ingredient is Kool-Aid and sugar to add a light taste and a few extra calories. Remember, this is an endurance drink. It should taste very light. Anything even slightly sweet will leave your mouth feeling sticky on a long ride.
The final mix tastes slightly tart because of the Kool-Aid. If you like, you can just leave out the Kool-Aid for a more neutral taste. Don't expect the mixture to taste like a commercial sports drink, which typically has much more sugar added.
You can add some protein for exercise of longer than three hours, but I'll leave that recipe for a future article.
Here's my recipe to make about 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of powder, enough for 17 24-ounce water bottles. Just combine the ingredients in a container with an airtight lid. (It can be messy to make, so be prepared.)
You'll need a digital scale to accurately measure the ingredients. Use two 29-gram scoops for each water bottle for a total of about 200 calories per bottle. You can use the scoop that comes with every bag of HEED.
Total cost: about 10 cents per 24-ounce water bottle — less than a tenth of what many high-performance drink powders cost.
Maltodextrin900 gramsSugar 80 gramsKool-Aid 2 packsMorton Lite Salt5 gramsRegular salt5 grams