Drinking enough pure clean water is one of the most important things we can do for overall health. In most cases, water alone is wonderful. For times of exercise and exertion where sweat causes mineral loss, a homemade natural electrolyte drink recipe can also be helpful.
Plain water doesn’t contain high levels of electrolytes. The body loses a lot of minerals during exercise. It can be helpful to add electrolytes and minerals to help rehydration after times of high-intensity exercise or lots of sweating. This doesn’t mean we should all be drinking electrolyte drinks on the regular, but they are helpful at times …
Like this one:
My Cautionary Tale …
This post could also be titled “how to avoid a big hospital charge for IV fluids while on vacation.” Hopefully you can learn from my mistake on this one.
Here’s what happened:
My husband and I finally got away for a long overdue 10-year anniversary trip (it was a long time after our actual anniversary … because babies). His version of “relaxing” is doing all the activities, so we were snorkeling, sailing, and had plans to scuba dive.
Normally, if we’re going to be out in the sun doing strenuous activities, I make this recipe and have it with me. On this trip, since the kids weren’t with us, I’d foolishly forgotten some of the ingredients and figured I’d just make sure to drink enough water. That was working fine until one night (after a long day of snorkeling), I had wine with dinner and probably not enough water.
The next morning, we didn’t have any non-tap water in the room so I grabbed a coffee instead and figured I’d get some water when we got to the beach.
Cue Heat Exhaustion
The beach was busy so it took them a couple of hours to bring our water. At that point, I noticed I was getting a headache. I started drinking water but the headache got worse and I also started having a rapid pulse, dizziness, and nausea.
We went back to the room and I cooled off, hydrated, and rested. But the symptoms continued to persist and I felt weaker and more dizzy throughout the day. By that night I’d realized that despite drinking a LOT of water, I still had symptoms of mild dehydration and heat exhaustion.
We decided to go in to the hospital so I could get fluids. I probably would have been just fine with rest and rehydration over the next few days, but we were nearing the end of our trip and I didn’t want to be in bed for the rest of our vacation.
International Hospitals …
In many ways, the international hospital we went to was much more efficient than the ones back home. We checked in quickly, were able to pre-pay, and the doc agreed that I had heat exhaustion and ordered an IV. He said that because my electrolytes had been depleted from sweating, I was having trouble rehydrating from water alone as my body needed the minerals as much as the fluids. (IV fluid is isotonic, meaning it has the same mineral concentration as the blood.)
The doctor decided to insert the IV in my hand, so I expected a normal small butterfly needle often used for this. But he pulled out a 12-gauge needle (like the kind they use when you give blood). After the most painful IV of my life (and I’ve had a lot … because babies), the fluids were in and I immediately started feeling better.
So after several hours of sitting in an international hospital getting hydrated with IVs, I couldn’t help but think how much easier, cheaper, and less painful things would have been if I’d remembered the ingredients for this electrolyte drink while traveling.
Why Not Regular Sports Electrolyte Drinks?
So why not just drink one of the many electrolyte drinks available (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) these days?
Not only do they have a lot of questionable ingredients, but making your own is easy, fast, and a LOT healthier.
Regular sports drinks contain ingredients such as:
Water, sucrose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, citric acid, natural grape flavor with other natural flavors, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, red 40, blue 1.
They also typically have fruit-like flavors but labels that say “contain no fruit.”
I’m all for re-hydrating, but are the monopotassium phosphate, mystery “natural flavors,” and artificial dyes really necessary? I know from experience that these ingredients typically make me feel terrible and just aren’t worth it.
Now, when more than just water is needed for hydration (softball games, triathlons, labor, etc.), we make our own version.
Natural Sports Electrolyte Drink Recipe
Coconut water is one of the simplest sports drink alternatives and can be used as is.
Apparently, coconut water is similar in structure to the fluid used in IV rehydration. For this reason, there are rumors it was used during the Pacific War as an IV electrolyte replacement. It makes a pretty good natural electrolyte drink on its own or with a splash of lime.
Coconut water contains more potassium than sports drinks and more natural sources of sodium. A lot of athletes swear by it these days and I had it on hand during my last couple of labors.
