Frugal and Healthy Electrolyte Drinks

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Today let’s continue our healthy food journey by discussing electrolyte drinks. I’m thinking of things like Gatorade and Powerade, not those horrid sugary toxic brews known as energy drinks. Drinks such as Red Bull contain mostly sugar and are extremely bad for us. Electrolyte drinks contain electrolytes, substances our bodies can’t live without. 

So what exactly are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are chemical substances in our bodies that regulate a great many functions, including but not limited to muscle function, blood acidity, and the amount of water in our bodies. Common electrolytes include calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium. They’re usually measured by blood serum testing and are easily lost by sweating. The exact symptoms of deficiency will depend upon which electrolytes are out of balance. This can quickly degenerate into a medical emergency if action isn’t taken, but I digress. 

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and this article does not contain medical advice. Do your due diligence and if in doubt, consult your doctor regarding your specific situation. 

With the supply chain issues we’ve been experiencing for the past two years, making our own electrolyte drinks only makes sense. Not only have prices inflated, but the quality of goods has also suffered. So why depend on Big Food at all? Check out these recipes for cheap and healthy drinks that will help you keep your electrolytes in balance and your body functioning. 

Karen Morris’ electrolyte drink

Back in 2018, our own Karen Morris published a great article that included a very basic recipe for an electrolyte drink:

Ingredients:

  •  1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  •  1/16 teaspoon Morton’s Lite Salt
  •  1/16 teaspoon Epsom salt
  •  optional flavors such as juice, tea, stevia, or water enhancer

Directions:

Mix into 12-16 ounces of water, flavored water, or other healthy cold beverage.

372.5 mg sodium 87.5 mg potassium 30 mg magnesium.

Very effective but not very tasty! At the very least, I’d add a package of Kool-Aid, and the other flavor suggestions could only help. 

Check out this recipe courtesy of Lifehack.org. These ingredients are easily obtainable, a bonus in uncertain times. 

Breakfast Blend Electrolyte Recipe

Looking for an electrolyte drink to imbibe in early in the morning? You may want to check this recipe out then.

Ingredients:

  •  ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  •  ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  •  2 cups of cold water
  •  1/8 tsp. of salt
  •  2 tablespoons of sugar or honey

Directions:

Pour all the ingredients into a blender and mix them until the honey dissolves. Chill and serve cold.

Amy Allen’s strawberry electrolyte drink

There’s also a great strawberry smoothie recipe that I think could be modified using milk and yogurt to include both the calcium from the milk and probiotics & other nutrients from the yogurt. At least that’s my recipe, and I love my homemade strawberry smoothies! Bonus that they’re a good source of electrolytes and other nutrients. 

Here is my strawberry smoothie recipe. If memory serves, this came from one of my South Beach diet cookbooks.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 8oz cup of unsweetened yogurt, your choice of flavor
  • A dab of vanilla

Directions:

Put it all in a blender and serve cold. 

The Greaterade electrolyte drink

Check out this recipe for Greaterade, courtesy of Allrecipes.com. It’s interesting to note that the Golden State Warriors banned commercial sports drinks in 2016. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups fresh cold water, divided
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon fine Himalayan pink salt
  • ¾ teaspoon calcium magnesium powder (Optional)
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
  • 2 medium lemons, juiced
  • 2 medium limes, juiced

Directions:

Pour 1 cup of the water into a large pot. Add honey, salt, calcium magnesium powder, and cayenne. Place the pot over low heat and whisk until ingredients have dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to return to room temperature. Add juices to room temperature mixture in the pot. Pour in the remaining seven cups of water and whisk until well blended. 

Cook’s note:

This pink salt is NOT the pink salt used to cure meats.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:

40 calories; protein 0.6g; carbohydrates 12.1g; fat 0.1g; sodium 105.7mg.

The homemade sports drink

The following two electrolyte drinks are courtesy of Food52.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) hot water
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) fruit juice (like orange, cranberry, or pomegranate)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 cups (840 milliliters) of cold water

Dissolve the sugar and salt in hot water. Add the juice and remaining water. Chill.

Maple sports drink

This drink is recommended for those who have trouble stomaching acidic drinks during or after a workout.

Ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups (900 milliliters) of cold water
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) cold maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and shake well.

OK, so what do these recipes have in common?

What kinds of ingredients are giving us the electrolytes we need? Remember, we’re looking to replace calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sodium. There are other electrolytes, but these are the most common. 

For example, high magnesium foods include yogurt and bananas. Bananas are also high in potassium. Dark chocolate contains lots of magnesium, yum! While leafy greens such as kale do as well, I’m not so sure about including them in a drink recipe. 

Note that several of our recipes contain some kind of fruit juice: orange, cranberry, pomegranate, lemon, and lime in these examples. Orange juice is easy to obtain and relatively cheap. It’s a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and many other vitamins and minerals.

