Store-bought bottled electrolyte drinks are made with chemically treated, refined sugars, they contain food dyes as well as artificial flavoring and other less-than-stellar ingredients such as brominated vegetable oils. These are all ingredients I choose not to use in my kitchen, so why would I serve anyone a drink that contains all of the above?
It's true that staying hydrated is important, especially if you're exercising and sweating a lot. Many experts agree that most people will be fine simply drinking water and eating a well-balanced diet. And there's a big difference between athletes who are working out everyday for hours on end, and those who do a 20-minute workout before breakfast.
Who needs electrolytes?
Electrolytes include calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride and phosphate. They are minerals that occur naturally in the body that can affect the pH balance of fluids in your body, according to WebMD. Most of the time, your body keeps everything in balance and simple water is the best answer, but there are moments when a homemade drink may help.
I've heard testimonies from others — one being a pregnant mother — who were having a hard time staying hydrated with water alone in certain situations. At the advice of her doctor, my pregnant friend started making a homemade hydration drink with natural electrolytes that helped her stay hydrated.
About five years ago, I got really sick for a week and found myself terribly dehydrated. Chicken broth with ample amount of unrefined salt in it brought me back to the land of the living — or at least that's how I felt. The electrolytes in the salt and chicken broth were likely what made me feel so much better when water was doing nothing for me. I've also found kombucha can help me feel more hydrated when I'm sick or during a hot day.
WebMD says while it's normal to reach for sports drinks when you have cold or flu symptoms, they agree that store-bought electrolyte drinks contain far too much sugar. That's where the recipe below comes in.
While most of us won't need to worry about electrolytes unless we're sweating and working out vigorously for more than an hour, according to pediatric sports medicine specialist, there are times — when you're sick, pregnant, nursing or out in the sun a lot — when a drink containing natural electrolytes can be hydrating. If you want to replace overpriced sport drinks, it's simple to make your own at home.
How to make a simple electrolyte drink at home
There's a lot of sugar in a store-bought sports drink. If your child does need the electrolytes, try making a homemade version instead. (Photo: Chris [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)
Or, you can make this super simple, easily adaptable version that tastes sort of like orange lemonade with a dash of salt. It's tasty and refreshing. I used local raw honey that was unfiltered, so it will have a slightly honey-ish taste (even with just the 2 tablespoons). You can always replace it with organic, unbleached sugar, as some recipes use that instead of the honey.
Super Simple Electrolyte Drink
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 cups of filtered water
- 2-4 tablespoons raw honey, to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon unrefined salt (to taste)
In a blender, blend all of the ingredients together until the honey or sugar is dissolved. Taste test and adjust as needed. Enjoy.
Some additional natural options include simply drinking coconut water. The balance of electrolytes in coconut water mimics your blood's electrolyte balance, and it's refreshing, too. You can add some fruit juice to flavor it, if you'd like.
You can also make a homemade "V8"-style juice with a juicer by using tomatoes, celery, carrots, a bit of parsley, a handful of greens and even onion and garlic or red pepper. (Celery contains natural sodium, and can make this juice a bit "salty" in taste, but some people like to add a dash more of unrefined salt and ground pepper too.) Another option is a simple vegetable and fruit juice using 6 celery sticks, 1 apple, and half of a lemon.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was first published in March 2013.