Homemade Electrolyte Replenisher (Sports Drink)

66c471b020c1d61a519d07545084944bUPDATE in 2016: This trusty recipe has now carried me through seven summers, another low-blood-pressure pregnancy, another two years of breastfeeding (which increases the risk of dehydration), and several digestive illnesses!  Today I’ve updated some references in this post and linked up with Real Food Friday, where my recent post on using up the vegetables from a CSA farm share is featured today.

Back in 2009, thanks to The Cardamom’s Pod, I discovered the concept of Laborade, a beverage similar to a sports drink that’s easy to make at home from inexpensive ingredients.  It’s an affordable substitute for Gatorade, Pedialyte, or similar beverages, without any artificial coloring, artificial flavoring, or excessive packaging!

I now drink a tall glass of Laborade whenever I’m very hot and sweaty and draggy-feeling, or I’ve had a digestive upset but now I can keep down liquids again, or I feel thirsty even though I already drank some water, or I’m inexplicably dizzy (I’m prone to low blood pressure).  It makes me feel amazingly better very quickly!

But don’t drink it as a regular beverage.  The simple rule is, if it tastes really good, you need it; if it tastes weird, you don’t.

Cardamom’s recipe makes a gallon, but since I have a much smaller family and we’re not farmers, we don’t drink it quickly enough to justify making it by the gallon.  We make it by the glass.

Here’s my recipe for one serving of Laborade:

  • Put 5 ice cubes in a tall glass.
  • Sprinkle 2 tsp. sugar, 1/8 tsp. salt (use sea salt, if you have it, for the healthy minerals) and 1/8 tsp. baking soda over the ice.
  • Fill glass with cold water up to about 1 1/2 inches from the rim.
  • Mix thoroughly.  If you don’t have a long-handled “iced tea spoon”, a chopstick works well.
  • Add 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh or bottled–I just keep a bottle of lemon juice in the refrigerator door at all times) and 1 Tbsp. of a sweeter juice: orange, apple, grape, extra juice from your leftover canned fruit, whatever you have handy.  (Cardamom recommends lime juice, but my family prefers a sweeter flavor.)
  • Mix again.  Taste it, and adjust it if it doesn’t seem right.  I usually think it needs more salt (that may be low blood pressure talking), and my six-year-old son thinks it needs more sugar!

The reason I mix the dry ingredients into the water before adding the juice is that mixing full-strength lemon juice with baking soda creates a dramatic fizz which, while exciting, does not taste very good and neutralizes some of the properties of both substances.

Baking soda is included because it is a different salt from table salt, and our bodies need both kinds.  The World Health Organization treats severe dehydration with an oral rehydration solution which also includes potassium chloride and does not include any fruit juice.  Lemons are high in potassium, so it may be that you don’t need the potassium chloride if you have lemon juice–but I’m not a chemist or a doctor!  I can only tell you that this Laborade recipe works very well for me.

Both baking soda and table salt can be dangerous to people with very high blood pressure or certain heart conditions.  Potassium chloride, however, is the stuff marketed as Salt Substitute or Lite Salt, which is supposed to be safe for iffy hearts, so maybe you should use that instead?  Talk to your doctor–and read the labels of commercial sports drinks, which typically contain some combination of these ingredients, too!

UPDATE in 2013: I’m adding some more information and linking this recipe to Fabulously Frugal Thursday and Frugal Food Thursday.  I’ve now been making Laborade for four years (as needed) and I still think it’s great!

Check out the Summer Boredom Busters Edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday! If your problem is not that you’re hot and tired, but that your kids are bored, check out these ideas:

About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

8 Responses to Homemade Electrolyte Replenisher (Sports Drink)

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  6. brthomas says:

    I make a homemade sports drink recipe that is similar to yours by diluting fruit juices to the same sugar concentration as the commercial sports drinks. Then I add lite salt for sodium and potassium electrolytes. Higher sugar concentrations would slow down absorption of the fluid into your body, so I add stevia to the sports drink recipe if more sweetness or flavor enhancement is needed. Best of all homemade sports drinks don’t use disposable plastic bottles or strange chemical additives. Go Green with Homemade Sports Drink Recipes!

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  8. Marla says:

    Hi Becca,
    This sounds like a really tasty and healthy alternative to store bought sport drinks that we can not always be sure of the ingredients and many times has more bad ingredients than good. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays blog hop. Pinned & tweeted!

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