Healthy sports drinks
by Rachel Jesson
in Blogs

Ian and I were offered a spot on Real Health TV again to talk about healthy sport and recovery drink options. Now, because neither of us purchase any sports drinks, I had to set off to find out exactly what was in them.

To say the least, I’m most relieved we completely avoid them and I’m grateful they haven’t found a place in our home. So here is the lowdown on basic sports drinks in the shops. If they were a pre-workout drink, they were loaded in caffeine, sugars, artificial colorants, flavourings, plus a good dose of ‘E’ codes, preservatives and non-nutritive sweeteners. If it was a drink for during exercise, it was mostly the same, while post-exercise drinks excluded the caffeine, but had all the other stuff and a small portion of salt and protein added.

To give you a small idea of some of the most common ingredients I found, sodium phosphate was one of them. This is an emulsifier, i.e. a thickening agent, and prevents the crystallisation of a powder. Is it good for us? I would say “no” largely because it’s a synthetic food additive and, if you dig deep into the research, you’ll find doctors linking it to chronic kidney disease and weakened bones.

Sodium citrate (E331) was another common ingredient. This is another food additive that has a preserving function and it improves the stability of food. It dissolves easily, acts instantly and makes you more acidic. The acidity regulator E339 was also in the mix: the role of E339 is to stabilise powders by preventing the formation of clumps. Do we really need all this extra acidity in our bodies? We live in a stressed, polluted environment. Our diets, work, lifestyle and exercise are all contributing handsomely to our acidity levels. Being acidic promotes inflammation in the body and makes us more vulnerable to disease and infections. It’s so difficult to pull our bodies toward an alkaline state with everything that is going on in our lives, and around us. And then the acidity regulator pushing us further away from that goal is completely disheartening. Not to mention, if you happen to be deficient in calcium, this stuff binds to the little free calcium you have circulating in your system and ends up taking you into a more deficient state. So, you know my answer to the acidity regulators.

Acesulfame K (E950) is a non-nutritive sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar! Really? It’s often blended with sucralose and is used to decrease the bitter aftertaste of aspartame. That’s three non-nutritive sweeteners in two sentences and one product. They don’t even assist us with performance. They’re simply there to make us more toxic and to make the drinking product palatable. Just google acesulfame K and aspartame and you’ll see all the negatives for yourself. Actually, you could write a book on all the side effects - there are so many!

Consuming these toxic ingredients on a daily basis in the hope of improving sporting performance, whether at an elite or recreational level, will not be beneficial. You’ll end up overloading the detox pathways, demanding energy from your body to eliminate this stuff - just when you’ve expended most of your energy on a training session. To me, this just doesn’t make sense.

So, I’ve discovered a lovely homemade blend that ticks all the right boxes and tries to drive you towards alkalinity. You’re able to pronounce all the ingredients, you know what they are, and it’s free of all the nasty flavourings, colours and preservatives.

Homemade sports drink
4 cups of icy cold filtered water
1 cup of 100 per cent juice (pomegranate, red grape, cherry, apple etc)
2 tbsps of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 tbsps of raw honey (or 100 per cent maple syrup)
1/4 tsp of Himalayan salt

Shake it all up and enjoy.

You could alternatively substitute coconut water for the filtered water or do half-half. However, I find the price of coconut water astronomical. I would use coconut water sparingly and save it for race day. This is about affordability. If you’re exercising daily, then it makes sense to keep the costs down. That all being said, coconut water is a brilliant electrolyte replacer, with over 600mg of potassium per cup and 40mg of sodium, so enjoy it when you can.

If you chose a dark coloured real juice, you’re supporting your body with antioxidants. This is reducing free radical damage, which means less cell damage and more opportunity to recover. So, it’s a great bonus for your body. I can’t stress how important it is that the juice is 100 per cent juice, and not a cordial or concentrate of some sort. You could even press the juice yourself in a juicer.

The raw apple cider vinegar is your alkalinity flag. It’s packed with live probiotics, supports detoxification, and is anti-inflammatory; the list is endless. It’s basically full of nutrients and enzymes, which act as a restorer of wellbeing - which is what we need after exercising… Going from super human, back to being a regular Joe.

The raw honey is the ‘glucose’ you need to support your blood sugars (the 100 per cent juice supports these sugars as well). We need healthy sugars to keep us going and training hard and well. See my blog on raw honey to view the benefits of this super food.

And then we have real Himalayan salt, that has real nutritive value. Not the anti-caking stuff that you find in cheap restaurants and sports drinks.

Finally, you could add some Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) or glutamine powder into your homemade sports drink for during and after training. Glutamine powder dissolves well in water, and it is also a great recovery aid. Add whatever clean aminos you want, but just be careful not to change the flavour of your drink to being unpalatable! You could always block your nose and down these bitter BCAAs another time in a separate drink, but I like to enjoy my homemade sports drinks…