The only downside to coconut water is the price. If you want an inexpensive (yet still healthy and tasty) alternative, this recipe is the next best thing.
Natural Homemade Electrolyte Drink Recipe
You can make this recipe a variety of ways, but the ratios are the most important part. The base is any healthy liquid of choice and some good options are:
- Herbal teas
- Coconut water
- Plain water
- Some people like these new Bai drinks as a base as well
To turn the basic liquid into a sports drink, add some or all of these ingredients:
- Salt – A high quality salt adds sodium and other minerals
- Calcium or Magnesium – Adding a high quality calcium magnesium powder helps replenish minerals
- Juice – Optional but adds sweetness and natural sugars if needed during exercise
- Natural Flavors – I’m not talking about the more pleasant-sounding name for the not-so-nice additive MSG. Add natural flavors in the form of fresh ginger, fresh herbs, or even natural flavored stevia extracts
- LMNT – I’m a big fan of these flavored salt packets that replace vital electrolytes lost from sweating. In fact, they work amazing on their own with just water.
- Jigsaw Health Electrolyte Supreme – Try the Berry-licious flavor!
Electrolyte Drink Recipe: Basic Ingredients
Here’s the basic recipe and ratios I use, but you can customize to your personal taste preferences:
Natural Sports Electrolyte Drink Recipe (With Flavor Options)
- 1 quart liquid such as green tea herbal teas, coconut water, or plain water
- ⅛ -1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1 tsp calcium magnesium powder
- ¼ cup or more 100% juice optional
- 1-2 TBSP sweetener such as honey or stevia optional. I suggest brewing stevia leaf into the base liquid for the most natural option
- Brew tea if using, or slightly warm base liquid.
- Add sea salt and calcium magnesium and mix.
- If using, add juice and sweetener and mix or shake well.
- Cool and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
- Will last up to four days in refrigerator, but I prefer to make as needed.
Another easy alternative is just mixing Vitamin C powder with water and a little juice, though this can be a little acidic during high intensity exercise!
Do We Really Need Electrolytes?
The sports drink industry is massive! I often see 4-year-olds playing soccer sucking down bottles and packages of brightly colored sports drinks. This begs the question: do we really need electrolytes every time we exercise?
There is a tremendous difference between someone who exercises for the health benefits and an elite athlete. High-level athletes burn through a lot of liquid, electrolytes, and blood sugar during their training and competitions.
As casual athletes or weekend warriors, most of the rest of us probably don’t need sports drinks most of the time.
In a perfect world, we would be able to obtain enough nutrients from diet alone and wouldn’t need any supplements or added drinks like this.
The question of if electrolytes and sports drinks are really needed varies by individual. In many cases, pure water may be just as good of an option. It’s certainly better than neon sports drinks with high fructose corn syrup!
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
What’s your favorite sports drink? Ever made your own?
Discussion (213 Comments)
Where do you get your calcium magnesium tablets or what brand do would you buy… and also coconut water?
Natural Calm powder actually works great in this and it is easier to use anyway…
Could you add kombucha instead of juice?
Kristen Auf der Heide
Would Calm be enough by itself? Or do the other other ingredients in the recipe help also?
I love using Natural Calm. Thank you for this info and recipe.
Would we need to dissolve the calm powder in hot water and wait for it to cool before mixing the drinks? I was under the impression that magnesium is better absorbed warm?
We’ve never had a problem just mixing it in cool water 🙂
I am also interested in if you can use kombucha as the base. Sent this to a friend whose been pretty sick for a while and they love kombucha but hate coconut (which means no coconut water – such a shame!)
Can I add in cream of tartar for potassium? I want to make this for my two year old grandson.
Thank you for this recipe! Can Calcium D-Glucarate be used with Natural Calm? There are 62mg calcium and 500mg calcium d-glucarate.
as a medical professional and a herbalist involved in birth and emergency care for the last 2o years we use a similar blend for teas. you will find an increased calcium-magnesium with a trace minerals boost by adding a quality mint to your tea blend- be sure to make an infusion to extract the minerals/vitamins. remember if you are using green tea- it is a diuretic, you will get the benefits of tea along with the increased fluid elimination…
Do distilled hydrosols have the same properties as infusions? Could I distill an infusion to get a more pure product with a longer shelf-life, and use that in place of an infusion for nutritive purposes?