Pomegranate juice is high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants. It’s not the best source of vitamin C and can be a bit more expensive, but it’ll work. Lemons and limes contain a number of electrolytes in addition to other nutritional benefits and are relatively cheap. All of our recipes contain some kind of sugar for the carbohydrates and the sweetening effects. Salts are important, but I find them not so tasty. 

What if you or your loved ones are diabetic?

Research is showing that high sugar sports drinks can have a negative effect on blood sugar regulation. The ADA suggests that water is your best option in simpler situations but carefully chosen (or homemade) sports drinks can help during prolonged exercise. Verywellfit.com gives a very simple, sugar-free recipe that might be useful:

Sugar-free sports drink recipe

Mix together:

  •  1 cup (8 ounces) water, not carbonated
  •  2 tablespoons lemon juice
  •  Small pinch of salt (a teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium, so you need 1/20th of a teaspoon of salt—not much)
  •  Flavoring and sweetener to taste (optional). Try Crystal Light Drink Mix, unsweetened Kool-Aid, or sugar-free flavored syrups. If you avoid artificial sweeteners, try stevia.

If you’d like to stock up on commercial electrolyte drinks, Diabetes Today reviews several options. 

What if I do keto?

For the keto crowd, Sure Keto reviews a number of commercial drinks as well.  A recipe and some tips for getting through the keto flu can be found HERE Really, the recipes for both diabetics and the keto crowd aren’t all that different. 

Do you all see where I’m going with this? As you choose the ingredients for your homemade sports drink, you’ll want to consider items that contain the nutrients you’re looking for. The carbs in the natural sugars will help you digest the drink more quickly and easily, and those whose stomachs don’t take kindly to the acidity can try other options such as the maple sports drink. Diabetics can make sugar-free alternatives fairly easily with locally obtained ingredients, and the keto diet has its recipes as well. So while we’re having to make adjustments to our diets and our lifestyles, why not go healthy? In uncertain times, healthy is a better option. 

Do you make your own sports/electrolyte drinks? What do you put in it? Tell us in the comments below!

About Amy Allen

Amy Allen is a professional bookworm and student of Life, the Universe, and Everything. She’s also a Master Gardener with a BS in biology, and has been growing food on her small urban lot since 2010.

Frugal and Healthy Electrolyte Drinks

4 thoughts on “Frugal and Healthy Electrolyte Drinks”

  1. The homemade electrolyte drinks are great for when you’re home ill and can’t eat much, or during a heat wave. Talk to your pediatrician or their nutritionist and they’ll give you the correct formula for infant and child electrolyte solutions. When Covid swept through here you couldn’t find Pedialyte anywhere but it’s easy to dilute juice and add the appropriate electrolytes and make something similar. Do be careful when adding sodium (salt) and potassium because overloading is a bad thing and particularly dangerous for babies. Getting the correct, safe proportions for your health conditions/ages is a one-time thing and after that, as the article says, you can customize for your personal taste instead of being stuck with expensive funky blue mystery fluid because that’s all that was left on the shelf.

    Got through a two-week bout of flu without being hospitalized or in ER despite diabetes, thanks to checking in with my doctor and keeping this stuff on hand. It really does work as well as Gatorade, Pedialyte and other expensive electrolyte drinks. And you don’t have to go out or pay delivery to get it when you only want to stay in your pj’s and try to recover. Drop off a couple quarts for a sick friend, too.

    1. Thanks for the great insights! I once got through a bout by sucking on Powerade popsicles. That was years ago when they were more nutritious with less sugar. But yeah, it can be done! And I’d rather live with my mistakes than the funky blue stuff!

  2. I love this article. Glad I’m not the only one who uses the Morton salt substitute for electrolyte purposes! Be careful when buying though – there’s one that is pure potassium and a nearly identical package that is a potassium and salt mixture.

    I live in a very hot climate so I used to make a lightly salted lemonade type drink for when I was sweating or had cramps. Now I do the same thing but add some potassium as well. It’s a ton cheaper, and higher dosage, than commercial supplements.

  3. My recipe is similar to ‘Karen Morris’ electrolyte drink’ but I use what’s on hand: pinch of Morton’s Lite Salt, Iodized Sea Salt, & baking soda, added to about 6 oz of pineapple-orange juice. Shake. Pour about an ounce of this mixture into a 3-oz ‘bathroom cup’ then add 2 oz filtered water.

    For me, it’s meant to last maybe 2-4 hours; it all depends on how hot it is and how your body reacts to the heat. Ex: yesterday I had a 2nd ‘dose’ late afternoon and it really helped.

    Also: without a/c, wrap a wet cloth or bandanna around your neck; when it begins to dry out re-wet it & wring out some of the excess. Use a fan if the electricity is on; rely upon a battery-operated or ‘manual’ fan if the power is out. Drink plenty of fluids, dress in loose cotton clothing. If possible, see how your neighbors are, especially the elderly. We’ll get through this.

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