Healthy Alternatives to Sports Drinks by Total Health Systemshealthy alternatives to sports drinks

Dr. Joel Hessler of Total Health Systems discusses Sports drinks that are often used to replenish fluids and electrolytes during strenuous physical activity. Sports drinks are generally not required for physical activity lasting less than an hour. Water is the drink of choice while participating in physical activity up to an hour. While sports drinks may provide lost fluids and electrolytes; they also contain dyes, sugar syrups, artificial colors, and preservatives. There are healthy alternatives to sports drinks that taste and perform just as well.

So what is it that sports drinks actually provide? Sugars and sodium are two key components that sports drinks have over plain water. Sugar is used as a quick source for energy as carbohydrates. Numerous studies have demonstrated that carbohydrates can improve endurance capacity and exercise performance. This is achieved by preventing hypoglycemia, which is a low blood sugar level.

Sodium is used to prevent hyponatremia, which is an abnormally low blood sodium level. Sodium helps maintain the fluid levels in and around the cells of our body. This level can be affected by the amount of fluid lost during exercise, and the amount of fluid ingested during exercise. If you take in too much fluid during exercise the sodium levels in your body become diluted. This can lead to swelling of the cells and result in mild to life-threatening health problems.

Total Health Systems of Macomb County suggests healthy alternatives to sports drinks that are sought out to eliminate the ingestion of the dyes, sugar syrups, artificial colors, and preservatives. This is achieved by preparing your sports drink at home using natural ingredients. Follow these recommendations and you will have a natural sports drink that matches or exceeds the store bought variety. (Recipe to follow)

For the liquid base use coconut water or plain water. Coconut water is preferred as it provides trace minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus, and contains more potassium than four bananas. (Which can help with muscle cramping) Adding a small amount of sea salt will provide the sodium needed, in addition to providing extra trace minerals. The addition of calcium lactate will further aid in preventing muscle cramps, as well as preventing soreness after activity. Standard process provides this in tablet form that is easily crushed and mixed into liquid. Fresh lime and lemon juice provides sugar in the form of glucose. Glucose is a monosaccharide that is easily absorbed and used by the body for energy. Fruit juice also provides vitamins and minerals that commercial sports drinks do not provide. If needed, a natural sweetener such as honey or stevia may be added.


Natural Sports Drink Recipe

One quart (32 oz) coconut water

¼ tsp Himalayan sea salt or plain sea salt

1 tablet Standard Process calcium lactate (crushed)

1/8 cup fresh lemon juice

1/8 cup fresh lime juice

1 tsp sweetener (stevia or honey)


Slightly warm the coconut water (lukewarm, do not boil)

Stir in salt and calcium lactate

Add to blender or quart jar

Add juice and sweetener

Blend briefly or seal and shake container to mix

Store in refrigerator until needed



  1. “ACSM Position Stand: Exercise And Fluid Replacement.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 28: 377-390. Print.
  2. Jeukendrup, Asker E. “Carbohydrate Intake During Exercise And Performance.” Nutrition 20: 669-677. Print.