Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Sports Drink Progress

I don't really talk much about another passion of mine, which is running. Clearly, since this is a baking and vegan blog, it wouldn't really make sense for me to talk about it much. Now that I'm training for my first marathon (Chicago Marathon on 10.10.10!), I'm finding my running world and my cooking world overlapping more and more. Nutrition is an important part of effective running anyway, but the more miles you log each week, the more crucial it is that you properly fuel yourself - not just for performance, but so you don't hurt yourself.

I hope to finish developing some recipes that have benefited my running; but first, I'm switching gears slightly and focusing more on proper hydration.

In general when I run, I like to log around 20 miles per week. I'm now at the point of the summer where my mileage is increasing to closer to 25, and 30 is not too far away. As the mileage goes up, so does the thermometer, which obviously adds a physical stressor. And finally, thanks to the awesome powers of Groupon, I started Bikram yoga with the wonderful yogis at Bikram Yoga Andersonville as a way to cross train. I love it! I do it twice a week, and I can feel myself getting stronger and being more in control of my body. Part of Bikram's wonderful effects, though, comes from the fact that it is practiced in a room that is 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

This ostensibly means that I am working out extremely vigorously, in extremely hot temperatures (because I only run outside), six days a week. I suppose I didn't think this was a huge deal; I never thought I'd say this (seriously - ask my friends from high school and college), but I love exercising for the health of it and how it makes me feel, so I wasn't paying too much attention to the heat.

This became a problem last week when I had to leave my yoga class halfway through because I thought I was going to throw up. I then had a horrible headache, was dizzy, and when I made it home, I could not get out of bed or really talk for the rest of the day. I couldn't even physically lift my head until about 4:30. Awesome.

Turns out, among other things, I was living my day to day existence in a pretty severely dehydrated state. Of course, there were early warning signs - I had all of a sudden been starving for no particular reason, and I was really tired. I think I got sick during my class because my body had just had it at that point.

Fortunately, in terms of addressing the problem, rehydrating is easily achievable. I was told to double the amount of water I'm drinking and to drink more electrolytes. I can get on board with this, but there were two things I wanted to avoid. One, I generally don't mind sports drinks, but I wasn't too crazy about pumping tons of sugar and artificial coloring into my body. Two, although I have no problem lots of drinking water, when you are asked to drink about a gallon of water a day, you really do have a threshold of water you can think about drinking.

After doing some research and taking advice from the yogis and medical professionals, I tried two products I liked. The first is smartwater. Smartwater is literally water with non-sodium electrolytes in it. I was pretty skeptical at first, but after pounding a liter before my last yoga class, I'm definitely a convert. It tastes great, and I really feel more hydrated and balanced. When I reach a point where I just can't handle anymore water, I've become a fan of coconut water. Coconut water is literally what it sounds like; water that is extracted from a baby coconut. This stuff is great because it naturally has a bunch of potassium and electrolytes in it, without the sugar (and no worries, it's fat free, so there aren't the saturated fat issues). Most people I know love straight coconut water. I personally like the brands that come with some pineapple or pomegranate in it. I feel like I'm drinking juice, although I'm clearly not drinking juice. It's great!

One issue, though? Paying for this stuff. Smartwater is pretty reasonably priced at my Whole Foods at $1.49/liter, and Whole Foods has its own store brand for cheaper, but I still have some bottled water purchasing guilt. Coconut water is definitely more on the spendy side, but if you order it in a case of 12 from Amazon, the price is about the same as Gatorade and shipping is free.

That said, Greg is skeptical of the electrolytes in smartwater, and he's not a fan of the cost of coconut water. We decided it was time to try and make our own electrolyte water at home.

And, um, let's just say it's a work in progress. The deal I made with Greg was that I would try to make some recipes to please his frugal side, but he had to try them first to make sure they weren't gross. Boy, I'm glad I did that. This is definitely a trial and error process. I first tried a recipe that is all over the Internet, about Bob Harper's electrolyte recipe featured on the Dr. Oz show. I made it. Greg said he felt like he was drinking the Dead Sea. I took a sip and instantly bolted for the sink. So gross! I then tried again with less salt. This time, Greg thought it was way too sweet, and I still felt like I was swimming in the ocean. I abandoned that recipe.

The one that I think has the most promise is the one I've posted below. I think it is a good candidate for a recovery drink, but I still think it's too salty to swig while actually engaging in exercise. The nice part is the drinker has more control over the sourness or sweetness of the drink, without messing with the electrolyte balance.

Truthfully, I really hope I can figure out this recovery drink recipe. It's at the point now where it is palatable and will do the job, but I think it is on the brink of being amazing. That said, if you try it and have suggestions, please let me know! I think there will be a recipe update in the future.

In the mean time, the deal I have with Greg now is that I will limit my smartwater intake to when I'm actually exercising and I won't just swig it around the house for fun, and coconut water will wing its way to our house through Amazon. Of course, I can hope through the power of laziness that I'll get my way after all and just drink smartwater and coconut water, but now the vegan experimenter in me wants to get this right!

Recovery Drink recipe, in progress
Yields: 1-8 oz. glass

8 oz water
Pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (usually the juice of one lemon)
0-1/2 tsp. agave nectar.

1) Mix water, salt, and lemon juice together. For Greg, he likes it just like this.
2) For me, I still think it is a little salty. Gradually add agave nectar until you get the flavor to a sweetness you like. There is still a salty undertone, but the drink tastes more like lemonade. Greg doesn't like this version because he thinks it is too sweet, so definitely play around with the sweetener.


  1. Hmmmm, interesting. I've been getting dehyrated and have been buying Smartwater too recently, although I don't like buying plastic bottle after plastic bottle! I might have to try this recipe. I walk several times a day and sweat's REALLY humid here. So thanks :)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Tanya! I know what you mean about the plastic bottles; it bothers me to buy them because we don't have great recycling in our area, so I've just been collecting them and bringing them to my parents, who have awesome recycling!

    Let me know your thoughts on the drink! Sonja at Defying Gravity just sent me an email and said she tried it Greg style without sweetener. She loved it! She also said she tends to crave salty things while I tend to crave sweet, so I wonder how much of a role that plays...