Lisa, my client wrote: The weather will be in 80s+ for Quabbin century on Saturday. I can only bring two bottles of your HMSD (Homemade Sports Drink, recipe below). How do I get lots of electrolytes and whatever else I need? What about a powdered sports drink I can mix after the HMSD is gone? Or electrolyte supplements? There will be aid stations hopefully with salty stuff. There will be some stores where I can buy stuff.
Coach Hughes answers: Eat salt!
Why? Let’s look at what’s in sweat:
Electrolyte Concentration Per Liter (Quart) of Sweat
Concentration / Liter (quart): 800 mg
Daily Recommended Intake (DRI): 1,500 mg
Daily Recommended Intake for Athletes: >1,500 mg up to 10 g
Concentration / Liter (quart): 1,065 mg
Daily Recommended Intake (DRI): 2,300 mg
Daily Recommended Intake for Athletes: >2,300 mg to match sweat losses
Concentration / Liter (quart): 115 mg
Daily Recommended Intake (DRI): 4,700 mg
Daily Recommended Intake for Athletes: 4,700 mg or more with heavy sweat losses
Concentration / Liter (quart): 40 mg
Daily Recommended Intake (DRI): 1,000 mg
Daily Recommended Intake for Athletes: 1,300 – 1,500 mg
Concentration / Liter (quart): 19 mg
Daily Recommended Intake (DRI): Males 420 mg, Females 320 mg
Daily Recommended Intake for Athletes: 400 – 450 mg if from food, 350 mg if from supplements
If you get the daily recommended intakes in your food of potassium, calcium and magnesium you greatly exceed what you’d sweat out riding all day in the heat. The only electrolytes that you need are what’s in salt: sodium and chloride.
How Much Electrolytes Do You Need?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) if your ride is less than four hours, you probably don’t need to supplement with electrolytes unless your jersey is caked with salt or you cramp. Sodium depletion may be one of the causes of cramps, so if you suffer from cramps try supplementing with sodium.
If your ride is longer than four hours, then additional sodium and potassium are recommended.
Electrolyte Replacement Drinks
Here’s what the ACSM recommends for a sports drink and what the HMSD provides:
ACSM Recommends Per 8 fluid ounces: 50 – 100
HMSD Per 8 fluid ounces: 50
ACSM Recommends Per 8 fluid ounces: 120 – 170 mg
HMSD Per 8 fluid ounces: 150 mg
ACSM Recommends Per 8 fluid ounces: 19 – 46 mg
HMSD Per 8 fluid ounces: 40 mg
My DIY Sports Drink Recipe
Here’s my homemade sports drink to make 1 quart (0.95 L), which matches all of the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations:
- 1/4 cup (80 ml) orange juice
- 8 teaspoons (50 g) sucrose (table sugar), glucose or maltodextrin (a starch)
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.2 ml) salt
- water to make 1 quart (0.95 L)
Liz, you could make this with the ingredients found in many mini-marts. A standard water bottle holds about 20 fl. oz. Just use about 2/3rds of each ingredient. Or eat something salty and drink an 8 fl. oz. bottle of orange juice, which gives you 100 calories and a whopping 450 mg. of potassium as well as 20 mg. of sodium.
Important: The three most popular sports drinks (Gatorade, PowerAde, Heed) have much lower sodium and potassium than the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations. If they did, they wouldn’t be palatable.
Electrolyte Replacement Supplements
If you chose to use an electrolyte replacement supplement check to see how much sodium and potassium in contains. One popular capsule contains only 40 mg of sodium and 80 mg of potassium, as well as other trace electrolytes, which you don’t need! To meet the ACSM’s recommended sodium intake you’d need to take 8 to 10 capsules with every 20 fl. oz. bottle water that you drink!
Cycling in the Heat Bundle
You can learn more about the science of riding in the heat, and managing your fluids and electrolytes, in my two-part eArticle series:
- Cycling in the Heat, Part 1: Ride Management is 19 pages and covers how to acclimatize to hot conditions, how to train in hot months, what to wear, eat and drink, how to cool down if you overheat, and how to deal with heat-related problems.
- Cycling in the Heat, Part 2: Hydration Management is 21 pages and covers how to determine how much you should drink depending on your physiology and sweat rate, how best to replace your fluids and electrolytes, the contents of different sports drinks, how to make your own electrolyte replacement drinks, how to rehydrate after a ride, and how to deal with hydration-related problems.
The cost-saving bundled eArticles totaling 40 pages Cycling in the Heat Parts 1 and 2 are just $8.98 (a 10% savings) and, as always, just $7.64 for our Premium Members (includes their everyday 15% discount!).
- Cycling in the Heat, Part 1: Ride Management, 19 pages
- Cycling in the Heat, Part 2: Hydration Management, 21 pages
- Preventing and Treating Cramps, 10 pages
Detailed look into the causes of cramps, prevention techniques, and tips (both on-bike and off-bike, including photos) for breaking and flushing cramps.
- Eating and Drinking Like the Pros, 15 pages
What pro riders consume before, during and after a stage and the benefits for cyclists at all levels. Eating and drinking like the pros offers recreational riders the same nutritional benefits, which you can customize to your own needs at a fraction of the cost of commercial sports food and drink, if you choose to make our own. I worked with a professor of nutrition and an expert on hydration and electrolytes (both experts are cyclists) in creating recipes for both sports drinks and food.
The cost-saving bundled 65 pages of eArticles Summer Riding are just $15.96 (a $4 savings) and, as always, just $13.58 for our Premium Members (includes their 15% discount by using the coupon code you get as a member that works on all ebook and e-article purchases).
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Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.