Save money by making your own Gatorade

I love running. For me, nothing beats the fresh air and solitude of covering big swaths of ground in nature's gymnasium. And when I sweat - as humans do - nothing feels better going down than a cold sports drink. But here's the thing - those drinks are not cheap. A 32-oz bottle at the grocery store costs $2. If I need it so quick that a drug store or bodega are my only options, I'd pay $1.69 for 20 oz. With five, sweaty runs a week, this expense could add up quickly. And so I was determined to find a substitute.

One sunny, spring Sunday I started at the grocery store and checked out the back of a leading sports drink. That's 80 calories, 160 mg sodium, 45 mg potassium, 21 g sugar. My substitute should match this as closely as possible. Also, I'd prefer that it not taste awful.

The sugar and sodium are easy enough. A tablespoon of honey has 17 grams of sugar in it and a teaspoon of salt has 2,300 milligrams of sodium in it. The potassium would be tougher, but I went with these two: Morton salt substitute (it's potassium chloride), banana. Then I ran nine miles. Once done, I tried this recipe first:

Homemade drink #1

  • 1/16 tsp salt
  • 1/16 tsp salt substitute
  • 1 1/4 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (for flavor)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 pieces ice

This first drink cost about $0.23 (it would have cost about $0.13 if I had used sugar in place of honey) and had this nutritional content: 75 calories, 144 mg sodium, 153 mg potassium, 21 g sugar. Tastewise, it wasn't bad at all! It almost tasted exactly like lemonade. The combined 1/8 teaspoon of salt and salt substitute was pretty much masked by the lemon juice, though it might have been more obvious if I hadn't been sweating so much. More importantly, it "felt" like a sports drink going down. Also importantly, if I had used sugar instead of honey, it would have leant itself really well to making lots of dry mix ahead of time, which I could then just keep in a sealed container and scoop into a glass of lemon juice and chilled water after a run.

Homemade drink #2

It was time for the banana:

  • 1/16 tsp salt
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (for flavor)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 pieces ice

This cost about $0.30 per drink (or $0.20 if I had used sugar) and had this nutritional content: 112 calories, 160 mg sodium, 211 mg potassium, 24g sugar. This one tasted great! Since I had cut out the salt substitute, there wasn't a discernible hint of saltiness. It was basically something I might want to have on a beach somewhere. That said, because it had a little bit of heft and fiber, it's something I would be less likely to carry with me on a long run, and because it had a fresh fruit in it, was not something I would be able to make a ton of, then store for a week. Those things combined make it more of a recovery drink for me than what I think of as a sports drink.

Homemade drink #3

I tried out another recipe after todays run:

  • 1/2 cup grape juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/16 tsp salt

Yes, there is twice as much water as grape juice in there. Tasting like a less sticky-sweet grape juice (the grape flavor completely overwhelms any salt taste), it costs 25 cents to make and has the following nutritional data: 76 calories, 152 mg sodium, 132 mg potassium, 18 g sugar.


At a price that goes as low as 13 cents for a 12-oz serving, I think I won in terms of finding savings. Hooray! Since that first day, I've made a big batch that I have a glass of after running, and continue to be pleased with the results. Here's all the info put into a neat little table:

          Real Gatorade     $0.75         80  160 mg      45 mg   21 g
          Lemon             $0.13         75  144 mg     153 mg   21 g
          Banana            $0.20        112  160 mg     211 mg   24 g
          Grape             $0.25         76  152 mg     132 mg   18 g

I think the Gatorade vs. water debate can go on forever, but for those hungry for some data, here are a couple studies (from the National Institute of Health):

  • Beating water with and without lemon: Among runners who drank a "carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage," lemon water, or distilled water, those who drank the carbo-lectro drink experienced the greatest water retention, least diuretic effect, and "optimal restoration of plasma volume."

  • Beating water: Among kayakers who drank Gatorade or water, those who drank Gatorate experienced less dehydration and had a lower "rating of perceived exertion" during and after the exercise.

Credits - would like to thank the website Adventures in frugal for the permission to reprint the article "How I make my own Gatorade to save money on running" by Mario.

Since September 7, 2007 - © Aerostato, Seattle - All Rights Reserved.

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