Hello, I started taking all yesterday and today I had a headache. I Googled DIY falafel in order to avoid the sugar — and found your recipe. I’m driving it right now worth a base is jasmine and mint tea and passion fruit juice (no sugar added). So yummy! Anyhoo– I’m not supposed to consume much caffeine while taking Adderal. So I’m not sure if the green tea was a good idea. But then I saw the above comment about green tea being a diuretic. If my headaches are due to hydration (and drinking lots of water everyday doesn’t seem to do the trick) is a diuretic a bad idea?either should use herbal teas? Lastly if I take calcium and magen daily already…is it necessary in this “sports drink “?
do you have EDS or POTS?
Out of curiosity, why did you ask about POTS and EDS? I’ve got both and found this website while googling Gatorade recipes. I’m always looking for fellow “sufferers.”
If you haven’t already, you should switch your lifestyle to Paleo, it cures all these so called diseases, where most diseases aren’t really diseases, it is conditions! And yes sadly, even Cancer is also just a condition, Artheritis, Asthma, PCOS, i really wish people learned more about what they fill themselves with, so we can get a nicer world, and lower taxes! 😀
Can I give this to my 2 year old while he has the flu? Or will it induce more vomiting?
The info about being a diuretic is interesting. As an avid cyclist I do something similar to this. I make a tea and add honey and a pinch of salt. And I eat fruit on the ride. The bit about the mint is interesting. But if you are trying to hydrate, no you don’t want a diuretic. One of the benefits of adding a pinch of salt to your bottle is it helps you hold onto your water. Peeing it out means you don’t have the hydration to sweat it out. Also I’m a massage therapist and I don’t reccomend caffeine after a massage because it will dehydrate you. I know some cyclist will use caffeine as an energy boost at the end of a ride. But I just go for a sugar rush of a honey stick.
If one is battling dehydration why would they want to injest a diuretic!?
For the record, monopotassium phosphate has potassium which is a vital electrolyte.
And you know what else is EVERYWHERE? Dihydrogen monoxide…
Thank you. This game of pretending that everything with an element in the name is poisonous is very frustrating.
Likewise, “Phosphate is one of the body’s electrolytes … Phosphate is necessary for the formation of bone and teeth. Phosphate is also used as a building block for several important substances, including those used by the cell for energy [i.e. AdenosineTriPhosphate, ATP], cell membranes, and DNA” – from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-balance/overview-of-phosphate-s-role-in-the-body
Sodium, potassium, and ATP are needed for the signal conduction of your nerve cells (among others), and one possible cause of muscle cramp is lack of potassium. Also note that high sodium intake suppresses potassium uptake.
So yes, the potassium phosphate is “really necessary” in that it supports athletic performance.
Please don’t judge what you don’t know…
Do these keep well? Do they need to be refrigerated?
I mix them as I need them but they do ok for a day in a gym bag without refrigeration, just wouldn’t leave them longer than that.
I’m totally gonna’ have to try this!
In place of the lime, could juice of lemon be used? Or is lime recommended for some reason?
I lived off coconut water when I was training for half marathons (but was not eating processed foods) but that was a hefty price tag (I said in lieu of ‘Gu’ it was worth it)… but I had no idea about this cool recipe! I can’t wait to try it. And also very excited you give the stamp of approval to Emergen -C …. ilove that stuff 🙂
Except for all the single use plastic packets. But good in a pinch.
Just found this. Love it!
Liquid glass.spray it on every thing you Owne.it actually lives.you clothes and so on.nuthing can live on Lockwood glass.not even the worst vieris.making you home offic car germ fee.no air born viric will survive.why becaus germs have nuthing to live on so it just dies. Your wellcome.
I made this for my daughter today before soccer, I used coconut sap sugar and she said it wasn’t sweet enough so then added a tablespoon of agave(I know you don’t like agave) and that did the trick for her she really liked it.
oh can’t wait to try this. just added coconut water to the grocery list for tomorrow